Should Winnipeg name their team the Jets? Andrew Ladd sees both sides of argument

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If you ask many observers, True North Sports and Entertainment would be crazy not to name the relocated Atlanta Thrashers the Winnipeg Jets.

First and (you would think?) foremost, it’s what the fans want. Yes, it’s true that True North already banked on a staggering commitment from locals to look up 13,000 season tickets for multiple years in the blink of an eye. Still, merchandise sales* and general fan happiness are factors they should absolutely keep in mind and naming the team the Jets will leave a lot of customers pleased.

On the other hand, True North has some reasons to shy away from the Jets name. One big reason would be that they want to make it their own team, so piggybacking on an old idea might take some of the personal satisfaction away. Perhaps a more pertinent reason to go with a different title is that some might think that the Jets name carries a stain of failure with it. Maybe the best way to avoid a similar fate is to wipe the slate clean altogether?

Andrew Ladd sees both sides, discusses restricted free agent status

The Winnipeg Sun caught up with Andrew Ladd to get his take on the subject. Ladd makes an interesting brain to pick; he was last season’s team captain but also remains an unrestricted free agent. If he follows the team to Winnipeg, would he prefer to be a Jet, Moose or some other wacky mascot? It seems like he understands the logic from both sides of the equation.

“I’d love it. It’s got history,” Ladd, the first member of the former Atlanta Thrashers to hit town, said, Thursday. “I was talking to (former Chicago teammate and Winnipegger) Cam Barker the other day, and he was like, ‘There might be a riot if they go in a differnt direction.’ I’m a big fan of the name.

“But it’s a new group, and I don’t think the success was there in the past and we want to start something new here, too.”

It’s interesting to get his perspective on the team’s new mascot, but it’s probably more important to focus on his thoughts on free agency.

Scheduled to become a restricted free agent, July 1, Ladd told reporters he hasn’t begun negotiations on a new contract with Kevin Cheveldayoff, but likes what he heard of the vision of the newly hired GM Thursday morning.

“And I trust it, too, which is a big thing,” Ladd said. “You need to trust people you’re going to work with and know that you’re in good hands. I have a lot of respect for Chevy and looking forward to working with him.”

Ladd’s negotiations could be rather interesting. He’s a restricted free agent, so much of the power is in Winnipeg’s corner. It might come down to how close the team thinks he’ll come to matching his surprising 29-goal output from the 2010-11 season.

Can Ladd duplicate his success from the 2010-11 season?

There are some reasons to think he can approach that level in future seasons. He reached the 49 point mark in 08-09 (just 10 short of last year’s 59) and he has the pedigree (Carolina made him the fourth overall pick of the 2004 draft) to indicate that he could be a legitimate producer. This was also the best chance he had to produce at the NHL level; he played a little more than 20 minutes per game in 10-11 (almost six minutes more than his career time on ice average of 14:23).

Then again, it’s probably true that he’s not an ideal option as a first liner. He also produced those numbers in a contract year, which is always a red flag for teams weary of getting burned.

Will Ladd be a Jet or whatever True North names the Winnipeg team? Could he play somewhere else entirely in 2011-12? We’ll find out the answers to both questions soon enough.

* – Some people might counter that a) people already own a bunch of Jets memorabilia and b) they’ll likely gobble up merchandise anyway, but a simple logo re-design would solve those complaints anyway. Say what you will about the “Buffaslug,” it didn’t exactly slow down Buffalo Sabres jersey sales. Plus, let’s face it: it’s pretty tough to mess up a logo that involves jets.

PHT Morning Skate: Winners, losers of NHL Olympic return; Training camp battles

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Training camp battles, NHL playoff previews, and other return-to-play links

• Jackets Cannon looks at Columbus’ biggest strength: defense. In particular, Rachel Bules looks at how the pandemic pause will allow the Blue Jackets to have some serious training camp competition for spots. The Blue Jackets will need to be sharp, too, because the Maple Leafs’ firepower presents a real challenge for any defense corps. [Jackets Cannon]

• Speaking of the Maple Leafs — and training camp previews — Emily Sadler put together a thorough breakdown for Toronto. Can Frederik Andersen go the distance? Tyson Barrie ranks as a player to watch. Plus much more. [Sportsnet]

• George Richards takes a look at the Panthers’ “2.0” roster for training camp. If I had to single out a most interesting item, it’s that Anton Stralman has been involved. You may remember him airing some concerns about an NHL return. [Florida Hockey Now]

• What various analytics say about how the Wild’s lines match up with the Canucks. [Zone Coverage]

• It’s one thing for the Coyotes to say that they want to “get a little more juice” out of their offense. It’s another thing to actually lay out how it might work. Craig Morgan rolls out a detailed approach of how that might happen, including activating weakside defensemen. [AZ Coyotes Insider]

• The pandemic pause ranks as the biggest curveball Carter Hart‘s seen in the NHL so far. That said, it’s far from the only one. If he keeps passing these tests, it might all be to the benefit of Hart’s career. [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

Other hockey links

• As a pending UFA on a team that could face a salary cap crunch, Christopher Tanev knows he might not be back with the Canucks. Tanev said he hopes that he can return, and in particular, he’d love to remain Quinn Hughes‘ defensive partner for a long time. [NHL.com]

• It’s easy to look at the NHL’s return to Olympic participation as a good thing for everyone involved. As Ryan Kennedy points out, it depends on the outlook for different countries’ national teams. Kennedy presents the winners and losers for the NHL return to the Olympics, with Germany landing in an interesting spot. [The Hockey News]

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.

