September 22, 2014

Next round of NHL expansion will not include Kansas City, as four other cities take the lead for 2017

According to a tweet from SportsBusinessNews’ Howard Bloom, the NHL plans to add four cities by 2017 with teams playing in Las Vegas, Seattle, Toronto and Quebec City.

Howard Bloom Tweet
After Kansas City opened Sprint Center, they’ve tried to attract the NHL by hosting preseason games.  The last game was on Sept. 27, 2011 before the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins played in front of a sellout crowd.

If this comes to fruition, Vegas will land its first major league professional sports organization.  Seattle has always drawn interest from the NHL.  Toronto, home to the Maple Leafs, are the highest grossing team.   Canada’s second biggest city could certainly maintain a second team.  Quebec City, who lost the Nordiques to Colorado, is opening a brand new arena in 2015.

In late 2011, I had the chance to talk with Bernie Federko, longtime Blues player and now television commentator on the broadcasts.  I asked him if he believed Kansas City would ever get another NHL franchise?  (The Kansas City Scouts played two seasons at Kemper Arena from 74-76 before becoming the Colorado Rockies…now the New Jersey Devils).

Federko said he didn’t see that happening.  He said there wasn’t enough of a grass roots fan base where the sport could grow.  He pointed to the youth hockey leagues in St. Louis as an example of how a fan base will continue to grow in the St. Louis area.  Kansas City, not having a foundation to build on,  would make it unattractive to the NHL.

Hockey on the minor league level has thrived in Independence with the Missouri Mavericks.  I get Quebec and Toronto.  Those cities can certainly support hockey.  The appeal for Vegas is that it could draw a lot of out of town fans who want to watch their hockey team play in the middle of winter, plus take in the sights around Vegas as a vacation.  Seattle is the wild card in all of this.  That city last the Super Sonics…could they sustain an NHL team?

Blues re-sign veteran center Steve Ott. Vladimir Sobotka considers signing with a Russian hockey club

New St. Louis Blues player forward Steve Ott meets reporters for the first time, following the team's morning skate at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 3, 2014. Ott (31) comes to St. Louis from Buffalo, where has dressed in 59 games as captain of the Sabres this season, ranking sixth on the club with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists), while leading Buffalo forwards in ice time per game (19:42).UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis Blues forward Steve Ott at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 3, 2014. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

It looked for a while that Steve Ott’s time with St. Louis wasn’t going to last very long.  Coming over from Buffalo with Ryan Miller in the February trade, the Blues organization was ready to move in a different direction.  They had signed  free agent centers Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera and were waiting to work out a deal with restricted free agent Vladimir Sobotka.

However, Sobotka is considering a return to Russia in the KHL, so the Blues moved forward with re-signing the unrestricted free agent Ott to a two-year, $5.2 million contract.  Ott had three assists in 23 regular-season games with the Blues and two points in six Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“We brought him here for a reason,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “I think he’s a really strong utility player. Obviously I think he’s going to want to get that first goal as much as we’re going to want him to get that off his back. But I think we all saw what type of competitor he was in the playoffs.”

 

Blues excited about signing free Paul Stastny as the center returns home after starring for Colorado

The St. Louis Blues promote the signing of Paul Stastny on the team's website (photo/Blues.NHL.com)

The St. Louis Blues promote the signing of Paul Stastny on the team’s website (photo/Blues.NHL.com)

Unrestricted free agent center Paul Stastny signed with the St. Louis Blues, agreeing to a four-year contract.  The 28 year old is the son of Peter Stastny, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, who finished his career in St. Louis, playing the final two seasons (1993-95). Paul’s brother Yan also played for the Blues (2007-10).  Paul grew up in Chesterfield.  The younger Stastny has played eight seasons in the NHL, 538 games, all with the Avalanche. He had 60 points (25 goals) in 71 games last season and has 458 points in his career, with 18 points in 22 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blues add Stastny to join David Backes as the Blues top-two centers to compete not only in a deep Western Conference, but tough Central Division, but GM Doug Armstrong told Blues.NHL.com, don’t be surprised to see Stastny and Backes together on the same line.

“I see a scenario where Paul plays with [Alexander] Steen and Backes,” Armstrong said. “That gives us quite a bit of strength on the wing, [and] the size with Backes. And then you have [Patrik] Berglund with [Vladimir] Sobotka and maybe [T.J.] Oshie as another line. Lehtera has a history with [Vladimir] Tarasenko from the KHL.”

The Blues also signed their center and 2008 third-round pick Jori Lehtera to a two-year contract.

The Chicago Blackhawks signed veteran center Brad Richards, the Dallas Stars acquired center Jason Spezza and the Minnesota Wild picked up goal scorer Thomas Vanek.

Blues re-sign Brian Elliott, plan to promote Jake Allen from the AHL. Likely means the end of Ryan Miller’s days in St. Louis

St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott (R) raises his arms as the buzzer sounds while Alex Pietrangelo skates in to celebrate their 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 21, 2012. St. Louis won the series.    UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott (R) raises his arms as the buzzer sounds while Alex Pietrangelo skates in to celebrate their 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on April 21, 2012. St. Louis won the series. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The St. Louis Blues signed goaltender Brian Elliott to a three-year contract extension on Monday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the contract is worth $7.5 million.  Elliott was set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.  The signing of Elliott comes just after Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said Chicago Wolves goalie Jake Allen would be promoted to the parent club for 2014-15.

“Brian will team up with Jake Allen next season to form our goaltending tandem,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said.

Those moves mean goaltender Ryan Miller, acquired Feb. 28, will not return to the team. Miller will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The 29 year old Elliott was 18-6-2 in 31 games this season while ranking second in the NHL with a 1.96 goals-against average and 11th in save percentage (.922) to go along with four shutouts.  Miller went 10-8-1 with a 2.47 GAA and .903 save percentage. And in six Stanley Cup Playoff games against the Chicago Blackhawks he went 2-4-0 with a 2.70 GAA and .897 save percentage.

The Blues gave up goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, forward prospect William Carrier and conditional draft picks for Miller and forward Steve Ott.

Blues fail to convert on six power plays and have a third period meltdown losing series to Chicago

Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates his goal as Ryan Miller looks on (NHL.com)

Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates his goal as Ryan Miller looks on (NHL.com)

The Blues outshot Chicago 36-27, but went 0-for-6 on the power play and finished 2-for-29 in the series. Their failure to convert with the man advantage came back to haunt them as the Blackhawks scored four goals in the third period to break a 1-1 tie, to win 5-1 in game six of their first round playoff series.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks beat their rival 4-2 in the series after dropping the first two games.

Duncan Keith had a goal and three assists and Corey Crawford made 35 saves as Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw also scored for Chicago.

T.J. Oshie scored the Blues lone goal to tie the game at 1-1 with 3:32 left in the first period. The Blues dominated the second period thanks to four power plays, including a four-minute advantage after Marian Hossa was given a double minor at 7:15 for high-sticking Alex Steen.  Part of that power play was disrupted after Steen got called for penalty.

They outshot the Blackhawks 17-3 in the second and held a 28-11 advantage in shots starting the third, but the Hawks scored two goals in the first 2:01 of the third to take control of the game.