Dave Checketts

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.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”