Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Follow-up on Sean Avery

According to the New York Post, the arbitration hearing for Sean Avery was a little more brutal than Avery had anticipated. Prior to the hearing it was reported that the team intended to say that he was a "reasonably effective player as well as a detriment to the team." However, the hits didn't stop there as the team apparently dropped this bomb on him as well:

"Avery is not a mature player. He plays, at times, like an individual rather than a member of a team. This is sometimes referred to as an inability to see the ice, and in Avery's case this seems to fit with his overall approach to the game."

This is how the team justifies their desire to only give him a $200,000 raise over the $1.1 million he made last year despite the fact that he had the best season of his career. It's clearly a strategy to tear him down in order to remain under the salary cap but I think it's going to have disastrous results. Avery is exactly the kind of player that the Rangers needed to bolster an otherwise somewhat whiny and soft crew, led by the erratic and weak-hearted Jaromir Jagr. As the Post points out, this is counter to what the team was claiming last spring when they consistently and repeatedly praised him for what he brought to the team both on and off the ice. In fact, his teammates Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr used to echoe the team's commending sentiments. Avery had "no idea what to say" other that to say he was "shocked."

The ruling should come down today or tomorrow morning but, regardless of the ruling, I would be surprised to see Avery even want to play for the Rangers again. I would also expect him to play with a massive chip on his shoulder this season which could lead him to his best performance yet, making whichever team is lucky enough to benefit from the Rangers' idiocy all the more grateful for Rangers' GM Glen Sather's ill-advised strategy.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Habs, Ducks and the Quintessential Pest


The Habs were able to narrowly avoid arbitration with Michael Ryder by signing him to a one-year deal worth $2.95 million just one day before his hearing was scheduled. The 27 year-old winger scored 30 goals and added 28 assists in 82 games last season with an abysmal -25 plus/minus rating. It was his second season in a row scoring 30 goals.

The Ducks

Just a quick update on the offer sheet that the Edmonton Oilers signed Dustin Penner to last week. Burke and the Ducks will have until Thursday, one week from when the offer was given, to decide whether or not they will match the inflated deal. Either way, no one will be happy.

A Pest's Arbitration Day

I actually use the word "pest" in a complimentary way. Every hockey team has to have a pest. In many ways, they are the spark plug of the NHL team. However, very few of these players have the skills to benefit their team in ways outside of irritating opposing players, which is why the salary cap has killed off a lot of these role players. When a player can function as a pest but also help the team in other ways, you have a rare combination that should be valued in the new NHL. The Rangers experienced this firsthand when they acquired Sean Avery at the deadline from the LA Kings. Avery, known for his big hits and even bigger mouth, played a huge role in the Rangers success throughout the playoffs. He often spent time on the top line with Jagr and showed the ability to play in any role or situation. In fact, being a Ranger ignited Avery as he scored 20 points, including 8 goals, in only 29 games with the blue shirts. In the 55 games prior to the trade, Avery only put up 28 points. Avery also ignited New York as they went 17-6-6 with him in the lineup.

His success prompted the 27 year-old restricted free agent to file for arbitration against the cap-stricken Rangers. With his hearing set for today, Avery should be in for a decent raise over his $1.1 million from last season. However, New York's GM is seeing it differently. The NY Post ran an article Sunday morning that included statements to be made in the arbitration hearing, including one that says Avery is "a reasonably effective player as well as a detriment to the team." A detriment to the team? He averages almost a point-per-game and the team only loses 6 games out of 29 with him in the lineup and he's a detriment? Avery responded with less emotion than would be expected of a player known for troublesome outbursts when he said "It's hard not to take something like that personally and not to be emotional about it. I know this is part of the business, I know this is part of the process, but it's extremely disappointing to read something like that coming from Slats [GM Glen Sather] and not to be offended by it. I certainly don't think I was a detriment to the team."

Personally, I hope this means that Avery won't be playing for the Rangers next season. If you listen closely you can hear saliva slapping the floor as a number of teams salivate over the prospect of the Rangers not agreeing to the arbitrators ruling. Teams like the Penguins and the Sabres showed a desperate need for someone with Avery's unique skill set in the playoffs and even in the regular season. He's exactly the kind of player that no one wants to play against and everyone wants a teammate. Avery is an emotional player and if he does end up playing elsewhere, his first game back in New York or against the Ranger will certainly be a good one. We'll know the outcome within 24 hours.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Anaheim GM Verbally Assaults the Edmonton Oilers

Per TSN: Article Quoted Below

The Anaheim Ducks GM didn't mince words in his first public comments on the US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet the Edmonton Oilers tabled to the 24-year-old forward on Thursday.

Burke said he wasn't actually angry at the fact there was an offer sheet, but rather the amount of money offered - Penner will go from making $450,000 a season to $4.25 million a year.

"I have no problem with offer sheets, they are part of the CBA," Burke said on a conference call. "I think it's a tool certainly a team is entitled to use. My issue here is this is the second time this year in my opinion Edmonton have offered a grossly inflated salary for a player, and it impacts on all 30 teams and I think it's an act of desperation by a general manager who is fighting to keep his job."

The way it all came down also bothered Burke.

"I was not notified of this until an agent faxed it into us," he said. "I thought Kevin would have called me and told me it was coming. I thought that was gutless."

Oilers spokesman J.J. Hebert said Friday night that Lowe was aware of Burke's comments but would not respond. Lowe will wait to comment after the Ducks decide whether or not to match.

Burke was also disappointed with the timing of it _ Burke was entering the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton, B.C., on Friday night.

"Kevin Lowe has been in Penticton this week," Burke said. "Tonight is the induction ceremony for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame and I certainly think this could have waited until Monday. I don't think it shows a lot of respect for the B.C Hockey Hall of Fame.

"I think it's a classless move timing-wise."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Edmonton Strikes Again and Arbitration News (Updated 7/27 at 11:48 PM)

Edmonton and Anaheim
For the second time this off-season, the Oilers have tendered an offer sheet to a restricted free agent. Last night, their target was Dustin Penner of the Anaheim Ducks. The offer wasn't quite as large as their sheet for Vanek (7-years at $50 million), but it's still pretty large at $21.25 million over 5 years. If the Ducks choose not to match the deal then the Oilers must give the Ducks a first, second and third round draft pick.

In his first full NHL season, 24-year-old Penner put up 45 points including 29 goals in 82 games. This offer puts Anaheim in a tough position. Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer have done the team a great disservice by not making their decision regarding retirement by now. If Nieds does decide to come back and the Ducks match the Oilers offer, then the Ducks would be over the cap and would need to get back under it before the start of the season. If the Ducks do match the deal, however, it all but guarantees that either Niedermayer or Selanne will NOT be playing for them this season. Also, by matching this deal the Ducks put themselves in a tough position next summer when it comes time to re-sign Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who are certainly worth more than Penner and will demand as much in response.

Frankly, the Oilers are getting desperate and taking wild stabs at players. Penner, though talented, is inconsistent at best. While his size makes him an asset, and even dominant when he's on, Edmonton is taking a big chance trying to sign him for that much money since he'll have a lot of developing to do in order to justify that contract. Burke, Anaheim's GM, was put in a tough position by two of his star players and dug an even deeper hole by over-paying for Bertuzzi. With that in mind, I can't see him matching the offer for Penner. Instead, he should take the draft picks and go give Bertuzzi's problematic back a good rub, he'll need it stay injury free so Big Bert can play as their main power-forward.

Blues Avoid Arbitration

The St Louis Blues avoided arbitration with one of their best young players by re-signing 24-year old Lee Stempniak to a 3-year deal worth $7.5 million. In his second NHL season, Stempniak scored 27 goals and added 25 assists and should be on the Blues' top scorers next season.

