I’m back … and so are some of the Thrashers

OK folks. I’m back from another week of vacation and some heavy reporting days. I’ll be taking another week in a couple weeks. I have to get all my time in before the season starts.

I spent some time in Duluth on Wednesday. I interviewed Eric Boulton and Chris Thorburn, who are training with a boxing instructor, for a story next week. The Thrashers web folks tagged along so they might have some video on their website soon. I think it will be a good story. They do it in part for conditioning and in part to bolster their on-ice fights. Let me tell you, those guys can punch. It’s a good thing a hockey player can’t get the same kind of leverage on skates as he can in a gym, because those were some powerful punches. Look for that next week. By the way, let me say that Boulton and Thorburn are very personable. I’ve dealt with them a couple of times this offseason and they could not have been nicer.

Also in the gym working out were Slava Kozlov, Johan Hedberg and Nathan Oystrick, along with several prospects, including Angelo Esposito, the Saponari brothers and Doug James. They all had an on-ice training session following the gym work.

I spoke to Hedberg following the workouts. I will be writing a weekly Inside the NHL column for the Sunday paper. That will begin this Sunday and my talk with Hedberg will be much of it. He is back after 10 weeks in Sweden, just in time to get the kids back and school. He was very good, had some good things to say, especially about the upcoming goalie competition. Look for that Sunday.

Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of the week on the ownership situation with the news of the court decision on Monday. I had a long interview with co-owner Michael Gearon on Tuesday, along with my esteemed colleague Sekou Smith. I will put some of that in my Sunday notes column. I pushed him on several issues, including the sale and/or move of the Thrashers. While he said the owners are looking for investors, like Arthur Blank and the Falcons did recently, there are no intentions to sell the team or move them. The quick reasons they are not a movable franchise are that they are tied to Philips Arena in naming rights. The arena must have an NHL and a NBA tenant or Philips can get out of the deal. Also, the owners signed an agreement with the NHL that they would not move the franchise. Several years remain on that deal.

I am working on the Ilya Kovalchuk negotiations. I have to speak to a few more people before I can give a full report. All my indications, so far, are that they are proceeding slowly with no major roadblocks at this point. Any thing can change in contract talks, but that is where we stand right now. I will keep you posted.

61 comments Add your comment

Smoothie

August 20th, 2009
10:25 am

Thanks Chris for the update and welcome back! Indeed, I have had the privilege of “drinking a beer” with Boulton at one of the post-game shows at Taco Mac and he is more than personable despite his intimidating presence. We had a few good laughs and he seemed right at home mingling with fans and employees alike.

One thing that would be nice to know (and perhaps this will be in your Sunday write-up…gotta leave us in suspense right?) is whether there is a time limit on Belkin’s decision to “ante-up” and start paying back his share of the capital cash calls. And if so, could his defaulting on payment lead to an immediate buy-out situation in which the other 7 can buy-him out at a current appraised value less the cash call value owed? I know, there are probably a lot of intricate details with respect to the current operating agreement, but a lot of us are curious to know for sure.

Thanks for your efforts and insights!

Will

August 20th, 2009
10:26 am

First!

Man I can’t wait for the puck to drop.

Jeremy H

August 20th, 2009
10:29 am

Wow, well that article provided no insight at all about the team, and a good bit about your poor writing capabilities. Got enough typos in there, do ya?

Thanks for wasting five minutes of my time. What a joke.

Will

August 20th, 2009
10:32 am

awe man, Smoothie beat me to it.

So maybe I am just not quite getting it but I thought the whole buyout part was what they were in court for for the last 4 years. If the judge didn’t give them a number with his ruling, how do they decide on a number to buy out Belkin? Either way I am just glad that something has happened and the ASG can gain a little bit of focus to running the Thrashers for cup contention and not just profitibility.

Darkhorse

August 20th, 2009
10:41 am

Chris-Thanks for the updates! In your Kovalchuk research, do you feel he is expecting the front office to continue upgrading the roster with one or more frontline players before he considers resigning, or he wants to see this roster compete during the season regardless of who’s on it?

