Monday, November 28, 2011

Bryan Murray warns Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh. Really?

REUTERS/Jason Cohn
That ex-girlfriend, the one that is in fact an "ex" because she would never let anything go.  Although equally culpable, somehow her part in every disagreement was magically omitted in every loud, yet decreasingly plausible denial.

Yeah, THAT ex-girlfriend. Well, she is the Ottawa Senators.

After Nick Foligno declared that his version of hockey is the one played by ruddy, yet not foolhardy, gentlemen, with white gloves, educated young lads... of proper breeding, many of us were left scratching our heads.

Nick Foligno... with no stomach for a scrum?

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Dan Bylsma, somewhat uncharacteristically, retorted... and it was done, right?

Not according to Ottawa GM Bryan Murray.

If Mt. Molehill wasn't already grossly embellished enough, Murray comments should make Seth Myers break off a special SNL Weekend Update segment of "Really?"

Really?  Really.

Just in case you've been living under a rock since Crosby's return, we will cut to the flashback segue, in a little He said/she he said segment.  Cue the video:


As TSN reported after the game:

Crosby mixed it up with Ottawa's Nick Foligno early in the third period, the start of a brief dust-up in which Crosby and Foligno exchanged cross-checks, before the Penguins star elbowed Foligno in the head.

Both players earned minor penalties -- Crosby for elbowing, Foligno for roughing -- and Foligno took exception with Crosby hitting him up high to clear space in front of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

"It's not a big deal, but it is something that he preached all summer about that we should limit that and then he goes and does it, so I was just a little disappointed," Foligno said. "But, you know, that's a small part of the game and it's over now."
Watch the video, apologies for the low def.  Upon the 20th viewing, I'm still not convinced Foligno was even struck by Crosby's elbow.  There is a whole lot of glove and forearm in there.  For further review, check this pic in the Ottawa Sun taken from the same angle.  Where's the elbow to the head?

Elbow or not, it's the context of the action that makes Foligno, who had just done a ridiculous solo flop over the top of Marc-Andre Fleury, for at least the second time in the game, seem downright whiny.

Crosby and Foligno had just exchanged cross checks for what Crosby clearly perceived as unnecessary contact with his goaltender. Crosby then threw his glove/forearm/elbow into Foligno's face as a little extra reminder that he didn't like him piling on Fleury.

This has never happened to an agitator type in a post action scrum before?  Again I say, "Really? Really."

When would Matt Cooke's protests be well received if he were to complain, post-game, of a player giving him a little of "the business" during a game?  Never.  And neither should anyone give credence to Foligno's complaint.

Crosby and Bylsma said as much when asked about Foligno's remark:
"We’re talking about a player that bumped into our goalie three times,” Bylsma said. “With the score 5-1 and intentionally going into our goalie, he can expect more than Sidney Crosby coming at him and talking to him during the game. That’s how we feel about those situations. He was in our net falling over our goalie, and I don’t think there was any question about the intent.”


Crosby, who received a minor for elbowing Foligno in the head, responded after beating the Habs.
“I don’t (know) what he’s talking about. I was preaching about the hits like (Max Pacioretty’s hit on Kris Letang (Saturday), not a scrum,” said Crosby when asked about Foligno’s comments after the game Saturday in Montreal. “I don’t know what he expects after he runs a goalie three times.

“He’s probably lucky it was me that was handling it and not someone else. I think if he’s going to do that, he should be ready to expect a response.”

Crosby claimed Foligno was trying to make a big deal out of nothing.

“I think he’s blowing it totally out of proportion,” said Crosby. “Two nights before that I go into a scrum and I get punched in the head. I accept that. I’m going into a scrum that’s part of playing the game.”
It was already too much at that point, but Senators' GM Bryan Murray had to embody the re-incarnated spirit of said evil ex with this gem:

“The rules are very clear now,” said Murray. “If you fall into a goaltender and touch a goaltender, an elbow to the head and a butt end to the head is fair game. Dan Bylsma said that’s OK for them. Sidney said Nick Foligno is that kind of player.

“I wish (Foligno) was that kind of player. I thought the referees in that game, watching it and hearing the comments, it was 2-on-2. He fell over the goaltender. He was cross-checked four times. There was no question, did he get pushed? I don’t know. He got cross-checked, I thought he got a butt end, but it might have been a full elbow. (Chris) Kunitz comes in with a cross-check and the penalties were even.

“So, (NHL disciplinarian Brendan) Shanahan said that’s a good play. That’s a hockey play. Dan Bylsma said it’s good for them and Pittsburgh were the biggest ones on the head injuries. I’m remiss. I made a mistake. We didn’t have (Chris) Neil and (Matt) Carkner play in the game. We didn’t have enough toughness, so when we play Pittsburgh that’s something you can bring up to me again.”
Murray could not even admit the obvious truth that Foligno was attempting to illicit a reaction from the Pens by running Fleury multiple times.

