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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oilers land the "Heater"!

The Edmonton Oilers have struck a deal with Ottawa that would send Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid in exchange for Dany Heatley.

The trade is contingent upon Heatley waiving his no-trade clause.

TSN reports: "Sources say Dany Heatley has been asked to waive his no-trade clause to go to Edmonton in exchange for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid.

If Heatley agrees to waive, it would appear the Sens and Oilers will have a deal, pending the official trade call with NHL central registry, but that is generally a formality."

This is it for Heatley. If he declines, there will be no other opportunity for him to leave Ottawa as he has requested. Stick a fork in it!

Flames get hotter??? Jay Bo signs!

TSN is reporting that Jay Bouwmeester has signed a five-year contract with Calgary.

"Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter made the most of his opportunity to negotiate with Jay Bouwmeester.

The defenceman avoided unrestricted free agency by agreeing to a five-year deal worth $6.6 million per year against the salary cap on Tuesday night."

They also have reported that the Dallas Stars have re-signed right wing Jere Lehtinen to a one-year contract. The deal includes a $1.5 million base salary, and as much as $1 million more in incentives.

I'm sure there will be more happening tonight...stay tuned!

We have a trade!

The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers completed a six-player trade on the eve of the free agent rush.

Montreal receives Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto. New York gets Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko.

The deal essentially swaps Gomez for Higgins and a pair of prospects each way.

Early analysis: The Canadiens have the most cap space in the NHL and showed it with a move like this. Scott Gomez has a cap hit of $7.357 million over the next 5 years, while Higgins will be a RFA on Wednesday. Higgins made $1.9 million last season. Of course, the Rangers are not obligated to sign Higgins and basically just dumped $6.7 million dollars in salary... possibly clearing the way to acquire Dany Heatley?

Signings, offers, talks, etc...

Continuing our 11th hour signings and discussions here are some recent happenings:

The Columbus Blue Jackets have opened talks on an extension for team captain Rick Nash.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis flew to Sweden, met with Sedins for two hours, and presented his team's offer before flying back to Vancouver.

The New Jersey Devils signed Johnny Oduya to a multi-year deal reportedly worth $3 million to $3.5 million per season.

CBC reports that Mike Komisarek's agent announced Komisarek will test the open market.

More on Marian Hossa's lowball offer from the Red Wings.

The Flames are expected to make a formal offer to Bouwmeester today.

Monday, June 29, 2009

11th Hour Signings

The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins have agreed to terms with right wing Bill Guerin on a one-year contract. ESPN reports that it is for $2 million.

The Penguins have also signed forward Craig Adams to a $1.1 million, two-year contract. He will make $550,000 during each season of his new deal.

The Carolina Hurricanes announced that the team has agreed to terms with forward Jussi Jokinen on a two-year contract. The deal will pay Jokinen $1.5 million in 2009-10 and $1.9 million in 2010-11.

Although it was reported the other day in the Daily Herald: The Chicago Blackhawks and Dave Bolland, agreed to a five-year contract that pays $3.375 million per year. He made $887,000 last season. Hefty raise, no?

The Denver Post reports Peter Budaj has been re-signed by the Colorado Avalanche. A source with the Avs said Budaj has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. He made $800,000 last season.

TSN says the St. Louis Blues have re-signed defenceman Mike Weaver and forward Brad Winchester. Terms were not disclosed.

San Jose signed Rob Blake to a one-year deal for $3.5 million.

The Blue Jackets, Capitals, Wild, Ducks, Kings, Thrashers, Lightning, Stars, Sharks, Penguins, Sabres and Panthers... pretty much every team made qualifying offers to a number of RFAs.

Stay tuned here. I will update as they come in.

Pivotal Monday

We will see the free agent market reset at midnight. With the Bouwmeester and Pronger trades being the only significant moves made at the NHL Draft, we could see some literal 11th hour deals struck!

Although not a free agent, he's a man potentially on the move...The story out of Ottawa is Dany Heatley was offered around, but no team wanted him. According to the Ottawa Sun, the Senators have given Heatley's agents permission to make their own deal. The "Heater" is due a $4 million bonus on July 1st, so if there is no trade today, it most likely will not happen this season.

The Flames are talking to Jay Bouwmeester today to hammer out an agreement. Some of the "rumor sites" are reporting that a deal has been struck, but no news outlets have confirmed it. I believe that the Flames are in the best position to land JayBo. He has stated that he wants to play in Western Canada. The Flames have the cap room, offer him a competitive team and face little roster turnover this season. Neither Vancouver, nor Edmonton can make that claim.
The Detroit Free Press has indicated that the Red Wings and Marian Hossa's agent have had talks regarding an extension. However, Detroit could only offer Hossa a deal in the $4 million/per range without dumping other players. I believe that Hossa would return to the Wings at a discount, but not at thrift store prices. With teams like the Kings, Habs, Oilers, Canucks and Bruins out there... and have much more money to offer, I just can't see this working out for the Wings or Hoss.
There has been little news on Marian Gaborik, other than the Vancouver Sun reporting that there has been no confirmed real estate purchase by MG in the area. Newly appointed GM Chuck Fletcher, no doubt will be working hard to retain him before the deadline.
Although Vancouver's Mike Gillis has stated that he was "still very optimistic" about resigning them, the Sedin twins do not appear to have any offer from Vancouver. Like Hossa, there seems to be other interested suitors willing to pay more. Atlanta and Toronto in particular.