Chris Vivlamore

August 20th, 2009
10:47 am

Smoothie, Will: The ownership deal is pretty complicated. There are no deadlines that I’m aware of. One of Steve Belkin’s options is to just walk away and not pay the $25.8 million. He would forfeit his stake in the team that he paid $11 million for. Or he can be bought out. I was confused also about why they spent four years in court about the buyout process when there is such a stipulation in the ownership contracts. The appraisal method of the buyout – that caused all the trouble – was something done in haste to get a buyout done quickly. So much for that. There apparently is a different and less vagued buyout plan in the contract. Belkin could also remain a partner, as he currently does. However, now he would have to be included if cash payments from the owners are necessary. Hope that helps a little.

J.B.

August 20th, 2009
10:48 am

Wow, after so much time with very little or no news at all (not just from the AJC but all media outlets; that’s just how hockey news is in August), reading that was like a shot in the arm. So much content to look forward to now and it sounds like most of it is positive to boot.

Chris Vivlamore

August 20th, 2009
10:51 am

You also might be interested to know that Kovy mention Antropov specifically when talking to Michael Gearon about changes he would like to see in the roster during the offseason. He said the team need a player with size – like Antropov.

Smoothie

August 20th, 2009
11:24 am

“He would forfeit his stake in the team that he paid $11 million for”

Wow, is this accurate?? He only paid $11 M for 30% ownership stake? Wouldn’t that mean the Thrashers / Hawks / Philips was purchased for only $37 million? I’m thinking there should have been a zero at the end of that figure. $377 M seems reasonable for the purchase value of the three entities doesn’t it?

Thanks for the quick response Chris! Seems like the whole suit was just a matter of egotism and a power grab by Belkin. Sheesh.

J.B.

August 20th, 2009
11:32 am

That DOES interest me Chris. Thanks for that tidbit. Along with Kovy’s infamous “Great Job” txt msg to Waddell after Antropov’s signing things look promising…

J.B.

August 20th, 2009
11:43 am

…it’s also good to know negotiations have at least STARTED. The last interview I saw with Ilya which was in Russian, he either said no negotiations had started or no serious offers had been made yet, but I’m sure there’s a translation issue to consider there.

Chris Vivlamore

August 20th, 2009
11:54 am

Smoothie: the $11 million figure on Belkin’s cash investment is correct. Remember with the purchase came the debt on Philips Arena. That was part of the deal. That’s why the appraisals became such a mess. If the other owners had to buy out Belkin for $161 million, which would have been the price in one of the appraisals, he would have made over 1,000 percent on his investment.

stendec

August 20th, 2009
11:57 am

OPEN LETTER TO ILYA KOVALCHUK:

It is the dream of every hockey player to hoist the Stanley Cup above his head. Every hockey player wants to be part of a championship team at least once during his playing career. That will never happen for you in Atlanta as a Thrasher. You are a talented athlete. Sometimes you display pride and passion. Other times you give less than your best due to circumstances beyond your control. I do not blame you. I do not believe those times are intentional. A Stanley Cup contender must have a solid netminder. There is no way you can score enough goals to offset the liability known as Kari Lehtonen. Deep down inside you know that. You know the defense is defenseless. Besides yourself there are few dependable scorers. I respect you. I want to see you succeed elsewhere. You deserve that success. Reject any offer from the Thrashers. Money is not worth killing your soul slowly. Many wealthy former players would trade the big bucks they made for one opportunity to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Thrashers will not reach the playoffs. Again. Do you really want that pain? Season after season after season? Cut your ties now. Set your sight on greatness. It is a decision you will never regret financially or professionally. Please consider what I have said. God bless you young man. May you make a wise decision. With utmost respect, Stendec. An unangry Stendec since I realize the Thrashers are the Thrashers. You should too

Smoothie

August 20th, 2009
11:59 am

Stendec, please just go away. We don’t need “fans” like you.

Smoothie

August 20th, 2009
12:02 pm

@ Chris Viv: okay Chris, I get it. Obviously, the initial cash outlay is different than what the franchises + arena were worth or valued at when the ASG came to be. Makes sense considering the debt obligation on the arena, which is $12.5 M / year approx for 30 years. Why did Ted Turner do this to the city? Did he really think it would be a good idea to sell to a group of 8 over 1 (McDavid)?

