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Police arrest Montreal Canadiens meth kingpin (Puck Daddy)
(Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:18:25 PDT)

Shahanan remodels Leafs; Marchand hates Plekanec; Subban homecoming? (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:11:18 PDT)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. RT @NYIslanders : #Isles training camp begins Sept. 18 @ochocinco : I'm also the back up goalie for the NY Islanders... — Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) July 30, 2014 • Chad Ochocinco may be in the Canadian Football League right now, but he's hoping to get back to America some way, somehow. His newest plan: backup goalie for the New York Islanders. It'll be an easy transition, since they already have a Chad Johnson in that role. • What hath the Brendan Shanahan era in Toronto wrought? No major changes to the core, but some serious adjustments to the team's depth, on and off the ice. [ Maple Leafs Hot Stove ] • The best players from every franchise in the NHL. What, no Jagr? [ ESPN ] • What do the fancy stats say about Jake Gardiner? He's really good. [ The Score ] • Alex Semin has gotten married in a secret ceremony. The whole thing is shrouded in mystery, but here's one scandalous detail: Alex Ovechkin wasn't there! Le gasp! [ RMNB ] • Dan Lacroix has joined the Montreal Canadiens coaching staff as an assistant. [ Canadiens ] • We've already talked about Steven Stamkos potentially being Leafbron , and going to play in his hometown, but what about P.K. Subban? He certainly doesn't throw any water on the question. Here comes the speculation! All hail Subbron! [ National Post ] • Paul Stewart on how an NHL official can command respect. [ Huffington Post ] • The Kings have signed Dwight King to a three-year extension worth $5.85 million. [ LA Kings Insider ] • What's the greatest hockey game you've ever witnessed? [ The Hockey Writers ] • Contract negotiations between Mike Babcock and the Detroit Red Wings are on hold. I'm skeptical they're going to go anywhere, either. [ MLive ] • Trevor Linden on Vancouver radio: "I'm not sure that the intended use of fighting - which is to protect our stars - actually works." [ Canucks Army ] • I love Joe Pelletier's hockey history. Here's some stuff on the NHL during World War II, when "errant pucks shot into the crowd at games had to be returned because of a rubber shortage." [ Greatest Hockey Legends ] • The Champions Hockey League has secured a three-year broadcasting deal with One World Sports in the U.S. [ CHL ] • Nail Yakupov talks about the upcoming season, which is terribly important for his NHL career. [ Oilers Nation ] • How bad is John Scott going to be for the Sharks? I love that this is the title of this post. [ Fear the Fin ] • Brad Marchand talks about his hatred for Tomas Plekanec. “I can’t stand him. No, I probably shouldn’t say that. I dislike him very much," he says. It's the turtleneck, I'll bet. [ CSNNE ] • And finally, here's video of Marchand saying exactly that:

Canadiens add 2 to coaching staff (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:38:29 PDT)
The Montreal Canadiens hired Dan Lacroix as assistant coach and Rob Ramage as player development coach on Wednesday. Lacroix replaces Gerard Gallant, who left to become head coach of the Florida Panthers. Lacroix worked as an assistant coach in the NHL for seven of the past eight seasons, including last season with the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers. He previously worked as assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2010 to 2013 and with the New York Islanders from 2006 to 2009.

P.K. Subban, Canadiens over $3 million apart in arbitration offers (Puck Daddy)
(Wed, 30 Jul 2014 07:01:32 PDT)
Arbitration is a nasty little process. Teams have to argue why their players aren’t worth what they think they’re worth. Players have to suffer through insulting lowball offers, because that’s how the game is played.  P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens are playing that game now, with the star defenseman’s arbitration hearing looming on Friday. According to Elliotte Friedman, Subban is seeking $8.5 million. That would make him the third-highest paid defenseman in the NHL next season in base salary, behind Shea Weber (an offer-sheet inflated $14 million) and Ryan Suter ($11 million) and ahead of Dion Phaneuf ($8 million). The Canadiens are seeking $5.25 million, the aforementioned lowball offer. That would slot Subban’s base salary in-between Marc Staal ($5.45 million) and Paul Martin ($5 million), two very good defensemen who still aren’t qualified to shine Subban’s Norris. The bigger news is that the Canadiens are asking for a 1-year award , which would mean we all do this dance against next summer, with Subban even closer to UFA status in Summer 2016. By all accounts, the sides are going to get something done before Friday. One assumes they meet somewhere in the middle on annual salary: $7 million to $6.5 million, for example. But what does Subban want? Does he forego a UFA windfall and sign longer-term? Does he bridge directly to that UFA status with a 2-year deal? Or do the Canadiens get him on consecutive one-year deals before he could go to market?