Buffalo Still Trying to Do the Same

The Buffalo Sabres' woes continue as they head to arbitration today with Derek Roy. Roy scored 63 points in 75 games with an impressive +37 plus/minus rating. While Roy is small at only 5-9, he's one of the fastest players on the team, a very good defender, plays on both special teams, and is a big part of their offense. Roy is in position to receive a substantial raise over his $627,000 earned last season likely using Nathan Horton's contract and Dustin Penner's offer sheet as leverage. The Panthers re-signed Nathan Horton to a $24 million dollar deal for 6 years after he scored 62 points in 2006. Frankly, he's better than both of those players simply because of his speed and ability to play on both sides of the ice. However, expect Buffalo to announce a significant deal with him prior to arbitration beginning this morning. If not, I'm guessing the arbitrator will award Roy a deal worth around $4.5 million for next season.


As predicted, the Buffalo Sabres have avoided arbitration with Derek Roy by signing him to a 6 year deal worth $24 million.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Latest Transactions

Bruins and Blues Swap Prospects

The Boston Bruins traded young goaltending prospect Hannu Toivonen to the Blues in exchange for Carl Soderberg. Toivonen was a first round draft pick, 29th overall, in 2002 but has yet to live up to his expectations and has split time between the NHL and the AHL. He's projected to eventually be a number one goaltender, but the acquisition of Manny Fernandez made him expendable. He still has a tremendous upside so this trade could, eventually, come back to haunt the Bruins. Soderberg, on the other hand, is more of a wild card. He has great size at 6-3 198 lbs and it very developed for a 21 year old. He as yet, however, to play a single game in the NHL but has averaged roughly a point-per-game in the Swedish Elite Leagues and showed tremendous potential in the Under-18 division.

Senators Keep Their Man

Ray Emery, who led the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals, was the biggest name in arbitration. It was rumored that he wanted somewhere around $4 million per year while the club wanted to sign him to a deal similar to that of Ryan Miller in Buffalo or Cam Ward in Carolina, which would put him at around $2-2.5 million. It looked like the 24-year-old was going to head into arbitration and most likely receive a substantial raise but at the last minute, the two sides found some middle ground. He signed a three-year deal worth $9.5 million. This is a substantial raise over the $925,000 he made last season but I'm guessing that the arbitrator would have awarded him an even larger payday simply for making the finals.

I was a doubter of Ray Emery early on but he showed some poise in the playoffs. He's still very young and has a lot of developing to do, but I think this is a great sign by the Senators who have always struggled at the goaltending position. Now if they could just unload Martin Gerber's salary.....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Its The Players Stupid!

Why am I an NHL Hockey fan ... because of passion, because of honor, because of commitment. I recently read a post on why being a Hockey fan "matters." Here is an extremely well written account of what true hockey fans worship ... to read the story go to this link - http://my.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?user_id=3682&post_id=1757

What this story shows me is what I already knew, but what many in our country have NO clue about ... that Hockey is a LIFESTYLE! This sport is for the ones who think there are not enough hours in the day to work on their Hockey skills. For the kids growing up in Canada towns like Moosefactory, Ontario (the home town of Jonathan Cheechoo) and others places where any surface covered by ice is considered a place to practice. For them to dream about NHL fame and winning the Stanley Cup is ingrained into their genetic structure ... now, take a look at this story - http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=334644

Here is a story about 2 kids who played Jr Hockey at 8 years old when the Phoenix Coyotes were introduced to Phoenix, AZ ... from the beginning, they had dreams about representing their city in the NHL - they would tell family and friends about playing in the NHL for the Coyotes.

This story is inspiring to say the least. I am going to look forward to watching their NHL careers over time and I hope they are given that chance to live their dreams. Which leads me to something I have been thinking about for a couple days. The players in the NHL have to be the most humble and honorable athletes in professional sports. I do not understand people when they argue over "Which is the better sport" - I usually let the conversation go until the "Big 3 - NFL, MLB, NBA have been brought into the mix" ... that is when I chime in "What about the NHL?" Most times I am met with statements like the game is boring, you cant see the puck, not enough scoring, and my favorite - it is to violent!

Like lambs to the slaughter - I start asking them questions ... "How many touchdowns are there in a 21 - 28 football game?" They normally answer with "Hello - 3 and 4!" Which I then say, so how is a 3 - 4 hockey game "not enough scoring?" That is where that argument normally ends and I move on to the next excuse.

I ask them what is exciting about football - they play for the same amount of time hockey does (1 hour), however, in football their "plays" last for 8 to 10 seconds then they get a break, most of the time the clock continues to count down, which tells me that as a fan - you are paying to watch grass grow. In Hockey - if the clock is counting, they are playing! I have had people try to tell me that Baseball is NOT boring, however, normally less than 25 seconds into their "reasoning" they, themselves, lose the point they were making and give up trying to make baseball un-boring. Don't get me wrong - Baseball is an amazing sport to go watch with a group of friends - a couple beers, bag of peanuts, nice sunny day, a live baseball game in front of you ... I agree baseball is a great sport to watch. But as athletes? The physical aspect of baseball I don't get. Moving on!

Basketball - you either love it or hate it. I can not stand the NBA, not because they are strong athletes, not because they are very talented (I cant sink a free throw to save my life!) ... my issue with the NBA has to do with attitude and character (this bleeds over into the NFL also - but it is more blatant in the NBA). The type of players who represent the NBA are not men I want my children looking up to. Most of the time - when interviewed after a game I will be lucky if I can understand 2 out of 10 words that the players use to convey their thoughts on the game. I believe that with the level of talent that are blessed enough to be in professional sports ... you should be respectful and honorable.

Now - I am not saying NHL players do not get into trouble. My post here is about the leagues and how they represent themselves. MLB with the Steroids scandal, NFL with Michael Vick and Terrell Owens, the NBA with their officiants working for the mob and calling fouls to affect the point spread!!! ARE YOU KIDDING??? The "you cant touch me" attitude that infect allot of these very talented athletes is going to be the undoing of many careers and possibly leagues and franchises.

However - the NHL is a league that is full of passion, honor, integrity, character ... sure they have their inner struggles and anomalies, but what they don't have is arrogance! They play the sport because that is what they were put here on earth to do. Hockey is their life - Hockey is their definition ... in order to break out of that mold, one has to set himself apart.

I may be biased on the NHL - but the record speaks for itself ... jump back a few postings and look at my thoughts on the NHL drug use policy!!! You want to completely unravel the NBA ... implement that policy and watch the rats abandon the sinking ship!!!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Quick Hits

The Phoenix Coyotes signed former Montreal and Colorado goaltender David Aebischer to a one year deal yesterday.

Aebischer was involved in one of the weirdest trades I can remember in which he was traded by Colorado to Montreal for the unstable Jose Theodore. It looked like Aebischer was on his way to being a solid number one in Colorado until the trade, which is why I thought the trade seem odd. It was more of a lateral move than anything else, a lateral move that added salary no less. Theodore did, however, eventually play pretty well but it looks like Peter Budaj is going to be the starter in Colorado very soon regardless.

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Ty Conklin to back-up Marc-Andre Fleury.

The journeyman Conklin has proven to be a bit inconsistent in the past, which means he should fit in perfectly with the Pens.

Matthew Barnaby retires.

The fan favorite tough guy with the huge personality is finally calling it quits. He finished with 300 points and a whopping 2,562 penalty minutes in 834 games.

Eric Lindros pondering retirement.

Captain concussion is focusing on his work with the NHLPA and has yet to decide whether he'd like to come back and get knocked unconscious a few more times.

Rangers traded Matt Cullen back to his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, for Andrew Hutchinson, Joe Barnes and a third round pick in 2008.