"Did he get pushed? I don't know." - Really?  Really.  So Murry didn't watch the game, or review the tape of the incident he was complaining about? 

Not likely.  Like your horrible ex, he was just simply omitting the truth that his player had a hand in causing the incident.

Then the topper.  Murray pulls the "next time I'll bring my goons" card at the end.  Clearly, we are all a bunch of grown ups here. 

How about we all accept that Foligno was looking for trouble and got himself a little boo boo as a result.  Really.  REALLY.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Maple Leafs Were Never In On Brad Richards


Think what you like about Brian Burke and his performance as GM of the Leafs.

As an outspoken opponent of cap-skirting, mega contracts, Burke has voiced his disapproval clearly and often. He even testified against the Devils/Kovalchuk contract last off season.

So what was Burke to do when a truly elite center-man, which held the primary spot on the Leafs' shopping list, hit the UFA market?

"... We made a very substantial offer to Brad Richards.  What we offered I don't think is material, but we lost out on the Brad Richards sweepstakes  for two reasons.


One, we didn't offer as much money as other teams, and more importantly, we didn't structure the contract like other teams did.


These deals that are front end loaded and have small amounts at the back end, in my opinion are designed to circumvent the salary cap.


I won't do them.  I never have.  I'm not going to, and that's why we were unable to sign Brad Richards.


I wish him well.  He's a good guy, but that's not a contract structure we are interested in."

Front loaded contracts are not Burke's only pet peeve when it comes to signing players.

Bad blood still exists between Burke and Kevin Lowe regarding Lowe's RFA offer sheet to Dustin Penner.

Recently, when asked if he would consider making an offer to a RFA "considering what was available," which was a thinly veiled question as to why Burke hasn't made a move to acquire Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty or Shea Weber, Burke answered:

"An offer sheet?  I don't contemplate doing one right now."

When pushed again as to why... citing that the reporting was talking about "excellent" players, presumably just to make sure Burke was aware...

"Because I don't contemplate doing it at this time.  Offer sheets are part of our CBA, and if teams want to make them: fine.  I do not contemplate adding a player in that manner."

If Burke is to be an influence among his peers, he cannot spout off against the actions of other teams, which he hints at operating in an unscrupulous manner, and then participate in the same practices of which he is so critical.

Burke knew what it would take to land Brad Richards.

Yet, he wasn't willing to do it.

So tell me Leafs fans, is it better to have Burke keep his integrity and credibility, or to have the freedom to add any player of need, regardless of the consequences of doing so?

Furthermore, is the team better off not spending wildly in free agency or by chasing after expensive RFA acquisitions?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The New York Islanders: Poised To Make a Move?


In a dimly lit corner of his serenely quiet office, Garth Snow coolly flips to the B-side of an unlabeled vinyl 78.

The needle stirs with a slight pop, as the turntable begins to spin, a dulcet voice-over with Latin music undertones invites Snow to begin tapping his foot to the beat.

"They once won the Stanley Cup... Four times in a row."

"The team plays in a barn... under the banners of Bossy, Trottier and Potvin."

"A rival GM once remarked: 'I wish I had the Islanders' cap space.' "

"They are... the most interesting team in the NHL."


With approximately a bazillion dollars available under the salary cap, and supposedly no financial restrictions imposed by ownership, many have noticed that the Islanders are in a prime position to do something significant to bolster their lineup.

No, this isn't a frivolous speculation that the team will make an offer for Stamkos or Doughty. No team will. [*loud cough*, Philly Inquirer]

The UFA pool is all but dried up.

Yet, there are a number of teams, who for one reason or another, would like to clear a bit of space.  The Isles would be an ideal trading partner for any team wanting to get something back for their impending free agents.

They have the cap room, and prospect assets to get nearly any deal done.

The Islanders could be looking for anyone who can score: forwards, or defensemen to take pressure off of Mark Streit.  They could use some bottom six character forwards, or crease clearing bangers on the blueline.

So lets take a look at some scenarios.

The Capitals

With a slew of roster changes, Washington is currently over the cap max.  They will have to do something.

Trading Alex Semin, Mike Knuble or Mike Green in a contract year might be a risk, considering their personal motivations, but moving an asset now would give the team the most time to make adjustments.

Semin has been talked about for years.  He would clear the most room for the Caps and provide the Isles with a true sniper.

Green would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but due to fluke injuries, the Caps have thrived playing without him.  He would be a long-term hockey investment in Long Island and give the team a deadly powerplay pairing with Streit.

Knuble is a possibility here too, as he be lower risk for Washington, and provide the Isles with net presence, and move into a role similar to what they had in Doug Weight, only more productive on the ice.


Winnipeg

The Jets have shown no loyalty to the old regime from Atlanta.  Surely that applies to the roster that was inherited as well.