There have been no new reports regarding Lacavalier or Mike Komisarek other than the Habs are working on putting together "something" for both...
Stay tuned... we will try to keep this space updated as much as possible!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Pronger trade

The Deal:

The Ducks traded defenseman Chris Pronger and forward Ryan Dingle to the Flyers for defenseman Luca Sbisa, forward Joffrey Lupul, two first-round picks and a conditional third-round pick in 2010 or 2011. Without doubt, the Pronger trade was consummated because Scott Niedermayer will return for the '09-'10 season.

The Players:

Pronger, 34, had 11 goals and 37 assists in 82 games for Anaheim.
Dingle, 25, had 11 goals and 7 assists in 70 games last season with the Iowa Chops of the AHL.

Lupul, 25, had 25 goals and 25 assists for the Flyers in 2008-09.
Sbisa, 19, had seven assists in 39 games with the Flyers last season, also spending time with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL and the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL.
Who won?

I don't think it is even close. After watching Pronger last season, it is clear that his game is in decline. He often looks undisciplined against skilled forwards and takes too many dumb penalties. His $6.25 million cap cost, at this stage in his career, is no bargain and he becomes a free agent after this upcoming season. Dingle is now 25 and still toiling in the AHL, and smells a lot like a career minor leaguer.

Contrastingly, Lupul is nearly ten years younger than Pronger, is a proven 20 goal + forward that is also responsible in his own end. He is signed to a reasonable deal through '12-'13. Sbisa is only 19 and the Italian already has had some exposure to the NHL and appears to have a much greater upside than Dingle. Add to the deal that Philadelphia was required to include 2 first-rounders and a conditional third-round pick and it becomes evident that the Ducks should be arrested for highway robbery!

All the latest...

Welcome to HockeyPlumber: Travel edition.

I'm on the road folks. I'll have more on all of this later.

  • The Isles select Tavares at number 1 overall.
  • The Leafs stay where they are and make no day 1 splash.
  • The Flyers did get to make their big announcement of a trade. Did they get any better?
  • Detroit traded out of the first round.
  • The Penguins selected a Rob Scuderi type?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lightning, Lecavalier future: Clear as mud!

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the Board of Governors today on a variety of topics, which was highlighted by the Molsons' purchase of the Canadiens and the soap opera in Tampa.

Regarding the Lightning, staff writer, Adam Kimelman writes: "Bettman addressed speculation over the ownership situation with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Recent reports have suggested that co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie were not speaking. Bettman had the pair in his New York office Tuesday, and the commissioner said he was confident that whatever differences of opinion the two might have can and will be ironed out in time."Things are OK right now," said Bettman. "They're speaking and they sat at the Board meeting next to each other. They may, long-term, have some issues they'd like to resolve, (but) things are stable and OK right now. I think ultimately whatever's going on can be resolved. The owners are in a position where they're working together right now. They each understand what they need to be doing. Whether or not that changes in the future is up to them to decide, ultimately."

...umm, ok? Sounds like commissioner-speak for: "they behaved themselves while in detention, but who knows how this will all end up?" Thanks Commish! Way to put that issue to bed! Columnist, Larry Wigge then adds Tampa GM, Brian Lawton's take on the team's ownership: "... Lawton admitted he was caught off-guard by the stories... 'I was. I was. Sure. Absolutely,' he said in an impromptu media conference at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Montreal, adding that he remains the general manager of the Lightning... 'I make the decisions. It's a non issue. A non-factor to me.' "

...and later addressing the rampant trade rumors surrounding star player Vinny Lecavalier: "I think I've said all there is to be said about Vinny and the Lightning. He's still a player on our roster and we're excited about that.'It's status quo for us. No ... new ... information.' He said the last three words with emphasis."

...umm, ok 2.0? So when speaking about the ownership battle for control, the GM steps to the mic to inform us the HE makes the decisions. THAT sounds like everyone is on the same page, doesn't it?

Then... umm, ok 3.0? "No... NEW... information" Well I'm sure every Lightning fan around the globe will sleep well tonight now that such an emphatic point has been made regarding the franchise centerpiece! err... wait, was that a maybe there will be different information later?

Thanks guys! No more rumors or speculation necessary. We are all wrapped up here!

More NHL Monopoly

We continue on with our team by team off-season reports... this time by popular request:

Boston Bruins

’09-’10 Cap Commitment: $51,295,833, 16 players under contract.

