Seattle to Join NHL in 2021-22 as 32nd Franchise

The NHL Board of Governors has approved the location for the league’s 32nd franchise: Seattle. They will begin play in the 2021-22 season.

At the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Sea Island, Georgia today, the vote was unanimous to approve the Seattle ownership group’s application for entry into the league. In addition, the league approved a realignment of the Western Conference’s divisions that would see Seattle join the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes shift to the Central. (The Coyotes will stay put in the Pacific until the 2021-22 season.)

Commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned that this will make the NHL “more balanced” in terms of having an even 16 teams in each Conference. Bettman also mentioned rivalries with teams out West like the Vancouver Canucks, just a few hours across the Canadian border from Seattle.

The ownership group is headed by “a private equity CEO” named David Bonderman. The group will pay $650 million in expansion fees, which Dan Rosen of NHL.com pointed out is $150 million more than Bill Foley’s group paid for the Vegas Golden Knights to join the NHL two years ago.

Bonderman told Rosen that he “went to school [in Seattle]” and went to the University of Washington, where he graduated. He said that he “worked on the Space Needle in 1962” so he has roots in the Pacific Northwest city.

The arena situation is unique, as they will not be playing in a totally brand new building, but rather an existing building that is being completely renovated from the ground up. The skeleton of the KeyArena will remain, but the group will be essentially creating a whole new arena from that. Ground will be broken on the renovation, a privately financed endeavor that will cost $800 million and eventually seat 17,400 for hockey, tomorrow according to the group’s CEO Tod Leiweke. Rosen’s article said that “(t)he renovation was awaiting NHL approval of the expansion team before it could begin.”

The arena was formerly home to the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA prior to them relocating and becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008-09. Rosen said that the group was hoping to begin play in 2020-21 but settled for 2021-22 because it will allow the renovations at (what is now being known as) the Seattle Center Arena to be fully completed. They are also having a training center built.

As for the construction of the team itself, Leiweke and Bettman told Rosen that the expansion draft will take place in June 2021 at the Seattle Center Arena and the rules will be the same as what Vegas got in June of 2017, so start placing bets now on Seattle to win the Western Conference in 2022. In additon, Rosen said that “the Golden Knights will be exempt from exposing players for the draft” likely due to them only having played four full NHL seasons come the time of Seattle’s expansion draft.

Rosen’s article said that the arena will “likely open in March or April 2021 with concerts” according to Leiweke. The first major tenent of the arena will be the Seattle Storm of the WNBA, who will play there in the summer of 2021.

As for what the team will be called? Leiweke told Rosen that “the ownership group will use the extra time it has to do its due diligence before it announces a team name.” Seattle has been host to numerous minor league and junior hockey teams and the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association became the first American franchise to win the Stanley Cup in 1917. They won before the NHL had exclusive control over the Cup and teams still challenged for it.

A few other teams to call Seatlle home over the last century have been the Totems of the professional PCHL, WHL and CHL. They operated from 1944 to 1975 and went by different names, including Ironmen, Bombers and Americans before settling on Totems in 1958. Junior teams to play in Seattle include the Breakers (who our very own Ken Daneyko played for) in the Western Hockey League and the current Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.

Another factor mentioned in the Rosen article for why the expansion team was placed in Seattle was the rivalry with Vancouver. Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has been adamant that a team in Seattle would be “impactful” for both the Canucks and the region. He told Rosen “Seattle is a great sports city and we can’t wait to ignite a true regional rivalry west of the Rockies for Canucks fans. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

After Seattle applied for a place in the NHL last year at the NHL Board of Governors meeting, a season ticket drive was held beginning on March 1, they had 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes alone. They had 32,000 within the first 31 hours and Rosen said that “(t)here is a waiting list with approximately 10,000 names on it.”

Devils Fall to Lightning, 5-1

The Devils have finished up their season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and to that, I say good riddance. The Devils ended the 2018-19 season 0 and 3 against Tampa, losing last night 5-1 at Prudential Center.

The Devils slotted Will Butcher back into the lineup on defense. Steven Santini remained the defenseman to be out. Drew Stafford and Jesper Bratt were the healthy scratches up front while Stefan Noesen drew back in.

The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid start for the Devils, making 16 saves on 20 shots faced. He was pulled before the start of the third period in favor of Cory Schneider, who continues to suffer some struggles. He let in the first shot he saw from Tampa, making five saves on six shots. The Lightning finished the game with a total of 26 shots. Opposing them was Louis Domingue, who would go on to be named the game’s third star. He stopped 26 of 27 shots from the Devils.

New Jersey got behind the eight ball early, conceding a goal 13:31 into the first period to Nikita Kucherov off assists to Brayden Point and Ryan McDonagh. That made it 1-0 and the Lightning train just rolled on from there.

