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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
Corey Crawford
Blackhawks' Crawford To Start Game 1 Versus Wild
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
11:20 AM
News: Corey Crawford will start Game 1 of the Blackhawks' second-round series against the Wild, ESPN Chicago reports.
Analysis: Corey Crawford was benched for Games 3-6 during Chicago's first-round series win over the Predators, but relieved rookie teammate Scott Darling nicely in Game 6, stopping all 13 shots he faced after coming in during the first period. As a result, the more experienced Crawford will get an opportunity to reclaim his starting goaltender position in the Blackhawks' upcoming series against the Wild, who Crawford has helped Chicago eliminate from the playoffs in two straight seasons.

Kevin Klein
Rangers' Klein Poised To Return
Kevin Klein, D, NYR
10:12 AM
News: Kevin Klein (arm) said that he is ready to go in advance of the second round of the NHL playoffs.
Analysis: The Rangers still list Kevin Klein on IR, but in the absence of any setbacks, he'll be activated before Game 1 of the team's second-round playoff series, against an opponent that has yet to be determined.

Mats Zuccarello
Rangers' Zuccarello Sidelined
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR
10:07 AM
News: Mats Zuccarello is out indefinitely due to an upper-body injury, according to NHL.com's Dan Rosen.
Analysis: Mats Zuccarello was among the Rangers not on the ice for Monday's optional practice, with the forward's playing status for the second round of the playoffs looking murky at this stage.

Ben Bishop
Lightning Stay With Bishop For Game 6
Ben Bishop, G, TB
9:47 AM
News: Ben Bishop is slated to start Monday's Game 6 against the Red Wings, NHL.com's Bryan Burns reports.
Analysis: No real surprise here, as Ben Bishop has been the only Tampa Bay goalie to see postseason action through the first five games of the team's opening-round seres. In that span, Bishop has allowed 11 goals on 111 shots, en route to recording a 2.21 GAA and .901 save percentage.

Petr Mrazek
Wings Stick With Mrazek
Petr Mrazek, G, DET
9:40 AM
News: Petr Mrazek is slated to start Monday's Game 6 against the Lightning.
Analysis: Petr Mrazek, who has manned the Detroit net for all but one period through the first five games of the series, heads into Monday's home tilt having limited the high-powered Lightning to nine goals on 143 shot attempts in that span.

Calvin de Haan
Isles' De Haan Likely Out Monday
Calvin de Haan, D, NYI
9:28 AM
News: De Haan (shoulder) was not on the ice for Monday's morning skate, Newsday's Arthur Staple reports.
Analysis: While the Isles' Game 7 lineup has yet to be confirmed, at this stage it looks as though the team will continue to be without Calvin de Haan, Travis Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky for the contest.

Curtis Glencross
Caps' Glencross Set To Rejoin Lineup
Curtis Glencross, LW, WAS
9:20 AM
News: Curtis Glencross is slated to suit up for Monday's Game 7 against the Islanders, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: With Curtis Glencross, who has yet to record a point in three postseason contests, poised to re-join the Caps' lineup Monday, Michael Latta is candidate to be scratched for the contest.

Braden Holtby
Caps' Roll With Holtby In Game 7
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
9:02 AM
News: Braden Holtby is slated to square off against Jaroslav Halak in Monday's Game 7 against the Islanders, NESN.com reports.
Analysis: Through the first six games of the series, five of which he has started, Braden Holtby has turned in a nifty .945 save percentage, to go along with a 1.75 GAA. Per Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post, Philipp Grubauer is slated to continue to serve as Holtby's backup on Monday, with Justin Peters on track to be among the Caps' Game 7 scratches.

Jaroslav Halak
Isles' Halak In Net For Game 7
Jaroslav Halak, G, NYI
8:18 AM
News: Jaroslav Halak will start in net for Monday's Game 7 matchup against the Capitals.
Analysis: Jaroslav Halak has started every game in the series, so it's no surprise he'll be in net once again Monday with the series on the line. It's win or go home for Halak and the Isles, and he'll look to follow up a strong performance in Game 6 with another one in Game 7.

Alex Pietrangelo
Blues' Pietrangelo Picks Up Assist In Game 6 Loss
Alex Pietrangelo, D, STL
6:27 AM
News: Alex Pietrangelo had an assist in Sunday's series-ending loss to the Wild. He took five shots and had two blocked shots.
Analysis: Alex Pietrangelo was solid throughout the series despite the Blues loss, registering an increasing amount of ice time as the games wore on, culminating in him seeing 31:12 seconds in the final game. The Blues may be in a shake up in the off-season after another early playoff exit, but it's tough to see Pietrangelo going anywhere. The 24-year-old is an all around rock for the Blues on the bullion.

 
 
 
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