Blues set August 22 deadline for team sale bids

There seems to be two general categories for NHL team sales lately: desperate (Phoenix, Atlanta) and seemingly inevitable (Dallas, St. Louis and Buffalo). That’s not to say that the latter group of sales lack drama or tension, but the Stars, Blues and Sabres seem like they’re able to attract legitimate interest even if the process isn’t always very smooth.

In the case of the Blues, it seems like they are at least slightly at the mercy of what happens with the Stars. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the group handling the Blues’ sale expects there to be some overflow from the parties who will lose the bidding war for the Stars, although that might be a slight problem since the deadline to make a nonbinding bid for the Blues has been set for August 22. Rutherford reports that this deadline could allow a purchase agreement to be in place by “mid-September.”

“We’ll review (the offers), make judgments, make comparisons and then we’ll go back to everyone and give them a reaction to their proposal,” Game Plan’s Robert Caporale said. “We don’t want to slow down the process, but until we get these detailed proposals, it’s hard to predict how long it will take to get a binding contract with a buyer. But we hope that we could get it done within a couple of weeks” of Aug. 22.”

Once a purchase agreement is in place, the sale would move into the final stages, which includes NHL approval. The league’s next Board of Governors’ meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20, followed by one in December. If the sale is ready for approval in between those two meetings, it’s possible the governors could vote via a conference call.

Game Plan LLC – the company handling the sale – reportedly sent out 10 packets to parties who have expressed an interest in the Blues, although it’s important to note that it doesn’t mean all 10 parties should be considered legitimate suitors. Things could get a bit more complicated if the Stars sale isn’t completed by August 22 since, again, there might be some spurned suitors who would move from trying to acquire the Stars to the Blues.

Here are a few dates that might be of interest in this situation, even if there’s no guarantee that benchmarks will be met in time to fulfill them.

August 22: Again, this is the reported deadline for groups to make “nonbinding” bids for the Blues.

September 20: The NHL Board of Governors meeting will take place, so it would be ideal to get the new owner in place by then so the BoG could vote to approve or disapprove that new owner.

October 8: The Blues’ season opener isn’t a hard deadline, but it might be nice to get a new owner in place by then anyway.

“Undisclosed deadline”: Current Blues owner Dave Checketts needs to get this deal done sooner rather than later after he received an extension to pay back the $120 million loan he took out with CitiGroup to buy the team.

Obviously from that timeline, a lot could happen in a very short time frame, although these situations have a tendency to hit a wall or two here and there. The one thing that might expedite the process is the possibility that a group might circumvent the bidding process by meeting the asking price for the team.

“We have not agreed to do that, but at least it’s an option,” Caporale said. “We’d like to give everybody a chance. (But) if the person comes up with a price that’s acceptable to everybody and willing to sign an agreement, it speeds up the process.”

Stay tuned for updates regarding a franchise that some are calling a possible “sleeper team” in the Western Conference.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe wishes he didn’t play Aaron Ekblad this week

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A miserable season for the Florida Panthers got a little bit worse earlier this month when defenseman Aaron Ekblad was sidelined with another concussion on what coach and general manager Tom Rowe called “a real cheap shot from behind.”

After missing a few games, he was cleared to play by the team’s medical staff and returned to the lineup on Tuesday, 10 days after the injury, and played 18 minutes in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Based on what happened in the aftermath of that game, it seems pretty obvious he may not have been completely ready to return to the ice.

Ekblad will not play in Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks and will not accompany the team on its upcoming road trip after he complained of a sore neck following Tuesday’s game. He was also dealing with headaches on Friday that were attributed to a neck injury and not the concussion.

On Saturday, Rowe was asked if he regretted playing Ekblad earlier this week and he was quite honest in his assessment.

“I’m not going to lie, I wish we didn’t,” Said Rowe, via George Richards of the Miami Herald. “That’s on me. The doctors cleared him, our medical staff cleared him but I had some reservations and I wish I stayed with my gut. That’s no one’s fault but my own.

Ekblad wanted to play in Tuesday’s game but Rowe insisted he should have used his experience to hold his top defenseman out of the lineup.

“I’ve have a lot more experience in this business than he does,” said Rowe, again via the Herald. “I have had a ton of experience with those types of injuries. I usually give those guys two or three days of practice and I wish I had done that. It’s no one’s fault but my own.”

Ekblad has had some significant head and neck injuries over the past couple of years. This is the second time in the past two seasons he has missed time due to a concussion, and he was also sent home from the World Cup of Hockey earlier this year with what was said to be “whiplash.”