The Rangers had vehemently denied rumors that there were going to trade Cullen, only to turn around and do just that. However, it did open up cap space for them and if they demote Kasparaitis and his inflated salary to the minors they may create enough room to re-sign Sean Avery and Marcel Hossa. They should at least be able to retain one of them.

And now for the big one....

A few sites have reported that ESPN wants to get back into hockey

Eklund at HockeyBuzz even used the word "desperate" to describe ESPN's desire to re-enter the hockey game. While VERSUS is a moving disaster in many ways, they do have a deal for the coming season with an option for the following 3 seasons. It sounds like they may be willing to take a smaller number of games and allow ESPN and ESPN2 to carry the majority of the season. Not only would this give the NHL their largest potential audience in history, it would also help pull the sport out of network obscurity and put them back on the major sports map. You simply can't compete with ESPN's exposure and the NHL made a huge mistake going with VERSUS in the first place. Now, it looks like they may be in a position to make up for that mistake.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Par for the Course and Today's Trade


In typical fashion Jeremy Roenick is going back on his retirement claims, saying that he isn't sure whether or not he's going to hang up the skates. I'm guessing he looked at his gambling debts and thought "hmmm, I bet I can sucker some team into signing me for another year at a couple million.....that should at least cover my super bowl losses." If you're unaware of Roenick's previous transgression look no further than this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2919-2004Aug15.html.

If you're looking for additional reasons to hold little respect for Roenick, refer to this article where he claims that "It would be a travesty" if he wasn't on the USA hockey team and threatens that if he fails to make the cut Team USA "better hope that I don't get a job as a commentator on NBC for [the Games], or it'd be 'Go Canada' all the way, and I don't want that."

Here's the article: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=2252497

Of course, they left the old, withered man off the roster and he had this to say about it: "I know nobody on that team has more points in the National Hockey League than me. So if they want to go that way, good luck," Roenick said.

Considering that Mike Modano was on the USA hockey team, that's a pretty stupid claim....even for Roenick. Frankly, the man is totally devoid of class. The only reason I'd like to see him come back is so I watch him suffer through another 20 point season and punctuate his career with a massive, vomit-inducing concussion at the hands of Chris Pronger, Chris Neil or any other player in the NHL. It's over, it was over a long time ago, let it go and please, for the love of everything holy, don't go into broadcasting.

Ottawa and Boston

Now, on to more interesting news and better players, the Ottawa Senators cut salary today by trading Peter Schaefer to the Bruins in exchange for Shean Donovan. Schaefer is definitely a more talented player but this was done to create cap space in order to accommodate what will be a substantial raise for their number one goaltender Ray Emery.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lemme Break It Down For Ya!

Last year San Jose played Tampa Bay IN Tampa, about 1 hour from me. I missed that game for one reason or another and thought to myself - I'll just catch them next year. Not sure if you looked at their schedule this year but you probably guessed - NO SHARKS IN FLORIDA!!! I mean come on ... at least the NHL could have had fun marketing those games! "Sharks arrive in Florida looking to tame the Lightning" or "Panthers and Sharks - Florida's 2 arch rivals face off in Sunrise"

Of course that would mean in this $4.9 Billion league someone would have to focus on the whole "how does the rest of the world view our sport." The NHL is by far the most UNDER valued league in the U.S. - I don't want to chase this rabbit anymore ... the main reason for this post is to talk about the whole NHL schedule creation process and the algorithm they use to set the game schedule for the coming season.

Here is the information -


Each club will play eight games against each of its four division rivals (32 total).

Each club will play four games against each of the 10 non-division clubs in its conference (40 total).

Each club will play 10 inter-conference games, hosting one game each against all five clubs from a designated division and traveling for one game each against all five clubs from a different division. For the 2005-06 season, Northeast Division clubs will host the Pacific Division and visit the Northwest; Atlantic Division clubs will host the Northwest and visit the Central; and Southeast Division clubs will host the Central and visit the Pacific. Division vs. division assignments will rotate annually.


The new schedule strengthens division rivalries; division rivals played each other six times under the previous schedule.

The new schedule maintains integrity of the conference-based playoff format; each club continues to play 40 games against non-division, intra-conference opponents.

The new schedule allows for continued exposure of teams and star players from the other conference.

The new schedule allows for more compelling television matchups, thanks to the combination of stronger division rivalries with continued intra- and inter-conference play.

As everything, I think there is room for improvement - I don't know if playing 8 games against each team in your division is to much or just right? I like the idea of having outside conference matchups, get the super stars in the league traveling around and visiting more teams. If you weigh the divisional games to heavy you will have (as you had last year) the super strong divisions and on division that is the ADHD division - which like it or not will have its 1st place team in the top 3 for the conference. I would like to see the NHL take a more inner-conference look at the league and then branch it out to the whole league. If each team could play in each arena ONCE a year that would be Very cool (Yes, I know San Jose would have to host 29 different teams and Visit 29 different arenas) that would leave us at 58 games played ... we still have 24 games left in the season that could be used for Conf/Div play. Maybe 16 division games (you can still get the 4 games per division team here) and 8 Conf games.

OR maybe I just don't have a CLUE as to what this schedule is all about - I just woke up this morning thinking about "what formula does the NHL use to create the game schedule" ... did a little reading, and here I am!!!

So - what are your thoughts on this? Use the comment feature on this post, I would like to see if there could be some discussion on how the NHL picks the games. Next time I'll talk about the lack of attention and the absolute amazing opportunity the NHL has just sitting right in front of them and yet - they will not pay attention!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

New Sharks Logo.....Maybe

Here is a leaked image of the new Sharks logo, I will let Bill comment on its quality.

Bill here - with my quick opinion.

Here is the New Logo!

Here is the Old Logo!

Now - it seems to me like San Jose has not really changed their logo much, they have gone and adjusted its orientation, added some details and deepend the Black and Teal colors. The new logo does nothing for me ... what I want to talk about is the "new look" of the Sharks territory happening in 11 days (according to their website).

Speaking of - The San Jose Sharks have the WORST website on the Internet. It loads sooooo slow and I am on DSL (even my direct connection at work crawls on the Sharks website) I think that if there is going to be ONE NHL team in the league that would have a handle on this whole "Internet" thing goin on ... it would be the team that is based in Silicon Valley - not sure if anyone told them ... there are some tallented people around that area that know a little about websites and how to make them fancy and fast.

I am crossing my fingers and hoping that in 12 days I will log onto www.sjsharks.com and have the page fully loaded within 10 seconds. I dont think that is to much to ask. Just for fun I did a quick test of a few NHL team sites and how long it took them to load.

Colorado Avalanche - 5 seconds
Anaheim Ducks - 5 seconds
Detroit Red Wings - 6 seconds
San Jose Sharks - 19 seconds (and once it loaded it froze my window for over a minute and still will not close)

So - 19 seconds ... I think is far to long! Well, after you wait the eternity for the page to load - it is so full of "functionality" that it is not even navigable.

In closing - ha ha - I think the "new" logo looks cool, I like the colors and I hope they darken the Teal on their home sweaters next season too. However, I think that if they are doing a re-vamp ... my prayers are for a website that is at least enjoyable to look at.

Edmonton Gets the Consolation Prize and RFA News

According to TSN, the Oilers have landed one of the last major free agents available by agreeing to a deal with former Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray. The deal is apparently worth $27 million and is heavily front-loaded with Souray making over $6 million in the first couple of years. The Oilers were desperate to make a splash in free agency and despite this deal they've still only made a ripple.