Point scored a little over six minutes later at 19:34 from Kucherov and Victor Hedman on the power play. This was set up when Egor Yakovlev took a slashing penalty at 18:49. On the power play Tampa was 2-for-3 on the night with three shots. The Devils were a very sluggish 0-for-4 on the man advantage with seven shots. They also had one shorthanded shot.

The second period was another rough one for the Devils. Tyler Johnson scored 8:20 in from McDonagh and Kucherov. It was now 3-0 and the Devils seemed to be reeling.

But they would get one back to cut the Bolts’ lead to just two when Yakovlev scored at 11:26 from Sami Vatanen and Noesen. It came when Noesen won the faceoff deep in the offensive zone directly to Vatanen. He quickly found a seam for Yakovlev backdoor and Yakovlev snapped a shot by the right-catching Domingue’s glove hand. That made it 3-1 and was also the 27-year-old rookie’s first NHL goal. He played a few years in the KHL before coming over to North America, but has now notched a goal in the NHL.

Unfortunately for the Devils, as the Yakovlev goal was being announced to the crowd, Tampa’s Yanni Gourde was making it 4-1 at 12:39. He got assists from Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat.

Late in the second period, at 19:52, Blake Coleman was called for slashing Erik Cernak. That penalty would have almost 1:50 of carry over time to the third period, on fresh ice. Also, the Devils decided to switch goalies going into the third with Schneider coming in. All of this was a bit of a recipe for disaster for the Devils.

And sure enough, just 20 seconds into the third frame, Stamkos scored from Point and Kucherov on the power play to make it 5-1. Point would go on to be named the game’s second star with a goal and two assists. Kucherov was the first star with a goal and three assists.

And that was it. While Tampa essentially played keep away from the Devils the rest of the game, they quickly rolled to two more points while New Jersey suffered just their second regulation loss on home ice this season.

In terms of the overall game, the Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Bolts 23-19, had one more blocked shot then them at eight to seven and had less giveaways at four for the Devils to Tampa’s eight.

The Devils looked to Damon Severson to be a minutes eater, as he logged 19:24 of ice time to lead all New Jersey skaters (including 3:37 on the power play and 14 seconds on the penalty kill). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:07 (4:05 on the PP, 2:35 on the PK). Marcus Johansson led the team in shots on goal with four while hits were led by Noesen with four as well. Blocked shots were co-led by Taylor Hall and Yakovlev who each had two and takeaways were led by Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Noesen and Andy Greene who all had one.

Next up, the Devils get out of Dodge and head for California. They will face the Los Angeles Kings in LA on Thursday to begin a three game road trip against the California teams. That game is at 10:30 PM Eastern on Thursday night/Friday morning and we will have that for you right here.

Devils Lose Heartbreaker in OT to Jets

The Devils have lost a good amount of overtime games this season, but somehow this one hurt more than any of the others. They fought valiantly but ended up losing in the extra period 4-3 at Prudential Center. The Devils fought back from a 3-1 deficit late in the third period to force OT but were not able to get the two full points.

The Devils were happy to see November go as they had only picked up 11 points in the month and just had a dreadful time of things. In addition to that, they came into this game having scored only one power play goal in 23 chances over their last ten games. That would reverse itself tonight, but they will still be glad to see the calendar turn.

Will Butcher was a healthy scratch for the first time this season as the coaching staff decided that it would be a good for him to see things from up top for a game, just to refresh his outlook. He joined Stefan Noesen and Steven Santini as scratches while Drew Stafford slotted in up front and Egor Yakovlev was in on the blue line. Mikey McLeod was sent back to Binghamton after making his NHL debut last night in Washington.

One guy scratched for the other team was forward Brendan Lemieux. He is the son of 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy winner with the Devils, Claude Lemieux. Claude was on hand to do commentary on MSG+ with Steve Cangialosi and Ken Daneyko – a nice treat for fans watching at home.

One guy that the Devils would have to deal who was in the lineup for Winnipeg was Patrik Laine. Laine was named the NHL’s first star for the month of November. He had a five-goal game against St. Louis on November 24 and would be someone the Devils would need to contain. The Devils would not need to worry about big defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who missed his second straight game with a concussion.

In nets, Keith Kinkaid played both games of the back-to-back for the first time this season. He would be really good, especially in the OT period as he stopped 34 of the Jets’ 38 shots. Across the rink was Laurent Brossoit, the Jets backup who made 36 saves on 39 Devils shots against. He was starting the first of a back-to-back for the Jets, who play tomorrow against the Rangers at the Garden.

This game would finish up the season series between the two teams, the first such series conclusion for the Devils. Pregame saw the Devils hold a tribute and moment of silence for former President George HW Bush, who passed away yesterday, just prior to the national anthems.