The 21-year-old Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, has 10 goals and 11 assists in 68 games for the Panthers this season. With only four games remaining following the team’s upcoming four-game road trip it is not out of the question to think that Ekblad’s season could be over.

The Panthers are only 4-10-1 in their past 15 games and have pretty  much fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Ryan O’Reilly comments on Sidney Crosby spearing incident: ‘It happens’

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has made some headlines this week for a couple of stick infractions that were overlooked by the on-ice officials during his games.

They were not overlooked by everybody else.

On Thursday, he caught Marc Methot with a slash to the hand that ended up busting the defenseman’s finger on a play that made Senators owner Eugene Melnyk go berserk on Ottawa radio the next day. On its own it would have been an incident that received a ton of attention, if for no other reason than the gruesome image of Methot’s finger dangling around. But what added to it was the fact that two days before that incident there was the spearing incident involving Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly that you see in the video above.

On Saturday, O’Reilly was asked for his thoughts on the play after everything that has happened with Crosby over the past couple of games.  He does not seem to have any hard feelings regarding the play, via TSN’s Mark Masters:

“It was a weird thing,” said O’Reilly. “You know, it happens. I didn’t expect it and he apologized after the play and it was understood. It just threw me off. I wasn’t expecting anything and then something happens, but he’s a good guy and he is just playing hard and he takes a beating every night too so it happens.”

He was then asked if he knew who initially hit him, and O’Reilly said he did not until Crosby apologized later in the game.

“No, I didn’t,” said O’Reilly. I was watching the puck and the next thing I know I had a stick right to the crotch and it threw me off for sure. I got up slowly and turned around to see who it was, and then off the won faceoff he comes up as we’re skating down the ice and says, ‘yeah, sorry about that, I was kind of going for your stick.’ I go, ‘meh, it happens, I guess. Would’ve been nice to have a penalty, but it happens.”

Crosby was not penalized for either play and received no supplemental discipline from the league. The latter part is not a surprise, and it is not because of some sort of preferential treatment from the league. Since the NHL’s department of player safety has been put into place it has never suspended a player for spearing (it has fined seven players) and suspended only two players for slashing (it has fined six).

Bruins will not have Tuukka Rask for massive game against Islanders tonight

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Massive game in Brooklyn on Saturday night when the New York Islanders will be hosting the Boston Bruins in a key game in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

The day is already off to a bad start for the Bruins, losers of four in a row, when coach Bruce Cassidy announced that starting goaltender Tuukka Rask did not make the trip with the team and will not be available for the game. Anthon Khudobin will get the start in his place, while Zane McIntyre has been recalled from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.

Cassidy said that Rask is dealing with a lower body injury and is considered day-to-day.

Rask did not practice with the team on Friday.

It is a massive game as both teams enter the night tied in the standings with 82 points. But because the Islanders have played one fewer game, they currently occupy the second wild card spot. They are both just one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in what is now pretty much a three-team race for that spot. It is the last meeting of the season between the two teams (Boston does play Tampa Bay once more).

Overall it has been another frustrating season for Rask, whose .910 save percentage is currently the worst of his career. He has really struggled during the Bruins’ current four-game losing streak, giving up 15 goals during that stretch.

Khudobin, meanwhile, has been on a bit of a roll for the Bruins in his recent starts following a terrible start to the season. He has won each of his past four starts, allowing just eight goals.

The Islanders are coming off of a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh on Friday night against the Penguins with Jaroslav Halak making his return to the team and picking up the win.

Brock Boeser will make NHL debut for Canucks today after signing entry level deal

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After a deal appeared imminent on Friday night the Vancouver Canucks made it official on Saturday morning and announced the signing of 2015 first-round draft pick Brock Boeser to an entry level contract.

Not only is he under contract with the Canucks, but he will also make his NHL debut on Saturday afternoon against his hometown team when the Canucks visit the Minnesota Wild.

The Canucks selected Boeser with the No. 23 overall pick in 2015.

He played his collegiate hockey at North Dakota where he put up some massive numbers, recording 94 points in 74 games over two seasons. That includes 16 goals and 18 assists in 32 games this season.

His addition to the Canucks lineup over the remaining nine games of the 2016-17 season will burn one of those years of his entry level contract, but it will give Canucks fans a glimpse of their future and maybe a reason for optimism in what has become a lost season. The Canucks enter the game having lost seven of their past eight.