Duder

August 20th, 2009
12:04 pm

I second Smoothie. In fact, why don’t we just take stendec out of the fan category all together

[...] Ilya Kovalchuk’s negotiations with the Thrashers are progressing slowly, but there haven’t been any significant hold-ups so far.  He needs to see a commitment to [...]

Putting On The Foil

August 20th, 2009
1:02 pm

OPEN LETTER TO STENDEC

Don’t be a STENDICK.

mike

August 20th, 2009
1:22 pm

hand off from stendec, he is 100% right. don’t blame him but asg+dw for this situation. it is painful to bottom of my heart to see kovy go, specially for me because i am russian, it’s going to leave me utterly empty in atlanta, but like for my son i’ll sacrifice everything for his success. get out son. please come back when we get real ownership and gm. by the way, next year after lindstrom contract in detroit
expired they going to get a lot room to sign somebody.

[...] Patrick Kane(notes) is due in court today in Buffalo. [WIVB] [...]

Boris

August 20th, 2009
1:45 pm

Stendec and Mike absolutely correct.

Run ILYA run!!!! You are deserve Stanley Cup.

Waddell please go way.

The Earl of Bud

August 20th, 2009
1:51 pm

“Why did Ted Turner do this to the city? Did he really think it would be a good idea to sell to a group of 8 over 1 (McDavid)?”

Smoothie, first off Beau Turner is one of the 8. He doesn’t care about the city as much as his son. Secondly, there are still a lot of behind-the-scenes things that Turner/AOL/TW is benefitting from the Thrashers/Hawks/Philips. I’m not sure if all of that would have stayed in place with McDavid.

Viv, welcome back. Any and all Kovalchuk updates are most appreciated at this point. And any other hockey news in August.

Why did someone post a link on this blog to a website that links back to this blog? I know we go in circles sometimes around here but for crying out loud.

Finally, the less you reply to some irrational “fans” the more likely they will stop posting here. FWIW I didn’t even read that post. Most people here seem to have some pretty decent hockey conversations, let’s just stick to that and if some whiners stop by, so be it. I enjoy 90+% of the hockey talks around here.

kracker

August 20th, 2009
2:07 pm

Chris, I wonder if Belkin has $25.8M in cash laying around with which to make his suspended payments? Do you have any idea of a date when Belkin must decide to either pay up or walk away?

Thanks for the updates!

Smoothie

August 20th, 2009
2:14 pm

If his son Beau meant that much to him, why not just bequeath the business to his son when he kicks the bucket? Make him earn it by working for daddy!

@ Chris Viv: another question I have is: can the ASG continue to seek out new investors and sell Belkin’s stake without Belkin’s say? Does Belkin now have any recourse outside of paying up his past-due cash calls and continuing on as a minority partner? Can the ASG seek a new owner / investor EVEN IF Belkin pays what he owes?

Sorry for all the questions, but I’m intrigued to say the least. Also, with Gearon making the comments he has, I’m wondering if they really have as much leverage as he’s making it sound.

The Earl of Bud

August 20th, 2009
2:41 pm

Smoothie, keep in mind it was never Ted’s team to begin with. It was Time Warner’s team and Turner Broadcasting was just a cog, although the most profitable cog in that company. Then AOL bought out Time Warner (which previously bought out Turner) so all Ted could do was influence the board as to who they sold to since they needed to sell of assets (i.e. sports teams). He can’t just give Beau a business he doesn’t own anymore. As for making him earn it by working for daddy, well he is working for daddy in all of his foundations to save brown thrashers and trees.

I have a feeling Beau was put in there to help secure some of the other transacions stay the same between AOL/TW/Turner and the sports teams they were selling. And maybe give his son something to do.

lee

August 20th, 2009
3:04 pm

that’s good at least kovy is happy. i’m still wondering though, do we hav enough?? i am debated with myself about that and im not quite sure. i think maybe another good player wouldn’t hurt our under 20,000 salary cap. but that’s just my opinion, does any one agree?

welcome back chris!!!

Smitty

August 20th, 2009
3:05 pm

Would have been nice to see Kari working out early here in ATL.

Chris Vivlamore

August 20th, 2009
3:33 pm

kracker: Not sure what Belkin’s financial situation is. We will know more if/when he comes up with the $25.8 million. I don’t know if there is a deadline for payment. All those details are being worked out.

