|The sale of Jeremy Jacobs's Bruins, which he denies, would be complicated. (File/Bill Brett/for The Globe)|
While the Bruins' prospects twirled around the Ristuccia Arena ice last week, rumors once again swirled around the Hub that Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of the Black and Gold, had his hockey club up for sale.
"He's shopping it to his billionaire buddies," said one non-team source who deals on a regular basis with members of the Bruins' front office.
Not true. At least according to Charlie Jacobs, the family's point man on Causeway Street, and according to his father.
"I can say with great confidence that it's not on the market," said the junior Jacobs. "My dad enjoys operating the team and having a say in what happens here, as do I."
"That's not happening. Nothing there," said the elder Jacobs, reached Friday afternoon by telephone in the Buffalo suburbs. "Absolutely zero. Zip. I don't think that's happening in my lifetime."
Meanwhile, word broke Friday that Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and his friends/investors have been in dialogue with the Los Angeles Kings about buying a piece of that NHL club. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that Tim Leiweke, president of the Anschutz Entertainment Group that owns the Kings, said he spoke to Grousbeck and a number of other "very interested" parties about taking a minority ownership position in the Kings.
Grousbeck, one of the Celtics' four managing partners, was not quoted in the Daily News story, and politely declined to comment Friday when contacted by the Globe about the Daily News report and rumors that the Bruins are for sale.
"I do apologize," Grousbeck wrote in an e-mail, "but no comment."
Which brings us to the world of "ifs." To wit: If Grousbeck and friends were interested in buying into the NHL, why not buy the Bruins . . . If the Bruins were for sale.
Again, the elder Jacobs dismissed the notion.
"Would he buy mine?" said Jacobs. "There's been no discussion on that. No."
The Celtics today are the vastly more successful inhabitant of TD Banknorth Garden, which is owned and operated by the Jacobs family, of course. The Celtics for decades have groused about their lease agreement on Causeway - in both the old and new building. But recent reports say their current deal is friendlier to the bottom line, in part because it is believed they enjoy ancillary revenue streams, other than tickets sales, each time the Green play the Garden.
The Bruins under new ownership? Music to the ears of pleasesellthebruins.com, long the Internet outpost of fan ire directed at the Jacobs clan. A confirmed sale of the franchise, now 36-plus years beyond its last Stanley Cup, could bring cyberspace to a halt well into the next millennium.
Keep in mind, a Bruins sale would be both a complex and pricy purchase. The package includes the Bruins, the building, the still-undeveloped building parcels (now officially teenage wastelands), the Celtics' lease, the concessions, and a succulent chunk of NESN. Open to bids, the starting price could be $1 billion. The elder Jacobs revealed Friday that the team and NESN are under his sole ownership, while the rest of the package belongs to Delaware North Companies.
One well-connected source on Causeway, who was well aware of last week's rumors, said the Jacobs family in recent months has performed the necessary due diligence to establish the value of all Bruins-related properties. The reason for the valuation? To provide club attorneys and accountants with a dollar figure to include as part of the succession plan, for when the whole package is passed on to Jacobs's heirs.
"That's absolutely correct," said the elder Jacobs, confirming the recent valuation process, and later adding, "when I croak, the tax burden should be very small."
Why all the recent speculation about a sale?
"I'm not sure," said Jacobs. "I think some of it is just the usual stuff, people wondering, 'What's Jeremy Jacobs going to do with this?' What the hell. I've been there something like 33 years, so it begs speculation."
Wideman watch continuesDennis Wideman's new deal with the Bruins could be finalized in the next few days. If so, it's likely the 25-year-old defenseman will sign for three or four years, at an average slightly north of $3 million (the number he is widely assumed to land if he leaves his fate to the arbitration process, what would be a one- or two-year award).
Originally scheduled for a July 30 hearing in Toronto, Wideman's date late last week was pushed to Aug. 1 by arbitrator Richard Bloch. If Wideman's agent, Larry Kelly, doesn't strike a deal before then, Bloch will be bound to render his decision no later than Aug. 3.
Once that arbitration figure is announced, the Bruins are allowed a second look at their roster, to determine if they want to buy out anyone (up to a three-player maximum), in theory to accommodate Wideman's pay hike. The buyout period lasts only 48 hours, and doesn't begin until three days after the arbitrator's decision. (Isn't this beginning to feel like Miss Connors's Algebra 1 class?)
Contrary to some reports, the Bruins will get that "second look" buyout opportunity even if Wideman eschews arbitration and opts for a conventionally bargained contract. If, say, Wideman were to tie up his deal Thursday, the Bruins could cut a body or two (buyouts become unrestricted free agents) as early as the following Monday or Tuesday.
The Bruins have committed just under $54.5 million in cap space for the upcoming season. A new Wideman deal is all but certain to have them over the $56.7 million limit. Someone will have to go, be it by buyout or trade, and the bet is Glen Murray (due $4.15 million) is sent packing, with a severance of some $1.4 million each of the next two seasons.