Notable Free Agents- UFA (’08-’09 salary): Manny Fernandez, G (4.7m), J.P. Axelsson, LW (1.85m), Mark Recchi, RW (1.25m), Steve Montador, D (800k), Shane Hnidy, D (760k), Stephane Yelle, C (750k), Jeremy Reich, LW (500k)

Notable Free Agents- RFA (’08-’09 salary): Phil Kessel, C (850k), Matt Hunwick, D (775k), Kevin Regan, G (720k), Byron Bitz, RW (675k), Wacey Rabbit, C (505k)

Roster situation: The Bruins are in nearly the same place as the Red Wings. Their cap commitment and players under contract are essentially the same. They both have a backup goaltender that likely will not be back and a high scoring forward that will determine what direction in which the team can proceed.

So, what to do about Phil Kessel? The team knows that 21 year-old, 30+ goal scorers are rare these days. However, with Boston so close to the cap, they will be unlikely to match his contract demands without making other moves. Aside from Kessel, serviceable forwards like Axelsson, Recchi and Yelle will have to wait until the other pieces fall into place before they learn where they fit in the team’s plans. One more thing, Wacey Rabbit is a RFA. When your franchise gets a hold of a player with a name like Wacey Rabbit, you NEVER let them go!

On the blueline Steve Montador and Shane Hnidy provide some value, particularly Montador, but they are replaceable.

Beantown’s “other Manny,” Fernandez was a hefty chunk of cap room last year. He did make for a formidable tandem with Vezina Trophy winner, Tim Thomas, but there is no way he is back with this team. Kevin Regan is a hometown product from “Southy.” Regan is an ECHL system guy, so if he is in their plans, it is long-term.

The sexy story: The Bruins do have a serious decision to make regarding Kessel. I compared their situation with Detroit’s comparing the Wing’s cap dilemma concerning Hossa. Yet Kessel is nearly 10 years younger than Hossa and was counted on to contribute in a greater capacity by Boston. It’s a big deal, folks.
Enter Dany Heatley. The Heater put the Bruins on his wish list and could allow the Bruins to unload their “problem”, packaged with some other players for the Senator’s “problem” and some draft picks. The team has made significant positive strides from just a few years ago. This past season they finished with the top seed, the top coach, the top defenseman, the top goalie, but were bounced in the second round of the playoffs. They will seek to correct that to make a serious Cup run next season.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who didn't see this coming?

It was just a year ago that the jolly group of investors that included Len Barrie and Oren Koules, among others, were to take the reigns and change the fortunes of the 2004 Stanley Cup champions. Shortly thereafter, the hockey world was treated to the beginning of their sports soap opera. Even the NBA's favorite owner, Mark Cuban, must have wondered: "What are these jokers up to?", as their first few months at the helm in Tampa transpired.

They began by extending defenseman, Dan Boyles' contract giving him a hefty raise in the process. Then, immediately began to shop him. Boyle was not so discrete in voicing his displeasure of how his situation was handled. In response, Barrie very openly let the world know (and I'm paraphrasing here) that he is the boss and will ship his human capital anywhere he pleases, whether they like it or not. Who would ever think that Len Barrie would be a hard guy to get along with?

Brian Lawton was ushered in as GM, pushing aside the popular Jay Feaster. They hired Barry Melrose to coach, after a hiatus long enough to be more well known as "the hockey guy" from ESPN than the coach who put Gretzky and the L.A. Kings in the 1993 Cup Final. How could that strategy fail?

Next, after clearing cap room by moving Boyle to the Sharks, the Lightning splashed the headlines by signing free agent after free agent: Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Vinny Prospal, Radim Vrbata, Olaf Kolzig, Adam Hall, Evgeny Artyukhin, Mark Recchi, etc... With a new front office, new coach and a gaggle of new players the Lightning struggle mightily to start the season. Barry Melrose is fired, and who would have guessed it... Melrose and Barrie feud in the media!

Fast forward to June of 2009, now Barrie and Koules are at odds over control of the team! As detailed here by the St. Pete Times' John Romano, the two "are scheduled to have a meeting today with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to determine which one of them will have the authority to make decisions for the franchise. In essence, the commissioner is determining custody of a hockey team." Who woulda thunk???

* Mirtle and Wyshynski both beat me to the punch on this. Interesting take from both of them as they have debated about the Barrie/Koules marriage before!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Will the Number 1 pick lead Long Island to the Lighthouse?

