Jason Brough

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 21: A general view of the exterior of Scottrade Center prior to the St. Louis Blues playing against the Carolina Hurricanes on October 21, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Blues seek arena upgrades after departure of Rams

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ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Blues want two local governments to renovate their city-owned downtown arena as part of a project that will also upgrade the city’s convention center and former home of its recently departed NFL team.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Blues officials and the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission met with city and St. Louis County leaders last week to discuss a $100 million renovation of the 21-year-old Scottrade Center.

“We have a 21-year-old building that has had some investment over that time period, but we also know it’s at a point where it’s starting to fall behind with other cities who we compete with,” said Blues CEO of business operations Chris Zimmerman.

The proposed project also calls for remodeling the America’s Center convention complex and the adjacent Edward Jones Dome, which was home to the St. Louis Rams before the NFL approved its move back to Los Angeles.

Supporters want to package the three projects together to maximize potential public financing.

Related: After Rams leave, Blues owner sticks up for St. Louis

 

To understand Drouin’s impatience, consider Barkov’s big payday

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The Florida Panthers made it official this morning, announcing they’d signed 20-year-old center Aleksander Barkov to a six-year contract extension worth a reported $35.4 million.

By putting pen to paper, Barkov became the first member of his 2013 draft class to really cash in. No bridge deal. Straight to the big money out of his entry-level deal. Invest wisely, don’t do anything stupid, and he’s set for life.

Others could soon follow from that 2013 class, including first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, fourth overall pick Seth Jones, sixth overall pick Sean Monahan, eighth overall pick Rasmus Ristolainen, and 10th overall pick Valeri Nichushkin. All five are pending restricted free agents. Perhaps some will end up signing a bridge deal, like fifth overall pick Elias Lindholm agreed to over the summer. But all five will have every right to push for the kind of money and security that Barkov got. 

Then there’s Jonathan Drouin. He was the third overall pick in 2013. He’s not even in the final year of his ELC yet, because he was sent back to junior after he was drafted. Now he’s suspended without pay by the Tampa Bay Lightning after refusing to report for AHL duties.

For his decision to request a trade, Drouin has been labeled a “crybaby” and a “quitter.” Said Ducks GM Bob Murray: “Entry-level players requesting trades. Amazing.”

And perhaps Drouin is being a tad petulant. It’s worth noting that, in announcing Barkov’s extension, Florida GM Dale Tallon lauded the youngster for his “exceptional game at both ends of the ice.” Worth noting, because it was Drouin’s defensive game that Bolts coach Jon Cooper said needed to improve.

But then, it’s also worth asking — what if Drouin had been drafted by the Panthers, a team that’s missed the playoffs the past three seasons, and not the Lightning, a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last year? Is it not conceivable that Drouin would have been given more of an opportunity to play regularly?

Of course it’s conceivable! It’s not rocket science. Ice time is harder to come by on good teams. Not only is there more competition on a Cup contender, there’s more at stake. Can’t be having young players making young-player mistakes with a championship on the line.

Case in point, remember when Cody Hodgson was with the Canucks? That was a very similar situation to the Drouin one, right down to the outspoken agent. Hodgson, a center, was eventually traded to Buffalo, where he didn’t have to play behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. He got way more ice time on a bad team and quickly cashed in with the Sabres. No bridge deal. Straight to the big money out of his entry-level deal.

That’s what Drouin wants. Not to follow Hodgson’s career path, obviously. But to receive a better opportunity.

So, bash him if you still want to. But it’s his career, not yours. If you were in Drouin’s shoes, you might look at the deal Barkov just signed and wonder when your big payday was coming, too.

Hamhuis on re-signing with Canucks: ‘maybe they want me and maybe they don’t’

Dan Hamhuis
AP
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Back in September, Dan Hamhuis said he expected to talk contract with the Canucks at some point during the season.

Well, it’s now just over a month until the Feb. 29 trade deadline and Hamhuis remains a pending unrestricted free agent. And with the 33-year-old defenseman targeting the first game after the All-Star break to make his return from multiple facial fractures, it’s possible the next month could be a showcase of sorts.

