Seattle Hockey Partners

NHL Board of Governors to vote on Seattle expansion

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SEA ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Seattle is one step away from landing an NHL franchise.

Team and city executives have already secured more than 30,000 season-ticket deposits, got an arena plan passed through local government and wowed the executive committee of owners. It all pays off Tuesday when the NHL Board of Governors is expected to approve Seattle as the home of the league’s 32nd franchise.

”Seattle’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently. ”It gives us a geographic balance. It creates a nice geographic rivalry with Vancouver. I know Vancouver’s particularly excited about the possibility. The ownership group, the plans for the arena – it’s all of the above. It’s never one factor. If you’re going to have a successful expansion application, all of the bases need to be touched and all of them need to be checked off as being appropriate and right.”

Timing is the only question.

Renovations to the downtown arena that will be the team’s home are scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2020. The uncertainty could lead the NHL to leave the door open to a 2020 or 2021 start or push it back just to be safe.

”Right now everything we’ve done is kind of geared toward 2020,” Seattle Hockey Partners senior adviser Dave Tippett said. ”If we can do it in 2020 (we will), but the other thing is you don’t want to start it being a month on the road or something, either.”

It’s more about when than if, given the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion and the $650 million the new owners will pay to join. Seattle is the largest U.S. city without a major winter sports team since the NBA’s SuperSonics left in 2008 and it gives the NHL another big TV market.

”It’s a big city now. It’s a relatively wealthy place. There’s an awful lot going on between Boeing and the whole computer industry and all the rest of that stuff,” NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said. ”It nests very nicely with the teams that are already in the Pacific Northwest. And it gives us 32, which gives us the balance that you would want. In addition to that, when you’re looking at markets, if you really want to be a North American league, you want to be in the markets that matter when you can figure out a way to do it, and Seattle is certainly one of those.”

Tippett could feel the excitement building when he was back in Arizona over the Thanksgiving holiday, noting that people told him on the golf course they hoped Seattle would get a team.

The board’s executive committee voted unanimously in October to push the expansion bid forward and Bettman said he anticipated the full board doing the same. Approval requires a three-quarters vote.

”This can work long term,” Seattle Hockey President and CEO Tod Leiweke said. ”We have the right building plan, we have the support from the city, the fans are there.”

Fans will be watching Tuesday morning at a Seattle tavern when the board is expected to give final approval. Next steps will include moving forward on arena and practice facility plans and piecing together a hockey operations department that Tippett will likely be in charge of.

Before considering expansion, the board opens its annual two-day December meeting Monday with updates on the state of the league’s business and hockey operations. The board is also expected to be briefed on collective bargaining talks and the tentative settlement of a concussion lawsuit involving retired players.

Trades: Oilers get Athanasiou from Red Wings; Ennis from Senators

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When Connor McDavid returned to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup on Sunday night and opened the game between Sam Gagner and Alex Chiasson it was painfully obvious they needed to get another winger.

They ended up getting two on Monday when they acquired Andreas Athanasiou (and Ryan Kuffner) from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Gagner and two second-round draft picks.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland drafted Athanasiou during his time in Detroit, so there is that obvious connection here.

Just about an hour after that the trade the Oilers also acquired Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators for a fifth-round draft pick.

The Athanasiou one is so intriguing because it seems like it has the potential to be a strong fit. He is one of the few players in the league that actually has the speed to keep up with McDavid, and could create one of the fastest forward duos in the league. After scoring 30 goals a year ago for the Red Wings, Athanasiou has 10 goals in 46 games this season. Now he might get an opportunity to play next to the best offensive player in the world.

He is a restricted free agent after this season.

The Oilers are three points out of first place in the Pacific Division, trailing only the Vegas Golden Knights. Edmonton still has two games in hand.

This is the second trade between the two teams in less than 12 hours after the Oilers also acquired Mike Green from the Red Wings on Sunday night.

Ennis, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent after this season. In 61 games for the Senators this season he has 14 goals and 19 assists.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Trade: Sabres get Wayne Simmonds from Devils

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Well, here is the most unexpected trade on deadline day (so far).

The Buffalo Sabres, who entered the day six points out of a playoff spot and with multiple teams ahead of them, sent a conditional fifth-round draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for veteran forward Wayne Simmonds.

That pick will become a fourth-round pick if the Sabres make the playoffs this season and Simmonds plays at least 10 games.

Simmonds is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

There is nothing wrong with the cost here for Simmonds. It’s probably about what his value should be in this market and given what he currently provides. Plus, a mid-round pick has very little chance of even turning into an NHL player, let alone an impactful one. But it’s still surprising to see a team in Buffalo’s position attempt to add something at the deadline.

Is it a last-minute effort for general manager Jason Botterill to try and do something to save his job? Or is it a team looking at what happened with St. Louis and Columbus a year ago and thinking, “hey, we can do that too!” If it’s the former, well, that’s understandable. The pressure is on to win in Buffalo and patience is running thin with everyone. If it’s the latter, that would simply be a gross misunderstanding of what happened with those teams (especially St. Louis).

The 31-year-old Simmonds has eight goals and 16 assists for the Devils this season. At his peak he was one of the best power forwards in the league and a true force as a net-front presence on the power play, but his production has rapidly fallen off the past two years.

Buffalo has played much better in February (7-3-1) but has only managed to gain four points in the standings during that stretch. They still have six points to make up and only 20 games to do it. They would not only need to maintain that similar level of play, but also get some help along the way.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers sign Chris Kreider to 7-year contract extension

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Some massive news from the New York Rangers on Monday as team president John Davidson announced a seven-year contract extension for winger Chris Kreider, removing one of the biggest names from the trade market just hours before the deadline.

Kreider re-signing with the Rangers was always a possibility, but the longer it went on without a new deal (or talks of any kind) the less likely it seemed to be. But this was clearly something the two sides wanted and they were able to find a common ground on a new deal.

It is reportedly worth around $6.5 million per season.

It is a pricey contract for sure, and with Kreider already being 28 years old there is some real long-term risk down the line. But in the short-term Kreider remains a significant part of a Rangers’ core that has made significant progress over the past couple of months. They may not be able to do enough to get in the playoffs this season, but they are certainly on track to be a serious factor in that race next season.

Kreider is in the middle of a career year for the Rangers and has always been a lock for around 20 goals and 50 points while bringing a ton of speed to the top of the lineup.

The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues were all thought to be potential suitors if he were to be traded.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers’ Shesterkin, Buchnevich injured in car accident

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Along with announcing a new contract extension for Chris Kreider on Monday, New York Rangers team president John Davidson said teammates Igor Shesterkin and Pavel Buchnevich were involved in a car accident in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

According to Davidson, Shesterkin was driving when a vehicle did a U-turn in front of them resulting in the collision.

Fortunately both players were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.

Buchnevich was “quite shaken up” according to Davidson, but will only be out of the lineup on a day-to-day basis.

Shesterkin has a non-displaced rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Shesterkin has emerged as the Rangers’ starting goalie in recent weeks and has a 9-1-0 record with a .940 save percentage since his re-call. His performance has been one of the biggest factors in the Rangers’ recent hot streak that has seen them climb back to within striking distance of a playoff spot this season.

The Rangers are currently carrying three goaltenders, while Alexander Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist will take over the goaltending duties in Shesterkin’s absence.

More: NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.