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Ethan Bear’s contract details with Washington reported, and could the NHL return to Atlanta?: Around the League

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
1 month ago
Welcome back to Around the League — the series here at CanucksArmy where we deliver you news and notes from Around the National Hockey League — oftentimes through a Vancouver Canucks-tinted lens. 
It has been a WHILE, folks! This is likely our last edition of Around the League of 2023, so let’s dive right into it!
Ethan Bear’s reported contract with Washington
By now, you’ve likely heard that Ethan Bear is heading to the Washington Capitals. You may have also heard that it’s expected he’ll sign a two-year deal with the club. What we hadn’t heard until recently was how much that contract would be worth.
According to PuckPedia, Bear’s new deal will be finalized any time now and will be a two-year contract with an average annual value of $2.0625 million.
Bear is coming off a one-year deal worth $2.2 million that he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. After becoming a regular healthy scratch with the Canes to open last season, the Canucks traded a 5th round pick in order to bring him to Vancouver.
Upon arrival, Bear played top four minutes, with Quinn Hughes serving as Bear’s most consistent defence partner last season. As he headed into unrestricted free agency this past offseason, the feeling across the board was that the Canucks and Bear would come to terms on a new deal.
Unfortunately, everything changed when Bear suffered a shoulder injury at the World Hockey Championship last Spring. The injury required surgery to repair, and with Bear expected to be out until mid-late December, the Canucks elected not to qualify him as the defenceman was covered through the insurance provided by Hockey Canada.
As Bear got back on the ice and neared a recovery, reports emerged that the Canucks were being priced out from bringing Bear back. The Canucks essentially ran out of the required cap space to bring Bear back when they went out and traded for Nikita Zadorov.
Now, Bear heads to Washington, where he will almost certainly be playing top four minutes for a team that is surprisingly right there in the hunt for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
When Bear signs his new deal with the Capitals, it will be the most money the 26-year-old has ever earned on a contract in his NHL career.
Could the NHL head back to Atlanta again?
No, you didn’t misread that. Here’s what we know.
In September, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league would be open to an expansion franchise in Atlanta.
Here is an expert from ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski’s story on the matter:
The Atlanta Flames played from 1972 to 1980 before relocating to Calgary. The Atlanta Thrashers played there from 1999 to 2011 before relocating to Winnipeg to become the second coming of the Jets.
But there has been speculation about ownership groups seeking to bring the NHL back to Atlanta for a third time, specifically to its suburbs. Sites like Alpharetta and south Forsyth County have been discussed as potential homes for another team.
Daly said the Atlanta market is much different now than it was for either of the NHL’s previous expansion attempts.
“I think times have changed pretty dramatically and the market demographics have changed pretty dramatically since the first time we went there and then again in 1999,” he said. “I think a lot of bigger businesses are in Atlanta [now].”
The next chapter in this story is fresh. On Wednesday, reports emerged that developers at a site in the northeastern part of the suburb of Alpharetta (which Wyshinski mentioned as a potential home for the new Atlanta NHL team) are planning a mixed-use complex all centering around an 18,500-seat arena.
We also saw this report from ESPN’s Kevin Weekes, who said the project is ‘all ahead full speed with the design moving quickly and interviews for builders taking place’:
According to Daily Mail: the development is known as ‘The Gathering at South Forsyth’, and is set to include a walking trail, 1.6m square feet of office space, a community center, 450 hotel rooms, 2400 residential units, and of course, an arena capable of hosting NHL hockey.
Would NHL hockey in Atlanta work this time around? I’ll believe it when I see it.
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