Rink Fries: Questions remain on Arizona’s hockey future with Coyotes on move

On this edition of Saturday Headlines, Elliotte Friedman discusses the desire to announce the Arizona Coyotes' relocation this week, the Oilers saying Connor McDavid will be ready for the playoffs, and much more.

Until we see the specifics of the NHL’s agreement with Alex Meruelo and his window of five years to bring hockey back to Arizona all we’ll have is questions about hockey returning to the desert.

One that I was asked over the weekend is whether Meruelo has the right to assign to somebody else? Given what we’re learning about the soon-to-be former owner of the Coyotes he’s eroded a lot of trust many had in him. Does he have the desire, the ability, the money to get this project off the ground and bring it to a conclusion? And if not, does his agreement allow him to negotiate the rights away? That window he’s been given is incredibly valuable and if Meruelo is allowed to transfer it, this deal moves from a home run to a Barry Bonds moon shot.

I hope this impending move doesn’t negatively impact the Arizona Kachinas or Jr. Coyotes programs. Both are doing exceedingly well, and it would be awful if they were casualties through all this. Players and parents have been asking and are understandably concerned.

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Sharks land best odds for Celebrini

The late comedian Sam Kinison had a great line ‘If you’re going to miss heaven don’t miss it by two inches’. Congrats to the San Jose Sharks for giving themselves the best shot at landing Macklin Celebrini at the draft.

The plan this season sounds like they knew they were going to take a step back but not sink to the depths we saw. But once it became obvious this season was going to turn out this way GM Mike Grier went with it. I imagine there were some hard conversations with owner Hasso Plattner who is not a fan of this type of rebuild.

If the Sharks land the first overall pick in the lottery, they’ll kick off the rebuild up the middle with Celebrini, along with last year’s first-round pick Will Smith and Filip Bystedt who’s been a point-per-game player in a brief end-of-season audition with San Jose’s AHL team.

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Dahlin ready for bigger role?

Perhaps the most interesting exit interview this season will be in Buffalo. We all know things didn’t exactly go as planned for the Sabres and every player certainly has their own feelings about it. But it’s also a very young team and sometimes young players aren’t as forthcoming about their issues as veterans.

One player I wonder about this off-season is Rasmus Dahlin and specifically, if he gets the captaincy. I get the sense the team sees him as their next leader but does he want it?

What happens with Caleb Malholtra?

In the OHL Friday night Caleb Malhotra, son of former NHL’er Manny Malhotra, was a major player of intrigue. Hours before the OHL draft, the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL announced they had signed the 2008-born forward from the Vaughan Kings of the GTHL but that didn’t stop Kingston Frontenacs GM Kory Cooper from selecting him eighth overall.

It was widely believed Malhotra’s preferred destination was the Guelph Storm who selected ninth. Guelph’s GM is George Burnett who coached Manny with the Storm in the late 90’s. If Malhotra doesn’t end up reporting to Kingston the Frontenacs could declare him defected, trade him to Guelph when the trade window opens in September and pick up a compensatory first-round pick in the process. We’ll see how this one plays out.

A look back on NHL history

Here’s one for the hockey historians in the crowd. Former Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Joe Watson dropped by my radio from this past week to help promote his new book ‘Thundermouth: Memoires of a Broad Street Bully and NHL Lifer’ and I couldn’t help asking him about an incident that many of us have wondered about for years. This one involves one of the most talked-about games in NHL history.

In December/January 1976 the Soviet Red Army team toured through the NHL beating squads like the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins. They tied the Montreal Canadiens in a game many call the greatest of all time and a showdown with the defending Stanley Cup champion Flyers would finish up their four-game series on January 11th. And there was no way the NHL could stomach the thought of their Cup champs losing to the Soviets, NHL President Clarence Campbell told the Flyers in their dressing room if they lost it would not be good for the game.

But he wasn’t the only one who visited the Flyers before the game.

It has been believed for years that Lloyd Gilmour was chosen to officiate that game due to his reputation of reluctance to call penalties, which was perfect for how the Flyers played. The story that has circulated for years is that Gilmour visited the Flyers’ dressing room before the game and told the Flyers to ‘play your game, boys’ which was code for do anything out there, my whistle is away. So, I asked Joe if that was true.

“Absolutely right. Yes, he did. (He said) We’re going to let you play your game….”

Not that the fix was in, but Gilmour made it clear the Flyers were free to play as the Broad Street Bullies so when Ed Van Impe crushed Valeri Kharlamov there was no call and the Red Army left the ice.

And no, they didn’t return because their pay was threatened, they knew at that moment if they didn’t leave it would have been mayhem.

Watson’s book, by the way, is excellent.

End of regular season thoughts

And finally – The Anaheim Ducks have one game remaining on their schedule, Thursday in Las Vegas. Do we see Cutter Gauthier in that game…If you ask me who I have winning the Hart Trophy on my ballot make sure to ask me the same question five minutes later…if the Buffalo Sabres do make a coaching change, I wonder if they turn to Rochester Americans head coach Seth Appert along with a veteran assistant…I know the Mark Stone situation is sucking up most of the oxygen in the Vegas conversation but to me the bigger story is Alex Pietrangelo and when will he be ready to play…I wouldn’t read too much into the Jet’s 7-0 beating of the Avalanche on Saturday. That series will be much closer than that score…for those curious about the Josh Ho-Sang comeback tour with the Florida Everblades the news is good. As the ECHL regular season ends today Ho-Sang finishes with 15 points in 11 games and the Everblades look like a legit threat to win the Kelly Cup for a third season in a row.

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