Once a proud and powerful franchise, the New York Islanders have fallen into relative obscurity. Twenty-five or so years ago, the Isles were dominating the NHL. They were winning Stanley Cups, stocking and re-stocking their roster with future Hall-of-Famers and packing out the Coliseum with rabid, Dennis Potvin sweater clad fans every night that the team hit the ice. In 2009, the Islanders will give you free tickets to a game if you buy their Greatest Games DVD. (This is no joke!) Locally, the Rangers and Devils have been playing in a different league, winning Cups and relegating the Isles to red-headed stepchild status.
Back in May, Isles owner, Charles Wang told Newsday that he regretted purchasing the team. That was when his Lighthouse project had been ignored for the past 5 months. On June 2, 2009, just a few weeks later, Wang finally met with Nassau County officials to discuss what benefits his project may provide to the community. According to Wang, he has reason to be optimistic that his project, 7 years in the making, could happen.
Riding this wave of optimism and with not one, but two selections in the first round of the 2009 NHL Draft, including the first overall selection... what do you do if you are the Islanders? Throw a party, and invite 18,000 of your closest friends of course!
You have to hand it to the Isles. It is now more important than ever to impress the notion that the team is still relevant in the community, and they have played their cards right. GM Garth Snow has done his very best to create drama and intrigue by keeping the teams' No. 1 selection shrouded in mystery. The draft day party will feature appearances by current players and Islander HOFers like Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier!
So whether it be John Tavaras, Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene that pulls their sweater over their head on draft day, the Islanders will win because they made it an event! Good for them and good for the NHL if one of their struggling franchises can again become a "beacon" at the Lighthouse.

NHL Monopoly v2.0

Happy err Father's Day? I know, kinda late, but it's the thought that counts, right?
We continue our state of the franchise segment going coast to coast with New York and L.A.

Los Angeles Kings

’09-’10 Cap Commitment: $39,931,250, 19 players under contract.

Notable Free Agents- UFA (’08-’09 salary): Kyle Calder, LW (2.7m), Denis Gauthier, D (2.2m), Derek Armstrong, C (1.6m)

Notable Free Agents- RFA (’08-’09 salary): Jack Johnson, D (850k), Edward Purcell, C (850k), Joe Piskula, D (803k), Brian Boyle, C (750k)

Roster situation: The Kings are interesting because of their unique positioning in the marketplace. They have 19 players under contract. Most of their young stars are signed to long term agreements… and have a decent amount of cap space available. Their Free agent forwards, Calder and Armstrong are not big offensive producers, so look for L.A. to wait to see who they may be able to snare before committing anything to them in the way of re-signing.

On the blueline, Jack Johnson has been linked to many trade rumors and Gauthier could certainly be replaced with cheaper labor.

The Kings have no free agent goaltenders, but that will not prevent them from seeking an upgrade at this position.

The sexy story: JJ is a RFA, and their leading goal scorer from last season, Alex Frolov, will be a free agent next season. What does this mean? With their current cap situation, the Kings will be plenty active this summer. Many reports include L.A. as a leading candidate to land Dany Heatley, with Johnson as part of the package. Whether Frolov shows interest in extending his contract or not, L.A. will certainly pursue the big names at forward. Either Marian would fit nicely in So Cal. Look for the team to consider the goaltending position as well. Khabibulin will look to cash in on his strong playoff run. Marty Biron will almost definitely be available for a look as well. The Kings have an opportunity to make big strides this summer and position themselves to contend in the West next season.

New York Rangers

’09-’10 Cap Commitment:
$38,096,310, 9 players under contract.

Notable Free Agents- UFA (’08-’09 salary): Derek Morris, D (3.95m), Nik Antropov, C (2.15m), Paul Mara, D (1.95m), Mark Bell, LW (1.25m), Stephen Valiquette, G (725k), Blair Betts, C (615k), Colton Orr, RW (550k)

Notable Free Agents- RFA (’08-’09 salary): Nikolai Zherdev, RW (3.25m), Lauri Korpikoski, LW (984k), Fredrik Sjostrom, RW (840k), Vladimir Denisov, D (837k), Brandon Dubinsky, C (635k), Ryan Callahan, RW (600k),

Roster situation: The Rangers have a good bit of cap space this season. What??? The Rangers? Yes…but before you get too excited, they only have 9 players under contract at the moment. The team has the opportunity to stop the cycle of overpaying for players in the Big Apple, but the albatross cap numbers for Gomez, Drury, Redden and Rozsival will weigh heavily for quite some time. The Rangers did make excellent moves to bring in Zherdev and Antropov last season, but will likely have to let at least one of those two walk. The Rangers will attempt to give away Gomez and/or Drury, but really folks, what team would want to take on that much salary for either of those guys? Additionally, they need to retain Dubinsky, Callahan and Betts, as their production and effectiveness far outweigh their cost! They will be looking for increases, but all three represent excellent values to this club.

The Rangers also need to sign defensemen. There are only 4 inked at the moment. Morris and Mara would be a luxury, as the Blueshirts may have to look at giving youth a try here, or bargain basement types for the time being.

In net Stephen Valiquette is unrestricted, but the team really only needs spot duty to backup their All-World starter.