One other note before we get to the game details. Last night, Taylor Hall was credited with an assist on Nico Hischier’s goal. The assist was given after the game by the NHL, but it was the 500th point of his NHL career. Congratulations to Hall on hitting that milestone.

The Devils would strike first on the big board, as they really spent a lot of time in the offensive zone during the opening period. Marcus Johansson hit the back of the net from Jesper Bratt at the 6:45 mark of the first period. It occurred when Bratt rushed up the right wing boards following a big save at the other end by Kinkaid and dropped to Johansson just inside the Winnipeg blue line. Johansson shot and had his initial output blocked in front by a Jets defender. He grabbed the puck right back and buried it behind Brossoit stick side. That gave the Devils the quick 1-0 lead.

It would stay that way for almost a full period. At the 4:25 mark of the second, Mark Scheifele scored his first of two on the night when, just like the Devils’ first goal, Brossoit made a big save for the Jets at one end and Blake Wheeler grabbed it and fed Scheifele at the other. He scored and the game was tied up at one.

The third period began with Winnipeg hitting a crossbar and a post all within about five minutes of each other. Things were beginning to turn in the game and that would soon show up on the scoreboard.

It began when Josh Morrissey took a great centering pass in the slot from Jack Roslovic and scored. Mathieu Perreault had the secondary assist on the goal that gave Winnipeg the 2-1 lead at 10:32 of the third.

Things were looking pretty dim for the Devils when, at 13:21 of the third, Andrew Copp scored on a wraparound off assists from Mason Appleton (playing his first NHL game  and getting his first NHL point) and Adam Lowry. The Devils were now in a 3-1 hole. This came just moments after a non penalty call on the Jets after Kyle Palmieri was taken down in the Jets zone.

But the Devils have fight and pride in them. The comeback began at 13:57 when Winnipeg’s Ben Chiarot was called for holding Brian Boyle. The Devils were now on the power play and were about to see dividends on it.

At 15:41, near the end of the power play, Bratt found the back of the net from Damon Severson and Pavel Zacha. It came when Severson got the puck at the far point from Zacha and went point-to-point with Bratt. Bratt fired through a Brian Boyle screen in front and beat Brossoit cleanly to make it 3-2 Winnipeg.

On special teams, the Devils finished 1-for-3 on the power play with three shots. The Jets were 0-for-1 with no power play shots, but two shorthanded shots on goal. For Zacha, the assist was an especially sweet point, as he was originally credited with an assist on Johansson’s goal, but had it taken away by the official scorers.

This goal, which got the Devils within one, would set up a dramatic finish to regulation. With just over two minutes remaining in the game, New Jersey pulled Kinkaid for the extra skater. The Devils would set up in the Jets’ zone and collapse down, forcing a mad scramble in front of the Winnipeg net. Finally, after hacking through a maze of legs and sticks, Taylor Hall put home the game tying goal from Nico Hischier and Palmieri. Jets coach Paul Maurice would use his coach’s challenge to review for goaltender interference, but replays showed nothing, meaning the call on the ice stood: good goal. We were now tied at three and had another overtime looming.

And this was a good one. It began with Hall and Hischier teaming up on a 2-on-0 with Hall not being able to put home the pass from Nico. Keith Kinkaid then became the near hero when he stopped Laine on a partial breakaway, tried to get the puck back in play quickly and gave it away to Kyle Connor, only to stymie him with a glove save as well.

Finally, with under a minute to go in the OT, Hischier stripped a puck off the stick of a Jets player, only to have it stolen again by Mark Scheifele, who walked in on Kinkaid and scored unassisted for the game winner. Hischier had just had a 2-on-1 at the other end and elected to pass instead of taking the shot in a missed opportunity for the Devils.

It was an exciting game that came down to the wire and the Devils got a point out of it, but it left Devils fans feeling empty because they really fought back to earn this one.

Statistically, the Devils only won 41-percent of the game’s faceoffs while also being out hit 26 to 21. They had less blocked shots than Winnipeg, 11 to the Jets’ 14 and had more giveaways at nine to one clip.

Once again, Sami Vatanen was the workhorse with 27:19 of ice time (including 4:03 on the power play – he took New Jersey’s only penalty and, thus, did not get any PK time). Hall led all forwards with 21:42 (4:29 of PP time) and Blake Coleman led in shots on goal with six. Hall, Johansson and Vatanen also registered five shots on goal. Hits were led by Hall and Coleman who both had three and blocks were led by Andy Greene with three. Hischier had the most takeaways on the Devils with two.

Scheifele was named the game’s first star with two goals, including the game winner in overtime. Brossoit was the second star and Bratt the third star.

Next up, the Devils will remain home on Monday night when they faceoff with the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Rock. I will be attending this game, so my report will be a little bit late, but I will try to get it up as soon as possible.