Getty

Seattle group formally files for NHL expansion franchise

12 Comments

SEATTLE (AP) — The group looking to bring professional hockey to Seattle has taken the next step in the pursuit of an NHL franchise.

The Oak View Group and its prospective NHL ownership group, led by billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, submitted its expansion application with the National Hockey League on Tuesday.

”We are excited for the next steps in the process and our continued partnership with the City of Seattle,” Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke said in a statement.

The expansion application has been expected for weeks and is the next step in Seattle’s ongoing hope of bringing an NHL franchise to the largest market in the United States without a professional winter sports franchise. The filing also included a $10 million deposit. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also tweeted her excitement about Oak View’s filing with the NHL.

If Seattle is successful in its expansion bid, the new franchise would bring the league to an even 32 teams with 16 in each conference. A new team would also yield a hefty expansion fee – in the neighborhood of $650 million.

The expansion application is a procedural step that was necessary to validate Oak View’s intent on making Seattle the next NHL market. Seattle’s application will be reviewed and ultimately the league’s executive committee will make a recommendation to the full NHL Board of Governors. The timeline for that is unknown.

The expansion franchise process is running concurrent with a $660 million remodel of KeyArena being privately financed by OVG. The group has an aggressive timeline for construction that could have the renovated building open in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.

The first test in how willing Seattle is to embrace the NHL will arrive in the coming weeks and months when the prospective ownership group begins a season-ticket drive, the same way the league tested Las Vegas. Any NHL team in Seattle would find a completely different landscape than a decade ago when the Sonics and NBA moved to Oklahoma City and the city lost its winter sports outlet.

Seattle’s skyline is filled with as many construction cranes as snowcapped peaks in the surrounding mountains. Amazon has taken over an entire section of the city, joined nearby by satellite offices of Google and Facebook. The amount of wealth now in the Seattle market is part of the reason Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke has regularly called Seattle ”a brilliant marketplace” and one of the most enticing expansion opportunities in pro sports history.

Seattle has become a city of transplants due to the booming local economy. A hockey franchise would provide those newcomers a team to rally around, much like what happened when the Sounders of the MLS arrived in 2009.

But finding a foothold in Seattle will be an examination of how starved fans are for another team. Basketball is embedded in the DNA of the region thanks to 41 years of the SuperSonics until 2008 and a lengthy history of producing NBA talent.

While the ownership group for the potential NHL franchise appears set, there remains some concern about having the new arena ready by the 2020 season. OVG and the city reached agreement on a memorandum of understanding for the arena in December. Councilmembers praised the agreement for including benefits for the city, including $20 million in cash and in-kind contributions to nonprofit organizations and another $40 million to help improve transportation in the area around Seattle Center.

The MOU was the first step in a process that will include an environmental review. The city still needs to finalize several key documents with the developer, including the lease and other agreements.

Under the MOU, Oak View Group would be responsible for regular facility upgrades for the life of the 39-year lease agreement. Should those upgrade requirements be met, there are two eight-year lease extensions that will be activated, and carry the entire life of the lease agreement to 55 years.

Possible trade destinations for Rick Nash

Getty Images
9 Comments

Not long ago, PHT passed along word that the New York Rangers have reportedly asked Rick Nash to hand over his no-trade lists.

Basically, it breaks down as: 18 teams he wouldn’t accept a trade to and 12 teams he’d accept a trade to.

As TSN’s Bob McKenzie notes in that post, it’s possible that Nash could try to short-circuit a potential move by listing 12 teams that wouldn’t be likely to have interest. It’s also worth noting that we don’t know how either of Nash’s lists shake out.

While much is up in the air, there are some objective facts worth keeping in mind: Nash is 33, so it’s that much more likely that he’d be seen as a pure rental. As a pending UFA, he could easily return to the Rangers during the summer, if there’s mutual interest.

Nash also carries a colossal $7.8 million cap hit this season. On the bright side, Cap Friendly estimates his remaining cap hit as $2.6M as of today; either way, a team might prefer that the Rangers retain at least part of his salary, or eat a funky contract in return.

One other note: back in June 2016, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported that Nash would not accept a trade to a Canadian team on a previous no-trade list. It’s unclear if that stance has changed, as he might be more amenable to such an idea in a contract year.

Anyway, it could be a fun exercise to ponder 12 potential destinations for Nash. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a list of the 12 most likely destinations. In a lot of cases, it came down to entertainment value, so your mileage may vary.

Now, in no particular order while assuming that the Rangers wouldn’t send Nash to the Islanders:

Columbus Blue Jackets

How fun would a reunion be?