The sexy story: This is the RANGERS that we are talking about here. Realistic or not, New York is always in the conversation. With so much uncertainty surrounding the team’s makeup, they could fall off the map, or make significant strides in protecting their long-term future. Nearly $26 million is wrapped up in just Gomez, Drury, Redden and Rozsival, until the conclusion of the 2012 season. This is the opportunity for the team to invest in young effective players that splash the stat sheet instead of the newspapers.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

NHL Monopoly?

As we mentioned the other day, the off-season is fun! If you look around the web, you will find countless message boards with fans of each team that have their own ideas on how to fix what ails the team that they cheer on each game.

The Hockey Plumber will attempt to explore the cap and player situations that affect each of the 30 NHL clubs for the upcoming 2009-2010 season. We will analyze what each team has committed to the cap, how many players are currently signed and what areas will have to be addressed before they lace ‘em up next October.

The 09/10 NHL salary cap has not been officially announced yet, so we will use last years cap as a guide, with a marginal, 5% increase expected.
We will start with the Stanley Cup Finalists and two other teams that are expected to be busy over the next few months.

Pittsburgh Penguins

’09-’10 Cap Commitment: $48,085,000, 15 players under contract.

Notable Free Agents- UFA (’08-’09 salary): Bill Guerin, RW (4.5m), Miroslav Satan, RW (3.5m), Philippe Boucher, D (2.5m), Petr Sykora, RW (2.5m), Ruslan Fedotenko, LW (2.5m), Hal Gill, D (2.1m), Mathieu Garon, G (1m), Janne Pesonen, LW (875k), Rob Scuderi, D (725k), Mike Zigomanis, C (650k), Craig Adams, RW (600k), Jeff Taffe, LW (550k), Chris Minard, LW (500k)

Notable Free Agents- RFA (’08-’09 salary): Ben Lovejoy, D (637k), John Curry, G (500k), Tim Wallace, RW (475k)
Roster situation: The Cup Champs addressed their future at the blueline by signing Alex Goligoski to a 3-year deal this week. Clearly the Penguins will rely on Goligoski and Brooks Orpik over the next few years, and will no doubt look to extend both Letang and Gonchar to keep that defensive unit solid. However, question marks surround Hall Gill and Philippe Boucher. The Pens would like to retain them, but in all likelihood, they will have to play practically for free to stick around. Ben Lovejoy is well liked in the organization, is a strong defender and could be retained at a modest price. The (literal) multi-million dollar question will be what happens to Rob Scuderi. “Scuds”,”The Piece”, whatever you want to call him, will be a hot commodity after his sparkling playoff performance and his scintillating “save” in the Final. The Penguins will not be able to pay him the money they invested in Orpik last year, and the buzz surrounding Scuderi may hoist him to that pay level on the open market.

Forwards Sykora and Satan are as good as gone and can be crossed off the list. It has been talked about that the team has already made modest offers to both Guerin and Fedotenko. Both do seem genuinely interested in returning for another shot at a Cup run, but don’t want to leave too much money on the table. The defending Champs also seem keenly interested in retaining Mike Zigomanis who was spectacular in the face-off circle before his injury. His playing style should fit nicely with coach Bylsma’s system which emphasizes speed and the forecheck. No one else up front seems to be a priority for them at this point.

In the net, Garon will simply be too expensive to retain at his most recent price tag. The organization likes John Curry and will more than likely be re-signed and given the opportunity to backup Fleury.

The sexy story: General Manager, Ray Shero vaulted the Penguins into the Final and into the big ticket spotlight with his acquisition of Marian Hossa at 2008’s trade deadline. Thereafter, the Penguins have been linked to the spectacular trade/FA rumor whenever a big name pops up. This off-season look to see Marian Gaborik’s name linked to Pittsburgh, especially if he starts talking about taking less money to play with a contender ala Hossa. The Minnesota Wild’s new GM is former Pittsburgh Assistant GM, Chuck Fletcher and there already has been rumbling about possible draft day swaps between the two clubs. Another “name” linked to the Penguins, Jack Johnson. The current LA Kings RFA defenseman is the closest friend to one Sidney Crosby, and JJ has made no secret of his interest in playing with his BFF. Ray Shero has proven himself to be a world-class, wheeler dealer in his short tenure with the team. Expect him to do something unexpected and keep his team with the elite.

Detroit Red Wings

’09-’10 Cap Commitment: $51,254,544 16 players under contract.

Notable Free Agents- UFA (’08-’09 salary):
Marian Hossa, RW (7.45m), Mikael Samuelsson, RW (1.2m), Chris Chelios, D (750k), Ty Conklin, G (750k), Darren Haydar, RW (525k), Tomas Kopecky, RW (525k), Aaron Downey, RW (500k)

Notable Free Agents- RFA (’08-’09 salary): Jiri Hudler, C (1.15m), Ville Leino, LW (875k)

Roster situation: The 11-time Champions are in a bit of a pickle. To Hossa, or not to Hossa? That is the question. With the current make up of the team, to sign Hossa would mean getting him to sign a deal with a friendlier cap number than the 1 year deal he had last season. Hossa led the Wings in goal scoring during the regular season. After a slow start, he turned it on during the playoffs only to completely disappear in the Final against Pittsburgh. He is an ideal fit on this team with his scoring ability, speed, puck control and defensive ability. However, would keeping him prevent the Red Wings from retaining three important spokes of the winged wheel: Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson and Ville Leino?