Smoothie: ASG can seek investors but they can’t sell Belkin’s share. Right now, he’s a participating owner just like Gearon or Levenson. Belkin could appeal the judges decision. That will likely cost him more money because he’ll have to post on bond on the money he owes. There is a time delay here because while we know the judges decision it hasn’t been officially entered. That’s when any clock would start. The ASG can seek a new owner/investor even if Belkin pays, but he would be a voting member and have a say.

Smoothie

August 20th, 2009
3:41 pm

Got it now, thanks Chris for your due diligence! I’m sure you and Sekou will keep us abreast of any developments or twists in the tortuous and pot-hole filled fun-ride that is the ASG roller coaster!

R. Stroz

August 20th, 2009
4:12 pm

The AOL/Time Warner merger/buyout screwed up three Atlanta sports franchises.

EOB – If memory serves me, Time Warner never really wanted the sports franchises just the Turner network assets, such as CNN.

Smoothie

August 20th, 2009
4:39 pm

Ted Turner could have sold the sports franchises before the ‘96 merger with Time Warner. But then again, perhaps Atlanta wouldn’t even have a hockey franchise if that had happened. Still seems as though Turner wielded enough power to influence TW in choosing a seller. Remember McDavid thought he had a deal in principle before the ASG ended up the lucky winners in the Hawks / Thrashers / Philips sweepstakes.

The Earl of Bud

August 20th, 2009
5:07 pm

RS, TW’s stock went from $50-60 right after the merger to roughly $15 some short time after. They had to raise cash for a number of reasons. TW definitely benefitted from the sports franchises, but they don’t serve the same purpose anymore for the rest of the company from a strategic advantage. CNN is still pretty profitable but other assets like TNT are what carried TW when they were hurting from the AOL mistake that was made.

Smoothie, if Turner sold the sports teams it would have killed him on how the other parts operated and yes, we might not have an NHL team or even Philips Arena being built.

dwayne

August 20th, 2009
6:02 pm

Boris…1:45 post, must be Boris Valabik. Hey Doris, found your gonads yet? Or does Cindy Crotchby still got them?
As far as Stendec goes, he is entitled to his opinion, I doubt Ilya is going to listen to him anyway.
I have posted a lot of things about Stendec that Mr. Bill had to remove, I regret that, I thought some of them were rather funny…anywho, when does the puck drop????

Kaat

August 20th, 2009
6:07 pm

Any chance of grabbing Slava for a Q&A? I’d love to hear some of his thoughts on the ownership, Kovy staying, his future in Atlanta, whether he’d consider (or has considered) playing in the KHL, why he wasn’t invited to the Russian Olympic orientation (or was he and he declined?), how many more years he foresees playing in the NHL (or pro hockey in general), thoughts on Antropov? Just any article on Kozlov or Q&A posted here would be so awesome.

dwayne

August 20th, 2009
6:40 pm

No one could answer this question on BT blogs….yall take a shot.
Blocked Shots. Why does a d-man get credit for a blocked “shot” if, once its blocked, it never makes it to the net? A shot on goal is not rewarded to a player if his shot misses the net, goalie or post.?.?

Sara

August 20th, 2009
7:01 pm

Couple of points…the NHL itself favored Spirit over McDavid – why I don’t know. They may have felt Spirit was more financially viable (HA!), it could be McDavid wouldn’t sign the agreement that Spirit apparently did. Two, prior to the sale of the teams, AOL/TW was posting $2B losses. I’m sure that was the major motivator for selling off assets.

alex

August 20th, 2009
7:44 pm

just heard intterview w/ gearon on 680 a.m., kincade let him go w/ amazingly soft questions on thrashers. i am sick and tied of asg lies about winning commitment to hockey team. chris please ask gearon one i worry about: is it possible to build winning organization keeping for decade g.m. w/ proven losing record and spending floor level cap money. if they continue consistenly be cheap but willing to win something better fire d.w. asap and hire jesus. chris you the pro, build question on your own but get them on record about not winning commitment but spending commitment. this will clean the dust.

The Earl of Bud

August 20th, 2009
7:52 pm

Dwayne, pull yourself out of this vortex. If a player blocks the shot that still lands on net, is it really blocked?