Hamhuis wants to remain a Canuck, but he understands the situation.

“I really believe in the team and I like the direction and the young guys and it’s something that I’d like to be part of for sure,” he told The Province. “We’ll see how things go because you never know. There are so many variables and maybe they want me and maybe they don’t and there are cap issues with the Canadian dollar. I’m not sure how it will play out.”

Hamhuis does have a no-trade clause that he could wield; however, if the Canucks don’t intend to re-sign him, he may be able to increase his free-agent value by agreeing to go to a contender for a playoff run. At the very least, he’d get a chance to play for a Stanley Cup, something he’s unlikely to get this year in Vancouver.

Canucks GM Jim Benning was asked recently if he’d consider trading Hamhuis or winger Radim Vrbata, also a pending UFA.

“If something makes sense, we’ll look at it,” said Benning. “But those guys are a big part of our team.”

And remember that making the playoffs remains the goal for the Canucks. Right now, they’re still in the race.

Related: Benning says Canucks have ‘too much pride’ to tank

Reimer wants ‘to be a Leaf my whole career,’ but isn’t sure what management thinks

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James Reimer picked a great season to have a great season.

A pending unrestricted free agent, Reimer has started 21 games for the Maple Leafs and has a .937 save percentage. Of the 35 NHL goalies that have started at least 20 games this season, that’s the highest save percentage of them all.

So yeah, pretty good timing there.

Reimer, 27, reiterated today that he’d like to remain in Toronto long-term. The only thing is, he’s not sure how management feels.

“I’ve loved being a Leaf and I’d like to be a Leaf my whole career, but obviously this unrestricted thing is sometimes a weird thing,” he told reporters, per TSN’s Mark Masters.

Certainly, Reimer has to be targeting at least what Cam Talbot got (three years, $12.5 million) from the Oilers. In fact, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the “educated guess of a few NHL management types outside of Toronto is five to seven years at $4.5- to $5.5-million per season.”

Which would be a big commitment, both salary- and term-wise, for a guy that’s never started more than 35 games in a single NHL season.

Also, his save percentage was just .907 last season.

Oh, and he has limited postseason experience, just seven games in all. He was between the pipes for Toronto’s infamous first-round collapse against the Bruins in 2013. Not long after that — and perhaps because of that — the Leafs went out and got Jonathan Bernier from the Kings.

Of course, a lot has changed in Toronto since 2013. Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello are in charge of hockey operations now, and Bernier has struggled badly during Mike Babcock’s first season behind the bench. The Leafs have reportedly made Bernier available on the trade market. He has a $4.15 million cap hit through next season.

If Reimer doesn’t re-sign with the Leafs, one team that could have interest is Calgary. Flames president Brian Burke was a big fan of Reimer’s when the former was in charge of the Leafs.

Related: Lamoriello will be busy at first deadline as Leafs GM

Weal could make Flyers debut tonight…unless he doesn’t (Update: He will)

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According to Philadelphia head coach Dave Hakstol, there’s a “reasonable chance” that forward Jordan Weal will make his Flyers debut tonight at home versus Boston.

But no guarantee.

Acquired in the trade that sent Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to Los Angeles, Weal has been a healthy scratch in his first seven games with his new club.

Hakstol told reporters that the decision on Weal wouldn’t be made until warm-ups. If Weal does play, it’s likely that veteran forward R.J. Umberger will not.

Umberger has no goals and six assists in 30 games. The way the Flyers have struggled to score all season, it’s no surprise that many fans are clamoring to see what Weal, a point-a-game player the past two seasons in the AHL, can do.

Likewise, Weal is pretty eager to end his stay in the press box. The 23-year-old hasn’t skated in an NHL game since Dec. 28.

“It’s tough,” he told CSN Philly. “And there was a week there in L.A. where I wasn’t playing, either. … It’s going to be good to get back out there if I can.”

Update: Weal is in. Sam Gagner’s out.