Kukla's Korner

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The Cable Battle

from the NY Times (reg. req.),

By returning from its near-death experience, the National Hockey League has acquired a bit of leverage, which may account for why ESPN2, Outdoor Life Network, Spike TV and USA Network are showing interest in its cable television rights. The first two are the most intriguing. The mother ship at ESPN sent the N.H.L. packing in May by refusing to execute its option to pay $60 million for the 2005-6 season, then demanding a no-fee revenue-sharing deal that the league rejected. ESPN acknowledged its continuing interest Tuesday, when Mark Shapiro, an executive vice president, said that he was looking for common ground with the league, and that a rights fee would be possible "as long as we got value in return." But he also reiterated that even with rules changes, the N.H.L. product was still damaged. A more fascinating play for the league is whether Commissioner Gary Bettman makes a deal with OLN - which used to be known as a hunting and fishing channel - after its recent success with the Tour de France. If OLN is willing to pay the N.H.L. any substantial cash, it is because its owner, the mammoth Comcast, would like to use hockey as a building block for a larger national sports network that would be anchored by eight late-season Thursday and Saturday N.F.L. games. In time, Comcast would presumably be well-financed competition for ESPN, to which Comcast's cable systems pay the industry's highest subscriber fee to carry.

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Detroit Fans Jeer Schedule

from the Detroit News,

Red Wings fans are excited that hockey is back, but they certainly weren't doing cartwheels when the team's schedule was released on Wednesday. Missing from the schedule for the first time in Wings history are Original Six rivals Boston, Montreal and Toronto. Meanwhile, as the league stresses divisional matchups, the Wings will play each team in the Central Division eight times, including recent expansion teams Columbus and Nashville. "It's an absolute joke," said David Miller, a 25-year season-ticket holder from West Bloomfield. "It used to be that there were games you wouldn't give up your tickets for, regular-season games you looked forward to.

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Yzerman Decision Expected Soom

via the Detroit News,

Steve Yzerman could officially be back with the Red Wings by Saturday. Yzerman, 40, was offered a one-year contract by the Red Wings Wednesday at a Toronto lunch with general manager Ken Holland and senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano. Financial terms of the offer were not disclosed. "We offered Steve a one-year contract and he said he'll get back to us by the end of the week," Holland said. The Wings are likely to make some sort of announcement at Saturday's NHL entry draft in Ottawa. The Wings had hoped to have an answer from Yzerman before the unrestricted free-agent period begins Monday. Holland believes Yzerman can be a significant addition to the Wings this season. "I want Steve to play this year," Holland said. "With the new coaching staff, he can be a tremendous asset to the coaches with his leadership in the locker room. He has some great hockey left in him."

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Options Still Remain

from Spector and Fox Sports,

With two days remaining for NHL teams to exercise their "no-penalty" buyout options to pare down their payrolls, it's the number of players who aren't being bought out that have made news thus far. The New York Islanders, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings are four notable clubs that thus far proclaimed wouldn't buy out the salaries of some of their higher-priced players.

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NHL Drug Policy Criticized

from the AP via Sports Illustrated,

The drug policy in the NHL's new labor deal was criticized for "loopholes" and "inadequate testing" by the heads of the congressional committee that grilled Mark McGwire and has proposed legislating steroid testing in pro sports. House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, and ranking Democrat Henry Waxman of California wrote a letter Wednesday to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association executive director Bob Goodenow, detailing concerns about the league's steroid program.

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Wings Assistant Coaches

For the Wings fans, a souce has informed me that Barry Smith will not be retained as an assistant coach for the Wings. Looks like Kocur will stay with the organization but not as an assistant coach.

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Hardline Flyers

from Bob McKenzie of TSN,

It comes as no surprise that the Philadelphia Flyers have agreed to terms with blue-chip 2003 draftees Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. What is a surprise, though, is the new entry-level contracts they will sign in Philadelphia, contracts that could have a huge implication on how entry-level deals are negotiated throughout the league for many years to come. Quite simply, the Flyers took a hard line with a pair of potential NHL stars.

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Blues Make Qualifying Offer to Pronger

from TSN,

The St. Louis Blues extended a qualifying offer to restricted free agent defenceman Chris Pronger. It is a somewhat surprising move, following the Blues' assertion that they would not be buying out forwards Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk. With Tkachuk and Weight combining to take up $13.3-million of the new $39-million salary cap, it figures to be a challenge for the Blues to find room for Pronger's $7.22-million offer.

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Thinking Out Loud

NHL GMs are beginning to filter in to Ottawa to prepare for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. I do expect to see some big trades in the next few days. I am a little stumped on the direction Shanahan is taking. He has until late tomorrow afternoon to inform the Wings if he is coming back, but if he was "on board" you would think he would have made his decision by now. I know Shanahan has a home in the Boston area, his wife is from there and maybe he might be headed to play for the B's. Is it possible he developed a relationship with Jacobs while being involved in the CBA meetings? What direction will the NHL move in with a national cable deal. The decision will probably be made within the next two weeks, and I sense Comcast being involved. The NHL and ESPN have had talks, but I don't think they are on the same page.

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Thornton’s Agent Not Happy

from CP via TSN,

''Joe Thornton is one of the very best hockey players in the world,'' his agent J.P. Barry of IMG said Wednesday from Calgary. ''He is an elite franchise player and if he accepts his qualifying offer, he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer at only 26 years old. This is a very unique situation. The multi-year offer Boston has made is actually less than Joe's qualifying offer. It makes you wonder if they truly understand what kind of hockey player they have with Joe.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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