What We Learned: Breaking down Central Division, NHL Group of Death (Puck Daddy)
(Mon, 28 Jul 2014 06:32:25 PDT)
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.   Things have calmed down considerably in the free agent market. Rosters at this point are more or less set, and we can therefore go about taking stock of who did what this summer, and what that means for the season that's currently still three or so months away. It's pretty tough to make the case that any single division improved more than the Central, and given the league's new playoff format, those several teams that took huge steps forward might find that it's not going to be enough for them to get things together and actually make the postseason. We can all more or less agree that Chicago, which made only one significant move in bringing aboard bargain-basement Brad Richards and letting Michal Handzus walk, not only is the best team for this coming season as it was for the prior one, but also improved marginally. That top spot in the Central, and perhaps the whole of the Western Conference or even NHL, is very much spoken for. But then there's the matter of everyone else. The race to get into the bottom two to five spots in the West's playoff picture — though banking on the higher side there seems foolish — is going to look like when all three Stooges try to go through the same door at once. St. Louis, Dallas and Minnesota all seem very likely contenders for those spots, having either remained good from last season or improved in this summer signing period. Dallas has clearly taken the largest step forward in adding Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, but they also have a lot more ground to make up in terms of the point gap from last season; getting into the playoffs with 91 points is barely an accomplishment. The Blues are obviously in the best position, having added Paul Stastny and despite the loss of Vladimir Sobotka. Their biggest need was an additional top-six forward, and they added one. The decision to stick with someone who isn't Ryan Miller, meanwhile, seems a prudent one in goal. As for Minnesota, there's still a lot to dislike about this team. Depth and goaltending remain issues that need to be proven out if anyone's going to believe they're a contender for anything any time soon. But 98 points last season does sort of seem like a fluke. One can't imagine that Josh Harding continues to post a save percentage north of .915 or so, and the rest of that cast doesn't do much to inspire confidence. But as with a few divisions last season, the importance of finishing second versus third or fourth or, if you're really unlucky, fifth is massive in the Central. Finish third and you probably play a 100-point team that's considerably better than you are. Finish fourth and you play either the Blackhawks or (probably) Kings. A lot of people seem to think it's likely that the Central sends five teams to the playoffs, and successfully holds the fourth team in the Pacific out, but it's tough to see where that would be the case; it happened last year mainly because the Canucks were pitiful under John Tortorella. While they haven't exactly taken a step forward so far with Jim Benning at the controls, they haven't taken a step back either, overall. It's not outside the realm of possibility that Anaheim and Vancouver duke it out for a wild card spot. Both, certainly, are better than Winnipeg, Nashville or Colorado, full stop. Of course, all this comes with the caveat that Chicago could falter as it did last season and somehow not end up first in the division, but that doesn't seem likely. Big problems with special teams was what did them in last season, but it's hard to imagine the power play finishes 10th in the league again this year, or the PK 19th. It's also difficult to envision the Avalanche doing anything but crashing and burning after a full year of cheating death in terms of possession; they were sixth in goal differential in their own conference and yet finished second in points. That doesn't happen often, especially not when your percentages are in the league's toilet. If it's between St. Louis and Dallas for the second spot (and it probably is), though, then it's tough to see Dallas making a 20-something-point jump without a “2013 Maple Leafs” measure of luck stirred in. No team in the league improved as much as Dallas did this summer, but even no improvement from the Blues would have left them pretty tough to squeeze past. Even with unproven rookie Jake Allen in net, it's not like things are ever going to go especially badly for them, not with that lineup and depth. A worst-case scenario for the Blues is probably in the 105-point range, which you can't be too unhappy with at the end of the day. Then there are the Stars, who could be a 100-point team if things go right. They're clearly counting on some internal improvement from the kids, especially on the blue line, to make their planned improvement. Minnesota's not far behind them, though, in both the overall quality and “expecting young players to make a jump” departments. For me, these are the two most fascinating teams in the West this season. Everyone else seems to be a known quantity, more or less. Not that any of this really matters, of course. It's probably going to take more than moderate improvement to be better than Chicago over 82 games, or again in seven when the playoffs roll around, and even then, that doesn't make you elite. But getting closer is the goal, and Dallas and St. Louis have certainly made that step. What We Learned Anaheim Ducks : Saku Koivu is selling his home near Anaheim for $6.6 million . Say, Ryan Kesler's due $10 million over the next two seasons. Hint hint. Arizona Coyotes : Y'know, when you look at it all laid out like this , the Coyotes' only additions this offseason being Sam Gagner (a player who's pretty good but was always getting unduly flogged in Edmonton for one reason or another), BJ Crombeen, Joe Vitale and Devan Dubnyk, you have to say that Don Maloney didn't have a very good summer. Another year without playoffs in the desert. What fun. Boston Bruins : Loui Eriksson moving to the Bruins' “ first line ” is a little misleading because he was on it last year. Patrice Bergeron plus Brad Marchand plus (anyone) equals “first line.” They're better at all aspects of the game than David Krejci and Milan Lucic, not that you'd know it in this town. That Claude Julien gives more minutes to Lucic and Krejci is a major failing of Claude Julien's. It's really that simple. Buffalo Sabres : Pretty alarming, isn't it, that Luke Adam had to sign a two-way deal ? What happened to that dude? Pre-lockout he looked like he could be a decent contributor, but he's just dropped off a cliff. Calgary Flames : Karri Ramo was pretty effectively put on notice by Flames brass this summer. First they bring in Jonas Hiller to take his No. 1 job — which it must be said Ramo didn't do badly with in his first season, given the circumstances — for the next two years, then they give AHL starter Joni Ortio a two-year deal that guarantees a one-way in 2015-16 . Carolina Hurricanes : Bill Peters says Eric Staal's power play output last season was “ unacceptable .” Would you believe he scored just one time on the man advantage? He had more shorties than that. Good lord. (Another guy that had only one power play goal last season? Evander Kane. Five or six more of those and I doubt any of these rumors come up.) Chicago Blackhawks : Growing up, Brad Richards dreamed of being the starting goaltender for the Blackhawks, and I don't blame him. Look what they pay their goalies when they're not even good. Colorado Avalanche : While riding his bike last week, Cory Sarich was hit by a car and broke multiple vertebrae . Horrible news but he's apparently doing much better already. He wants to continue his playing career, which, I dunno... Columbus Blue Jackets : Question posited by someone who I'm pretty sure is a Blue Jackets fan: “ Is Sergei Bobrovsky truly the goalie of the future ?” Hmm, a 25-year-old who has a .926 save percentage with the team over 96 appearances, and already has a Vezina to his name? Nah, it's probably Oscar Dansk. Dallas Stars : One point of concern for the Stars is the workload Kari Lehtonen has pulled the last few seasons because of how bad his backups have been. This time around they have Anders Lindback and maybe, like, Jack Campbell or Jussi Rynnas. So, no? Detroit Red Wings : Danny DeKeyser says “ there won't be any problems ” getting his new contract done before camp. No kidding. If they gave Danny Cleary another year, DeKeyser might be able to pull a max contract. Edmonton Oilers : If the Oilers try to use their organizational depth to fill their hole at center , they're not really approaching things very wisely. Florida Panthers : It's looking like Jimmy Hayes and the Panthers will indeed go to arbitration this week. There goes that chance of signing Kevin! Los Angeles Kings : Nice to see the Kings get one of their draft picks into the Hall of Fame. Minnesota Wild : Well sure they're never going to win a Stanley Cup, but Stephane Veilleux will lead the Wild to ping pong glory . Montreal Canadiens : Please stop asking PK Subban about contract negotiations . He doesn't appreciate it. Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team : Kevin Fiala is one of the growing number of high-quality Swiss players in the NHL. Thanks a lot. New Jersey Devils : One of the things that doomed the Devils (not rhyming with Farty Frodeur) was the fact that they didn't win their first seven games of the season . That's gotta change this year. Probably will, too. New York Islanders : Kevin Poulin will be back for another season on Long Island. After he went .893 in 28 appearances last season, they basically had to re-sign him. New York Rangers : The award Derick Brassard wanted to play his prove-it year with the Rangers as their presumptive No. 2 center was $4.95 million. Glen Sather talked him down to $25 million over five seasons. Now THAT'S negotiating! Ottawa Senators : The Senators plan to meet with the agents for Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur about extensions in the coming week. “How does league minimum sound?” Philadelphia Flyers : The Flyers neither improved nor took a step back this summer. Given the way the rest of the division improved, though, that's tantamount to taking a step back. Gonna be a tough season in Philly, one suspects. Pittsburgh Penguins : Now this is a fascinating question: Will this be the last season in Pittsburgh for Marc-Andre Fleury? Pretty easy to see this going either way, really. San Jose Sharks : Dude, they didn't run over your dog . They beat you in hockey four games in a row. It happens. St. Louis Blues : The Blues' success, ultimately, rests on whether Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz can become even better offensive weapons . They both averaged about one goal every three games last season, which will need to improve. Tampa Bay Lightning : This was a fairly good look at the youth in the Lightning system. Shocking to see Jonathan Drouin at the top of the list. Shocking. Toronto Maple Leafs : Loved this look at the Kyle Dubas hire from Fluto Shinzawa, which included the shocking new idea that maybe you don't need to have been in the NHL to make player evaluations, because other major business executives don't need to know how to make the products their companies sell. Vancouver Canucks : Jake Virtanen signed Sunday . He's going to do very well at World Juniors this season. Washington Capitals : Expecting Joel Ward to be a driver of success with the Caps this season is asking a lot. Or, if you prefer, the impossible. Winnipeg Jets : When you're trying not to spend a lot of money, maybe giving a bunch of money to bad players is not a good idea . Just a thought. Kevin Cheveldayoff really ought to be fired. This is a catastrophe. Gold Star Award

