Saturday, June 4, 2011
Weekend wrap: Realignment talks, Brad Richards' value and Sidney Crosby's health
By Pierre LeBrun
Few things seem to generate more buzz among hockey fans these days than talk of NHL realignment. A lot of discussion will be had over the next six months or so among NHL governors and league staff with the relocation of Atlanta to Winnipeg. One concept getting traction early is to go back to four divisions instead of the current six, a source told ESPN.com on Saturday.
The feeling is that would iron out some of the geographical issues as well as lead to a more balanced schedule.
Again, it's very preliminary in the process. The league will entertain all kinds of ideas before all is said and done.
One NHL GM we spoke to Saturday actually favors scrapping the divisions altogether and going to two conferences, but a league source told ESPN.com it was highly unlikely that would generate any real interest.
Hot ticket in Winnipeg
True North was privately stunned Saturday at how quickly it got to the 13,000 season-ticket mark. It figured it would have taken several more days. True North also had to cap the waiting list for season tickets at 8,000 on Saturday. Simply amazing.
Brad Richards told ESPN.com he was excited to have his first opportunity as an unrestricted free agent.
The market for Richards
We updated the Brad Richards' situation on Thursday. Some further notes on the matter: While the whole world knows the New York Rangers will be in the mix for him, we're told the Blueshirts also have interest in Florida's Stephen Weiss, should the money and terms to get Richards get out of hand. In other words, Weiss would be an appealing Plan B.
The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, are an intriguing team that has some interest in Richards, but only for a short-term, cap-friendly deal. The pitch from Detroit would be to come and win a Cup. Richards will certainly be fielding more lucrative offers in terms of term and money. Expect the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs, among other teams, to be in the mix.
Crosby expected at camp
Sidney Crosby is feeling good and is expected at Pittsburgh Penguins training camp in September. However, it obviously depends on how he reacts to his summer workouts once they intensify. No one knows how that's going to go.
Former NHL coach Mario Tremblay caused a stir Friday on French sports network RDS in Montreal when he reported that Crosby's career was in jeopardy because of his concussion issues. Crosby's agent Pat Brisson released a statement Saturday night firmly rebuking Tremblay.
"It is very disturbing and disappointing to me when someone from the media and especially an ex-player brings such baseless comments toward the medical status of [a] player. Unless a report comes from the medical staff and or an official voice for the player, it's of no merit whatsoever,'' Brisson said in a statement he sent ESPN.com and other media outlets.
Stars, Senators coaching searches
The Dallas Stars have interviewed four candidates so far in their head-coaching search: Kirk Muller, Peter Horacheck (Preds assistant coach), Ken Hitchcock and Glen Gulutzan (Stars AHL coach). The Stars front office will meet Monday to discuss whether it should interview anyone else or focus on those four candidates.
The Ottawa Senators' coaching search has yielded interviews with Bob Boughner, Craig MacTavish, Paul MacLean, Kirk Muller and Dave Cameron, we were told Saturday. Binghamton Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst is also in the mix but is tied up with the AHL finals right now.
Expanding Rule 48
The concussion group unofficially known at the blue-ribbon committee (Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Rob Blake and Brendan Shanahan) met for four hours Friday in Vancouver, British Columbia, with Colin Campbell, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly. The blue-ribbon panel will recommend to GMs next week that Rule 48 be expanded.
NHL loses in court
The NHL was really surprised to have lost the Molson-Labatt case Friday in Toronto. An Ontario judge ruled in favor of Labatt's claim that the league reneged on its agreement with the beer company. Labatt claimed it already had a deal in place with the NHL before the league committed to a $375 million sponsorship agreement with rival Molson Coors.
The league was very confident in its case. But we're told the league will appeal the court's decision. Given that the deal with Molson would be the most lucrative sponsorship deal in NHL history, that's the obvious play at this point.