THE LIST: NEW FACESNHL training camps open in about two months, and eight teams will have new coaches:
Atlanta: John Anderson takes over for Don Waddell (the interim after Bob Hartley was fired last season).
Colorado: Tony Granato takes over for Joel Quenneville.
Florida: Peter DeBoer takes over for Jacques Martin, who now concentrates full time on GM duties.
Los Angeles: To be determined. Marc Crawford was fired last month.
Ottawa: Craig Hartsburg takes over for GM Bryan Murray (the interim after John Paddock was canned last season).
San Jose: Todd McLellan takes over for Ron Wilson.
Tampa Bay: Barry Melrose takes over for John Tortorella.
Toronto: Ron Wilson takes over for Paul Maurice.
SPEAK UP"In one community, there were about 400 kids. It was an absolute mob scene, people just hanging off Zdeno. I was a little worried about him - he'd just had surgery on his shoulder - but he seemed to be faring OK . . . I don't think they'd seen a lot of white people. It was all new to them. I actually felt something funny, so I looked down and this kid was licking my forearm."
- Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr, to the Calgary Herald, after his recent Right to Play charity stint with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in Africa, where the NHLers jumped into the fray with hundreds of kids to play soccer.
BY THE NUMBERSGoaltender may be hockey's most important position, but of the top five salaries in the NHL for 2008-09, only one will go to a goalie:
Dany Heatley (F), Ottawa $10 million
Alexander Ovechkin (F), Washington $9 million
Sidney Crosby (F), Pittsburgh $9 million
Miikka Kiprusoff (G), Calgary $8.5 million
Daniel Briere (F), Philadelphia $8 million
Scott Gomez (F), NY Rangers $8 million
Jason Spezza (F), Ottawa $8 million
Kimmo Timonen (D), Philadelphia $8 million
Thomas Vanek (F), Buffalo $8 million
Etc.They've got us over a barrel: Paul Colborne, father of Bruins first-round draft pick Joe Colborne, made his fortune in the oil and gas business over the last 20 years, after deciding that life as an attorney wasn't to his liking. As for the runaway price of oil, Paul sounds sincere when he says he wishes some fiscal sanity prevailed. "I don't like that it's a boom-bust business," said the 49-year-old Colborne. "If the price were down around $80 a barrel, that would be fine for everyone involved. But with prices where they are [hovering in the $150/barrel neighborhood], it has caused pain and hardship for a lot of people. I don't like that at all."
He'd like to see Kings go Green: If Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and his roundball buddies want a piece of the Los Angeles Kings, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is all for it. "As far as the Bruins are concerned, and in my judgment, I would be more than happy to recommend them to the league," said Jacobs. "They've done such a great job with the Celtics. They've done a first-rate job, and we'd like them in the league as partners. They've shown that they're real team players."
Loose pucks: He may never have been high on Mike Milbury's list, but Jaromir Jagr, even the diluted version of the last few years, was a talent the NHL will miss. His new deal with Avangard Omsk in Russia's Continental Hockey League will bring Jagr $14 million over the next two years - and won't bring him North American taxes (short of paying bodyguards, it's all take-home dough) . . . The Canucks remain hopeful that Mats Sundin will take the two-year, $20 million deal they've left on the table. Great spot, Vancouver, but the Canucks aren't winning the Cup with Sundin, this year or next. If he wants to win, his only real option is to sign with the Red Wings, and take the kind of "championship discount" Marian Hossa accepted ($7.45 million per year). "Marian made it clear that he wanted to be with an elite team," said one of the 29 NHL general managers who didn't land the elite right wing. "And right now, it looks like there is only one elite team in the league." . . . The league releases its master schedule Wednesday . . . Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said Friday that he fully expects Patrice Bergeron and Manny Fernandez to participate off the hop in September's varsity camp. "Yes, based on what we knew at the end of the season, and how they looked this week," said Chiarelli, "we don't see any issues." . . . The Lightning this week are expected to make public a new nine-year deal for Vincent Lecavalier, effective next season, that will pay him an average $8.556 million . . . Aged power forward Brendan Shanahan still hasn't found work for 2008-09 . . . Bruins short-timer Brandon Bochenski inked a two-year deal with the Lightning. Dished to Anaheim for Shane Hnidy last season, Bochenski later was moved to Nashville, then became a free agent . . . Joe Nieuwendyk slid into the "Cam Neely" position in Toronto, where he will be a special assistant to GM Cliff Fletcher. The Maple Leafs are holding the GM's job for Ducks boss Brian Burke to fill next year, despite constant arm's-length dismissals of the idea by the Leafs . . . Chiarelli tomorrow departs for a vacation at the cozy Langara Lodge in the Queen Charlotte Islands off British Columbia, where he will join Burke, Harry Sinden, and others for a week of salmon fishing. Question is, will Chiarelli come home with Mathieu Schneider as part of his catch?
Bolting from Tampa: Not that there was much doubt, but Jay Feaster made it official Friday and settled up at the pay window, ending his five-year tour as Lightning general manager. Days before, according to one player agent, Feaster already had shifted his focus and energies back to Pennsylvania (the 45-year-old was born in Harrisburg and is a Georgetown grad).
