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Quebec City is in ‘final blitz’ to wrap up $400M deal for an NHL-friendly arena

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We’re a little over a month away from the rebirth of the Winnipeg Jets, but another former market is hoping to bring the NHL back in the future. Quebec City hopes to become the next location to get a team, but before they do that, they’ll need to build an NHL-friendly arena. The current plan is to have that arena built by 2015, but it might all come down to getting everything agreed upon according to some tight deadlines.

Apparently that arena would cost about $400 million, with the polarizing plan requiring much of that money to come from taxpayers. The Montreal Gazette reports that Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume is finishing up a “final blitz” to agree upon a naming rights deal with media company Quebecor, with a September 7 deadline for the paperwork. That naming rights deadline will be a prelude to the postponed voting for the arena bill itself, which is expected to take place on September 20.

The situation already caused some messy political backlash in Quebec City, so Labeaume knows that they need to make sure that they get it right.

“We don’t want to get this wrong because when these documents will become public, we have a feeling it will generate a lot of interest on the part of specialists and pseudo-specialists. So to be honest, we’ll work on it until Sept. 7,” Labeaume said last week, of the negotiations.

The tentative deal with Quebecor is also facing opposition in the province and a legal challenge of the agreement is scheduled to be heard in court on Sept. 6, the eve of the deadline.

Former civil servant and Parti Quebecois minister Denis de Belleval is fighting to nullify the proposed agreement because it is a municipal contract that never went to public tender. Instead, Labeaume used what he called a competitive bidding process, inviting companies to express their interests in managing the proposed 18,000 seat facility.

De Belleval also argues Quebecor got a sweetheart deal from the city. The media company would get full control of the amphitheatre until 2040, with a possible extension to 2045, plus naming rights, for $63.5 million if Quebecor succeeds in landing an NHL team; the price tag would be $33 million without NHL hockey.

Quebecor’s rent would be $4.5 million annually with a team, $2.5 million without.

Apologies if some of these issues go over your head – it gets more complicated as the article digs into the deeper political impact – but the basic gist is that the next month could have an enormous impact on Quebec City’s chances of landing an NHL team sometime in the near future.

Naturally, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be more twists and turns after the paperwork is signed and the voting is over. If the Phoenix Coyotes’ situation taught us anything, it’s that these situations can provide plenty of ups and downs. These matters tend to get especially messy when public money is involved, so we’ll keep an eye on this developing situation in the next weeks, months and even years.

Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

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Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.

‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs for one final year in St. Louis

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Ken Hitchcock is taking one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

The club announced today a one-year contract extension for the 64-year-old head coach. Hitchcock then confirmed during a press conference that 2016-17 will be his final year. He plans to retire from coaching once it’s over.

“I just feel like I’ve got this really good year in me,” Hitchcock said. “This season has invigorated me like no season before.”

The Blues, of course, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final this year. The previous four postseasons under Hitchcock, they made it to the second round once, then lost three straight times in the first round.

“This group of players, their dynamic has changed, and it’s really exciting right now,” he said.

There will be at least one change to the coaching staff. GM Doug Armstrong said today that associate coach Brad Shaw will not be back. The rest of the staff has been offered one-year extensions to match Hitchcock’s.

Now that the decision has been made on the head coach, Armstrong can turn his full attention to the roster. Getting Jaden Schwartz, a pending restricted free agent, signed to a long-term deal will be his initial focus.

As for the captain, pending unrestricted free agent David Backes, there’s interest in bringing him back, but the numbers have to make sense. Forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall are also UFAs.

On the back end, Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest wild card. He can become unrestricted next summer, and there has been speculation he could be traded this summer. But as of right now, Armstrong expects him to be back.

Armstrong also said there’s a chance Vladimir Sobotka could return to the Blues next season. Sobotka has spent the last two years in the KHL.

However the roster looks next season, it will be interesting to see what Hitchcock can get out of it. The Blues got over a big hump in 2016, but they only got halfway to winning it all.

One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s this:

Related: Parayko’s ‘memorable’ season has extended into the playoffs

NHL explains no suspension for Marleau, says he didn’t ‘pick’ Rust’s head

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PITTSBURGH — Shortly after reports surfaced that San Jose’s Patrick Marleau wouldn’t face supplemental discipline for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a series of tweets explaining their decision.

Following last night’s game, Marleau said he didn’t think he’d be suspended for the hit, explaining that he “kind of let [Rust] skate into me.”

“I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

Marleau’s assessment was in direct contrast with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

As for Rust, Sullivan listed him as day-to-day with an upper-body injury following the contest. The hit knocked Rust out of last night’s game, and the Penguins haven’t began their off-day practice yet.

More to follow…