NHL Notebook: Balsillie possibly looking at move

Lack of fan support in Nashville is trigger

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Representatives for Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie are meeting with Hamilton, Ontario, city officials over an exclusive agreement to move the Nashville Predators there as a contingency plan.

Balsillie has agreed to purchase the Predators, pending NHL approval, but the team's lease in Nashville may be in jeopardy over poor attendance.

Balsillie's attorney, Richard Rodier, said yesterday the deal with Hamilton, a city of more than 500,000 people about 70 miles northwest of Buffalo, N.Y., would be a contingency plan in the event that the team's lease with Nashville was terminated.

"There has been no request, nor will there be, to relocate the team while that lease with the team is in good standing," Rodier said.

Current Predators owner Craig Leipold announced in May that he signed a letter of intent to sell his franchise to Balsillie, co-CEO of Blackberry makers Research in Motion Ltd., for $220 million after losing $70 million in 10 years.

Leipold has until Tuesday to exercise a clause in the team's arena lease that would force the city of Nashville to buy tickets and ensure attendance averages 14,000 next season. Balsillie would have to sign a consent agreement with the NHL, including a clause that prevents a new owner from relocating the team for seven years.

But an arena lease would have to be in effect to force the new owner to follow that league requirement. Averaging 14,000 paid attendance in 2007-08 would keep the lease in effect.

Balsillie withdrew a $175 million offer to buy the Penguins in December because the league did not want him to relocate.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that, even if the sale of the Predators goes through, the franchise "is not going anywhere."

Flames

The Calgary Flames have hired Mike Keenan as their new head coach, The Canadian Press reported last night. Citing unidentified sources, it was reported an official announcement is expected today or tomorrow.

Current Flames coach Jim Playfair will remain with the organization. Keenan has 569 wins in 1,014 games as an NHL head coach and won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.

Red Wings

Detroit general manager Ken Holland said yesterday that goaltender Dominik Hasek wants to play another season for the Red Wings.

"He wants to come back to Detroit. But he's an unrestricted free agent, so now we have to negotiate a new deal. ... I don't anticipate it being a problem finding common ground."

Ducks

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle signed a one-year extension to guide the Stanley Cup champions through the 2008-09 season.

The Ducks became the first California team to win the Cup when they finished off the Ottawa Senators, 4-1, in the championship series last week.

Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to terms with Edmonton Oilers assistant general manager Scott Howson to make him their new general manager, The Columbus Dispatch reported on its Web site last night.

The newspaper, citing an NHL source, said the team and Howson had reached a deal yesterday, and said an announcement would be made tomorrow.

Panthers

Florida re-signed defenseman Bryan Allen to a five-year contract.

The deal is reportedly worth nearly $15 million. Allen was a restricted free agent this offseason.



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