P.K. Subban drinks beer from Stanley Cup with Seth Rogen (Video) (Puck Daddy)
(Sun, 27 Jul 2014 16:32:55 PDT)

National Hockey League roundup
(Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:19:17 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - The Montreal Canadiens and forward Lars Eller agreed to terms on a four-year contract, the team announced Thursday. No financial details were released, but the Montreal Gazette reported the total value to be $14 million. The signing avoids a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday. Eller, 25, had 12 goals and 26 points in 77 regular-season games in 2013-14, but he was even better in the Stanley Cup playoffs -- his five goals were second on the team to Rene Bourque's eight, and his 13 points trailed only defenseman P.K. Subban's 14. ...

NHL roundup: Canadiens, Eller reach agreement (The SportsXchange)
(Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:10:31 PDT)
The Montreal Canadiens and forward Lars Eller agreed to terms on a four-year contract, the team announced Thursday.

Canadiens agree to 4-year deal with Lars Eller (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:07:35 PDT)
The Montreal Canadiens avoided arbitration with center Lars Eller, agreeing to a four-year contract with the 25-year-old Thursday. ''Now it's up to me to go out and play the best hockey I can,'' he said in a phone interview with the Canadian Press from the airport in Toronto, where he was waiting to catch a flight home to Denmark. ''Going to arbitration was really a last resort if all other options failed,'' he said. ''We are very pleased to have agreed upon a long-term agreement with Lars Eller,'' general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement.

Canadiens sign Eller to 4-year deal (The SportsXchange)
(Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:05:06 PDT)
The Montreal Canadiens and forward Lars Eller agreed to terms on a four-year contract, the team announced Thursday. No financial details were released but the Montreal Gazette reported the total value to be $14 million. "We are very pleased to have agreed upon a long-term agreement with Lars Eller," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. Eller, 25, had 12 goals and 26 points in 77 regular-season games in 2013-14, but he was even better in the Stanley Cup playoffs -- his five goals were second on the team to Rene Bourque's eight, and his 13 points trailed only defenseman P.K. Subban's 14.

Lars Eller, Canadiens settle on four-year, $14 million deal (Puck Daddy)
(Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:14:57 PDT)
Lars Eller and the Montreal Canadiens continued this summer's trend of teams and players avoiding arbitration when they agreed to a four-year, $14 million deal on Thursday . From the Canadiens : "We are very pleased to have agreed upon a long term agreement with Lars Eller. He is an important part of our group of young veterans. He has a tremendous work ethic and a great attitude. He is the type of player you can rely on for his play at both ends of the rink. Lars can play big minutes against the opponents’ top players and still be an offensive threat. We are confident he will reach his full potential and become an impact player who will compete at a high level for many years to come”, said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. Eller was looking for $3.1 million , a raise from the $1.15- and $1.5 million he made in each of the past two seasons. The Canadiens, meanwhile, were looking for something in the $1.65 million range. A $3.5 million AAV over four seasons is a nice win for both player and club as the 25-year old forward gets his raise and the term, while the team buys two years of unrestricted free agency. According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman , the contract will pay $2.5 million over the first two years, then, when he would have become a UFA, $4.25 million and $4.75 million in the final two. It's a success for general manager Marc Bergevin, who now faces his next test and one of the off-season's most interesting arbitration cases: P.K. Subban. - - - - - - - Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

Sabres sign D Benoit (The SportsXchange)
(Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:02:40 PDT)
The Buffalo Sabres signed defenseman Andre Benoit to a one-year contract, the team announced Wednesday.