Defenseman/Methuselah, Chris Chelios will be 48 next season and is the only current Wing’s defender on which they will have to make a decision. If the cap doesn’t allow, he will not be back.

Ty Conklin was a terrific backup to Osgood last year. Detroit has talent behind him in the minors, so if he wants a shot to come back, Conks will have to be reasonable in his demands.

The sexy story: Does it get any sexier than the Big Red Machine? Everyone wants to play there. Who wouldn’t? Marian Hossa will hold all the cards in how this off-season plays out for Detroit. If he will again take less, at least, up front, they will be able to bring back Leino and Hudler and keep the machine rolling. Expect Hossa to make the Wings wait a bit after July 1 so that he can gauge his value with the Bruins, Canucks, Oilers, Kings, Canadiens and other teams willing to offer him the mega bucks. No doubt, GM Ken Holland, who is nothing short of a genius, will let the pieces just fall to him and find another star to play at the Joe for way less than market value if Hossa decides to “Take the Money and Run.”

Montreal Canadiens

’09-’10 Cap Commitment: $23,520,834, 11 players under contract.

Notable Free Agents- UFA (’08-’09 salary): Mathieu Schneider, D (5.75m), Alex Tanguay, LW (5.375m), Saku Koivu, C (4.75m), Alexei Kovalev, RW (4.5m), Robert Lang, C (4.0m), Mike Komisarek, D (1.9m), Francis Bouillon, D (1.875m), Mathieu Dandenault, D (1.75m), Tom Kostopoulos, RW (900k), Patrice Brisebois, D (750k)

Notable Free Agents- RFA (’08-’09 salary): Chris Higgins, C (1.9m), Tomas Plakanek, LW (1.8m), Kyle Chipchura, C (860k), Guillaume Latendresse, RW (850k), Matt D’Agostini, RW (508k)

Roster situation: Lets face it, the Habs just are not what they used to be! Les Canadiens were the franchise of the NHL. 24 Stanley Cups, All-World, Hall of Fame rosters, a rabid fan base and an intimidating home ice advantage. They have drifted into also-ran territory and face a daunting possible rebuilding year. Can it work out? Yes. Will it be easy? No! Montreal is no longer loaded with prospects and young players, so they seem unlikely to pull off a blockbuster trade. The Kastsitsyns and Andrei Markov are their most coveted assets and they would seem a bit foolish to trade away the only core that they possess. No doubt, the Canadiens will be VERY active in signing players with somewhere in the neighborhood of $32 million + in cap room. Yet, which players and how much they will have to pay them to play in the pressurized, tax-heavy Quebec province remains a mystery. Alex Tanguay was brought in last year to push them over the top. He stunk and will not be back at the inflated cap number he played for last year. Longtime captain, Saku Koivu has battled injuries and may have had his fill in Montreal. Lang is getting old and would have to take a reduction in salary to stay. Kovalev is another question mark, as he had to be placed in “time out” last year. He also may have played his last game with the team. Chris Higgins fits what the Canadiens do, so look for him to re-sign with a modest raise.

On the blueline, Mike Komisarek, the rugged, shot-blocking, wrecking ball will attract a ton of interest from other clubs, but no one has more money to spend than Montreal. Schneider is a coach on the ice and a viable defenseman, but will need to take a pay cut to continue on. The Canadiens need to sign defenseman (there are only 4 currently on the roster), so expect them to bring back Bouillon, Dandenault and maybe even consider Brisebois too. The goaltenders are signed, but look for them to talk to both Price and Halak about extensions now.

The sexy story:
Above I asked what was sexier than the Wings… how about more than $32 million in cap space? Because of their available cash, and probable need to overpay, expect Montreal to talk to every big name looking for work on July 1. Hossa, Gaborik, the Sedin twins, Cammalleri, Antropov up front. On D, Bouwmeester, Ohlund, etc… No one has more to spend! Even if they don’t have a lot to trade, they will be talked about in connection to Dany Heatley, Vinny Lecavalier, Daniel Briere and any other player that speaks French! Either way, Montreal will have a transaction list a mile/kilometer long!

Atlanta Thrashers

’09-’10 Cap Commitment: $33,368,427, 15 players under contract.