Also, the Dallas Stars have avoided arbitration and re-signed both Mike Ribiero and Joel Lundqvist. Ribiero signed a one year deal worth $2.8 million while Lundqvist signed a two year deal for $1.45 million. Lundqvist isn't a huge signing though he did show some ability in his rookie season. Ribiero, however, is exactly the kind of playmaking forward that the offensively-handicapped Stars desperately need.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Interesting Draft Story and the NHL Schedule

The NHL released the 06-07 schedule today. The season will kick off on Saturday September 29th with a game between two California rivals, the Stanley Cup winning Ducks and the new-look Kings. Those two teams will also play the next day. The kicker is that both of those games will happen in London. The NHL is trying to spread it's influence, much like the NFL was doing last season, so it should be interesting to see what kind of attendance these two games draw.

You can view the rest of the schedule here: http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app?service=page&page=Schedule.

I posted a draft story about Angelo Esposito a few days ago and now ESPN has posted one about another player. The story is that of Akim Aliu, a 6-3 209 lb power forward from Nigeria who's only been playing hockey for 6 years. Despite his very late start, most players his age have been playing for 12-14 years, he was still ranked by some as a potential first round prospect. However, feuds with his teammates, one dramatic publicized spectacle and a history of drama sunk him to the Blackhawks with the 56th pick overall.

It's always nice to see ESPN covering unique, non-mainstream hockey stories and the story itself is quite interesting. You can read the story here: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=2932633

Rangers, Old Men and RFAs Oh My

The New York Ranger have somehow managed to sign both Brendan Shanahan and their number one goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, to one-year deals.

25-year-old Lundqvist, who was a restricted free agent (RFA), signed a deal that will pay him $4.25 million next season. He made $817,000 last season where he won 37 games, which tied him for eight in the league. Of course, after next season he will become an unresticted free agent unless New York is able to work out a new deal during the season. However, it's important to remember that the Rangers really signed this deal in order to keep teams like the Oilers from stealing him while they work on a long-term contract.

Shanny, on the other hand, will make $2.5 million this season with easily attainable bonuses, which don't count towards the salary cap, that could bring his total salary up to around $5.3 million. The 38-year-old winger's showed last season that he could still score putting up 62 points and 29 goals in 67 games. While this was a little off of his previous year's pace where he played every game and scored 40 goals and added 41 assists, it was still a good season for an aging player and earned him a spot in the 06-07 All Star game. His season was shortened when he inadvertently slammed face first into the Flyer's Mike Knuble, fracturing Knuble's orbital bone and giving Shanahan a pretty serious concussion. This was a scary moment:

These two signings, coupled with the monster deals handed out to Gomez and Drury, put the Rangers right up against the cap. This means that Marcel Hossa and Sean Avery, the other two RFAs, will most likely find themselves on new teams next season. While Hossa won't have a great immediate impact on a roster, though he does have potential, Avery is the kind of player that many teams need.

The 5-10, 185 lb winger is a nasty, physical agitator with an underrated amount of offensive ability. He put up 10 goals and 28 points in 55 games with the Kings, which isn't bad for an agitator. However, his production increased dramatically when he was moved to New York at the deadline where in 29 games he scored 8 goals and added 12 assists. He also found himself playing on the top two lines with players like Jaromir Jagr and Shanahan. This also improved his plus/minus from a -10 rating with the Kings to a +11 with the Rangers. He showed in New York that he could handle additional resposibility and not put his team in tough situations by taking ill-advised penalties, a knock against him in previous years. His physical nature and offensive potential alone should guarantee him a raise and a healthy number of interested teams. A few of the teams that showed a serious lack of toughness in the playoffs (I'm talking to you Pittsburgh and Buffalo) would help themselves out by taking a look at the tough guy that has shown an ability to play on the top scoring line.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Horse Wasn't Quite Dead

I wanted to share this video as a follow-up to a post I made late last month about public perception of the Bertuzzi event. I discussed how I felt that Bertuzzi's punishment was deserved but also how I felt that the public had quickly disowned him based on the result of the act and not the act itself. The video below is a perfect example of how public perception is based on the outcome of a cheap shot and not the intent or danger of the act itself.

Bill mentioned that Bertuzzi's shot ended a player's career and thus needs to be judged accordingly. My only issue with that is that we punish and judge much like our broken law system. If someone drinks a fifth of Jack, jumps behind the wheel of a car and crashes into a family of four they can have two very different outcomes in terms of punishment. If anyone dies, then chances are they're going to prison. However, if they only shatter a few pelvises and possibly make it difficult for them to walk for the rest of their life then their punishment is much less severe. My question is, what role did they play in the outcome of that crash? If no one died, they got lucky and get a lighter punishment which makes no sense to me. By no fault of their own did someone NOT die. This applies directly to the NHL.

The video I included above shows exactly what I'm talking about. If I remember correctly, Bure was fined for this and not suspended. In today's NHL, he would definitely be suspended. He would most likely be suspended for both the elbow and the very high slash he delivers early in the video but that's not the point. The point is that this had a very serious impact on Shane Churla's career costing him a lot of games that season. Frankly, he was never quite the same for the Stars afterwards. However, this event was never on the TV, never on the radio and no one cared simply because Bure got lucky that Churla didn't break his neck or suffer a career ending injury. There are a million of these instances where players got lucky not to cause the same kind of injury that Bertuzzi did but that one moment sticks out in everyone's head and I can't help but comment on the fact that he ends up being the whipping boy. The fact of the matter is that Bure continued to be a celebrated player, and still is today, despite an action that was, frankly, more dangerous and nastier than Bertuzzi's punch. Of course, sports are all about judging for yourself.

Oh, and I promise that this will be my last post on the topic. I simply couldn't help but share the video. The horse is officially glue.

A 1025% Raise for Crosby

According to various sites, Sidney Crosby has been signed to a five-year extension worth somewhere in the $43 million range which breaks down to about $8.7 million per year. Crosby, who chose not to ask for the maximum salary allowed by the CBA, will play on the last year of his entry level contract this coming season and make $850,000 in base salary. Not a bad raise or pay day for a soon-to-be 20 year old kid. However, unlike many of the free agent contracts, this pay raise is well deserved.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Fall from Grace and Land Softly in Pittsburgh

Most of us are aware of the incredible string of draft picks earned by the Penguins over the last few years, and of course by earned I mean received as a consolation prize after being flat-out, bottom of the barrel awful. Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Whitney, Jordan Staal will all be future stars in this league. Of course, the most famous pick of all was their first overall pick in 2005 of Sidney Crosby. After one of the best single season turnarounds in NHL history, due in large part to those aforementioned youngsters, the Penguins, who were used to drafting in the top three, had the 20th pick overall. To Pittsburgh officials, it must have been like not having a pick until the end of the 5th round. They were primarily passengers for much of the early draft excitement as they simply waited to see who they might be able to snag that slipped through the cracks....nineteen cracks to be exact. However, it appears that the Penguins may have lucked out yet again at the draft.

A year ago Angelo Esposito was considered by many to be a shoe-in for the first overall pick of the draft. The 17 year old was coming off of a stellar 2005-2006 season in Quebec scoring 98 points with 39 goals in just 57 games with a +42 rating. Afterwards, he was quickly appointed the next first overall pick. Angelo himself is the first to admit that the draft pressure impacted him as he cooled off considerably in his next season, and his last prior to the draft, scoring 79 points with 27 goals and a +9 rating in 60 games. This fall off in production sent him tumbling down the prospect rankings. He was quickly stripped of the first overall pick expectation and generally fell somewhere in the latter half of the top 10 on most lists. Scouts claimed that he showed a lack of physical play, often choosing to play on the outside and avoid high traffic areas. They were also concerned with his consistency and play without the puck. Now, of course, it's important to note that he still averaged well over a point-per-game and ended up with a positive plus/minus but he had set an enormous expectation with his performance during the 05-06 season and he simply failed to repeat that same level of success. Fast forward to the draft and the Penguins waiting patiently in the 20th spot.

