It's been quite a night.
First things first - the picture to the right is of a fan at the NHL draft in Columbus, OH.
This man is my hero.
Now...to the rest of the night's craziness.
Apparently while we were over at a friends watching the finale of Stargate SG-1 (more on that later) there were rumors flying around that Craig Leipold sent a note to the NHL saying he didn't want to sell to Balsillie anymore. One person was even kind enough to comment about it on my blog (i really appreciate that!).
I can't tell you how happy i was about this at the moment. I don't absolutely despise Balsillie (yet at least), but the reasons that were supposedly given in the letter were that Leipold didn't want to sell the team to Balsillie since he was so clearly not going to give the team a chance in Nashville. That means that not only was Balsillie essentially out of the picture, but that Leipold would prefer a Nashville centric-owner.
Unfortunately it turns out that reality was a little more predictable. Leipold sent a letter to the NHL, but it only said that the NHL need not pursue its background checks, and continue with paperwork on Balsillie until Balsillie enters into a binding agreement with him - which would include a deposit.
Now, my guess here is that reality lays somewhere in between.
Leipold needs money. He isn't broke mind you, but he wants the financial albatross that is the Predators off his back (i love the team but it's the truth). I also believe that he would like to see the Predators ultimately succeed in Nashville (though not too badly). I think he is using this to put pressure on Balsillie, but more specifically to let him know that he is not very happy with what Balsillie has been doing. Balsillie has the money. He could write a check for the full $220mil in cash right now, so it isn't about not trusting Balsillie's seriousness or financial standing.
I think this is Leipold's way of putting Balsillie on notice that he is absolutely willing entertaining offers from other suitors that would be more willing to give the Predators a chance in Nashville. Or at least other suitors that won't be jerks about moving the team. This is supported by the fact that the Nashville post is quoting someone 'who would know' that Leipold is willing to offer something of a "Nashville discount" to someone who would keep the team here. Possibly something in the $180mil area instead of the $220-240mil that Balsillie is reported to be offering, but that those discussions were also before Balsillie's offer came through.
Trouble is, i'm not sure who any prospective local owner would be. Unless someone rides out of nowhere, we aren't hearing any great news out of the camp of local businessmen trying to raise $125mil so that they can then borrow the remaining $60-100mil needed to buy the team. Honestly, if the group 1) has no significant leader and 2) doesn't have enough money to buy the team that isn't financially solvent, then the NHL won't approve that sale. Whoever buys the Preds is going to have to have a minimum of $250-300mil at their disposal. It will be years before this team turns a profit - unless Leipold is lying through his teeth about recent financials for the team. Which, while i admit is a very very distinct possibility, i am still unwilling to believe is true.
On the subject of lying - one more comment about the Vokoun trade.
It makes absolute sense on the ice. Get picks and free cap space to bring in better players and move a slightly overpaid goalie to make room for an underpaid star waiting to bloom (you'll remember that Mason finished higher than Vokoun in Vezina trophy voting this year).
What worries me, or upsets me about the trade is that just the day before, David Poile told the press that he "had no current plans to trade any of his high-salary players that were under contract for the coming season". Again, i agree that the trade made sense, but still... I am just hoping that Poile made a careless slip of the tongue and was thinking of valuable but non-duplicate players who are under contract (read: Sullivan, Arnott, Erat, Zidlicky, Weber, Suter, Radulov, etc). I would think as long as Poile has been a GM he would know better. And that's what makes me nervous. ESPN is also reporting (guessing) that Kariya is probably gone. I think our lack (or perceived lack) of competitiveness will hurt our chances of signing him, regardless of the salary he is offered.
Another interesting note: a few places are reporting that Vokoun had a no-trade clause. I guess he knew that he would be a solid no-contest #1 goalie in Florida, and no so here, so he waived the clause.
One last hockey related note. To all those Canadian haters who keep bashing on hockey in the US and the south, etc. Tonight for the first time ever - ever - two US born players were taken 1-2 in the amateur draft. The Predators also selected the first California native to be selected in the first round. They weren't exactly from Brentwood, TN, but i'm just sayin'...