Kreider, Rangers avoid arbitration; the Subban dynasty; KHL adds hybrid icing (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:44:14 PDT)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Last year the ice was gold, this year it's a big coloring book. Summer ice at @BrdgstoneArena is awesome! — Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 21, 2014 • Give little kids the opportunity to paint ice and this is what happens. [ @PredsNHL ] • Joe Sakic on hammering out the Ryan O'Reilly deal : "He's a very valuable player to us and we want him long-term. That (type of contract) hasn't happened yet, but we'll keep working at it and see what happens." [ Denver Post ] • After agreeing to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Mats Zuccarello on Tuesday, the New York Rangers also avoided arbitration with Chris Kreider as the two sides hammered out a two-year, $4.95 million contract. [ NY Post ] • Speaking of arbitration, Lars Eller would like $3.1 million per season. The Montreal Canadiens are thinking something along the lines of $1.65 million. [ Habs Eyes on the Prize ] • Andre Benoit heads to the Buffalo Sabres after signing a one-year, $800,000 deal. [ Olean Times ] • How does a potential violation of Arizona's Open Meeting Laws affect the Arizona Coyotes? [ Five for Howling ] • The New York Islanders are probably going to trade one of their forwards to bolster their blueline; should it be Josh Bailey or Michael Grabner? [ Lighthouse Hockey ] • Why Loui Eriksson as a first line winger for the Boston Bruins is more than all right. [ Days of Y’Orr ] • It’s been a long time coming, but the Subban family is building their own NHL dynasty. [ Color of Hockey ] • The KHL has joined the NHL in adopting hybrid icing. [ KHL ]  • Don’t know the backstory behind the Hartford Whalers’ logo? Today’s your lucky day. [ Icethetics ] • Brooks Laich and Julianne Hough are in looooooooooove . [ Fashion & Style ]  • Looking at a new way to determine the NHL draft order. [ The Hockey Writers ] • Former highly-touted prospect Angelo Espositio has signed with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets. [ Komets ]  • For the first time, the World Cup of Ball Hockey will be held in the United States when Tampa hosts in September. [ Tampa Bay Business Journal ] • Former NHLer Patrick Cote has been sentenced to 30 months in prison after confessing to two bank robberies. [ CJAD ]  • There are some NHL fighters who can help your fantasy league in other categories. Here are 10 to keep an eye on. [ Dobber Hockey ] • Finally, here’s the latest NHL 15 video, which shows off the superstar skill stick: 

Stars re-sign Roussel; Tim Peel's day on Twitter; Lundqvist selling penthouse (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:10:35 PDT)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. • This is a really cool photo of hockey at the 1928 Olympics. [ Reddit Hockey ]  • More on the Soo Greyhounds saying goodbye to Kyle Dubas. He'll be helping them install his replacement. [ Buzzing the Net ] • Chris Johnston on the Dubas hire: "To deny the significance of possession stats in hockey is to be on the wrong side of history. Before Tuesday morning, the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the wrong side of history." [ Sportsnet ] • The Dallas Stars have avoided arbitration with Antoine Roussel, signing the feisty winger to a four-year, $8 million contract. [ Defending Big D ] • Everybody's favourite NHL referee Tim Peel (certainly our favourite) may have been on Twitter today. If it was really him, here's what went down: he hopped on, then had to shut it down almost right away because the CBA doesn't allow him to tweet. Once again, we wonder if Tim Peel knows the rules. [ Sporting News ] • Henrik Lundqvist is selling his insane Hell's Kitchen penthouse. It can be yours for about $7 million. [ NY Rangers Blog ] • P.A. Parenteau calls joining the Montreal Canadiens a dream come true, which is what he was supposed to say. [ TSN ] • The Anaheim Ducks have signed Sami Vatanen to a two-year, $2.5 million contract. [ Anaheim Calling ] • Al Montoya hopes to be the next Cory Schneider, in the sense that he steals Roberto Luongo's job: “The coach and the team knows what I’m capable of and when I’m called, I’m going out there to win games. I’m not just there to give Roberto a night off, I’m there to help the team move forward. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think things are headed in the right direction. I haven’t seen my best yet.” [ Miami Herald ] • Philadelphia laywer Andrew Barroway has reportedly made a huge offer for the New York Islanders. [ The Score ] • The Flames have avoided arbitration with Joe Colborne, signing the big centre to a two-year deal. [ Matchsticks & Gasoline ] • Dale Tallon on Aaron Ekblad: ""I'm really impressed with his hands. I knew he was a well-rounded player, but I'm really happy with his skills … how he handles the biscuit, how he moves it and how he shoots it." [ Sun-Sentinel ] • Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough on the seventh annual Blackhawks convention: "I think one of the missions of the Blackhawks Convention is to humanize these guys. Again, make them have a common man's touch to professional sports. If there is any innocence left in professional sports — and I'm not sure that there is — I truly believe that it's in hockey. [ CSN Chicago ] • Logan Couture hypothesizes that the devastating loss to the Kings will motivate the Sharks. I should hope so. [ PHT ] • In which Mike Modano is informed of Ronald Reagan's untimely passing a decade ago. [ Deadspin ] • Now in its third year, Dominic Moore's smashfest charity continues to grow. [ Canadian Press ]   • You may remember this excellent video is from 2010, but it's still amazingly topical. NBC's broadcast schedule remains almost completely Canada-free, with the Leafs and Canadiens making it on national television in the States just twice each, and every other Canadian team completely shut out: 

