Jason Brough

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney stands by the Stanley Cup at a news conference outlining TVA's NHL coverage plans this season in Boucherville, Quebec, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
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Mulroney: Quebec City may have to wait for expansion team

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“Even with the exchange rate, we can handle the team.”

That was Quebec City expansion backer Brian Mulroney back in September, when the Canadian dollar was valued right around where it is today, at $0.75 USD.

But here was Mulroney yesterday, speaking to FM93 radio in Quebec, per the Toronto Sun:

“Obviously, you know that with the Canadian dollar where it is, it is an extraordinary challenge not only for Quebec, but for all of Canada vis-a-vis the United States.”

Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister, now Quebecor’s chairman, didn’t actually contradict himself, since all he said in September was that the giant media company could “handle the team.” (Quebecor’s annual revenues are in the billions.)

The problem for Quebecor is that the NHL doesn’t want an expansion team that will merely survive; it wants one that will thrive, and the current state of the Canadian dollar would make that tough for a team in Quebec City.

Hence, Mulroney’s concession that Quebec City hockey fans may have to stay patient for the return of Les Nordiques.

“But,” he added, “I think we are high up on the list of important applications to remember in the future.”

Related: NHL insists ‘no final decisions’ have been made on expansion

Drouin reports to AHL, says everything will be ‘fixed in the summer’

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If there was one takeaway from Jonathan Drouin‘s press conference today, it’s that everything will be fixed in the summer.

Consider the 20-year-old’s reply when he asked if his relationship with the Tampa Bay Lightning was salvageable.

“I think our relationship’s fine,” Drouin said, per TSN’s Mark Masters. “We’ve talked, made this decision to come back here and, like I said, we’re going to fix this in the summer and see how it goes from there.”

He was also asked if he regretted how his request to be traded — and subsequent failure to report in the AHL — played out, considering he wasn’t dealt at the deadline.

“It’s hard to say,” he said, per Masters. “Obviously, I wish it went another way, but it happened that way and, like I said, it will be fixed in the summer.”

The consensus remains that Drouin will be traded sometime during the offseason. His return to the Syracuse Crunch — announced yesterday — is advantageous for both the player, who needs to play (and with the deadline past, is out of leverage anyway), and the club, which at the very least needs to showcase him for potential suitors.

That’s not to say Drouin will never suit up for the Lightning again. Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman hasn’t closed that door quite yet:

But first things first, Drouin knows he has work to do in the AHL:

Drouin, who admitted he “feels a little rusty,” is expected to make his return to the Crunch lineup Friday versus Bridgeport.

Wings turn to Howard, as Flyers put the pressure on

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Another poor start from the suddenly struggling Petr Mrazek means Jimmy Howard will get the nod tonight in Columbus.

Mrazek was pulled after allowing two goals on five shots in Sunday’s loss to the Blackhawks. Howard came on in relief, allowing two goals on 21 shots as the Red Wings fell, 4-1, to the defending champs.

The Wings are still in a playoff spot, but thanks to the Flyers’ recent surge, their cushion has fallen to just two points. The last time Detroit missed the postseason was 1990, more than a quarter of a century ago, so the pressure is very much on for rookie head coach Jeff Blashill, and his goalies.

“I have unbelievable belief in Petr. I think he’s an elite goalie in this league,” Blashill told MLive. “I also think Jimmy’s proven through numerous different occasions in his career that he is an elite goalie in this league. I think we have the luxury of having two guys that I tons of confidence in.”

Howard played well in each of his last two starts, allowing just three goals on 71 shots combined. But the veteran has had a frustrating season overall, at times calling his performance “unacceptable.”

Howard is 8-9-5 with a .909 save percentage; Mrazek is 24-13-6 with a .924 save rate.

“I think you’re going to go through times in the year where you’re playing great and you’re going to go through times where the puck’s going in,” said Blashill. “Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s situational. Jimmy has played very well.”

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Related: At season’s end, Holland will ‘plot a plan’ to deal with Red Wings’ goalie situation

Flames freeze season-ticket prices in wake of oil crash

CALGARY, AB - MAY 5: Fans of the Calgary Flames pass around a large flag prior to Game Three against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 5, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Calling it “the right thing to do” after Alberta’s economy was hit hard by the oil crash, the Calgary Flames have opted to freeze season-ticket prices for next season.

“We’re not blind to what’s going on in our economy,” Flames executive Rollie Cyr told the Caglary Sun. “We’re looking after the consumer who has been our partner for a long time.”

Despite a 27-34-4 record, the Flames have still managed to fill Scotiabank Saddledome (capacity 19,289) this season. Average attendance is 19,166, buoyed by last year’s surprise playoff appearance, as well as marketable young players like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

Though oil prices have been on the rise lately, Calgary’s economy is not expected to improve in 2016.

“So far we haven’t seen a major spike in (season-ticket) cancellations, but we know the economy will impact certain companies so we’re bracing for that,” said Cyr.

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NHL insists ‘no final decisions’ have been made on expansion

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators
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The NHL has shot down a report from former player Georges Laraque that Quebec City is out of the running for an expansion team.

“We will not comment on the substance of our process, which remains ongoing,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a release. “No final decisions have been reached and no recommendation of any kind has been made or communicated by the League Office or the Executive Committee either to the NHL Players’ Association or to the NHL Board of Governors.”

Quebec City’s candidacy for an expansion team has been the subject of much speculation, with some believing the decline of the Canadian dollar, as well as the city’s geographical location, could convince the league to reject its bid.

The NHL has insisted that it is only considering two expansion markets right now — Quebec City and Las Vegas — and that it may expand by two teams, one team, or no teams at all.

Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle