Staying in Steel City

I didn't think it would get done but when push comes to shove, an agreement for almost anything can be hammered out.

Recently, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they would be staying in Steel City after it was revealed an agreement on a new $290 million arena to replace Mellon Arena was reached.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pens will pay $3.8 million per year toward construction and will add another $400,000 per year for capital improvements. The team will remain in town under a 30-year lease.

Admittedly, I would have liked to have seen the Penguins move, and if you have been reading my blog or know me, I lobbied for Winnipeg, Kansas City and Quebec in that order. Does that mean this is a bad deal? Of course not.

What Gary Bettman should do is let teams explore relocation. In some cases, it's probably needed -- Florida and Phoenix are two teams that need to have the moving vans hit the loading docks. E.J. Hradek of ESPN.com recently wrote that he believes the NHL will expand by two teams to 32 in the next five years.

He believes Las Vegas will get one franchise and a "major Western city" -- Seattle, most likely -- will get the other. I cannot see that work in either place. Las Vegas is currently home to the ECHL's Wranglers, but the idea that the city can support a pro team is like baseball saying that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Omaha can do the same.

As for Seattle, I would think that a team would play initially in KeyArena -- the same building the NBA's SuperSonics are likely vacating for Oklahoma City. Again, not a good fit at this time.

Bettman should look north again instead of making more inroads to the Sun Belt. Somehow, I don't think New Mexico-Mississippi has the same cachet as Montreal-Toronto.

STAYING CLOSE TO HOME: When the Chicago Blackhawks want to raid their farm system next season, all they need do is get on the Tollway.

The inactive Cincinnati franchise -- which was to be known as, of all things, the RailRaiders -- has been sold and will be relocated to the Rockford, Ill.

The Rockford IceHogs also will be the Blackhawks' top farm team for the next 10 seasons.

Rockford will be one of two new teams in the AHL next season, joining the Lake Erie Monsters. That team, which will play in Cleveland, will the top affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

With the Blackhawks leaving their top farm team in Norfolk, Va. behind, that could end up being the new home for Tampa Bay's top minor leaguers. The Lightning announced Monday that they were ending their affiliation with Springfield, Mass. after this season.

AND THE PAYOFF ...: Future Tank Johnson apologist Chris Altruda has been paid off. A week ago Sunday, dinner was served at the Chicago Chophouse. Dinner, with tip, $120. Thanks, Lasse Kukkonen. Hope you choke on a funnel cake.

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