Before the Phoenix Coyotes struck a deal to keep them in Glendale for at least the next five years, the city of Portland, Oregon, was, according to one report, seriously in the mix to land the financially troubled franchise.
Today, in the Portland Tribune, Trail Blazers President/CEO Chris McGowan confirmed that report, suggesting that billionaire owner Paul Allen (pictured) is intrigued at the thought of adding an NHL team to his pro sports portfolio that already includes an NBA franchise (the Blazers) an NFL team (the Seattle Seahawks), and an MLS club (Seattle Sounders).
McGowan says the Blazers “never made an offer” for the Coyotes, but that an extensive market analysis convinced Allen the NHL in Portland would be a positive move.
“I never got the sense that Paul wasn’t interested in the NHL,” McGowan says. “Paul has always been interested in things that are good for Portland and the arena. It’s our job to bring opportunities to Paul. The NHL is just one of those. Our analysis led us to believe that potentially a team could work here. We were in the mix when it related to Portland as a potential option, but it didn’t work out, so it becomes moot.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has since said that the league is “very intrigued by the Pacific Northwest” and “to the extent expansion comes into the picture or relocation is needed, I’m sure the Pacific Northwest is going to get serious consideration.”
While it’s been Seattle that’s received the most attention so far as Pacific Northwest cities and NHL expansion/relocation are concerned, you have to think the league would love to add an owner with pockets as deep as Allen’s.
According to Forbes, the Microsoft co-founder is No. 53 on the list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $15 billion.
Related: NHL reportedly pushing for Seattle expansion for 2014-15 season
With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.
During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.
“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.
“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”
The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.
Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.