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Offseason Extra: Life in the new NHL

Rotowire.com
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Today's topics: Phoenix franchise may have finally found a permanent solution to stay put, the KHL is not of interest to Evgeni Malkin and our overtime solution to fans who don't like the shootout.

Phoenix franchise cloud finally lifted?

IceArizona AcquisitionCo, LLC is the name associated with a group of American business leaders who have decided to join forces and finally convince the NHL Board of Governors that they will act together to ensure the long-term stability of the Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona. This decision probably puts Gary Bettman's biggest headache to rest, at least for the short term.

Now it's up to the team's management (GM Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett) to focus their player roster solely on hockey related issues. No doubt this will be a refreshing departure from the last two seasons where players were distracted by the almost daily speculation about the future of this franchise. While the location of the team in Glendale is still not viewed as the best possible location for the team's home ice location within Arizona, fans in the Cactus State will now have one final chance to prove their loyalty and to conclusively define the width of the team's fan base.

As rabid hockey fans will know, this resolution comes almost to the day, 25 years ago when Wayne Gretzky was traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles, marketing the NHL's renewed effort to bring hockey to the West Coast and introduce the sport to several non-traditional hockey markets. Those 25 years have passed with mixed reviews, as far as the success of the sport in such locales as Anaheim, Florida, Nashville and Phoenix, but Bettman and his league management team remains committed to these 30 NHL markets. In addition, now that the league has once again introduced a new realignment with 14 teams in one Conference (West) and 16 in the other one (West) he has fostered the discussion of further league expansion, citing Seattle as a desired market.

While Bettman's expansion plans have almost exclusively been leaning toward the USA, he may also finally have to concede that Canadian Hockey hotbeds (Quebec City, Hamilton, or a second team in Metropolitan Toronto) might also have to get serious consideration as he hopes to eventually create a very symmetrical 32-team league.

KHL not an option for Malkin

While the NHL has faced a turbulent summer, owing to the salary cap reductions as mandated by the recent CBA, the player traffic flow has been further complicated by the fact that a steady trickle of talent is opting to move to the KHL (Russian) loop.

Recently 13-year NHL veteran winger Alexei Ponikarovsky decided to join Ilya Kovalchuk's SKA team instead of trying to extend his North American career. A few other players who have yet to sign on from the remaining NHL free agent crop are very likely going to have to give the KHL a serious look. The top two higher profile players remaining among the free agent class, as of this week, offer diametrically opposite views about their options.

First, there is goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who has concluded that all of the number one goalie jobs have been locked up and that he would have to battle for significant playing time with any current NHL team. No doubt that his NHL stock has dropped in recent years, but at 33 years of age, he feels that he has a lot of good hockey left in him and he has indicated that he might welcome a KHL contract offer.

Second, Mikhail Grabovski, who was bought ought by an amnesty option exercised by Toronto, has already stated very publicly, that the KHL is not an option that he wishes to entertain, despite the fact that he will likely have to accept a much lower annual salary that the $5M plus he had hoped to collect for the next three years, as he has chosen to continue his NHL career. Obviously, the fact that he has recently married his long-time Toronto-based girlfriend and they have raised two children there is a factor in that decision.

As we move forward, more unsigned players will be weighing their options but another high profile Russian NHLer came out with his own strong opinion. Pittsburgh's star Malkin stated that he is very happy with his long-term deal that will pay him $9.5 million annually, through the 2021-2022 NHL season. The NHL's power brokers had to feel good about such a high profile Russian-born NHL star coming out so publicly in favor of the NHL, at a time when the league seems to be at its most vulnerable in terms of a potential exodus.

Overtime and the Shootout

OK, I admit I am a fan of tradition and history when it comes to hockey. That's why I have used this space to rail against one of the most troubling aspects of the modern NHL.

I don't think that a shoot-out, basically an individual skills competition, has any place in determining the outcome of a team game. It really bothers me that soccer allows a penalty kick competition to settle games and even world championships. Using the shootout to settle regular season games is bad enough. Could you imagine a Stanley Cup Final game being decided in this fashion? That would be a travesty.

Now, I get how fans rise in unison in anticipation of the shootout as quite a visual spectacle, but that's still not the way I want to see a result in this team game.

I think you could still have it as a gimmick to entertain during an intermission segment, in the same way as Hockey Night in Canada filmed its Showdown series during summer months in the late 1970s.

When I cite a problem area such as this I also like to offer an alternative. I would much rather see the five-minute, four-on-four overtime segment be followed by a five-minute three-on-three period. This would still involve team play and strategy that relates to the game of hockey. That three-on-three segment would lead to an even higher number of scoring chances than in the four-on-four game and would surely lead to a large number of conclusive outcomes. If after these two overtime frames, the teams are still tied, I would have no problem seeing each team awarded a point for the tie.