Back in 2002, Nash became the Blue Jackets’ first-ever No. 1 overall pick after they selected fourth overall in 2000 and eighth in 2001. In nine seasons with Columbus, Nash was often the only bright side on shaky roster, scoring almost 300 goals. The nostalgia factor would be extremely cool here.

But it’s not just about that.

Nash has experience with John Tortorella, something that should never be underestimated. This Blue Jackets team seems like it should be taking the next step forward; maybe an old hero could give them that extra shove?

(It helps that Columbus has relatively solid salary cap flexibility, too.)

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers might not want to enhance their division rival’s chances of winning three in a row, but what if Pittsburgh makes them a great offer?

Pittsburgh would probably need to package a contract or two to make this work (Ian Cole, maybe a Carl Hagelin reunion?), yet that thought might sweeten the pot for the Blueshirts.

Injuries have really been an issue for the Penguins, so Nash would be a nice fit, especially since he’d likely do well in their aggressive offense. Who knows how many shots this core has left, so why not take a big swing with Nash?

Washington Capitals

Bonus points in this case for uniting kindred spirits.

The Capitals put up big numbers in the regular season, only to suffer heartbreak in the playoffs, though the attacks on their character often feel like a bit much.

Rick Nash puts up big numbers in the reg–you know what, you probably get where that is going.

It would be poetic if the Capitals and Nash finally broke through together, much like that time A-Rod actually tore up the MLB playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Injuries and regression took the bloom off the rose a bit for the Blues – remember when they were one of the hottest teams in the league? – but Nash could really tie the room together, especially if they insist on loading up with that top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Nash – Paul StastnyAlexander Steen could be an extremely expensive and potentially dangerous second line, with plenty of motivation considering that Stastny, like Nash, is in a contract year.

You could probably assign some of that Capitals logic to Nash with St. Louis, too, as they’ve been snakebitten around spring time far too often.

San Jose Sharks

Let’s end this trilogy of torment with the Sharks (granted, San Jose shook off at least some of its baggage in making the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.)

This Sharks team is getting old enough that Nash won’t stick out like a sore thumb, so that’s nice.

Speaking of soreness, the Sharks’ trade decisions may hinge on Joe Thornton‘s knee, and adding Nash would make a lot of sense with a reasonably healthy Jumbo Joe. The two enjoyed some great scoring times together in Switzerland during one of the NHL’s lockouts, so maybe they’d rekindle that magic again? Thornton’s one of the rare expiring contract guys who’s actually making slightly more than Nash at $8M.

Dallas Stars

Consider how imbalanced the Stars’ scoring has been this season, and then imagine what would happen to this team if one or more of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg got hurt?

Nash could add some punch to a team that’s making strides under Ken Hitchcock. You might not think that Dallas is a team that needs to worry about its window closing, but consider this: Tyler Seguin’s $5.75M cap hit expires after 2018-19. If they lock him up after that (psst. they should), then they might not have the cash for future rentals.

Why not stream a blockbuster while you still can?

Boston Bruins

Most of these teams would need the Rangers to take on a shaky contract, retain some salary, or both. The B’s rank as one of the tougher nuts to crack in that regard, and I’d wager that they’d probably be a better destination for fellow Rangers trade piece Michael Grabner with all of that in mind.

That said, it would be an interesting fit. During a playoff series, someone might miraculously slow down the locomotive that is the Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak line. If so, a supplemental scorer such as Nash could make a sneaky-impressive Bruins team that much more formidable.

Winnipeg Jets

So, we’re going to name a Canadian team here or there, just in case. As Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said on Saturday:

“Maybe, just maybe, a guy like Rick Nash would be of interest,” Kypreos said. “I don’t know whether or not that would fit in with where he is in his list of teams that he’d want to go to. But that’s the type of guy I think that Winnipeg would be looking at.”

Beyond the Jets’ legitimate potential for a deep run (or at least a first ever playoff win), imagine how much offense Nash could generate if he landed on a line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele? Hey, if Nash waited until closer to the trade deadline, he’d bypass a good chunk of the brutal Winnipeg winter as well.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Winnipeg seems more realistic than Toronto if Nash resists the fishbowl atmosphere of Canadian media coverage. That said, maybe playing for Mike Babcock would make a difference?

Babs loves his veteran forwards, and his heart likely warms for Canadian Olympians, so that’s two boxes Nash checks off.

Again, this one might be far-fetched, yet Nash in a Maple Leafs jersey sounds pretty fun.

Anaheim Ducks

Ignore the Ducks’ youthful, impressive defensemen for a moment and consider their aging veteran forwards. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are both 32, while Ryan Kesler is 33. Much like Nash, these guys have a lot of mileage on them as longtime go-to players.

It’s been an odd duck season for Anaheim, but if they can get it together (and lock up a playoff spot), few teams would be all that eager to face this team in the playoffs. Nash could be that boost they need.

