NHL invites Seattle to apply for expansion team

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After word surfaced that Seattle is ramping up work on an NHL-ready (and NBA-ready) KeyArena, Gary Bettman decided to shed some light on the situation, while also acknowledging that he can’t control how much people will  “handicap” Seattle’s odds of actually landing a team.

Bettman announced that the NHL’s Board of Governors will allow Seattle to submit an expansion application, and only Seattle, so Quebec City’s dreams are – at best – put on hold for now.

The league’s commissioner emphasized that, while Seattle would be getting consideration, this is far from a guarantee that they’ll actually end up with a team when it’s all said and done.

Much like with Vegas’ quest to land a team, Bettman said that “in the next few months,” Seattle will be allowed to run a season-ticket drive to show how viable the market is as a money-maker. Actually, Bettman interestingly acknowledged how similar this process is (at least so far) to that which eventually created the Vegas Golden Knights.

He then added that the price is different and … boy is it ever.

In the case of the Golden Knights, the expansion price tag was $500 million. For a Seattle team? They’ll need to hand over a whopping $650 million, according to Bettman. So, the NHL could land $1.1 billion in expansion fees between two teams in a relatively short window of time. Interesting.

As far as the team coming via expansion or relocation is concerned, Bettman didn’t totally rule out Seattle’s team coming via a relocated franchise. That said, Bettman emphatically stated that the Hurricanes will not leave Carolina. (More on that in a future post tonight.)

[Karmanos says Hurricanes sale news could come soon.]

Bettman indicated that a Seattle team might launch by the 2020-21 season, which matches up with Seattle’s goals to have KeyArena ready to roll by October 2020. Of course, there’s the question of another lockout coming around that time, which …

/fails to contain whimpering and weeping

*ahem*

Anyway, that’s just one of several potential headaches in the process. It’s worth noting that Bettman saying nothing is guaranteed isn’t just lip service. Ownership and arena situations can get flighty, so the Seattle situation can take many twists and turns. If you’ve followed the grungy city’s arena exploits, you know that there have already been highs and lows during that process.

[You may recall an earlier Seattle announcement being derailed by scandal.]

Rather than foolishly dreaming of Sonics in the NHL, let’s focus on more straightforward-fun ideas, such as a Seattle – Vancouver rivalry, and the on-paper-and-in-our-imaginations perfect symmetry of having an NHL franchise in Seattle. It just makes too much sense not to work, right?

Right? Maybe?

Trevor Linden of the Canucks told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun that they’d welcome a Seattle team and embrace the would-be rivalry, so that’s nice to hear.

Long story short, this seems like another very promising step in the right direction, but be careful about taking out that Jump to Conclusions mat just yet. Either way, PHT will keep you posted, whether this process ends up being smooth or full of swerves.

(Note: you can see a snippet of Bettman’s press conference in the video above this post’s headline, with most of his specific thoughts coming around the 50-second mark.)

For even more, check out Bob McKenzie’s segment on NBCSN from Wednesday:

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.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.