Sunday roundup: Balsillie strikes again; latest on Zetterberg, Avery

November, 9, 2008
11/09/08
1:01
AM ET
Mr. BlackBerry created a bit of a ruckus north of the border this week. French Montreal newspaper La Presse quoted Jim Balsillie this week as saying the Montreal Canadiens were for sale and photographed him holding a BlackBerry with a Habs logo on it.

The story sparked furious denials from Canadiens owner George Gillett, who said the Canadiens were not for sale. Balsillie's lawyer, Richard Rodier, told ESPN.com the billionaire denies ever saying to the La Presse reporter that the team was for sale.

"Jim has absolutely no reason to believe the Habs, or any interest in the Habs, is for sale," Rodier said. "Furthermore, Jim has met Mr. Gillett on more than one occasion. Not once has there been any discussion of a possible sale of the Habs now, in the future, ever; not a controlling interest or a minority interest -- nothing.

"It is true that Jim is a Habs fan and has attended games at the Bell Centre, which he has enjoyed."

The reporter stands by her story and is backed by her photographer. The statement was not, however, caught on a tape recorder.

Regardless of whether Balsillie said it or not, why the heck he posed with the Habs-splashed BlackBerry to me is beyond comprehension. I'm told Balsillie left both a voice mail for Gillett and sent him an e-mail to clear up the matter.

In the bigger picture, this is what continues to hurt Balsillie. Here's a guy with lots of money and a passion for hockey; so, in one way, he's the ideal candidate to bring into the NHL family. But he keeps shooting himself in the foot. Taking season-ticket deposits in Hamilton, Ontario, when he didn't own the Predators was a major faux pas. And now comes the Habs controversy.

Gillett wasn't amused, and he just happens to be a member of the NHL board of governors' executive committee, which approves new owners.

I hope to see Balsillie finally get an NHL team one day. I think he'd be a great addition. Until then, he needs to lay low.

Goin' international ... and then some
As ESPN.com's Scott Burnside first reported back in September, the NHL and NHLPA should announce within the next 2 to 3 weeks that they're sending even more teams to start the season in Europe next season. The tentative plan right now is six teams next season, and eight the following year.

Frogren grievance
The Jonas Frogren grievance hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Toronto. You may remember that last summer, the NHL rejected the two-year, $2.13 million contract he signed with the Maple Leafs. The NHLPA grieved that decision, so he went ahead and started the season under that contract until the matter got resolved.

The league believes he was paid more than the collective-bargaining agreement allows, that he should have signed a one-year, entry-level deal (because he was drafted by the Flames 10 years ago and hence is considered a defected player). The NHLPA argues he was allowed to sign a non-entry level deal, that he was simply a free agent in Sweden.

The arbitrator, if he rules with the league, will be asked to keep him from playing until he pays the club back. And the Maple Leafs may face sanctions if the arbitrator sides with the league.

If the league wins, the Leafs will simply re-sign Frogren to a one-year, entry-level deal.

Latest on Zetterberg talks
Contract talks may be heating up between Henrik Zetterberg and the Red Wings. Both camps have made counteroffers and we're talking long-term deal, anywhere from seven to 10 years in length. Agent Marc Levine and GM Ken Holland met two weeks ago and then spoke again this past Wednesday. They plan to pick up the conversation again this week.

Zetterberg could easily get $9 million to $10 million a year on the open market after July 1, but he won't get that in Detroit. He's got to take less to stay in Detroit. The choice is, do you want win championships with the Wings or make lot of dough elsewhere?

I think the sweet spot is anywhere from $7 million to $8 million a season.

NHL vs. Radulov
I'm told the NHL has officially filed a grievance on behalf of the Nashville Predators, seeking monetary damages from Alexander Radulov for his breach of contract after he skipped town for the KHL. You may remember this is what happened with Alexei Yashin eight years ago when he missed a year with the Senators despite being under contract (he wanted a better deal). The Senators and Yashin ended up settling with Yashin buying Sens game tickets and distributing them to local charities. We'll see if the NHL wins out on this one.

Cherepanov investigation results coming soon
At their March meeting, the 30 GMs will chew over the Rangers' strange request to receive a 2009 compensatory pick in the wake of Alexei Cherepanov's death. I don't think the GMs will go for it, but I've been wrong before. Back in Russia, meanwhile, I'm told Russian state police are expected to release findings from their investigation into Cherepanov's tragic death sometime over the next week or so.

Sean Avery seeing Stars
Despite Mike Modano's outburst last weekend and all the media coverage of our favorite little bad boy, Sean Avery, Dallas Stars teammates Marty Turco and Brad Richards told me this weekend the media is making too big a deal of it all.

"[Avery's] been good," said Richards. "He shows up and words hard. I think all this has been blown out of proportion. Let's face it -- he's an easy target, especially when we get off to a slow start like we did."

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