Winners, losers in NBC Sports 2014-15 NHL TV schedule (Puck Daddy)
(Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:32:34 PDT)
You've got to feel for the San Jose Sharks. Not only did they see a good season wasted with yet another early-season exit, but this one may have been the most heart-breaking of all, with the team squandering a 3-0 lead to the eventual Staney Cup Champion LA Kings. Then, to make matters worse, they'll have to open the season playing those same LA Kings and standing around trying not to look as their in-state rivals raise their second Stanley Cup banner. It's going to be truly uncomfortable for them, which means it's appointment viewing for us, which is likely why NBC was all to happy to lead off their 2014-15 regular season coverage with this game. In a manner of speaking. The game will be the second of an opening night double-header for NBCSN's growing Wednesday Night Rivalry brand, immediately following a tilt between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins. On Tuesday, NBC released their next-season broadcast schedule, which will see them airing a grand total of 103 regular-season games. As with past seasons, they know what the people want: the teams of the Northeast, minus the Islanders. From NBC: Coming off of the most-watched NHL regular season ever on NBC and NBCSN, the most-watched Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2006 and most-watched Stanley Cup Playoffs on cable in 17 years, NBC Sports Group will deliver coverage of 103 NHL regular-season games during the 2014-15 season, featuring 14 games on NBC and 89 games on NBCSN. All games will be streamed live via NBC Sports Live Extra.  • NBC will present the 2015 NHL Winter Classic from Washington, D.C., between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals on January 1 at 1 p.m. ET. • Making its return for the first time since 2012, NBCSN will present coverage of the NHL All-Star Game from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. All-Star weekend will take place Saturday, January 24 and Sunday, January 25 and will include the NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ and the NHL All-Star Game. • This year’s regular-season coverage features 31 games spanning 14 of the 15 series from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including back-to-back rematches of the 2014 Western and Eastern Conference Finals on NBCSN (Blackhawks-Kings on Jan. 28, Canadiens-Rangers on Jan. 29), and a rematch of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final between the Rangers and Kings on March 24. Bruins-Red Wings, Blackhawks-Blues, • Penguins-Flyers and Kings-Sharks are the most featured matchups, each appearing four times on NBC and NBCSN. • 56 of NBC and NBCSN’s 103 telecasts feature at least one Western Conference team. And as we often do, here's a breakdown of how often each team will appear on the NBC Sports Group properties: PACIFIC DIVISION Anaheim Ducks: 7 Arizona Coyotes: 1 Calgary Flames: 0 Edmonton Oilers: 0 Los Angeles Kings: 13 San Jose Sharks: 13 Vancouver Canucks: 0 CENTRAL DIVISION Chicago Blackhawks: 20 Colorado Avalanche: 7 Dallas Stars: 4 Minnesota Wild: 11 Nashville Predators: 1 St. Louis Blues: 11 Winnipeg Jets: 0 ATLANTIC DIVISION Boston Bruins: 17 Buffalo Sabres: 11 Detroit Red Wings: 15 Florida Panthers: 0 Montreal Canadiens: 2 Ottawa Senators: 0 Tampa Bay Lightning: 5 Toronto Maple Leafs: 2 METROPOLITAN DIVISION Carolina Hurricanes: 3 Columbus Blue Jackets: 1 New Jersey Devils: 2 New York Islanders: 0 New York Rangers: 14 Philadelphia Flyers: 16 Pittsburgh Penguins: 19 Washington Capitals: 13 And finally, a look at some of the winners and losers: WINNER: The Buffalo Sabres. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict that the Sabres are going to be bad, and yet, somehow, they'll appear on an NBC property 11 freaking times . If the goal is rivalries, one wonders what the hapless Sabres are going to be able to contribute. It seems reasonable to assume, more often than not, they're going to get blown out on national television. That said, maybe NBC is counting on that and wants a lot of goals? But if that's the case, they should have opted for more than zero Oilers game. LOSER: And speaking of teams shut out, how did the Islanders get zero appearances? It's clear NBC cares very little for Western Canada, as evidenced by the Oilers, Flames, and Canucks being shut out here, but the Islanders are right in the thick of the Northeast. All the teams within bussing distance have at least one appearance, and most have more than 10. But the Islanders don't even get a sniff. Clearly, NBC doesn't see much in them. In this way they're like every free agent Garth Snow tried to sign early. WINNER: The Western Conference. It became very clear last season that the better hockey is being played in the West right now, which might explain why NBC seems more willing than ever to give the teams out west some dap. As they pointed out, more than half of the broadcasts feature a Western Conference club. (It probably also helps that that's where the Cup is right now. The Blackhawks, last year's champion and a massively popular brand still on the rise, have the most appearances, at 20.) LOSER: The New Jersey Devils. Like the Islanders, NBC clearly doesn't have much faith in them to be compelling or competitive, as they have only two measly appearances. It's a shame, in a way. Their non-playoff year is the issue here, but a look at their underlying numbers from last season suggests they're going to be much better than most expect. WINNER: California. The Pacific Division is ruled right now by the three California teams, and unsurprisingly, NBC wants to showcase a lot of that hockey. The trio will appear a combined 33 times. Plus, not only are the Sharks and Kings arguably the big draw on opening night, but NBC is going to that well four times over the season, as many as the Battle of Pennsylvania, Red Wings-Bruins and Blackhawks-Blues. LOSER: Canada. Just two appearances for the Leafs, two for the Canadiens, and none for anybody else. But the country probably doesn't care too much. They'll be watching all their games elsewhere anyhow. Still, you'd think Canada would get a few more national showcases if their teams were any good.   WINNER: The Blues. Between a growing rivalry with the Blackhawks and their continued employment of American hero T.J. Oshie, they get a lot of play. As mentioned, four games versus Chicago, and eleven overall.  LOSER: The Arizona Coyotes. New name, new lease on life, no exposure. While plenty of Western Conference teams get their fair share of TV time, the Coyotes, who could probably use a boost, almost get Canada'd, with just one game to their name. It probably doesn't help that they're sharing a Division with the California three, nor that they're known for playing some pretty bland hockey. 

NHL-National Hockey League roundup
(Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:01:23 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - The Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Cody Franson to a one-year contract on Monday, just hours before he was scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing. Franson had five goals and 28 assists in 78 games with Toronto last season. He has 28 goals and 133 points in 322 games NHL games with the Nashville Predators and Maple Leafs. He also has four goals and nine assists in 23 playoff games.

NHL roundup: Maple Leafs sign Franson (The SportsXchange)
(Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:45:47 PDT)
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Cody Franson to a one-year contract on Monday, just hours before he was scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing.

Canadiens sign first-round pick Scherbak (The SportsXchange)
(Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:44:40 PDT)
The Montreal Canadiens signed first-round draft pick Nikita Scherbak to a three-year entry-level contract, the team announced Monday.

