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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
Ryan Wilson
Flames Ink Wilson To PTO
Ryan Wilson, D, COL
2:53 PM
News: Ryan Wilson signed a professional tryout offer with the Flames on Thursday, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ryan Wilson was limited to just three games as a member of the Avalanche last season, as he suffered a shoulder injury in late October that would ultimately require surgery. Prior to the injury, the 28-year-old wasn't expected to be a major part of the Avs' plans on the blue line, and he'll have an even more difficult time trying to carve out a role in Calgary's defensive corps, which may be the deepest in the NHL.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom (Hip) "Not In A Rush" To Play
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
1:57 PM
News: Nicklas Backstrom (hip) skated during informal workouts Thursday morning, but is "not in a rush" to return to action, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom began skating in August following hip surgery during the offseason, and while he hasn't experienced any setbacks, he doesn't appear to have a specific target date in mind for his return. "I'm not going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing," the 27-year-old pivot remarked, "I'm not going to play on 90 percent. We'll see how it goes. We don't know yet." The uncertainty surrounding Backstrom's return has lowered his standing somewhat in fantasy rankings. While the situation should be monitored closely, Backstrom should provide some serious value if he can get up to speed quickly on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and newcomer T.J. Oshie, as he has been one of the more productive playmakers and power-play performers over the last several seasons. Don't sleep on him too long in your draft if he continues to progress according to plan.

Joe Pavelski
Pavelski Expected To Be Named Sharks' Next Captain
Joe Pavelski, C, SJ
1:01 PM
News: Joe Pavelski is expected to be named the Sharks' next captain, CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports.
Analysis: Captaincy has been a delicate issue in San Jose over the last year, as former coach Todd McLellan stripped longtime leader Joe Thornton of those honors heading into 2014-15, straining the relationship between the star center and team brass. While Thornton is still around, it's clear that the 31-year-old Joe Pavelski is now the face of the franchise, after ranking fourth in the NHL in goals over the last four seasons with 161. Pavelski figures to pace the Sharks in scoring once again during the upcoming campaign, while taking on more of a leadership role in the locker room.

Keith Ballard
Ex-Wild D-Man Ballard Leaning Toward Retirement
Keith Ballard, D, MIN
9:55 AM
News: Keith Ballard (concussion) confirmed last week that he's leaning toward retirement, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Keith Ballard is still experiencing concussion symptoms from the head injury he suffered Dec. 9 of last season, and it sounds like he's leaning toward hanging up his skates rather than risking permanent health issues. The 32-year-old had previously experienced several concussions during his NHL career, likely leaving many teams disinterested in Ballard's services even if he opts to keep playing.

Andrew Copp
Jets' Copp To Challenge For NHL Job
Andrew Copp, C, WPG
9:47 AM
News: Andrew Copp is expected to compete for the Jets' fourth-line center duties during training camp, Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Analysis: Andrew Copp, who finished up his sophomore season at the University of Michigan last spring before turning pro, made his NHL debut for the Jets in their final regular season game in 2015-16, when the team was just trying to rest its regulars in advance of the playoffs. The 2013 fourth-round pick went unused during the Jets' first-round series exit, but the size he presents (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) along with the strong leadership and decision-making he demonstrated during his time at Michigan could make him the Jets' best internal option to pivot the checking line. Holdovers Anthony Peluso and Matt Halischuk likely represent Copp's top competition for that role.

Joakim Nordstrom
Nordstrom, Blackhawks Agree On One-Year Deal
Joakim Nordstrom, C, CHI
9/2/2015
News: Joakim Nordstrom signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Brian Hedger of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Joakim Nordstrom waited several months before agreeing to his qualifying offer, but he's at least in the fold to compete for a spot in the Blackhawks' crowded bottom-six ranks. The forward recorded no goals and three assists in 38 games with the parent club last season, so a return trip to AHL Rockford could be in the works to open 2015-16.

Tom Sestito
Penguins Sign Sestito To PTO
Tom Sestito, LW, PIT
9/2/2015
News: Tom Sestito signed a professional tryout contract last week with the Penguins, Josh Yohe of DKonPittsburghSports.com reports.
Analysis: As a tough guy who gobbles up penalty minutes, Tom Sestito doesn't seem to mesh well with coach Mike Johnston's vision of rolling out four lines with scoring ability. Don't expect him to crack the Penguins' 23-man roster out of training camp, barring a litany of injuries.

Evgeni Malkin
Pens' Malkin Healthy Heading Into Camp
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT
9/2/2015
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Evgeni Malkin is healthy heading into training camp, NHL.com reports. "[Malkin] was injured before the playoffs last year; he's in skating already," Johnston said.
Analysis: The Penguins are expected to tinker with their top-six ranks in training camp after adding Phil Kessel to the mix in the offseason, but it's expected that Kessel will play on the top line with Sidney Crosby, while Evgeni Malkin centers a line of Patric Hornqvist and a yet-to-be-determined left winger. Regardless of which player among David Perron, Chris Kunitz, and rookie Sergei Plotnikov ultimately settles next to Malkin, staying healthy is more essential to the star center's fantasy production than anything else. Malkin has missed 103 regular-season contests over the last six years.

Peter Budaj
Kings Ink Budaj To Tryout Offer
Peter Budaj, G, LA
9/2/2015
News: Peter Budaj has signed with the Kings on a professional tryout contract, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Peter Budaj struggled while seeing limited ice time with AHL St. John's in the Winnipeg organization last season, going 0-9-6 with a 3.55 GAA and .888 save percentage. The 33-year-old clearly seems to be on the downswing of his career, but as a veteran with 296 NHL appearances on his ledger, he could provide insurance in goal for the Kings at the minor-league level.

Markus Soberg
Jackets' Soberg Out 4-6 Weeks
Markus Soberg, RW, CLB
9/2/2015
News: Markus Soberg (groin) will miss the next four-to-six weeks as he recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: A sixth-round pick by the Blue Jackets in 2013, Markus Soberg was hampered by an abdominal injury throughout much of last season, ending up with 13 goals and 17 assists in 61 games for OHL Windsor. It's unclear whether he would've been able to make the jump to Columbus this season even if healthy, but the surgery will certainly delay his progress to North American hockey.

 
 
 
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