Notable Free Agents- UFA (’08-’09 salary): Eric Perrin, C (750k), Mike Hoffman, RW (550k), Joe Motzko, RW (550k)

Notable Free Agents- RFA (’08-’09 salary): Kari Lehtonen, G (3.0m), Colby Armstrong, RW (1.2m), Boris Valabik, D (925k), Jim Slater, C (800k), Grant Lewis, D (587k), Chris Thorburn, C (535k)

Roster situation: Atlanta is intriguing for many reasons. Their ownership group is still in flux. They have a ton of cap space, but probably will not be allowed to spend much more than half of what is available. This is a textbook example of a crossroads season for a franchise. If they make the right moves, they may be able to convince new captain, Ilya Kovalchuk to stay with the team after next season. If they do not, Thrasher fans will need to pray for a miracle along the lines of Fleury, Malkin, Crosby and Staal, or their owner(s) will be touring the Sprint Center in Kansas City very soon.

The good news? They have available cap space, 15 players already signed and no UFAs that need to be signed. Eric Perrin is really the only UFA of note and he wants out. Colby Armstrong had a solid 22 goal campaign and possesses natural leadership qualities and grit to go along with a reasonable price tag. Slater and Thorburn are hard workers and will not cost any more than last year to retain.

Valabik is a hulk of a defenseman. Big guys take a little longer to find their NHL form, so retaining him for his overall potential is necessary for the Thrashers, who have a legit core of blueliners.

Kari Lehtonen is an RFA, but has struggled with injury and inconsistency. The Thrashers cannot afford to keep him if he does not prove to be the guy that got them to the playoffs a few years ago. Yet they also cannot afford to have him go elsewhere and finally reach his potential wearing another team’s sweater! This is a key decision.

The sexy story: Atlanta is Montreal Lite, or Diet Canadiens… Just like the much more storied franchise, they will have to overpay and have the room to do it. They MUST and will also be linked to every big name, with the possible exception of Hossa (he already served time there)! Commissioner Bettman has been wrapped up in the Phoenix saga the past few months, but he better pay very close attention to what happens with the Thrashers this year. If ownership does not preclude GM Don Waddell (and Rick Dudley???) from actually doing what they pay him to do, they actually land the right pieces, and make Ilya happy in the process… the Thrashers are the NHL’s feel good story of the year. If not, does the Hamilton Thrashers sound right together?

*cap info based on numbers provided at:

Friday, June 19, 2009

How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

"...I'll tell you in an hour" stated that they had "breaking news" to be announced within the hour, a short time ago.

All of us, I'm sure, must have believed that they were able to work out a deal with their uber free agent-to-be, Jay Bouwmeester, or at least we would find out that they had traded his rights to an over-eager suitor, but instead:

"Florida Panthers Assistant General Manager Randy Sexton announced today that the club has acquired the exclusive negotiating rights for the Phoenix Coyotes C Steve Reinprecht (REIGN-prehkt) in exchange for Florida Panthers prospect C Stefan Meyer. In addition, the club announced they have agreed to terms with Reinprecht on a three-year contract..."

Nice deal for the Panthers, but certainly not the announcement that this "idiot" expected!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Highlights from tonight

Most importantly, how did the plumber do with the predictions? Seven of eight! Not bad. I stated that the Norris would be the tightest race, and Chara, who I thought had the least chance of winning, did.

"What were the highlights then?", you ask...

Tim Thomas had a very moving speech. He was obviously the most flattered to have won any award tonight. The retired Kirk Muller was as nervous as could be, lucky for him, his fellow presenter, some "actress/supermodel" I did not recognize nor even heard of, saved the day.

One vocal performance of note: Chaka Kahn is HUGE!!!!! She did some NHL fan photo tribute that barely featured NHL fan photos, while screaming her um, song..."Through the Fire." To add to the spectacle, she was all dolled-up in a ridiculous and embarrassing metallic gold ensemble, that I guess, was supposed to cover the fact her backside forced her to enter the Palms through the delivery entrance!

Next year I'll host and spice the whole thing up a bit!

Alright, because we have to...

The 2009 NHL Awards will be held at the Palms in Sin City, Las Vegas. It will actually be on tv, for the 1.045% of you who actually get Versus, it's on at 7:30 pm Eastern. Why is it in Vegas? Maybe to actually entice the players to show up? Maybe because for years there has been much banter about Vegas being a home to an NHL franchise. (Could the Coyotes be the Vegas 'Yotes and still play in Glendale, AZ?) Maybe because the Maloof brothers, pictured above with NHL Commish Gary Bettman, who own the NBA's Kings and the Palms...and 1/2 of all Las Vegas, are exploring their NHL possibilities?

Well whatever the reasons, here is how I see the awards going down:

Hart (League MVP): Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals. He had the most goals in the league, even after missing a few games. No doubt, he is the games most electrifying player. He will also take the Pearson (NHLPA's MVP) as well, and set up that trophy table pic with the Richard Trophy (most goals) all lined up so neatly.

Who should win? Ovechkin. With apologies to Malkin and Datsyuk, no player means more to their team than Alex the Gr8.

Vezina (Top Goaltender): Tim Thomas, Bruins. You name the stat, he leads (well, almost), but you get the picture.