Red Wings announce new arena plans; NHL and HBO talk '24/7'; Bruins' excess of d-men (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:06:41 PDT)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

GMs should learn to shop smarter (What We Learned) (Puck Daddy)
(Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:26:48 PDT)
( Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.) Tanner Glass and Lee Stempniak are teammates again, for the first time since spring, and second time since 2004-05. That year, they played together at Dartmouth, with Stempniak a senior and Glass a sophomore. Now, they're both on the New York Rangers and highlight a particularly bizarre portion of the NHL's annual summer free agency period. The early days of free agency almost always come off as being woefully inefficient. Guys who sign on or around July 1 tend to be overpaid in terms of dollars and years, and that's a secret to approximately nobody. But the weird part is that things go from laughably expensive to laughably cheap pretty quickly, and it usually happens around the start of the second week of the month. The TSN-coined term “free agent frenzy” is, as a consequence, alarmingly apt. Teams get themselves all worked up to make it appear as though they're doing something that they pay top dollar for players they shouldn't. Glass is the case in point here. He's played 337 NHL games, and in them he's piled up 54 points. He's also on his fourth organization in five seasons, because what Glass does — get buried in possession and occasionally fight — is available on the open market for very cheap if you know where to look, and that's if you have to go shopping for it; most minor league teams have at least one guy who can do what Glass does. And yet his cap hit, on a contract unsurprisingly signed on July 1, will be $1.45 million for the next three seasons. That's too much money and too many years for a fighter who'll be 31 in November; remember how Shawn Thornton dropped off a cliff the last two or three seasons? Glass was never as good as Thornton. Meanwhile, his old college buddy Stempniak had to wait until July 19 to sign his deal with the Rangers. Stempniak has more points in his 637-game career than Glass has games played. For each of his three seasons in Calgary, Stempniak's possession numbers were better than what the rest of the team was doing when he wasn’t on the ice. His career low in points (13) is three below Glass's career high, and that's because the season in which he bottomed out was also one in which he played just 14 games.  You don't need stats to tell you that Lee Stempniak is better than Tanner Glass, of course. That much should be obvious. And yet no one would ever deign to call the former a highly sought-after free agent, obviously. Glass obviously was. That's why Glass collected a contract worth $4.35 million in total over three years — one that wasn't worth the commitment for the Rangers the second it was signed — while Stempniak got just $900,000 for one year, and that was the end of it. One wonders what, exactly, possesses a Glen Sather to consider Glass to be worth 1.6 Stempniaks, but “rational thought” cannot be included among the acceptable answers. The point is, though, that this kind of thing happens all the time. From July 7 on, NHL teams have signed a total of 13 players, all but two for just one season, for an average cap hit of $1.17 million. Compare that to the first five days of July, when teams committed an average of about $7.15 million to 79 players, and the average term was about 2.3 seasons (that means an AAV of roughly $3.1 million).   Now granted, some of that is skewed by the fact that the big-name free agents tend to get signed only July 1, or maybe a few days after that. None wait around until the middle of the month to make their decisions. But then again the vast majority of players being signed in that initial rush aren't highly sought-after, or at least shouldn't be. You'd have to feel comfortable lumping the more recently hired guys in with most July 1 signings in terms of quality. Were you a betting man, you might be able to make some good money betting that Lee Stempniak has a better season than, say, Dave Bolland. Since 2007-08, they're in roughly the same neighborhood in terms of ES points per 60; Stempniak is 142nd in the league at 1.66, and Bolland is 155th at 1.61. And yet the latter, who's more injury prone and demonstrably worse, was the one who got $5.5 million a year for the next five seasons. You can grab a lot of headlines on July 1, no doubt about that. But you're not likely to grab good value. Teams that sit back and wait for players to come to them — teams like Nashville, which signed Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro, and Anton Volchenkov in an eight-day period for a total of $3.05 million, for instance — are the ones that grab the value. Were you a betting man, you might also be able to make pretty good money wagering that Volchenkov will have a better year than Brooks Orpik. Just because you have money doesn't mean you should spend it. Splash the cash on quality free agents all you like, but don't mistake a Day-1 bidding war for a bargain. Unless you're adding players to your starting lineup, it will almost certainly be far cheaper to sit back and wait. What We Learned Anaheim Ducks : Please don't count on John Gibson being a Calder candidate . It would take a disaster for him to get a full-time starting job this season. Arizona Coyotes : Does Ray Whitney still have something in the tank ? Possession numbers remain shockingly fine, but anyone hoping for 60-point seasons any more will be sorely disappointed. Boston Bruins : Milan Lucic says he will not apologize for the handshake line threats he made to various Canadiens. And if you ask him about it again, he's going to [expletive]ing kill you. Buffalo Sabres : Remember that kid who couldn't stick with the team last season? Put him on the first line ! Calgary Flames : The Jonas Hiller contract is off to a running start . Carolina Hurricanes : Easy to be happy with the Hurricanes' depth additions this summer , but wouldn't it also be nice to get some actual good star players too? Chicago Blackhawks : Niklas Hjalmarsson believes the the Winter Classic will once again be a “ surreal ” experience. Agreed. Absolutely unreal that this is the team's third outdoor game in six years.  Colorado Avalanche : Joe Sakic says Jarome Iginla's shot and leadership are good . If his legs actually work for the next three seasons, that just might matter! Columbus Blue Jackets : Hey, they're making strides in Ryan Johansen's contract talks. The kid's good but 30 goals might be a bit much to expect; I wouldn't count on him shooting almost 14 percent next season. He's lucky he got so lucky when he did, really. Dallas Stars : Antoine Roussel wants $2.35 million in arbitration . The team wants to pay him $1.5 million. Let's call it $2 million and who cares? Dallas has tons of cap space. Detroit Red Wings : Yeah, “ bold ” is one way to put asking a bankrupt city to foot a too-large part of the bill for a $650 million downtown district that includes an arena that seats 20,000-plus. Public stadium financing is a scam to make the rich richer, and always has been. Edmonton Oilers : Remember when the Oilers started their rebuild in 2009-10? There's no one left from that team on the roster. What a life. Florida Panthers : Love that Dmitry Kulikov contract. What I love even more is that he's apparently “ inconsistent .” If having a 23-year-old who can drive possession out of his own zone against good competition isn't good, then I don't know what to think. Los Angeles Kings : Justin Williams received the Key to the City of Ventnor City, N.J., when he brought the Stanley Cup back to his adopted hometown. That's the second time he's brought it there, but given the way the Kings are going, residents might want to get used to this kind of party. Minnesota Wild : The Xcel Energy Center is getting a new scoreboard for the coming season. It will be about five times bigger than the previous one, giving fans a closer look at a team that will probably disappoint them this year. Montreal Canadiens : The Canadiens haven't done much this summer , which makes it all the more likely that this season will be like the one that followed the last time they made the Eastern Conference Final. A first-round bounce-out might actually be the best they can hope for. Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team : Seth Jones remained in Nashville to train this summer. Apparently, almost no Preds actually do that. New Jersey Devils : The Devils have a lot of good, young defensemen . And Adam Larsson. New York Islanders : Griffin Reinhart wants to be on the Islanders next season . Someone's gotta take all those tough Andrew MacDonald minutes. New York Rangers : The city would burn . Ottawa Senators : The Senators want to know how they can improve Canadian Tire Centre . One assumes most fans wrote, “Put a competitive team in it.” Philadelphia Flyers : John Stevens brought the Stanley Cup to Philadelphia this past week, and people in Philly are apparently mad that he took it to the Rocky Steps . Does anyone want to let the city of Philadelphia know that “Rocky” isn't even that good of a movie? Ay at least they didn't bring it to Pat's or Geno's!!! Pittsburgh Penguins : Mark Recchi was named the Penguins' player development coach . Word of advice: Don't ask if he wants to go to the movies. San Jose Sharks : People are still upset about the Sharks' new ice girls team . It's a reasonable thing to be upset about, but the conspiracy theorist has to think this is at least partly a ploy to distract from how little Doug Wilson has done this offseason, eh? St. Louis Blues : So cute. Doug Armstrong thinks Chris Butler is a “ qualified defenseman .” Tampa Bay Lightning : Yeah look if you can't squeeze Jonathan Drouin onto this roster you're not doing a very good job of making the team better. Pretty simple. Toronto Maple Leafs : If David Clarkson thinks last year went badly , just wait until he's in year five of this awful contract and still has two to go!  Vancouver Canucks : A decent number of people in Vancouver still don't like Derek Dorsett from his junior days. Can't imagine why. Washington Capitals : Dmitry Orlov just isn't an offensive defenseman . Sorry. Winnipeg Jets : Another season of missing the playoffs coming up in Winnipeg. No one gets fired! Hooray! Gold Star Award