Some similar advocates of this format and related results have also offered a different scale for awarding team points. I would agree to award teams three points for a regulation win in 60 minutes and a two-point win if achieved in overtime. This point scale would ensure that teams don't sleepwalk into the current overtime session to ensure a point. In my plan, teams would always be encouraged to go for the win.

I am more optimistic than ever that the current overtime format will not survive and that some form of my plan will prevail.

I will not rest or hold my tongue until that day comes.

What do you think?

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Player News
Antoine Roussel
Roussel Leads World Championships In Penalties
Antoine Roussel, LW, DAL
5/29/2015
News: Antoine Roussel led the World Championships in penalty minutes with 34 -- as well as one game misconduct -- through seven games.
Analysis: Antoine Roussel, unsurprisingly, led the tournament in penalty minutes despite Team France only playing seven of a possible 10 games. Roussel's tournament wasn't great, though a big part of that was Team France being outmatched. He finished with two assists and three shots on goal through seven games.

John Klingberg
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John Klingberg, D, DAL
5/29/2015
News: John Klingberg had a plus-9 rating at the World Championships for Team Sweden, the best plus/minus of any player who doesn't play for Team Canada.
Analysis: John Klingberg finished the tournament with two goals and four assists, along with 15 shots. Klingberg had a solid tournament, but didn't manage to bring home a medal with Team Canada outmatching everyone.

Brent Burns
Sharks' Burns Named Best Defenseman At Worlds
Brent Burns, D, SJ
5/29/2015
News: Brent Burns was named the 2015 World Championships' best defenseman, taking home that honor in addition to a gold medal.
Analysis: Brent Burns finished tied for seventh in overall points and second among defensemen in the tournament, with two goals and nine assists. Only Oliver Ekman-Larsson had more assists in the tournament. He also finished with a plus-10 rating.

Tyler Seguin
Seguin Leads Team Canada In Goals At Worlds
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
5/29/2015
News: Tyler Seguin posted nine goals at the 2015 World Championships, leading the entire tournament.
Analysis: Tyler Seguin brought home gold on a team loaded with superstars, outmatched other teams by a huge margin. Nonetheless, Seguin was the superstar we know him to be, leading the tournament in goals and power-play goals (5), while being second overall in shots at 36. The only blemish in his stats was that he failed to add even a single assist to his nine goals.

Jason Spezza
Spezza Solid In Worlds
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News: Jason Spezza led all players in points at the World Championship in the Czech Republic, posting six goals and eight assists in 10 games.
Analysis: Jason Spezza took home a gold medal and no small amount of pride after being a clear leader for Team Canada. His production was incredible and it offers hope for his production next season, with the caveat that Canada was head and shoulders above most of the competition in the tournament.

Philippe Desrosiers
Desrosiers Exits Memorial Cup
Philippe Desrosiers, G, DAL
5/29/2015
News: Philippe Desrosiers and Rimouski Oceanic exited the Memorial Cup on Thursday, losing 5-2 to Quebec.
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Ryan McDonagh
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News: Coach Alain Vigneault acknowledged after the Rangers' Game 7 loss to the Lightning that Ryan McDonagh played the final couple games of the series with a broken right foot.
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Cedric Paquette
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Cedric Paquette, C, TB
5/29/2015
News: Cedric Paquette will return to Tampa Bay's lineup for Friday's Game 7 against the Rangers, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Cedric Paquette missed Game 6 of the series with a hand injury, but is now healthy enough to return to the Bolts' lineup for Game 7 against the Rangers. He'll replace Vladislav Namestnikov, and will center J.T. Brown and Ryan Callahan on Tampa Bay's third line.

Ben Bishop
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Ben Bishop, G, TB
5/29/2015
News: Ben Bishop will be in the crease for Friday's Game 7 against the Rangers.
Analysis: Ben Bishop will look to bounce back from a poor performance in Tuesday's Game 6 in which he allowed five goals on 26 shots before being pulled in the third period. Bishop has been inconsistent throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, but was able to post a shutout performance en route to a victory in Game 5. He'll hope to return to that sort of form in Game 7 of the series.

Henrik Lundqvist
Rangers' Lundqvist Will Start Friday
Henrik Lundqvist, G, NYR
5/29/2015
News: Henrik Lundqvist will be in net for Friday's Game 7 against the Lightning.
Analysis: With the exception of Games 2 and 3, in which he surrendered a total of 12 goals, Henrik Lundqvist has been solid against Tampa Bay throughout the Eastern Conference Finals. If his teammates are able to carry the offensive momentum they gained after tallying five goals in Game 6 into Game 7, another solid outing from Lundqvist could be enough to propel the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.

 
 
 
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