Dallas Stars sale takes next step in bankruptcy court

While the team itself wraps up work at Prince Edward Island, the Dallas Stars’ most important battles will take place in the courtroom rather than along the boards.

Today marked another key step in that process, as the bankruptcy court proceedings began with a rather important thing determined: the Stars will, in fact, be able to function as normal even as they go through the bankruptcy process. It will be business as usual, with the Dallas Morning News confirming that 12 motions were passed that permit the team to keep the lights on (both literally and figuratively).

That’s a crucial part of the process after the team officially filed for bankruptcy last week as part of a plan to sell the franchise, which is currently being controlled by creditors who took over once Tom Hicks’ financial issues eliminated his ability to run the team.

The next step is an even bigger one: a hearing involving the bidding process for the team will take place on Thursday. That will give bidders a 30-day deadline to make their attempts to own the Stars, which means that they must submit their bids by Oct. 22. Katie Hairopoulos explains that the the proposed auction date would then be Nov. 21, which would make the goal of changing ownership before 2012 seem fairly reasonable. (Keep in mind that the new owner(s) would need to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, along with other steps that might delay or even halt the process.)

While there are certainly some elements that are still in the air, it’s hard to deny the feeling of optimism permeating the potential deal. Frontrunner Tom Gaglardi already announced the legal team that will represent him in the bidding, while Business Week reveals that former Texas Rangers co-owner Chuck Greenberg may indeed get involved in the process (which has been rumored for some time). Check out this post for some speculation regarding other possible owners, including Doug Miller, who owns the CHL’s Allen Americans.

Again, though, Gaglardi seems like the top contender. Dave Shoalts of the Globe & Mail elaborates on why he might not face very serious opposition.

The offer will also serve as a stalking-horse bid for the bankruptcy court, which means other parties can file a higher bid with the court. However, Stars insiders do not expect any competing bids and Gaglardi may take control of the team in the next two months if he gets the expected approval from the NHL’s board of governors.

Once Gaglardi is in charge, Stars fans can expect a strong marketing push to win them back, as the team’s ticket sales eroded badly in Hicks’ final years. There may also be a new president on the way, since current president Tony Tavares, a veteran NHL executive, was appointed by the banks to look after the team during the bankruptcy and sale.

While GM Joe Nieuwendyk claims that the team wasn’t affected by ownership issues, it clearly made it that much easier for Brad Richards to decide to leave town. (I’d actually argue that the Stars might be better off in the long run because of Richards’ age and the fact that they missed the playoffs for three straight seasons with him on their roster, but that’s a debate for another day.)

Nieuwendyk can say all the right things about the team’s health without an owner, but with the specter of budding star Jamie Benn’s pending restricted free agency and the team’s struggles at the box office, a deep-pocketed new owner would be a huge boost for the Stars. While a lot can change in the next week and months, it’s starting to look like the Stars will get their new owner and a steadied direction in the near future.

Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs

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Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

It’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 30-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury

Report: Jets offered Byfuglien for Hamonic, Isles said no

Dustin Byfuglien

If Travis Hamonic could choose one team to be traded to, he’d probably choose Winnipeg. The 25-year-old Islanders defenseman wants to be closer to his family, and his family is from Manitoba. Hamonic already owns a condo in Winnipeg.

So far, though, the Jets and Islanders haven’t been able to work out a deal. The Jets have three right-shot defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers who could, theoretically, be swapped for Hamonic, also a right shot.

“I think the Islanders were offered Byfuglien and they said no,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said this morning on Sportsnet 960 (audio), per Today’s Slapshot. “And I understand why, because Byfuglien’s got no term left.

“I think they’d love to have Trouba, but the Jets aren’t really there to do it. Myers, if it’s happened – I can’t say for sure it has or hasn’t – I’m not sure that’s the deal either team really wants to make, to be perfectly honest.”

Byfuglien is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s expected to cash in big-time on his next deal. The 30-year-old may not be the most disciplined player, but at his best, he’s an absolute force on the back end.

That the Isles reportedly said no to Byfuglien shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given his contract uncertainty. However, it does make one wonder about his future in Winnipeg. Remember that the salary cap is not expected to go up by much, and the Jets have another pending UFA in captain Andrew Ladd, plus a couple of key RFAs in Trouba and Mark Scheifele.

While it’s never easy to tell what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thinking, the big question with Byfuglien and the Jets may end up being when, not if, they part ways. Will it be after the season or before the Feb. 29 trade deadline?

Preds still haven’t found their scoring touch

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The Nashville Predators got off to a relatively good start this season, but something seems to have happened to their offense over the last six games.

Prior to Nov. 20, the Preds had only been shut out once in their first 17 games. Since then, they’ve been blanked three times and have just six goals in their last six contests.

If you remove Mike Fisher from the equation, the numbers are even more dreadful.

Fisher’s scored three of those six goals, while Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have none.

After Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Buffalo , here’s what coach Peter Laviolette told the Tennessean: “I thought we could’ve had more gas, to be honest with you. The energy just wasn’t there; maybe the second period had something to do with that or the road trip, which was a long trip. I’m not making any excuses, but I think when we play at a higher tempo that’s when we’re at our best, and we had more to push in that area tonight.”

The first game back home after a long road trip is typically a difficult one for most teams, so we’ll see how the Predators respond on Tuesday night when they host Arizona.