2014-15 Preview - Part 1 (Rotoworld)
(Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:29:00 PDT)
Dadoun takes a look at Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, and Montreal.

NHL fighting and a common sense reduction of it (Puck Daddy)
(Sun, 13 Jul 2014 06:29:10 PDT)

NHL roundup: Blue Jackets sign Dubinsky to extension (The SportsXchange)
(Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:32:08 PDT)
The Columbus Blue Jackets signed center Brandon Dubinsky to a six-year contract extension on Friday.

Ducks sign F Leblanc (The SportsXchange)
(Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:42:26 PDT)
Restricted free agent forward Louis Leblanc signed a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, the team announced Friday.

Dread Pirate Steve Ott; new Leafs assistants; CHL players' summer jobs (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
(Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:33:22 PDT)
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Two more years of this? Yes, please. " @apetro_27 : great performance by @otterN9NE "aKa Steve the pirate" " — St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) July 10, 2014 • Dread Pirate Steve [Ott]:  "Yarr...Peter..."   [St. Louis Blues] • I get the feeling some Blues fans might prefer the actual Dread Pirate Steve on their team over Steve Ott, especially after Vladimir Sobotka booked it to the KHL. [St. Louis Game Time] • Randy Carlyle has some new friends behind the bench. The Maple Leafs announced former-Panthers coach Peter Horachek and former-Marlies coach Steve Spott are the two new assistant coaches in Toronto. [Toronto Maple Leafs] • CHL players haven't yet hit the big time where they make enough money to NOT work during the off-season. Here's the first installment of a summer series looking at what those CHL'ers do to make ends meet when they're not on the ice. [Buzzing the Net] • Nobody wants to work on Fridays, so we've given you something to pass the time. Can you find things hiding in your favorite hockey logos? [Icethetics] •  “When I went to the University of North Dakota, and I sat in the crowd, I felt so proud that Rocco Grimaldi was a Panther because people are talking about him. They’re all talking to him getting ready for warm-ups saying ‘Hey, watch this little guy! He’s going to light it up’. He never disappoints," said Brian Skrudland, the Panthers director of player development. [ Panther Parkway] • Interesting analysis of center Mikko Koivu, and his role for the upcoming season with youthful Wild [Hockey Wilderness] • Some unhappy citizens of Red Wings country? George Malik writes an open letter to Red Wings GM Ken Holland regarding the Kyle Quincey and Dan Cleary signings. (BONUS:  Perfect Strangers reference for those of us who grew up watching TGIF.) [Kukla's Korner/Malik Report] • Mike Babcock is on the verge of looking for a new assistant coach to join him on the bench. Ken Holland confirmed current Detroit assistant Tom Renney is close to signing a deal to join Hockey Canada. [Red Wings Front] • The 2018 Olympic games are in PyeongChan g, South Korea. Don't worry, this isn't a debate on whether NHL-ers should go or not. 28 players from Seoul’s Yonsei University are in Vancouver to hone their skills in hope of making their nation's team in a few year. [The Province] • Drama and the Vancouver Canucks go together like peas and carrots. 'Nucks goalie Jacob Markstrom reportedly requested a trade following the Ryan Miller signing. Guess what?! Markstrom is now denying that report. Shock me, shock me. [ProHockey Talk] • " The Canucks are prepared to simply remodel their team a bit and then go into the season hoping for the best ... I believe that the time for a rebuild is now, while their best players are still in their prime and can get the best return via trade ... there’s no point in delaying the inevitable in Vancouver, and the time for change is now." [Too Many Men On The Site] • A look back at a dark day in Pittsburgh Penguins history. This day, 13 years ago, Pens GM Craig Patrick traded Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to the Washington Capitals for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk. [The Pensblog] • 1922-1923 Montreal Canadiens 'shock the world twice' on this day in hockey history [Greatest Hockey Legends] • Eliot Antonietti, the 6'6" Swiss defenseman at Capitals prospect camp, has taken hold of his new-found fame and has deemed himself 'The Beard'. Not sure if that will improve his chances of signing with the team, but hey, any marketing is good marketing. [RMNB] • Hockey talent from Southern California continues to invade development camps across the NHL; however unbeknownst to many, Miles Koules brings a Hollywood heavyweight family background with him to Caps camp. [Washington Post] • The Lighting have re-signed Brett Connolly as they continue to add to their depth at forward . [Tampa Bay Lightning] • Wonder how this will work out: "It appears that the Carolina Hurricanes are planning on relying less on talent and more on hard work and strategy for the next hockey season. Do not get me wrong, the Canes do have talent, but as we have learned in the past few seasons that it is not enough. As Bill Peters mentioned in his first interview with the Hurricanes, ice time will be given to the players who work hard and are the right ones for the job." [Cardiac Cane] • An academic analysis (with equations!) at changing the NHL point system by someone that didn't have to take macroeconomics four times while getting her B.A. (i.e. me) [Jewels from the Crown] • A look back at the very busy past few weeks for the Nashville Predators [View from 111] • Should the Oilers kick the tires on 32-year-old, free-agent winger David Moss?  [Oilers Nation] • Getting you ready for your future fantasy drafts: the guys at Dobber look at the implications of Sobotka's departure and Ott's re-signing with the Blues.  [Dobber Hockey] • To close Puck Headlines the way we started, we head Winnipeg where the Jets prospects are living the immortal words of Dodgeball's  Patches O'Houlihan: "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball..." [Winnipeg Jets]