Once Oren Koules and Len Barrie took over ownership, said Feaster, "it became apparent to me that [they] didn't need my advice or expertise."
Koules and Barrie are aggressive - Koules even getting personally involved in pitching agents for players - and the crux of hockey operations is now run by ex-Bruin Brian Lawton and former Canadiens defenseman Tom Kurvers, who had a long run in Phoenix as the Coyotes' director of player personnel.
Feaster won a Cup in Tampa, but soon got boxed into a payroll jam with a drastic overpayment for Brad Richards, who was finally shipped to Dallas at last February's trade deadline.
International relations: Ray Emery's adolescent antics in Ottawa cost him $4.5 million - the dough he forfeited upon being bought out by the Senators last month. But the one-year deal at $2 million he signed in Russia last week with Atlant Mytischy will nearly get him even, considering the tax bite he won't have to suffer while undergoing career rehab in the Continental Hockey League.
Meanwhile, Ufa of the CHL tried to take a bite out of the Predators' backside Friday by signing Nashville forward, and Mother Russia homeboy, Alexander Radulov. The promising forward (26 goals/58 points last season) has one year remaining on his entry-level deal with the Predators. Now the fun begins.
Nashville GM David Poile immediately stated that the Predators want Radulov back, and intends to enforce the final year of his deal (worth $984,000 in the upcoming season). In the hours Radulov was tidying up his Ufa contract, Bill Daly (commissioner Gary Bettman's righthand man) and players' union boss Paul Kelly framed a detente with the CHL that is intended to keep each side from raiding respective rosters.
Even if Radulov inked that deal prior to the agreement, which had all parties at a table in Switzerland, it will be, at the very least, uncomfortable for the CHL to play for Ufa.
LA light: Still no word on who will land behind the Kings' bench for 2008-09, but it's clear the new guy (Marc Crawford's replacement) will be a candidate to moonlight at Jordan's Furniture, where "underpricing" is not just a way of life, it's the fabric of the business.
Los Angeles went into the weekend some $30 million below the $56.7 million cap. The Kings were emphatic about the need for a cap system, prior to and during the lockout, and they've also lamented their continuing, deep financial losses since the implementation of fixed labor costs.
In other words, if a minority partner comes aboard, be it Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck or whomever, there is much work to be done. Wayne Gretzky has been gone now for more than a dozen years (about the same time Clark Gable left Hollywood, too?), and the NHL in LA has that Jack Kent Cooke how-come-it-doesn't-work-here? kind of feel again these days.
Dem's fightin' words: Bettman took Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe to the woodshed last week, imploring each to stop swapping verbal potshots.
Burke, the Ducks' GM, opened volley a year ago after Lowe, his Edmonton counterpart, offered lucrative (read: insane) Group 2 offer sheets, first to Buffalo's Thomas Vanek (matched by the Sabres) and then to Anaheim's Dustin Penner (not matched by the Ducks).
Prudent of Bettman to tell them to knock it off, but in a league thirsting for attention and media play, it doesn't get any better than two ornery cusses spitting invectives and tobacco juice into a venomous spew that really has a way of sticking to the sideboards.
Burke's best of the bon mots last year was espousing that Lowe had run the Oilers "into the sewer."
Lowe, who bit his tongue until Burke started up again a couple of weeks ago, launched back that Burke is a "moron" and that the Harvard-trained attorney operates a club "in a pathetic hockey market."
It was that last utterance - sliming one of the Original 30's fan base - that caused Bettman to call a halt to the lovable caveman antics. In other words, hate me, hate my team, but don't hate my fans. Consider it crimes against the cash drawer.
Burke now wants the Commish to consider tampering charges against Lowe, and also to conduct a thorough review of how Scott Niedermayer was wooed to Anaheim as a free agent. To the latter point, Lowe implied during a radio interview that the Ducks used underhanded methods in getting Niedermayer to leave New Jersey for Southern Cal. Imagine, convincing anyone to give up the posh New Jersey Turnpike for the SoCal lifestyle.
Driving to the net: Dave Barr, who broke into the NHL as a Bruins winger in 1981-82, recently hitched on as an assistant coach with Tony Granato's Colorado Avalanche. Barr, now 47, spent the last five seasons as coach in the Ontario Hockey League as the bench boss in Guelph . . . Barry Melrose's three assistant coaches in Tampa all have Boston ties. Wes Walz broke into the league as a Bruin, long before he became a dogged checking forward with the Wild. Rick Tocchet had a short stay in the Vault, amid the crumbling mid-'90s. And Cap Raeder was an assistant during Steve Kasper's brief tour behind the bench . . . Russia's CHL will play only a 56-game regular season, and just like the NHL, 16 teams will qualify to play for the Stanislava Cup. Most clubs hold 10-14-day training camps over the last two weeks of July, and regular-season play commences in early September . . . According to embedded sources just outside Moscow, no truth to the rumor that Dmitri Kvartalnov has been talking to Adam Oates and L'il Joe Juneau about the Bonanza Line saddling up again as a trio for Lokomotiv.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.