Player after player is marked off the board and Esposito still sits, waiting to hear his name called. Cameramen frequently frame Angelo's face after each pick is announced. It's tough to watch and I felt for the kid. He plays two major seasons upon which he was judged. The first was astronomical and put him at the top and the second, while seemingly solid according to the statistics, had him free falling through the first round. The same scouts that were once singing his praises had now kicked him down the proverbial stairs.

After 19 other picks, the Penguins management staff, who seemed as surprised as anyone, was able to step to the podium and unveil a black and gold jersey with Angelo's name on it. So now, the team that has all the high first round picks in the world, is able to have a great season and with the 20th pick in the draft still grab a guy who could have possibly been first overall. In interviews, you could tell that the Penguins and Esposito felt as if they'd hit the jackpot. For him, the act of falling so far just to land on Crosby's team was the peak of what had otherwise been a very uncomfortable roller coaster ride. Esposito earned a lot of respect for how he handled the situation and his fall from grace. He spoke openly about how he knew that he hadn't played his best. And now, because of that, he'll most likely get to play with Sidney Crosby and the other wonder-kids in the next few years. Just think, he could have ended up in hockey hell: aka Chicago.

This is one of those draft stories that make sports and the draft so interesting. Historically, the best players in the NFL draft usually get taken in the 2nd round or even later. Tom Brady is a great example of this. You'd think that football would be easier to predict since the young men being drafted are generally in their prime and are expected to play, and play well, immediately. In hockey, we're drafting kids prior to college. We're scouting them at 14, 15 and 16 years old and then trying to predict how they'll perform a handful of years later against people more than a decade older than them. It may be a while before we find out if the Penguins hit the lottery or whether those other teams saw something that the Penguins missed but in Esposito, the Penguins have a player who's proven he can play the game at very high level. He's shown creativity with the puck, a nose for the net and now he has something else...a chip on his shoulder and sometimes that can make all the difference in the world.

They made WHO the Captain???

Today - in NY, Garth Snow introduced Bill Guerin as the new captain of the Isle's for next season. WHAT???

Here is his comment from the announcement - "I'm completely surprised, but thrilled about this tremendous honor," said Guerin. "I want to thank the organization for the vote of confidence and I will not take this captaincy lightly. Thank you Garth. Thank you, Charles. I'm excited about joining a team with such a wonderful history. I speak for all four of us when I say this is a group of players that wants to be here and play as team."

I can say from seeing his preformance from the last half of last season with the Sharks that Bill Gurein should be shown the DOOR instead of the letter "C" he will be wearing on his jersey next year.

We'll see what Snow has up his sleeve ... is it something in Guerin we dont see, or is it the copius amount of BS the Guerin has been able to slather on about during his one on one's with Snow!

A True Grind Line

Former St. Louis fan-favorite Dallas Drake has signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings, the team that originally drafted him in 1989. If Drake joins Maltby and Draper on the checking line, it could make for one of the nastiest, kamikaze-style grind lines in hockey.

A great example of what he'll bring to a team that needs a little more toughness:

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sid the Kid and the Desire to Win

Sidney Crosby is in the last year of his NHL entry-level deal. Now, he's not eligible as an unrestricted free agent in 2012 but the Penguins still have sign him to a new deal. This means that he's about to get paid handsomely. Most would just assume that the Penguins would just sign him to a 10-year deal at the maximum allowable amount which is just over $10 million per year and be done with it. His statistics, contributions and accolades easily call for a maximum salary. Frankly, he's the best forward in the league right now.

However, information coming out of the negotiations says that Sidney Crosby doesn't want a max-salary deal like that. He obviously wants to get paid, who doesn't, and he clearly deserves it but he wants team assurances before signing such a deal. He wants to win, plain and simple. He wants to be a part of a team and is willing to take less salary in order to do it. Specifically, he wants to make sure that they are going to keep that young and talented nucleus of Whitney, Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Fleury together for a long time to come. They already inked Whitney to a 6 years deal so that's one player down. Malkin and Staal are still on their entry-level contracts and will be for the next couple of years. After that, they'll want to get paid too and in today's day and age it's incredibly difficult to retain all of your young talent. All it takes is one of those players on the list to have different priorities and the nucleus is broken. Regardless of how it turns out, it's refreshing to see a professional athlete who's desire to win exceeds his desire for a few extra million dollars.

A great example of the opposite mentality, and a player whom I never thought I would say this about, is Paul Kariya. I'm shocked that the 32 year old winger signed with the St. Louis Blues. He was being courted by teams that have the ability to win now and, instead, he took a big contract with a team that hasn't made the playoffs in what seems like an eternity. Maybe there is more to this story. Maybe he loves St. Louis. Maybe he loves the uniforms. Regardless, I was surprised that at his age he didn't want to play in Pittsburgh, who reportedly was offering $750k or $1 million less than St. Louis, Dallas or any of the other teams that were courting him, teams that will be playing for the cup next season. Oh well, at least he'll be a cheap veteran addition at the trade deadline when the Blues are looking up from well below the eighth playoff spot in the west.

Post-Vanek Fallout

In what can only be described as a quick, defensive reaction to the massive offer sheet Edmonton gave Thomas Vanek yesterday, the New York Rangers have decided to take their number one goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, to arbitration. This was done because once a player is signed up for arbitration, either by their own doing or that of their team, no other team can make them an offer. This was a way for the Rangers to protect themselves as they continue to negotiate a long-term deal with their netminder.

This also means that the Oilers cannot pursue Lee Stempniak in St. Louis or Cammalleri in Los Angeles, both of whom have already filed for arbitration. Of course, if either of those teams didn't want to pay the salary awarded to them by the arbitrator then they become free game. Kevin Lowe and the Oilers can, however, go after the Devil's Zach Parise who has not filed for arbitration. To make matters worse, the Devils are rumoured to be pursuing Sheldon Souray as well. Souray is looking for a monster contract and if they were to sign Souray to such a deal it would put them in serious danger of losing their future NHL star. The Oilers are simply waiting for them to make that mistake.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Walking The Walk - Drug Use in the NHL

Sean Hill was signed by the Wild today ... this signing would have been lost in a sea of transactions if it was not for Sean Hill being suspended for using the anabolic steroid boldenone. Last year he was popped ... one game left in the NY Islanders playoff future and Sean Hill was busted using performance enhancing drugs.

If you are not aware of the NHL's stance on illegal drug use here is the breakdown:
1st offense - 20 game suspension
2nd offense - 60 game suspension
3rd offense - League expulsion (player can request to be readmitted after waiting 2 years)

I wish more sports leagues would follow this rule ... the NFL, the NBA, what about Major League Baseball ... its a joke! You'll NEVER see an asterisk (*) by any NHL players records.

Sean Hill thought his career was over - he missed the last game of the playoffs for the Islanders 2 months ago because of drug use, and he did not know what his future held. He became the first NHL player to be suspended for violating the league's drug policy. He received a 20-game suspension and will miss the first 19 games of this season because yesterday the Minnesota Wild called him up ...

"For the Wild to come out and tell me they wanted me, I can't tell you the feelings I had," Hill said in a telephone interview Friday, hours after finalizing a one-year deal with the Wild worth $475,000. "I've played a lot of years in this league, and that wasn't the way I wanted to go out."

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, a player receives a 20-game suspension for a first positive test and is subject to a mandatory referral to the league's substance abuse-behavioral health program for evaluation, education and possible treatment. Every NHL player can be given up to two tests without notice every year, at any time. This is a sure way to guarantee that your league and your team is playing ethically.