Los Angeles Kings

At least when it comes to forwards, the California teams sure feel a little creaky these days, don’t they?

Much like with the Sharks and Joe Thornton, a flawed Kings team could be a dangerous dark horse candidate if a) they land Nash and b) their injured center – in this case, Jeff Carter – can come back and be at least mostly himself.

Then again, the old guard in L.A. loved going for power forwards in Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, and those short-term moves left quite a bit to be desired, so maybe this wouldn’t appeal enough to the Kings.

Philadelphia Flyers

You could put a number of teams in this 12th spot. Maybe the Devils and Rangers would make nice long enough to find a deal? Perhaps the Hurricanes would be proactive and try to fight their way out of purgatory?

Philly might be a little harsh for a streaky scorer like Nash, but look at that current lineup, and imagine it with that little extra “oomph.” Nash could allow the Flyers to move Jakub Voracek back with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He could fit into that deadly top power play or maybe echo Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh by giving this team a more varied attack.

Despite a frustrating four-game losing streak, the Flyers are still in wild card position as of this writing. GM Ron Hextall has done a masterful job breaking the organization’s old, reckless habits of going after headline-stealing trades and signings. Still, every now and then it actually pays to be bold. They merely need to consult the other team in their state for prime examples.

***

To reiterate, this is not a list of the 12 teams Nash would accept trades to. He still might refuse a trip to the Great White North. He may only want to stay as close to NYC as possible.

That said, it can often be as fun to picture different trade scenarios as it is to watch real ones play out.

What are some other teams that would make sense? And would you even want Nash on your team? Do tell.

NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reasonably throws the Nashville Predators in the mix, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

3 Comments

BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

U.S. rallies vs. Canada to win first-ever outdoor World Juniors game

2 Comments

The United States and Canada packed more than 44,000 people into the Buffalo Bills’ New Era Field on Friday for a World Juniors showdown, and with snow falling, it only makes sense that a flurry turned the game.

Canada generated a 3-1 lead, but Brady Tkachuk and the U.S. team rallied back for an eventual 4-3 shootout win. The 3-2 and 3-3 goals happened within a minute of each other.

More than a few people compared the scene to the first Winter Classic between the Penguins and Sabres, which was also in Buffalo. Not a bad warm-up for the upcoming 2018 Winter Classic, eh?

NHL legacies ended up factoring into this one, as both Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows scored during regulation and in the shootout. Casey Mittelstadt was also a considerable factor, collecting an assist on all three of America’s goals. (Mittelstadt was named the player of the game on the U.S. side, while goalie Carter Hart was Canada’s.)

Tkachuk & Co. justified people traveling in treacherous conditions, and plenty of people had fun with the blustery scene.

Brady is described by some as the more explosively talented Tkachuk, which is saying something because Matthew is already a very effective NHL player. If moments like these are any indication, he might have at least some of his brother’s knack for agitating:

This was a helpful win for the U.S., with the preliminary round of play concluding with a Dec. 31 match against Finland. As TSN notes, the U.S. has gotten the better of Canada at the World Juniors lately:

The Americans have owned their northern neighbour of late – at least at World Juniors. Friday was Team USA’s fourth straight win over Team Canada in tournament play since 2015, including last year’s gold-medal game. Team Canada has missed nine consecutive shootout attempts against Team USA.

Maybe these two teams will meet again during a higher-stakes moment in the tournament? Either way, memories were forged at the first-ever outdoor game for the World Juniors, which set an attendance record.

Speaking of that first Winter Classic, recall it here:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Joe Louis Arena auction gives you chance to own Al the Octopus

Getty Images
5 Comments

Now that the Detroit Red Wings are comfortably inside their new home at Little Caesars Arena, it’s time to clean out The Joe and sell off what’s left inside.

Beginning on Saturday through Dec. 16, fans will have the opportunity to bid on various pieces of Joe Louis Arena memorabilia. Some of the items available include full player lockers, various arena signs, banners and photos, and a puck freezer.

But the coolest item up for auction — aside from this players’ lounge toaster which may have been used to toast bagels by the likes of Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom — is definitely what hung above the ice for oh, so many years.

That’s right — you can own Al the Octopus.

If you’re going to pony up and give Al a new home there’s a “removal & handling” fee of $300, but if you’re already putting out the cash for the giant Red Wings’ mascot, what’s another couple hundred bucks? And you’ve gotta pick it up yourself. Fortunately, the octopus comes in parts, so you’ll just have to worry about finding enough rope to tie down his head to the roof of your car.

Al would make a great addition to any backyard rink, neighborhood rooftop or local hill to scare outsiders away. It’ll pair nicely with the San Jose Sharks’ mascot head they skate through before games should that ever become available.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.