NHL Roundup: League Needs to Address Uncertain Situations

  • FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2010, file photo, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario. The NHL is dealing with some uncertain situations as it prepares to finalize expansion to Seattle. The Ottawa Senators’ downtown arena project is in danger of falling apart, and Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway is looking for a partner and trying to secure a long-term home in the desert. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

  • Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue (70) rolls on his side after allowing a goal to New Jersey Devils defenseman Egor Yakovlev, not pictured, of Russia, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, in Newark, N.J. The Lightning won 5-1. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Sea Island, Ga. — Things are going well enough that the NHL is ready to expand to Seattle and the salary cap keeps going up.

But the league is still dealing with a few uncertain situations on the eve of what should be a slam-dunk expansion vote to bring Seattle into the fold.

The Ottawa Senators’ downtown arena project is in danger of falling apart, and Arizona Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway is looking for a partner as he tries to secure a long-term home in the desert. Meanwhile, the league would like to begin making plans for a 2020 World Cup of Hockey but has no guarantee of labor peace that would allow such a tournament to take place.

“If we’re going to do a World Cup, and do it with the planning necessary, if we don’t know by the first of the year or All-Star, then there’s no sense in trying to pull off a World Cup for 2020,” commissioner Gary Bettman said on Monday. “For the last year and a half, two years, we’ve been anxious to anchor plans for a World Cup, but for whatever reason, the Players Association hasn’t been prepared to do that.”

Bettman updated the Board of Governors on those topics and others before the vote that’s expected to award Seattle the league’s 32nd franchise. The team would begin play in the 2021-22 season, a year after original plans because arena renovations aren’t scheduled to be finished until the fall of 2020.

Seattle expansion and the realignment that comes with it will be announced today.

Those topics weren’t discussed on the first day of the board’s annual December meeting that was more about league business. Bettman says the salary cap is projected to go up to roughly $83 million next season, up from the current $79.5 million limit. That’s a sign revenues are continuing to rise after the success of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

There isn’t yet agreement between the league and the Players Association that would ensure neither side chooses to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement in September 2020.

Situations with the Senators and Coyotes are league concerns that bear watching, with particular attention on Melnyk suing his partner for $700 million in the aftermath of the failing arena development plan. Bettman said he’s “disappointed” with how things have gone in Ottawa, which ranks 27th in attendance at its rink outside Canada’s capital.

Fletcher Hired as Flyers GM

Philadelphia — The Philadelphia Flyers hired Chuck Fletcher as their general manager in hopes that he can resuscitate one of the worst teams in the NHL.

The Flyers announced the move on Monday. The 51-year-old Fletcher will replace the fired Ron Hextall. He had been working as a senior adviser to the New Jersey Devils after spending the last nine seasons as GM of the Minnesota Wild.

The Wild had only two playoff series victories under Fletcher and did not renew his contract in April. They went 15-29 in the playoffs during Fletcher’s tenure, enough evidence that the roster wasn’t built well enough despite all the success the team enjoyed in the regular season.

That didn’t dissuade Flyers President Paul Holmgren from pursuing Fletcher a week after he cut ties with Hextall following 4½ seasons. The Flyers are 11-12-2 and only the Devils are worse in the Eastern Conference.

Monday’s Games

Lightning 5, Devils 1

Newark, n.j. — Nikita Kucherov had a goal and three assists for his first four-point game, leading Tampa Bay to an easy victory over New Jersey.

Brayden Point had a goal and two assists, Steven Stamkos added a goal and an assist, and Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde and also scored to help the Lightning become the first team in the league to reach 20 wins this season.

Ryan McDonagh had two assists and Louis Domingue stopped 26 shots as Tampa Bay got its third straight win and sixth in seven games.

Predators 2, Sabres 1

Nashville, Tenn. — Kevin Fiala scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period and Nashville beat Buffalo.

Ryan Ellis also scored and Pekka Rinne stopped 20 shots to help the Predators win their second straight.

Sam Reinhart had a goal for Buffalo, which has lost three straight after a 10-game winning streak. Carter Hutton had 23 saves.

Rinne denied a slap shot from the Sabres’ Jack Eichel with 15.4 seconds remaining to preserve the victory.

On the Predators’ go-ahead goal, Craig Smith had the puck in the left corner and found Fiala at the left faceoff dot, where he snapped a quick wrist shot between Hutton’s pads with 3:26 left in the middle period. It gave Fiala six points in his last six games.

Reinhart had tied the score 1-1 earlier in the period. After a mad scramble in front, Reinhart’s backhand was turned aside by Rinne but Josi’s clearing attempt with his backhand went into the net, giving Reinhart his seventh of the season at 5:20.

Ellis scored the game’s first goal with 3:35 left in the first. With the Predators on a power play, Roman Josi sent a pass from the right point to Ellis at the top of the left faceoff circle, and Ellis fired a one-timer high to Hutton’s glove side.

NOTES: The home team has won the last seven matchups. ... Nashville is 15-1-0 this season when scoring first. ... Predators C Nick Bonino returned to the lineup after missing one game with an illness. ... Reinhart has seven points (six goals, one assist) in seven career games against Nashville. ... Hutton, who served as Rinne’s backup in Nashville for three seasons beginning in the 2013-14 season, dropped to 0-3-1 against his former team.


Sabres: Host Toronto on Tuesday night to open a stretch of four straight at home.

Predators: At Vancouver on Thursday night.


More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports