The wide consensus is that the deal to bring the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg is all but complete, and while folks in official capacities with the NHL, the Thrashers and the eventual new ownership group are all stying quiet, the reports continue to mount that point to a completed deal and the relocation of the team.
The latest on this Tuesday comes from the Winnipeg Free Press.
An Eastern Conference team source has told the Free Pressthat his club has already been told to expect two trips to Winnipeg next season.
That indicates the league will likely stand pat for another season with its current divisional and conference alignment, one that would keep Winnipeg in Atlanta's current slot in the Southeast Division.
We've already know the Southeast Division detail for a week now, but the news that Eastern Conference clubs have been informed of the news is a new development. That means that the wheels are in motion at the league level, and the quiet we're getting from Gary Bettman's office on the story isn't totally honest.
Add that to the fact that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed seems sold on the fact that the team is moving, plus goaltender Chris Mason speaking about the team using the past tense and it all seems like a matter of not if, but when.
"I definitely felt the support," Mason said. "At games and especially when we were out talking to fans at events. You know there are die-hard hockey fans in Atlanta. It's hard to maintain the interest when you don't have success, especially from the casual fan. ... One trip to the playoffs is not enough. If you win more people will come. In my opinion, that has a lot to do with the numbers."
Speaking to reporters, Reed said: "I think any time we lose a major sports franchise it is tough. It's going to hurt the city, but we are going to withstand it just fine. We will get through it. We have a lot of positive things going on in the sports franchise space that I think we will be announcing pretty soon that will offset it a bit."
At this stage, the Thrashers staying in Atlanta would be a huge coup. Some major fallout would have to take place.