You are putting yourself in a circular reference if you state that the puck must still land on net even though it was blocked. You can tell the difference between a shot and a pass based on the shooter’s wind up. So if a player shoots it and a defenseman blocks the shot from going on net, we count that in a statistic called “blocked shots” since the player did shoot the puck and we want to know if a defenseman like Jay McKee is helping his team by blocking x number of shots more than any other d-man. Just because it didn’t land on net doesn’t mean a player from the other team didn’t shoot the puck.

Look at it this way. If the bloggers here boycott the Thrashers so much that not a single person shows up to the game, is the National Anthem still considered sung even though no one heard it?

Dwayne

August 20th, 2009
9:15 pm

EOB, try again, you still do not know if it was going to force the goalie to make a save. Goalie makes a save, shot on goal. If its deflected by a D-man, and makes it to the goalie, and he stops it. Its a save for the goalie, but not a blocked shot. If a player shoots the puck, and you know he shot the puck, and it misses or hits the post, why isn’t it a shot on goal?

Dwayne

August 20th, 2009
9:19 pm

EOB, can I use your “pull yourself out of this vortex” quote? As long as I give you due respect?

The Earl of Bud

August 20th, 2009
10:09 pm

Dwayne, it is not used to measure whether the goalie was going to make a save, it is used to measure the effort put out by a defenseman and see if he is willing to lay his body out and take one in the face for the sake of the team. With that said, keep this in mind:

If a player shoots the puck, and you know he shot the puck, and it misses or hits the post, why isn’t it a shot on goal?”

The key words there are “on goal” especially when you are measuring “shots on goal”. If the shot misses the net or hits the post, it is not on goal. Thus it is not a shot on goal. Otherwise known as SOG. It can be a shot that is blocked though as we want to measure the number of times Bogosian or Hainsey or any other NHL player was willing to lay their body out to help the team.

Make sense or no?

Adam

August 21st, 2009
9:17 am

*”Also, the owners signed an agreement with the NHL that they would not move the franchise. Several years remain on that deal.”*

Several years implies more than two. If this is an agreement that was signed when AS acquired the team I would bet the number of years specified was ten (10). The question is when did the clock start counting or more importantly the method of calculation. If it’s actual years then Sept 2013 is the end date. If it’s seasons played then it would be at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season, and does the lockout year count or not?

The Earl of Bud

August 21st, 2009
9:52 am

Actually Adam December 21, 2012 is the end date.

Dwayne

August 21st, 2009
12:11 pm

The posts are part of the goal. If the puck hits the post and goes in, its a shot on goal and a goal. If it hits the post and bounces away, its nothing? In the words of my children…”thats crap”. Lets play some hockey!!!!

World Be Free

August 21st, 2009
12:29 pm

Here’s hoping we hear some positive news on Kovy soon!

The Earl of Bud

August 21st, 2009
12:55 pm

Dwayne, you’ve got to be pulling my leg on this. If the puck hits the post and goes in, it’s the same result as if the puck was shot right in the middle of an open net. If it hits the post and bounces away, it’s the same result as if the puck was shot 3 feet high or 5 feet wide of the net. Sounds fair to me.

Randy

August 21st, 2009
1:25 pm

Stendec is right, Kovy. Get out while you can. This team will fold within 3-4 years.

Randy

August 21st, 2009
1:26 pm

And they still won’t make the playoffs in that time, and DW will still be here the whole time, hence, why there will be no playoffs.

MB

August 21st, 2009
1:29 pm

Dwayne, note that it’s referred to as a blocked shot, not a blocked shot on goal. So, to EOB’s comment, it’s the action of the player (presumably) shooting the defines it as a shot, not the eventual (though interrupted) path of said shot. It’s proximity to the goal has absolutely no relevance for this particular stat.

Or at least that’s my interpretation.

Dwayne

August 21st, 2009
2:54 pm

No Earl, not pulling your leg. Just looking for an answer. MB seems to be closest. We went from blocked shots to hitting the post. I understand what is being said. An UNinterrpted shot….which there is no doudt the player is trying to score…I said SHOT…misses everything, or even hits the post, is NOT a shot on goal. So, how can you give credit to anyone who blocks a puck going in the gerneral vacinity of the goal credit for a BLOCKED SHOT.