Who should win? Thomas. Backstrom and super rookie Mason both play for much more defensive minded systems. What Thomas accomplished this year was quite impressive.

Calder (Rookie of the Year): Steve Mason, Blue Jackets. He just was amazing from November onward... 10 shutouts! His Blue Jackets made the playoffs for the first time because of him.

Who should win? Mason. Bobby Ryan, previously known as the guy drafted behind Sidney Crosby, had a great season as well, but Mason was lights out for a team that needed him to be just that.

Norris (Best Defenseman): Mike Green, Capitals. Everyone is talking about how this will be the tightest race, but I think many voters, and remember these are all voted on at the end of the regular season, were too mesmerized by his 30+ goals from the blueline to notice that Green doesn't play defense.

Who should win? Nicklas Lidstrom. He's like Ricky Bobby... just the best there is. It's as simple as that.

Jack Adams (Coach of the Year): Claude Julien, Bruins. He moved this team from the bottom playoff seed last year to the top seed this year, and dominated the East all season.

Who should win? Julien. Andy Murray did an amazing job with the Blues, but Julien's team overall exceeded expectations a little more.

Selke (Best Defensive Forward): Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings. No one does it better. He will also be a repeat winner of the Lady Bing, unless his teammate Lidstrom takes it.

Who should win? Datsyuk. Flat out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

To the "Off-Season" We Go

Now that the two-month long thing called the NHL Playoffs is out of the way, we can all concentrate on the real fun stuff: the off season! (If you are an F-1 fan, the "silly season).

First, (June 18) the NHL awards. Does Tim Thomas win the Vezina? Nicklas Lidstrom the Norris? Do they just name a new trophy "the Lidstrom", because he should win every year? Does the Calder go to Bobby Ryan or Steve Mason? Is the Selke a given for Pavel Datsyuk? Are the names of the trophies a complete mystery to anyone who doesn't live for hockey? The MVP: Ovi, Malkin or Datsyuk?

Personally, I don't care... I am no fan of awards that are given by opinion. The Art Ross, the Rocket Richard, the Jennings and of course, Lord Stanley's Cup are all earned... no guessing involved!

Soon thereafter, (June 26) the NHL Draft. This year there are no Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin caliber stars to be had. So rather than speculate how the Islanders will must assuredly screw up another draft opportunity, feel free to visit, to learn all about the top prospects, John Tavares (who is starting to sound like Alexander Daigle more everyday), Victor Hedman, etc...

I'll save you the trouble by telling you that the Red Wings will pick some kid in the 200's that will be better than everyone else!

However, the party begins July 1 when free agency opens! Heading the list of free agents again will be Marian Hossa! I have heard that he has already been offered a long-term deal by Detroit. But whether he signs or decides to explore his options with other teams with much more cap room will be of great interest!

Certainly Toronto, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Florida, Vancouver, Edmonton and the NY Islanders will be very active in the market and will set the bar on this year's big dollar guys such as Hossa, the Sedin twins, the other, maybe even better Marian, Gaborik, Martin Havlat, Jay Bouwmeester and others end up!

Not to be outdone, a new story developed this week: Dany Heatley has had enough of another town and wants to leave Ottawa. broke a story this afternoon that a potential 3-way (ha,ha) trade could be in the works involving Ottawa, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay sending Heatley to L.A., Vinny Lecavalier to the Senators and Jack Johnson and a boat load of draft picks and prospects to the 'Ning!

All of these stories are sure to develop and we will talk about the awards, the draft and all the off-season movement as the week goes on.

In the mean time, let me know what you hear! As I am writing this, I am texting my Detroit "contact" on what is going to happen there! Stay tuned!

Cup #3

The 2009 NHL season came to an end last Friday night. Anyone reading this was probably watching. There has been so much written about the series, even the postgame: Sidney Crosby being the youngest captain to hoist the Cup, his "snub" at the handshake, Malkin's MVP performance, Marc-Andre Fleury's vindication, Max Talbot's goals, Lidstrom's surgery, Hossa's ineffectiveness and his "wrong" choice of teams, the road team winning a Finals game 7 for only the third time in NHL history... the storylines go on and on.
Yet, you will only see this story here: The rematch of 2008's final was a numerologists dream!
1.) 2009 featured identical teams from 2008. (duh).
2.) Games 1 and 2 were won by the Red Wings just as they were in 2008.
3.) Games 1 and 2 were won by identical scores: 3-1, Detroit.
4.) Games 3 and 4 were won by identical scores: 4-2, Pittsburgh.
5.) Game 5, the outlier, was won 5-0.
6.) Games 6 and 7 were won by identical scores: 2-1, Pittsburgh.
7.) Number 87 won the Cup on the 87th game of the 2009 NHL Playoffs.
Just imagine what a 3-peat match up might bear out in the numbers! Get out your calculators and slide rules!