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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
Nikita Nesterov
Bolts' Nesterov May Stick In NHL For Now
Nikita Nesterov, D, TB
1/25/2015
News: Nikita Nesterov is likely to stay with the Lightning and see regular action now that Matt Carle is slated for surgery on Tuesday that will keep him out of the lineup for up to two months.
Analysis: He's dependable and plays with an edge. And while he has picked up his scoring a bit this season in the AHL, Nikita Nesterov should not be mistaken for a scorer. But he can chew minutes.

Mark Barberio
Bolts' Barberio May See Increased Ice Time
Mark Barberio, D, TB
1/25/2015
News: Mark Barberio may be in line for more consistent playing time now that Matt Carle is set for surgery on Tuesday.
Analysis: Mark Barberio has been in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch, but Carle's injury makes room for him to slot in and show his stuff. Right now, he's still not fantasy worthy as he tends to overthink things when he's on the ice. Watch and wait before you snag him off the wire.

Anton Stralman
Bolts' Stralman Poised For More Ice Time
Anton Stralman, D, TB
1/25/2015
News: Anton Stralman is poised to see an increase in ice time in all situations now that Matt Carle is scheduled for surgery on a torn abductor muscle.
Analysis: Carle is slated to be out six-to-eight weeks, so the pillars on the Bolts' blue line will see extra duty to support some of the younger players. Anton Stralman should be able to sustain his current offensive pace in this situation and that makes him a solid fantasy activation until season's end.

Dennis Rasmussen
Chicago Recalls Rasmussen
Dennis Rasmussen, LW, CHI
1/25/2015
News: The Blackhawks have recalled Dennis Rasmussen from AHL Rockford, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Dennis Rasmussen, who has recorded 16 points in 44 games AHL games to date, gives the Blackhawks some extra forward depth for the team's upcoming six-game road trip.

Patrick Kane
Hawks' Kane Wins Most Accurate Shooter Contest
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
1/24/2015
News: Patrick Kane won the Shooting Accuracy competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday night.
Analysis: He needed just five shots to get through all four targets in the fastest time (13.529 seconds).

Shea Weber
Preds' Weber Wins Hardest Shot Competition
Shea Weber, D, NSH
1/24/2015
News: Shea Weber won the Hardest Shot competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday.
Analysis: He fired the puck at 108.5 mph, just 0.3 mph off Zdeno Chara's record (2012). There were plenty of nods and murmurs among the other all stars, so perhaps this win will buy Shea Weber a few more lanes to the net for that shot. No-one will want to stand in front of one of those.

Steven Stamkos
Bolts' Stamkos Hopes To Sign Extension Next Summer
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
1/24/2015
News: Steven Stamkos is eyeing a summer contract extension with the Lightning, reports the Tampa Bay Times. He can't sign an extension until July 1.
Analysis: Stammer is in line for a deal like the ones that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed in Chicago. Those are eight-year, $84 million contracts and they both inked the deals a year before they could become unrestricted free agents. It looks like he'll be a fixture in Tampa for a long time and that's great news for fans and fantasy owners alike.

Tyler Johnson
Tampa Bay's Johnson Out For All-Star Game
Tyler Johnson, C, TB
1/24/2015
News: Tyler Johnson (lower body) will not play in Sunday's All-Star Game, but he will be eligible to play in Tuesday's game against the Hurricanes if healthy, ESPN reports. He is at the All-Star festivities even though he isn't going to play.
Analysis: Tyler Johnson appears to be sitting out as a precaution more than anything. He played in the last three games leading up to the All-Star break, so there's little reason to think he won't be ready to go for Tuesday's game.

Jonathan Drouin
Bolts' Drouin Fastest Skater In NHL
Jonathan Drouin, LW, TB
1/24/2015
News: Jonathan Drouin won the Fastest Skater competition at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus on Saturday night. His time was 13.103.
Analysis: He's been in and out of the lineup, but he is an elite talent. He also scored a beauty goal in another part of the competition. Short term, his value may be limited, but long term, he will be among the league's elite.

Clayton Stoner
Ducks' Stoner Expected To Play Next Week
Clayton Stoner, D, ANA
1/24/2015
News: Coach Bruce Boudreau said that he expects Clayton Stoner (lower body) to be available when the Ducks resume play the Canucks on Tuesday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports.
Analysis: Clayton Stoner was a late scratch for the Ducks' final game before the All-Star break this past Wednesday due to the lower-body ailment, which he sustained the previous weekend against the Kings. It appears to be just a minor concern for Stoner, whose availability for the game against the Canucks should be confirmed when he returns to practice Monday.

 
 
 
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