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Thoughts on thoughts: the $900 million franchise?

The Pens might sell for a lot

NHL: JUN 14 Penguins Victory Parade aPhoto by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Elliotte Friedman released a 32 thoughts blog, and as always there’s a ton of interesting data league-wide. A few Penguin-centric notes, so let’s dive in!

5.The Pittsburgh sale has ramifications around the league. I’m very curious to see if it gets to $900M. That would be a big number. No one has ever confirmed it, but there were rumours a couple of years ago that previous sale attempts fell through because the NHL said nothing less than $750M. That was before the new US TV deals and should the Penguins get to $900M, you have to wonder if we could see more sales. Fenway Sports Group wasn’t the only bidder, so there’s interest. Also curious to see if Fenway sees the Penguins as the final piece of the puzzle with their other properties — the MLB Red Sox, Premier League Liverpool — to create their own streaming platform.

The NHL wanting a minimum price for franchise sales has happened before, and it has Vegas/Seattle expansion in mind. If it costs $650 million for Seattle to get into the league, they don’t want an actual established and valuable franchise changing hands for less or the same amount, which makes some sense.

$900 million would be a lot of coin though, we’ll see maybe as soon as today if that is the price that Fenway Sports Group is going to buy the Lemieux Group out for. Either way, it’s going to be a pretty happy day in the Burkle and Lemieux houses when this goes through..There are reports that the Pens were in loose talks with other ownership groups but Fenway pushed to the front with a bigger offer.

Fenway’s possible streaming platform is an interesting wrinkle and potential look at how the group might move into the fuutre. The Penguins currently knock it out of the park with their In the Room series, and probably could provide more content like that. The league has already sold the broadcast rights to AT&T Sportsnet, ESPN and TNT so it’s not like Fenway could broadcast live Penguin games, but they could have game replays, press conferences and other content. The Washington Capitals have something similar on the Monumental Sports Network, an online streaming service, with free and paid tiers. Like so much of how the viewing channels are morphing to digital/streaming, a service like that could be added content (and revenue) for the team.

12. This year’s Russian free agent to watch is right-shot winger Andrei Kuzmenko. Sixth in KHL scoring (28 points in 25 games) for perennial power St. Petersburg. Never drafted, he will be 26 in February. There’s a lot of interest.

One of Ron Hextall’s initiatives has been to give the Pens an investment and re-entry into Russia by hiring Alexander Khavanov as a scout. As a result, Pittsburgh should be a lot more informed about Kuzmenko, who as Friedman notes has played for one of the marquee teams in the KHL (SKA St. Petersburg) for the last four seasons, and been one of their top scorers for a while now. Kuzmenko surely is a player on Khavanov’s radar.

Obviously, it remains to be seen on how much Khavanov may or may not like this player or what he would suggest, or how much Ron Hextall will act upon any favorable report given. But the Pens actually having boots on the ground with an actual team employee in Russia now gives them a lot better of a channel to get an informed opinion on just how much they may (or may not) be active in pursuing the KHL star. But, as Friedman noted, there will be a lot of NHL interest in Kuzmenko, so he’ll have a say in what team he goes to, so the typical high-profile markets for Russian players (New York, LA, Miami, Chicago) could be more likely landing spots.

Ottawa was temporarily shut down — as opposed to other COVID situations — is that enhanced protocols, such as testing every day as opposed to every three days, were not slowing the spread. That’s why doctors made the call; the virus could not be contained.

Ottawa’s Drake Batherson tested positive for COVID a few days after the Pens played there last Saturday. How ironic was that where Marcus Pettersson and Chad Ruhwedel (who have cleared protocol) were not allowed into Canada, yet different players for the Sens could have actually had the virus and played with it, or contracted it soon after, possibly from teammates.

Anyways, luckily no Pens have tested positive in the few days after the wake of playing the Senators, and hopefully that continues.

On the Olympics, I don’t see three postponed games as threatening NHL participation in Beijing. If this continues to happen, that’s when you’ve got reason to worry. A positive COVID case in China means a three-week quarantine.

Something to keep in mind for Olympics. Hopefully the athletes will be protected, a three week quarantine for anyone coming out of Beijing could be a dagger to an NHL team for losing what would be a world class player for a key stretch in March. There are lots of games after the Olympic break!

28. A few final Jack Eichel notes: he visited Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon last summer in Nova Scotia; was really impressed how the community respected their space.

The polite people of Halifax, NS — always giving Sid and Nate their space! It’s also always interesting to get glimpses of which players are training where over the summer for players like Crosby.

One other thought on Friedman’s thoughts; you rarely see Penguin nuggets any more. Has to be a huge difference in the flow and amount of information coming out of a Jim Rutherford-led front office as a GM who never met a microphone he didn’t want to give his daily thoughts and whims too. By comparison, Hextall might as well be protecting state secrets as very little info makes it to the media and even local reporters are totally caught off-guard and unaware of potential moves (like the Jeff Carter trade pretty much coming out of left field).