In this day and age when Role Models in sports are few and far between, its the players in the NHL that are hardly in the negative spotlight. Sean Hill is the FIRST NHL player to be suspended for this activity (Foot note - he says he does not know how the steroid was ingested). I think the NHL should be used as the example for all franchises and sporting leagues when it comes to drug use policy. However, I find it hard to believe that the NFL, NBA or MLB would ever want to cannibalize itself that way. This story breaks close to the same time when Michael Vick is busted housing Pitt Bull dogs on his property, dogs that are used for dog fights and gambling - isnt Michael Vick the same NFL player that tried to conceal his pot in a water bottle while trying to board a flight in Miami last season? He is not one of the smart ones.

Did you ever see the SNL skit regarding this incident ... REALLY!?!?

To add insult to injury ... Sean Hill took a $200,000 + pay cut from last year to go to the Wild. That is the commitment these players have to the sport, the league and the team. Its the passion that drives them to play, the passion to lift the Stanley Cup!!!

Last year Hill had one goal and 24 assists in 81 games for the Islanders. The hard-nosed native of Duluth ranked third in the NHL in hits and sixth in blocked shots. Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro called Hill "one of our most consistent defensemen all season, and an unbelievable character guy."

And the Games Have Begun

I'm away from the computer for just over an hour and the hockey world has a moderately sized explosion. The 23-year old Thomas Vanek, a restricted free agent for the Buffalo Sabres, just had his dreams come true. The fifth overall draft pick of 2003 had an incredible sophomore season leading Buffalo in goals with 43. He also added 41 assists and earned an astronomical plus/minus of +47.

Well, the Oilers had intended to be serious players in the free agent pool and flat out struggled to do so which drove them to tender an enormous offer sheet for Vanek. They offered him a seven-year, $50 million dollar deal which is a considerable raise over his $942,000 salary last year. Since Vanek was a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer from the Sabres, Buffalo had the option to match the deal or choose to pass and receive four first round draft picks as compensation from the Oilers.

For those that don't know, a restricted free agent can receive offer sheets from other teams that their team has the option to match. If their original team chooses to pass on the offer, allowing the other team to sign their player, they get draft picks as compensation. The number and round of the picks is dependant on the size of the offer:

$660,000 or below........................no compensation
Over $600,000 to $1 million..........a 3rd round pick
Over $1 million to $2.0 million.......a 2nd round pick
Over $2.0 million to $3.0 million....a 1st and 3rd round pick
Over $3.0 million to $4.0 million....a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick
Over $4.0 million to $5.0 million....Two 1st round picks, a 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick
Over $5.0 million............................Four first round picks

Buffalo had apparently been telling Edmonton all along that they would match whatever deal was offered, something they had been very public about, so this was most likely a strategic move by Edmonton. Frankly, Buffalo was hesitant to give Briere and/or Dury money simply because they wanted to have this kind of money available to lock-up Vanek. As expected, Buffalo quickly scheduled a press conference to announce that they had, in fact, decided to match the deal.

The reality of it is that the Oilers didn't expect to get Vanek, but it could mean that they fully intend to pursue another RFA such as Zach Parise in New Jersey. Could this have been a message to the Devils or other teams with valuable RFAs? A way of saying "we're coming after your guys full force so you better have the cap space to match?" It could also be a scare tactic since rumors have been rampant that the Oilers are trying to pull off a big trade after flopping in free agency. This could be used to tell, for example, the Devils that they'll need to listen to the Oilers trade requests for Elias. If they don't, they'll stand to lose Parise since Edmonton, without Elias, will have the cap space to make an offer that the Devils flat out can't afford to match. All in all, Kevin Lowe is up to something in Edmonton and I, for one, am loving it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Understanding the Arbitration Process and the List

Arbitration is a tool that teams and players can use to handle salary disputes. It is only available to restricted free agents with four years of NHL experience. However, this term can be reduced for players that signed their first contract after the age of 20. Teams also have the ability to take their players to arbitration but a team may only take a player to arbitration one time in their career. Furthermore, a team can request no more than an 85% decrease in the player's salary. Players, on the other hand, can request an arbitration hearing as much as they'd like throughout their professional career.

In arbitration, the player (and their agent) and the team each propose a potential salary and then argue for why they believe that salary to be fair. They base their proposals on things such as the player's previous statistics, their overall contributions to the team's success or failure, and the salaries received by other players that are deemed comparable.

A decision is made within 48 hours and at that point the team has the right to accept the arbitrators decision and sign the player to the deal or walk away. If the team walks away, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and can be signed by any team in the league.

After the big contracts that have been handed out, the most recent of which was to the fading Bill Guerin for $4.5 million per year, the arbitrators may price some of these players right out the door and off of their team. However, this does open up some options for teams like the Islanders and Sabres who both had the wind and soul knocked out of them on opening day of free agency.

According to TSN and a few other sites here are some noteworthy players that will be filing for arbitration:

Buffalo Sabres
Nathan Paetsch
Derek Roy

Buffalo won't let either of these players leave after the mass exodus that has already occurred. However, now that Vanek signed his enormous deal how much money do they have left to work with?

Dallas Stars
Antti Miettinen
Mike Ribeiro

Ribeiro is a creative, playmaking centerman who, at times, was the Stars best player last season. Therefore, I think the Stars, who are in absolute desperate need of scoring power, would be insane to let him go regardless of the ruling. Miettinen hasn't amounted to much in his 2 full NHL seasons scoring 31 points in the first season and 25 in the second. However, the Stars are short on youth and Antti shouldn't get a huge raise in arbitration making him easy to retain.

Los Angeles Kings
Mike Cammalleri

The 25 year old playmaking centerman was consistently the best player on the Kings' roster last season. He scored 34 goals and added 46 assists last season for a team that struggled to win hockey games and is in position for a huge raise. However, Los Angeles spent some cash in free agency so the question is whether or not they'll be able to retain him after the ruling. They'd be crazy not to, of course.

Montreal Canadiens
Michael Ryder

In his first NHL season (03-04) Ryder scored 25 goals and 63 points. His production has stayed consistent scoring 30 goals in each of the last two seasons. However, despite 30 goals and 58 points last season he was a -25 which will hurt him in arbitration. Regardless, a 30 goal scorer is due for a raise and the Canadiens, after failing to secure any big name free agents, will most likely keep him.

New York Islanders
Trent Hunter

After scoring 51 points in his first NHL season, Hunter settled to a total of 35 points in each of the last two seasons. He's 6'3 frame and scoring ability make him a desired asset and after losing so many people to free agency I expect the Islanders will grant him a long-term deal even before arbitration.

New York Rangers
Sean Avery
Marcel Hossa

The Rangers may be in trouble after spending all that money on Gomez and Drury if the arbitrator grants both Hossa and Avery solid deals. Buffalo could use someone of Avery's nastiness, as could Pittsburgh, but for some reason I don't see him landing on either of those teams. However, I don't think he'll be Ranger next season either. Marcel Hossa, on the other hand, will most likely stay with the blue shirts.

Ottawa Senators
Ray Emery
Chris Kelly
Christoph Schubert

Many were expecting multiple teams around the league to make offer sheets to Ray Emery forcing Ottawa's hand to either match those deals or let the restricted free agent leave the team. Considering that Ray Emery lead them to the Stanley Cup finals, I expect the arbitrator to grant Emery a huge award putting Ottawa in a serious bind. Also, Kelly and Schubert both had solid playoff performances and could be in line for a raise.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Colby Armstrong

After showing tremendous promise scoring 40 points in only 47 games during the 05-06 season, Armstrong was only able to muster 34 points in 80 games last season. He is, however, the kind of physical power forward that Pittsburgh so desperately needs so I don't seem him being anything other than a Pen next year.

St. Louis Blues
Lee Stempniak

Lee Stempniak had a break out sophomore season scoring 52 points in a full 82 games. The 24 year old has boat loads of talent and should play on the top line in St. Louis which all but guarantees that the Blues will accept whatever deal the arbitrator gives him.

Those Left Standing

Now that Jeremy Roenick has retired with all the class that he was known for, which is to say none at all, I wanted to focus on those that are left wading in the free agent pool.

