<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Chris Hansen

No NHL-first offer has been made for Seattle arena, says Hansen

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The latest from the NHL-to-Seattle front: Chris Hansen, the local investor behind the SoDo neighborhood arena, says there has been no offer made from a hockey franchise to become the prospective building’s inaugural tenant.

“We’ve had a lot of informal discussions with people about this, but us or the city have yet to be presented with any kind of offer. I mean any kind of even basic offer that would be the opening point for negotiating something,” Hansen told the AP on Tuesday.

“I just want to make that clear. No one has come forward and made an offer to do this in a way that would be unacceptable or acceptable. There hasn’t been any negotiation around the terms of how this could be changed. We’ve taken a very simple approach: Don’t make it worse for us and don’t make it worse for the city and use your own creativity and just come back to us with something that is fair and we don’t have anything back yet.”

More, from the AP:

The lack of formal discussions around a potential hockey franchise was surprising, considering his original memorandum of understanding with the city of Seattle and King County was approved more than two years ago and immediate NBA prospects have dimmed.

The original MOU calls for arena construction to begin only after the acquisition of a basketball franchise. A revised MOU for a hockey-first scenario would need to be approved by local governments and likely require more private investment.

Hansen acknowledged having discussions with Victor Coleman, the head of a Los Angeles-based real estate company who owns properties in Seattle’s stadium district and is known to be interested in trying to bring in hockey. Those discussions have yet to yield a formal proposal.

Back on May 5, Coleman — who’s been working with Hansen to get the arena — reaffirmed his desire to put a team in downtown Seattle.

“My priority is to figure out a way to make a deal on the SoDo site,” Coleman told Puget Sound Business Journal.

That said, Coleman did explain he had a “Plan B” in mind with regards to the arena, declining to say where his alternative site was located. It was the latest in a series of developments involving proposals outside of Seattle; in late April, developers in nearby Tukwila filed intent to build an arena — a group called RLB Holdings, headed up by Ray Bartoszek, the former energy trader who was reportedly close to moving the Coyotes to Seattle.

In light of those developments, Seattle mayor Ed Murray posed the idea of amending the MOU for a hockey-first proposal.

“I’m committed to doing everything I can to get an NBA and NHL team here in Seattle,” Murray said last month, per King 5. “And Seattle is absolutely the only place for an NHL and NBA team here in our region.

“As I’ve said before, I stand by the [memorandum of understanding] that the city signed which requires the NBA to commit to Seattle before an arena can be built. But given what we’ve heard from the NBA, I’m open to the idea of NHL coming to Seattle first. I am ready to listen and would be willing to reconsider the MOU if there is an NHL-first proposal that pencils out for the City.”

Hansen, who says he remains committed to getting the NBA back to Seattle, went on to tell the AP he doesn’t feel any pressure from RLB or the Tukwila proposal.

WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Lightning, Eastern Conference Final Game 6

Tonight at Amalie, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to advance to the Stanley Cup Final — for the first time in 11 years — when they host the Rangers in a potential close-out game in the Eastern Conference Final (8 p.m. ET.)

You can catch the game on NBCSN, or live online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

In defense of Yandle, who’s ‘trying to make some plays’

Paquette ‘very questionable’ for Bolts after Game 5 shot block

Cooper: Lightning aren’t treating Game 6 like any other game

Holland to meet with Blashill this week, hasn’t expanded candidate list

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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Though it’s likely just a formality, some news to pass along on the Red Wings coaching search — GM Ken Holland will head to Grand Rapids this week to meet with AHL bench boss Jeff Blashill, the in-house (and leading) candidate to replace Mike Babcock behind the bench.

News of the meeting, first reported by the Detroit Free Press, comes roughly one week after Babcock left Detroit to sign a mega eight-year, $50 million (reported) deal with the Maple Leafs. Shortly after confirming news of Babcock’s departure, Holland confirmed Blashill was a “leading candidate” to be the next head coach while also revealing he would compile a shortlist of alternate choices.