Sabres drop lawsuit after assistant coach is granted a green card

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres dropped their lawsuit against the federal government after immigration officials reversed course by approving the team’s strength and conditioning coach’s petition for a green card.

“The matter has been resolved amicably between both parties,” with Ed Gannon receiving approval for an EB-1 visa, the Sabres announced in a text message Wednesday.

The Sabres sued U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in May by alleging officials wrongly denied the team’s visa petition for the British-born coach.

The announcement came a week after the Sabres’ lawyer notified the U.S. District Court in Buffalo that the team was voluntary dismissing the suit, with each side agreeing to bear their own costs and fees.

The Sabres accused immigration services of misstating facts and arbitrarily failing to follow its own rules in denying a green card to Gannon. They argued the decision potentially subjected the team “to substantial financial harm and disruption in developing (its) athletes.”

Gannon was hired by the Sabres in 2015 while the team was beefing up its player development staff. He previously spent 10 years as the lead strength and conditioning coach of a professional rugby club, the Leicester Tigers.

The Sabres filed the application for permanent residency on Gannon’s behalf in October. To be granted a green card, Gannon had to demonstrate that he was at the top of his field, and the Sabres argued that he proved his abilities under USCIS’ criteria.

The denial of Gannon’s petition came amid efforts by the Trump administration to limit legal immigration. A report last year by the Migration Policy Institute concluded that USCIS had become “increasingly active in immigration enforcement” and that the agency was intentionally slowing down adjudication of immigration benefits applications.

Healthy Ekman-Larsson ready to give Coyotes a playoff boost

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Oliver Ekman-Larsson had knee surgery last summer, fully expecting it to help him have a healthy 2019-20 season.

The Arizona Coyotes captain instead played with lingering pain, never able to fully recover.

The NHL’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic was a huge letdown, but it at least allowed Ekman-Larsson time to get back to full strength.

”These 2 1/2 months have been really good for me,” he said during a conference call this week. ”My knee is feeling 100% and I’ve been able to get stronger and faster.”

Ekman-Larsson had another solid season in 2018-19, finishing second on the team with 44 points with 14 goals. He was named to the NHL All-Star team for the fifth time and continued to be one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen.

Ekman-Larsson opted to have offseason knee surgery to help with another lower-body injury and never was quite right this season, his 10th in the NHL.

The break allowed him time to heal, as did a trip back to his home in Sweden.

Unlike Arizona, Sweden did not go on lockdown once the pandemic hit and Ekman-Larsson took advantage, using the time to heal physically and mentally.

”With this virus going around, I haven’t felt so good mentally,” he said. ”Going back home and being around my family really helped that situation. I benefited from the physical part of being away. For the mental part, it was nice to get away from it.”

The Coyotes returned to the ice this week to prepare for the resumption of the season.

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association announced Monday a tentative deal on a return-to-play format. Should it be ratified, the league will resume play on Aug. 1 with 24 teams proceeding in an expanded playoff format at two hub cities in Canada.

The Coyotes, the West’s No. 11 seed, will open against Nashville in a best-of-five series in their first postseason appearance since reaching the 2012 Western Conference Finals.

”It just feels like it’s a different game,” said Ekman-Larsson, the lone remaining player from the 2012 team. ”Everybody feels faster and stronger. I don’t know how it’s even possible, but at the same time it’s another level.

”I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to be in the playoffs before. There’s so many good teams and you don’t really know when you are going to have the chance.”

The Coyotes have a chance to make a little noise once they get there.

Ekman-Larsson is healthy, as is Phil Kessel, who struggled with injuries after being traded from Pittsburgh before the season. Arizona also has one of the best goaltending tandems in Antti Raanta and Darcy Keumper, who are both healthy as well.

”For us to get a chance and show that we are good enough to be a playoff team, I think that’s huge for our group moving forward,” Ekman-Larsson said.

A healthy Ekman-Larsson gives them an opportunity to keep moving forward.

Chris Pronger leaves senior VP of hockey ops role with Panthers

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The Panthers announced on Wednesday that Chris Pronger is leaving his role as senior vice president of hockey operations and senior advisor. The Hockey Hall of Famer joined the organization in 2017 after spending three years in the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

“I want to personally thank the Viola family, Doug Cifu, Dale Tallon and all of the staff with the Florida Panthers,” said Pronger via a team statement. “I was able to grow as an executive and more importantly as a person in my three years with the hockey club. I wish the Panthers organization nothing but the best in the upcoming playoffs and years to come.”

Pronger is moving on to focus on the company he runs with his wife, Lauren. Well Inspired Travels “caters to elite athletes, C-Level executives and business owners.”

The Panthers are currently preparing for their Stanley Cup Qualifier series against the Islanders, which is set to begin next month.

MORE:
A look at the Eastern Conference matchups
Final standings for 2019-20 NHL season, NHL draft lottery results

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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.