Who will be the next $10 million-a-year NHL players? (Puck Daddy)
(Thu, 10 Jul 2014 07:48:00 PDT)

KHL goes from threat to nyet for NHL (Puck Daddy)
(Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:03:14 PDT)
“I think the KHL represents right now the biggest threat to the NHL since the WHA and maybe not today but in the future. And how short-sighted of these NHL owners to shut the NHL game down at the time when the KHL is beginning to thrive and allow for many of the NHL’s top stars, from Ovechkin to Malkin and so forth who are Russian-born, to be back in Russia promoting the KHL instead of the NHL. How short-sighted are these owners in allowing this to happen?” – Allan Walsh, Oct. 2012   Two years ago, the KHL was looking like the new hotness. It was on ESPN2, with BARRY MELROSE calling its games. It was home to a cadre of NHL stars looking to make coin during the lockout, including a few Russian stars threatening to remain there. In Summer 2013, Ilya Kovalchuk followed through on that threat: Retiring from the NHL, leaving $77 million on the table with the New Jersey Devils and moving his family back to Russia. The new WHA! The red menace! Gary Bettman’s Putanic nightmare! Fast forward two years, and here’s where the KHL is: * Not on television in North America, at least on a network that’s more easily located than NBCSN. * Watching Leo Komarov (Toronto Maple Leafs), Jori Lehtera (St. Louis Blues), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals), Jiri Sekac (Montreal Canadiens) and Petri Kontiola (St. Louis Blues) all leave for the NHL in the last few months. * In Kontiola’s case, watching him pay $600,000 to the KHL to get out of a contract just to sign for $1.1 million in the NHL. * The significant names headed from the NHL to Russia? Matt Gilroy, Matt Lashoff and Chad Billins. * Seeing three teams cease operation for the 2014-15 KHL season: Lev Prague, Spartak Moscow and Donbass Donetsk. In the case of Lev, that’s the Gagarin Cup runner-up that just folded. Meanwhile, the NHL is nearing $3.7 billion in revenue. Chris Johnston looked at the KHL’s downward trend as an NHL threat, and followed the money: “All of those guys really want to play in the NHL,” said a well-placed source in Finnish hockey circles. “They all made big money already in KHL. So it’s not about the money anymore.” Until now, money has been the one advantage that the KHL enjoyed, especially when it came to fringe players who didn’t want to risk the possibility of earning peanuts if they were sent to the American Hockey League or top prospects that were able to earn much more than they would on an entry-level contract in the NHL. Then you had a situation like the one Komarov faced last summer, when Dynamo gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The KHL team tabled twice as much money as the Leafs — $2 million — and that doesn’t even factor in Russia’s lower tax rates or the fact he had no escrow deductions to worry about overseas. Still, when I caught up with him in February at the Olympics, you could tell that Komarov had some doubts about his decision. He strongly hinted that his return to Moscow hadn’t gone as well as he had hoped. There are some mitigating factors for the KHL. Lev, for example, was the third most popular team in Prague, and even that Cup run wasn’t changing the dynamic. Sparta and Donbass both vow this is only a one-year shutdown, and will return to the KHL if their economic situations change. (Please note that the KHL will still have 28 teams next season, as Lada Togliatti will return to the league, Finland’s Jokerit Helsinki starts its first KHL season and HK Sochi debuts, playing in the Olympic Bolshoy Ice Dome. Yes, a pro hockey team in Sochi. Let’s see what those attendance numbers look like.) But the larger trend for the KHL right now is that it’s attracting fewer big name NHL stars at the end of their careers, while the younger stars are using the league as an ATM for a few seasons before ending up on the NHL, where their hearts clearly are. And while the KHL may still march through Europe in expansion, it doesn’t feel like the same arms race it once did with the NHL. The idea of a North American franchise is now laughable. The talent pipeline’s flow has been reversed. The NHL is getting stronger, while the KHL is seeing teams fold. The Russian League’s not going anywhere – there’s way too much money and political clout backing the KHL – but, for now, it seems like the moment has passed for the KHL as a viable threat to the NHL. The question then becomes: What next? Does it stagger along, trying to beat any NHL expansion in the hopes that its foothold in Europe would thwart that of an NHL-backed league? Or does the KHL become what Allan Walsh predicted it’d become (and where I’ve long thought this was all headed): The new WHA, eventually bowing to the NHL’s brand and merging with it in a massive European expansion?    

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