Here are my top guys that are still available:

  1. Dominik Hasek - The Dominator proved in the playoffs that even at the ripe age of 42 he still had something left in the tank. The question is whether or not he used it all up in that stretch. He was able to play in 56 games in the regular season, his highest since the 2001-2002 season with the Red Wings, despite his tendency for injury and can still serve as a number 1 goaltender for a team that has a solid back-up. Rumor has it that Detroit is still trying to get him to re-sign while they look for a solid back-up to support the old man. (7/5 - RE-SIGNED WITH DETROIT FOR ONE YEAR WORTH JUST OVER $2 MILLION)
  2. Brendan Shanahan - Other than missing about a month after inadvertently smashing his face into Knuble's head in February, the veteran winger had a great year averaging nearly a point per game. It doesn't appear that he has any desire to retire after expressing an interest to re-sign with the Rangers prior to free agency. However, the Rangers may have spent all of their money on Drury and Gomez so Brendan will likely need to play his last few years off of Broadway. (7/10 - RE-SIGNED WITH THE RANGERS FOR ONE YEAR WORTH $2.5 MILLION WITH $2.8 MILLION AVAILABLE IN ATTAINABLE BONUSES)
  3. Sheldon Souray - While he's roughly as effective as a telephone pole in his own end, earning him a solid -28 plus/minus which was among the league's worst, Souray possesses one of the best point shots in the league. He scored 26 goals and tallied 38 assists in 81 games last season putting him third in the league among defenseman in points and first in goals. However, his questionable play in his own zone combined with his desire to make a ridiculous amount of money for a defenseman with one of the league's worst plus/minus has kept him from landing on a team thus far. I expect that someone will over pay for him in the next few days. I think it's also important to note that Souray's point totals last year were significantly better than any year prior so take from that what you will.
  4. Teemu Selanne - Teemu did two things last season. He proved that he's still one of the best examples of hands and speed in the league and he earned the enviable and awkward position of having nothing left to prove. I'm guessing that the $4 million a year contract for Bertuzzi means that Burke, Anaheim's GM, expects the Finish Flash to go ahead and call it a career. It's too bad, he was a great player to watch and I'm glad he got his name on the cup.
  5. Peter Forsberg - Frankly, Peter's on here because he has to be. If he decides to play, and can physically play with those maligned feet of his, he's a great player to have. However, he's not worth the risk if it requires any real money to secure him. He has, however, informed everyone that he won't be returning until December which could make him a bargain for the last half of the season and the playoff run.
  6. Mike Comrie - Unlike almost everyone else on this list Mike Comrie is still young. The streaky centerman is 26 years old and is, in many ways, still developing. He totaled 45 points in 65 games last season and managed to have a +1 rating after 24 games in Phoenix. He cooled off after being sent to Ottawa but is still a solid second line center. It seems that multiple teams are pursuing Comrie now that the top-tier centermen are gone and I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up in Buffalo. (7/5 - SIGNED A ONE YEAR DEAL WORTH $3.3 MILLION WITH THE ISLANDERS WHO ALSO SIGNED GUERIN TO A TWO-YEAR DEAL AT $4.5 MILLION PER YEAR)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

I'm Retiring - By Text Message???

Evidently that is the way Jeremy Roenick decided to let the world know he is out of the game. This 9 time All Star, #3 American top scorer, player on the Silver Medal winning 2002 Olympic team uses his cell phone to send a text message to a Philly Inquirer reporter announcing his withdrawl from NHL Hockey - I am sure this comes as a surprise to the Phoenix Coyotes!

Jeremy Roenick compiled impressive regular season stats, netting career 495 goals (behind Mike Modano - 507 and Joey Mullen - 502), 675 assists and totaled 1,413 minutes in penalties. In 136 playoff games, he scored 51 goals and added 65 assists.

Roenick played for the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Coyotes. He was drafted by the Blackhawks eighth overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Good 'Ole Canadian Controversy

The Edmonton Oilers are calling for a penalty against Michael Nylander and his agent for what they consider to be dishonest business practices. Many hockey sites announced on Sunday that Nylander had signed with the Oilers and, according to Edmonton's Coach Kevin Lowe, they had good reason. However, those same sites then announced that Nylander had signed a four-year deal with the Washington Capitals the next day.

The Oilers claim that they had a deal worked out with Nylander and, considering it a done deal, had modified their free agent search accordingly. The story claims that while the Oilers were waiting for the signed paperwork to come back they discovered, via those same websites, that he had actually signed with the Capitals.

You can read the full story on TSN here: http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=212659&hubname=nhl

This is going to be an interesting story for the next few weeks as I'm sure the Oilers will seek some kind of compensation. Whether or not the league reacts remains to be seen but this could change the way deals are done in the future. It could force owners and general managers to put more strict time lines on accepting deals and getting them "on paper." Regardless, the NHL now has its own mini-soap opera and I'm sure the Oilers' fans will let the Rangers hear it if they ever make their way north of the border.

Also, the deadline for players to choose arbitration is July 5th with the arbitrators ruling due by August 6th. There are a few players expected to announce their desire to go to arbitration already with more to surely come. This could be exactly the thing that the teams who lost in the free agent lottery need to add a few key players. Remember that Buffalo lost JP Dumont last year simply because they couldn't afford what many considered to be player-friendly arbitration rulings. There's no reason not to expect similar situations this year especially with the bloated contracts that are being blindly slung to free agents.

Drew Remenda may return to the Sharks!

This is GREAT news. Drew use to be an analyst for the Sharks on TV and Radio back when I worked for the team. In 2005/06 he left the Sharks for the Canadian Network TV ... the rumor of Drew coming back to the Sharks is GREAT news to me. I enjoyed his wit, his sarcasm and his "on air" personality (along with his off air personality also) - He is just an all around good guy.

If this rumor is true ... Shark Fans will be very happy to hear the familiar voice again analyzing plays, teams, coaches and the like.

I'll throw my 2 cents worth of opinion into the Bertuzzi move ... Todd Bertuzzi's actions have ended an NHL players career. Some people think he did it with malice, others think that it was an unfortunate turn of events. If you don't know what Bertuzzi did - in March of 2004 Todd Bertuzzi played for the Canucks and they were playing the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Steve Moore's back was to Todd because Todd was trying to instigate Steve into fighting with him (retaliation to a hit Steve Moore gave Naslund a month earlier) ... Steve would not even acknowledge Todd's attempt to fight with him (since Colorado was KILLING Vancouver 9 - 2) so Todd took a cheap shot, it happens, cheap shots are thrown just about EVERY game. Todd Bertuzzi took a very cheap shot from behind and hit Steve Moore in the temple which resulted in Steve Moore collapsing onto the ice with Bertuzzi on top of him. Bertuzzi fell onto Moore (who's head hit the ice) and gave him "concussion like" symptoms. Steve Moore has not played a game since, his career was ended because of the injuries he sustained from that incident.

Now - I will go back to what Clint said. Intent has to be considered when punishing players. There is NO excuse for a player to take a swing at another player with his stick - the intent of that action is to harm or injure the player. The hits and checks and fist fights are all part of hockey ... its a physical sport and when these men take the ice, its not about friendships, or who likes who ... its about their team winning! When someone gets called for boarding, cross checking, hooking, fighting, tripping, or any other penalty in hockey ... most of the time they are not victims. They are doing what they have to do to get the upper hand. With the new rules and changes coming to the NHL - we'll see how the form and shape the sport in the future.