As for that list… well, it hasn’t grown any in the last week.

“I’ve had some people reach out to me,” Holland told the Free Press on Tuesday. “But as of right now, I haven’t expanded the list.”

Some have speculated that former Penguins bench boss Dan Bylsma might be in the mix, though at this stage he looks more likely to take the Buffalo gig. Peter DeBoer, who broke into coaching with the old Detroit Junior Red Wings of the OHL, is also believed to be a potential candidate, but has interviewed elsewhere too (most notably San Jose.)

‘I’ve got no issues’ with Hitchcock, says Blues captain Backes

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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While it was hardly a glowing endorsement, St. Louis captain David Backes did offer support for head coach Ken Hitchcock who, on Tuesday, signed a one-year extension with the club.

“I’ve got no issues with him,” Backes said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Does he ride guys hard and has he been on my case at times, where it’s made me angry? Yes. But he does it in the light of trying to make our team better, trying to make each individual player better.”

Prior to the playoffs, many assumed Hitchcock’s future in St. Louis would be decided in the playoffs — specifically the first round (as in, could he get the Blues past it?) The answer was “no” for the third straight year; the Blues lost in six games to Minnesota, and it was widely speculated that would be the end of Hitch’s time with the organization.

But that’s why they call it speculation.

Shortly after the loss, Blues owner Tom Stillman preached composure, saying that while he was “frustrated and disappointed” with the way the season ended, he wasn’t ready to “throw people under the bus.”

“For two reasons I don’t think that’s a great idea,” Stillman explained. “First, you should take a careful, deliberate look at what happened — what we did, what we didn’t do — and then make sure we figure out how we don’t do that again, and break through in the playoffs.

“The other reason is a matter of, I guess, leadership. We have an organization that’s going to continue forward, and I’m responsible for making sure that the organization gets it right and is successful. I don’t think it’s helpful if I’m up here and start blaming people and cutting off people’s heads.”

Those words suggested the Blues knew they had a good coach in Hitchcock — and to be fair, few question his knowledge and tactical ability — but needed time to analyze the relationship between Hitch and his players. This was, after all, the same coach that’s been accused of wearing down people with his demanding nature and, at times, an overwhelming “information overload.”

Just consider what T.J. Oshie said about the Blues following a bad loss to Vancouver in March.

“I know we’re not [in the playoffs] yet, but there’s a lot of information going around, and guys are getting a little indecisive,” Oshie explained. “I’m not sure what it looks like from up top, but I think guys aren’t really sticking with their gut and going with their first instinct.”

This isn’t to say the Blues were anti-Hitch. In late April, Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk threw his support behind the head coach.

Backes re-iterated as much today. The captain said that while that playing for Hitchcock is challenging, those challenges can often be rewarding.

“I think if you get caught up in those individual moments at the time you’re under the gun, having an interview, those comments come out,” he explained. “But when you take a step back and you realize, ‘Oh that’s why he was all over me because I was not being as productive as I could be,’ he’s very effective.”

Paquette ‘very questionable’ for Bolts after Game 5 shot block

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Four
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Lightning forward Cedric Paquette will be a gametime decision for tonight’s potential Eastern Conference Final close-out game against the Rangers, though the decision may have already been made.

“He’s questionable in your terms,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said during today’s media availability. “Very questionable.”

Paquette appeared to injure his right hand while blocking a Derick Brassard shot in the first period:

The gritty forward, who’s appeared in 17 of Tampa Bay’s 18 playoff games thus far, returned after some time in the dressing room, but finished with just 5:43 of ice time — well off his 12:36 TOI per game average this postseason.

Paquette then briefly participated in today’s optional morning skate, before retreating to the dressing room.

If Paquette can’t go tonight, it’s expected that Vladislav Namestnikov will draw in. The Russian forward has one assist in 11 playoff games this spring.