It is becoming obvious that the NHL board aren't going to play ball with Balsillie, no matter how much sense it makes economically to give a franchise to a keen business mind, with a passion for the game and a home rink in a strong, under-served hockey market. What is the answer for "Billion-dollar Jim"? Simple....apply to the KHL for a North American expansion team...maybe two teams. Fans could see the likes of Radulov, Jagr, and other NHL quality players in a big league rink. Just the threat of making the road trips a little most enjoyable for KHLers could be enough to make the NHL take Jim's new team as a threat to siphon off talent.
I imagine the phone call might sound something like this:
J B: "Yeah Bettman, if I get a KHL team... If you force me to bring the KHL to North America...I can put the team anywhere in the Toronto area I please. I can offer big contracts and put some real pressure on the weak sister NHL teams to match what the KHL will offer. Maybe a team in Toronto and another in Hamilton....great rivalry! We might even get a team in Winnipeg and Quebec. "
Bettman: "You are nuts Jim!! Nobody will pay to see second-tier hockey in Toronto!"
J B: "What about most of the last 40 years? At least now they'll have some star-power behind the names. I'd rather not go the KHL route - but you guys are shutting me out of the NHL. What else can I do?"
Bettman: " Don't you remember the WHA? That almost ruined hockey! Teams in crazy places like Birmingham, Phoenix, San Diego, Houston, Ottawa...places where they barely hung on. Hockey became a joke."
J B: " So are you still thinking of expanding to San Diego? (Laugh) C'mon Gary, the KHL in Southern Ontario will likely make more money in 2 months than the Coyotes made in 5 years. An NHL Team in Hamilton, or a second Toronto team would be a huge draw. Heck! Give me Winnipeg and I'll make you a mint!"
Bettman: " Not while there are still a few dozen people in Little Rock, holding out hope for a team."
Go for it Jim.... KHL here we come.
Zherdev - Not since the heyday of Alexi Yashin, has there been a player with so much potential who has so few teams interested. His good buddy Danny Heatley is working hard to make him look good, but major-league talent that only shows up on bowling nights just isn't in high demand these days. The salary cap has killed the market! Especially difficult when the player is Russian and might get a big offer from the KHL during his contract. If Zherdev can't make it with the Rangers that what other team is out there ready to put up with his coach-killing shenanigans? Montreal maybe, but not for long. The Islanders? Tampa? Could he fit in with Atlanta ? Or would he poison the well there? Washington? Maybe the team will change their name to the Washington Kremlins first? It will be interesting to see where he lands, but this very talented player is likely on his last chance to avoid becoming another Alexander Daigle.