Bertuzzi as a Duck will be interesting to watch. Especially since Anaheim and San Jose have such a rivalry ... I hope Todd is able to keep his retaliations fair.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Infamy Meets the OC

The infamous Todd Bertuzzi has signed a two-year deal with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks worth $8 million. While one of our soon-to-be contributors will surely cry foul, or just plain cry, I can't help but admit that Big Bert is a perfect fit for the team-toughness centric Ducks. He's got the size, nastiness and scoring touch that Brian Burke, Anaheim's GM, loves with a boiling passion. Of course, Burke's familiarity with the big power forward from his days as the Canucks' GM doesn't hurt either. Now whether or not his injury-prone corpse is worth $4 million a year is debatable but if he stays healthy this could be a great addition for the Ducks.

Now the question is Selanne and whether or not the fact that the money that could have been considered HIS money is now ear-marked for Mr. Bertuzzi signals the retirement of the great forward.

One other note on Bertuzzi and it's just my personal opinion. I think he's a great example of what happens when people judge and persecute based on the result of an action and not the intent. If Moore doesn't get knocked out by the punch, his neck doesn't get broken and we never think about the event again. If Moore gets knocked out and taken away on a stretcher but doesn't break his neck we STILL would never mention it in the same breath as the McSorley incident. Frankly, we'd never mention it at all. Now I agree that he deserved to be punished and, frankly, he probably deserved the punishment he got since he inflicted serious injury with a cheap shot. However, I think it's important to note that we see dangerous plays in every hockey game, we see THAT play (a punch to the back of the head) in almost every game, and we never flinch because no one leaves on a stretcher. If Pronger's nasty hit from behind in the playoffs on Holmstrom would have broken his neck or fractured his orbital bone would he be hated as much as Bertuzzi has been? I'm not sure but since it only split Holmstrom's face open no one cares.

Ovechkin's New Best Friend

Alexander Ovechkin had a good day today. His team announced this afternoon that they had signed former New York Ranger centerman Michael Nylander to a four-year deal reportedly worth $19.5 million. The Washington Capitals can breathe a small sigh of relief as they had been searching for a playmaking center to line up with Ovechkin and, potentially, Alexander Semin.

The 34-year-old Nylander was second in scoring only to his linemate Jaromir Jagr for the Rangers last season tallying 26 goals and 57 assists. He also led New York in scoring during the playoffs with 19 points in ten games. While he's far from a young man, he was drafted by the Hartford Whalers after all, he's still a great pick up for a team that was desperate for a natural setup man and it could be all Ovechkin needs to win the Maurice Richard Trophy next season.

Quiet, Late Night Moves by the Penguins

The Penguins added two veterans to their roster late last night by signing both defenseman Darryl Sydor and right wing Petr Sykora to two-year contracts. Apparently the Penguins were pursuing Paul Kariya and Scott Hannan but did not want to pay either of them more than $ 4 million per year.

It would have been great to see Kariya on Crosby's wing and Hannan would have been huge for the Pens but let's not forget that Sykora started last season on a tear playing for a team for whom a two-goal night was an offensive explosion. He scored 25 points in the first 24 games and despite a tough stretch where the Oilers lost 12 games in a row he was able to finish with 53 points in 74 games. While this is a far cry from his previous best of 81 points in 73 games back in 2000 with the Devils, it showed that he still has something left in the tank. Sykora is also a pretty consistent scorer who has only failed to score 50 points once in the last 8 years. The Penguins have been looking for someone to play the wing with Crosby and it looks like they may have found their man. At worst he'll play with Malkin which means it could mean a huge year for Sykora.

I watched Darryl Sydor play for years in Dallas and while he's not a dominating defenseman he is a solid, veteran player for the Penguins blueline. The two-time All Star (1998, 1999) generally plays a lot of games every season and has the lungs to put up over 20 minutes per night. He should help stabilize what has, at times, been a shaky defensive core.

Wheel Of Fortune - NHL Style!

Drury and Gomez head to New York, Smyth is joining the mile high club, Kariya is singing the blues, Brian Rafalski is now a Red Wing while Mathieu Schneider packs up in Detroit and heads west to the O.C. – all this, and to top it off, Philly hooks into a keeper by using the 8 year lure with a “no movement” clause … Daniel Briere! Daniel is joined by Edmonton’s Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul on Philly’s roster, which now makes the Flyers one of the “Teams to watch.” Philly has been busy in the back rooms putting together proposals that win – is this a sign of what is to come once Philly takes the ice when the season starts? Daniel, Jason and Joffrey join the recently acquired Kimmo Timonen and Scott Harnell who both made the move from Nashville to The City of Brotherly Love!!! We’ll see how much love is shown when the Flyers are unleashed on the rest of the NHL.

My take – I think it is a gamble when you absorb so many new players into an organization and expect them to hit the ice as a cohesive team running with all cylinders firing. This will be no doubt an interesting team to watch.

I am happy to read that Joe Thornton took the 3 year extension keeping him in San Jose for a little while longer. I would not be surprised to see Joe wearing the “C” on his jersey next year. At the same time I hold back a tear for Scott Hannan who is heading to Colorado! Good Luck Scott … we’ll see you soon enough. Scott is a rock solid defenseman who, when turned loose on an opponent, is deadly! He will certainly be missed. I hope the new D’s on the roster can quickly fill his shoes.

I think there were definite winners and losers yesterday during the opening of free agency. The GM’s licking their wounds today know that the job ahead of them is rough and steep – but this is the NHL, anything can happen, anything is possible. As John Tortorella use to say “Safe is Death!” On the other hand, the GM’s who inked some impressive and amazing deals have their own drama to deal with. Attitudes, Personalities, Teamwork – the usual stuff!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

New Homes and a Brand New Broadway

Daniel Briere signs with Philly for $52 million over 8 years including a no-trade clause. He and Simon Gagne are going to be fantasy monsters next season.

Mathieu Schneider signs a two-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks worth $5.5 million the first year and $5.75 million the second. This all but announces Scott Niedermayer's retirement. Now what about Selanne?

Scott Gomez AND Chris Drury both sign with the New York Rangers. Gomez signed a seven year deal worth over $51 million and Drury signed a five year deal for over $35 million. Two of the best centermen in the free agent pool land on Broadway and appear to have the desire to stay there for quite some. Which one will play with Jagr?

Here's Your Sign!

Looks like Kansas City is doubling down on their hand ... news reports are saying that just east of KC in Independence, MO the city council is looking at plans to build a $50 Million hockey arena for a team to play in the CHL. Story Here - http://www.joplinglobe.com/statenews/local_story_181233937.html

With play beginning in 2009 the new minor league team would be a well thought out addition to the NHL team that MIGHT be relocated to Kansas City. Seems that the main issue right now is the Pred's lease through 2028. Del Biaggio seems to have the midas touch and has kept the attention of Nashvilles owner Leipold long enough, I have not heard much regarding Balsille's courtship.

Having the Pred's move to Kansas City would be a strong move for the NHL - there is a market ripe for the pickings. My fear is that, like some other sports franchises, they would quietly sneak into KC under the cover of darkness and start practicing, play some games, and then wonder where all the fans are. If they were to ask me, I would say that before the ink dries on the contract Del Biaggio should be collecting commercial air time slots in KC faster than a sailor collects phone numbers during fleet week.

I think a change is good, especially in a league that has so much more potential than it is currently showing. Personally I think the NHL should have a larger following than the NBA, MLB and NFL put together - but thats just me in my pollyanna world. However, when the WNBA shows a larger following and more network broadcast time I hang my head in shame and curse the NHL for allowing OLN, Versus and the like to talk them out of the spotlight. When ESPN could have lit them up brighter than South Beach Miami on a Friday night. *These analogies are getting fun*

Well it is 10am on Sunday, 2 hours before the feeding frenzy begins. I can only imagine what it is like around the league, in owners offices, with the General Managers and Coaches crunching numbers and pulling their hair out by the roots to get that ONE player that will help them get to the Cup!