Jason Brough

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Washington’s Verizon Center will become Capital One Arena

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WASHINGTON (AP) The downtown home of the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals is now called Capital One Arena.

Owner Ted Leonsis announced the change from Verizon Center on Wednesday, along with an investment of $40 million in the arena. Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment is not disclosing the financial terms or length of the new naming-rights agreement.

It goes into effect immediately, with new signage expected by the fall.

The 20,500-seat arena located in Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood was built by late Wizards owner Abe Pollin and opened in in 1997. It was previously known as MCI Center before Verizon bought MCI in 2006.

Capital One founder, chairman and CEO Richard Fairbank is a minority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. A Monumental official said Fairbank recused himself from the negotiations.

Karmanos still not sure offer to buy Hurricanes ‘cuts the mustard’

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Peter Karmanos is willing to give Chuck Greenberg some time to put his investment group together.

But in an interview with Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer, Karmanos wanted to be clear that he has not yet agreed to sell the Carolina Hurricanes.

Before a transaction is finalized, there are still a few stumbling blocks to get over.

From Alexander’s conversation with Karmanos:

So there’s still a ways to go before the ‘Canes have a new owner that’s willing to keep the team in Raleigh.

First, Greenberg has to raise the money — and a few weeks ago, it was reported he was “not even close” to doing that.

Then, if Greenberg does manage to pull the funds together, a purchase agreement has to be reached that satisfies both sides.

In other words, a lot could still go wrong in this process.

Fingers crossed, ‘Canes fans.

Related: Forbes calls report of offer to buy Hurricanes ‘bogus’ and ‘fake news’

Under Pressure: David Backes

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This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…

David Backes had a tough first year in Boston.

Not as tough as Loui Eriksson‘s first year in Vancouver, mind you.

But you know things didn’t go all that well when management is forced to defend your signing at season’s end.

“David had a hard time adjusting,” said team president Cam Neely. “He mentioned that at the end of year. It was more of a challenge for him to come to a new city and a new team, to get to know 22, 24 other players. That took a while for him to get adjusted.

“I feel like David is really built for the type of playoff hockey you have to play to go deep. He’s a great leader. He’s helped the young kids a ton. If he could pick up a little bit of a step in his game, which he’s going to work on in the offseason, I think that would be beneficial for him and us.”

Backes notched 17 goals with 21 assists in 74 regular-season games — which isn’t the worst production ever. And to be fair, he did produce in the playoffs, with one goal and three assists in six games.

The concern is his age. At 33, it’s easier said than done to “pick up” a step — even with a hard, focused offseason of training. And with four years left on a $30 million contract, it’s fair to wonder if the B’s should’ve just let Eriksson go and saved the cap space for use down the road.

Alas, nothing can be done about that now. But at this point in his career, Backes is probably best suited for a bottom-six role. That’s why the Bruins would love to see a youngster like Anders Bjork come in and show he can play in the top six.

In theory, Backes could form a complementary duo with Ryan Spooner, another player who will enter the season under pressure to perform. The former is defensively responsible and can win battles, while the latter’s strength is offense. Heck, throw in another player with something to prove, Matt Beleskey, and perhaps you’ve got yourself a third line.

So much will depend on Boston’s young forward prospects and whether any are ready to play at the NHL level. If one or two of them show well, Backes could be a solid third-liner. If not, he might have to play in the top six again, and that may not be the best thing for the B’s.

Sabres hire ex-NHLer Komisarek as player development coach

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have hired former NHL defenseman Mike Komisarek as a player development coach.

Komisarek becomes the latest addition to first-time head coach Phil Housley’s staff.

The 35-year-old is from West Islip, New York, and played for three teams during an 11-year NHL career that ended after the 2013-14 season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Komisarek also played for Montreal and Toronto and finished with 14 goals and 67 assists for 81 points in 551 career games.

Komisarek also has ties to new Sabres general manager Jason Botterill. Though they were never teammates, both played college hockey at Michigan.

Related: Sabres add Hajt to Housley’s coaching staff

 

Looking to make the leap: Anders Bjork

This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…

If the Boston Bruins want to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders again, it’s imperative that some of their young forward prospects start making an impact at the NHL level.

Anders Bjork has the potential to give them what they need. A fifth-round draft pick in 2014, the 20-year-old signed with the B’s after a prolific junior year at Notre Dame in which he piled up 52 points (21G, 31A) in just 39 games.

Though he’s never played a professional game, there is even talk he could compete for a top-six role in the NHL next season — perhaps alongside David Krejci on Boston’s second line.

And if that’s a tad optimistic, if Bjork could at least provide some scoring punch in the bottom six, the B’s would still be pretty happy.

First he has to make the team, of course.

“Obviously, there’s a ton of good prospects and young players in the organization so it’s going to be tough to earn a spot on the Bruins, in Boston,” Bjork said, per CSNNE.com. “I think I know that I’m going to be training really hard. I plan to work a lot on my strength and stuff like that and just anything I can do to give myself a better shot at making the team, I think I’m going to do. It’s going to take a lot of effort. But it’s a great opportunity. I’m excited about that and that’s definitely going to drive me this summer.”

To get Bjork to leave college, the Bruins needed to sell him on the opportunity to make an immediate impact in the NHL.

“Our hopes are that he sees where we’re at as a team and some of the young players we’re putting in our lineup,” said team president Cam Neely. “We hope that he understands that he’s a player that we think very highly of that can step in and contribute [in the NHL].”

But Bjork won’t be the only young forward gunning for a spot out of camp. Jake DeBrusk, a first-round draft pick in 2015, and Danton Heinen, the 22-year-old AHL star, will also be in the mix. So too will Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zachary Senyshyn, Trent Frederic, and Ryan Donato.

So it should be a very interesting preseason for the B’s.

“We’ve been fairly committed to allowing our young prospects to try and grow and take some opportunity,” Bruins GM Don Sweeney said last month at the team’s prospect camp. “Now, we’ve got some great competition and internal competition set up, and I do believe there will be a couple players, and there are a couple that are here that got a taste last year that will be along those same lines, will challenge; particularly up front.”