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Your New York Islanders August 1 referendum primer

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As you may know, tomorrow is a big day for the future of the New York Islanders, Nassau County and the NHL overall. Voters will get the chance to vote for or against a referendum to build a new arena to eventually replace the decrepit Nassau Coliseum, which at this point seems like a mandatory measure for the team to be economically sustainable.

We already shared the fact that the Islanders’ two regional rivals shared their support for people to vote “yes” on the referendum, with the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers urging fans and those indifferent to hockey to approve the deal. According to various sources, it appears that the bottom-line cost of the $400 million referendum for voters could be anywhere between $58 and $100 per household (depending on who you ask and if the referendum goes through, that is).

It’s plausible that we’ll have a little more material regarding the building tension and other facets of the referendum between now and the big Monday, August 1 voting, but here’s an extensive collection of some of the opinions and retrospectives regarding that pivotal polling.

New York Newsday’s editorial staff voiced their tentative approval for voting yes.

Nassau County is too populous, too prosperous and too proud to become a place with no significant entertainment venue and no big-time sports team. And it’s too tentatively perched between paths of progress and decline to let a crumbling Coliseum and the flight of the New York Islanders pull it into the pit.

Meanwhile, George Vecsey of the New York Times talks about some of the misgivings of people who simply might not be able to get out to vote anyway.

Life is less hopeful now since the days of Smitty and Potvin. People work two jobs, sit in traffic, suffer the Long Island Railroad, and brood about taxes and budget cuts in their school districts. Skilled workers who fix things at our house muse about moving out of state, and good luck to that. Overpriced homes sit on the market; young people rent or settle for less; the county’s finances are currently under the review of a state oversight board. Does this sound like a county that should be skittering deeper onto the thin ice of hockey finances?

Chris Botta puts together a plus/minus tally for the referendum, including this rather amusing takedown of Billy Joel.

Minus: Point Blank has learned that Billy Joel, who cashed in at the Coliseum for more than a generation, has so far decided to not be involved in the new arena issue because he was concerned about the “controversy.” In the last twenty years – unlike contemporaries such as Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Jackson Browne, Joel has not produced any new rock music. He has not taken a stand on anything except repackaging his greatest hits and making a fortune playing nostalgia concerts. Hey Piano Man, grow a pair.

Craig Custance points out that this isn’t just a big vote for the Islanders and its community, either.

This isn’t just a big vote for Islanders fans, it’s a big vote for hockey fans in Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City, Hamilton, Ont., or any other place hoping to one day lure an NHL team like Winnipeg successfully did in landing the Thrashers this year.

Forbes’ Tom Van Riper wonders if a vote for “no” would really guarantee that the team would leave while Larry Brooks brings up an interesting idea: what if the New Jersey Nets owner decides to move the Islanders to Brooklyn if the team needs to relocate?

It stands to reason that [Mikhail] Prokhorov would be interested in acquiring a hockey team that would account for 44-60 dates a season to fill the arena if Wang puts the Islanders on the market.

For a little more reading on the matter, Grantland’s Katie Baker runs down the history of the old Nassau Coliseum while Lighthouse Hockey tackles what locals should wear on Monday. Stay with PHT for information updates and more on the August 1 referendum.

Eaves to stick with Benn, Seguin on Dallas’ top line

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Patrick Eaves‘ cameo alongside the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin looks like it’ll continue at least one more game.

Eaves, who along with Benn assisted on Seguin’s goal in Saturday’s loss to Chicago, practiced on Dallas’ top line today and should be there tomorrow when the Stars take on the Wild.

“Seguin, Benn and Eaves were in on 11 chances [Saturday against Chicago],” head coach Lindy Ruff explained, per the Stars’ website. They could have three or four [goals]. They should have had three or four. We missed too many good opportunities.”

This latest development is a positive in what’s been a tough year for Eaves. He was hurt early in the season after an awkward fall against the Oilers — a game in which he opened on the club’s top line, next to Benn and Seguin.

All told, he has just three goals and six points in 33 games.

Last year, Eaves was plagued with concussion issues but still managed to produce well, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in just 47 games.

After re-upping in Winnipeg, Byfuglien says leaving ‘never really crossed my mind’

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There was some speculation Dustin Byfuglien would be out of Winnipeg by the Feb. 29 trade deadline or, failing that, when free agency hit on July 1.

But according to him, leaving was never really an option.

“I’ve been here five years and from where we’ve started and where we’re at now, I don’t feel as an organization or a group that we’re far off,” Byfuglien told TSN 1290 on Monday, after inking a big five-year, $38 million extension with the Jets. “My family and I have found Winnipeg nice, and we’re very happy to stay here.

“It never really crossed my mind of going anywhere, and I’m excited to be a Jet.”

Prior to this extension, though, some thought leaving had definitely crossed Byfuglien’s mind.

Back in mid-December, the Free Press reported his initial ask was a whopping eight-year, $55 million deal. Some viewed that as his first potential step out the door.

It would’ve been big money and a lot of term for the Jets to commit, especially given 1) Byfuglien is 30, 2) the team still hasn’t signed captain Andrew Ladd, and 3) the club has some prized youngsters that need new deals this summer, specifically Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba. (In that same Free Press report, Trouba’s ask was $56 million over eight years.)

Then, there was Byfuglien at All-Star weekend.

When asked about his future — sign, trade or head to free agency? — Byfuglien said he had “no problem” with Winnipeg, adding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you.”

Some, like TSN’s Frank Seravalli, who was in attendance for the Byfuglien media scrum, noted the response “did not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement.”

Of course, Byfuglien later clarified his remarks following the All-Star Game.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” he told reporters when asked about re-signing in Winnipeg. “I’ve met a lot of good people and now some really good friends. I’ve been here for a long time. You never want to leave home. I’ve been here long enough; my family has been here and I’ve had two kids here.

“It’s somewhere you don’t want to leave.”

And now — well, for the next five years anyway — Byfuglien won’t have to.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

Dustin Byfuglien
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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19. Byfuglien’s deal also comes after some questioned how badly he wanted to stay in Winnipeg — at All-Star weekend, he raised eyebrows by responding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you,” when asked about his playing future.

The five-year term is also down from Byfuglien’s reported original ask, which was $55 million over eight years.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.