While now in a healthy ownership situation, it doesn't mean that Winnipeg would shy away from shedding some bigger contracts to allow greater flexibility to shape the new Jets roster in a manner that suits the new coach's system.

Nik Antropov or Ron Hainsey are two players with a combined cap hit of $8.5 million. 

Additionally Zach Bogosian remains unsigned as a RFA.  Opinions vary on Bogosian's development thus far, and therefore there is some question on what is his true market value.

All three skaters represent an upgrade for the Isles, while only Bogosian would command a significant return in order to obtain.

Other Opportunities and Targets

Although a trade within the division is less likely, the Flyers may consider moving Matt Carle or Braydon Coburn while in the last year of their current deals.

Dustin Penner could be moved from Los Angeles to ease the cost of a new investment in Drew Doughty.

The re-signing of Eric Brewer could precipitate the exodus of Pavel Kubina from Tampa.

Even Patrick Sharp could be put in play as the cap will tighten up again for Chicago next season.

Carle, Coburn, Penner, Kubina and Sharp all offer an element of toughness and skill that could push the Isles forward.

Again, the team possesses the cap room and core to make a leap as soon as this season.

If past performance is any indication, Garth Snow will likely make the right decision, regardless of the move or lack of one.

Stay thirsty Isles fans.

*Salary Cap numbers provided by CapGeek.com

Friday, July 8, 2011

NHL Free Agency: The 11 Teams Still With Significant Moves To Make


With the big names now off the UFA board, many teams are finished shopping, and are now working on the subtle nuances of rounding out their rosters.

Yet, there are some teams who have more pressing issues to deal with.

Some need to spend to get to the cap floor.  Some need to trim a little payroll.  While others have monster contracts to work out with big name RFAs.


Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks will operate on a budget this season, but they are already over the cap floor.

Their issues to deal with center around landing some forwards.  Teemu Selanne will play a gigantic role in how the team will proceed regarding filling their needs.

As it stands right now, Anaheim has 8 forwards on the NHL roster.

With roughly $12 million available, money won't be an issue, but what players they use it on will be.  Selanne showed last season that he still has much to offer, but what will Anaheim do if he retires?


Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo's new ownership wanted to make it clear to all their fans that they are invested in winning.

Spending freely to ink Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff, and trading for Robyn Regehr, while bold moves, left the team with about $350k under the cap.

The Sabres have just 6 defensemen on the NHL roster, 3 RFAs without contracts and only 1 goaltender at the moment.

In the end something has to give.  Could they bury Ales Kotalik in the minors, or loan him to Europe?

Possibly, but I'm sure that the NHLPA would frown upon the team trading for a player, then banishing him before he ever takes the ice.


Colorado Avalanche

The Avs have taken care of their roster needs quite nicely.

Perhaps too nicely, though.  With nearly a full roster, Colorado still is roughly $6 million under the cap floor.




The team does have a few unsigned RFAs to take care of, but I don't see the Avalache dishing out $6 million + to T.J. Galiardi, Kevin Porter and Cumiskey.

Not too long ago, there was talk of the team wanting to rid themselves of Paul Stastny's bloated contract.  Now, it appears they will hold on to it for dear life.



Los Angeles Kings 

The Kings would not even be mentioned here if not for Drew Doughty.

 But, it's Drew Doughty we are talking about.

Los Angeles made some big moves this off-season. They traded for Mike Richards, then signed his former Flyers teammate Simon Gagne, which should pay big dividends for the Kings next spring.

Yet, an even bigger story looms on the blueline.

L.A. has $11 million...ish under the cap.  Signing Doughty will happen, but when, and for how much remain questions.

The regular rounding out will happen too, but keeping the franchise defenseman long term is top priority.


Nashville Predators

What I just said about the Kings... just transpose Nashville and Shea Weber for Los Angeles and Doughty.

The Predators will use Weber's deal to push them past the cap floor.

It will be interesting to see how Nashville approaches signing their franchise and team captain.

Will they seek to keep a limited term, or a lifetime/Ovechkin type contract?

Either way, his deal won't throw the team budget off course.  The Preds will slink off into winter oblivion, then in April the rest of the Western Conference will pray not to be paired with Nashville in the first round of the playoffs.

Just imagine what a Nashville team could do under Barry Trotz if they could spend to the cap max!


New Jersey Devils 

Last year at this time the Devils were about to become the poster child for salary cap goofs.  Yet, after a rough beginning, ol' Lou began to right the ship, and now things don't seem so bad on the cap front.

New Jersey has yet to reach a deal with star winger Zach Parise.  The team has roughly $7.8 million available for Parise and a few spare parts.


Considering that Brian Rolston's bloated cap figure is gone after this season, it's seems likely that the team and Parise will get a long term contract done.

Throw in the fact that Parise missed nearly all of last season to injury, and you have a negotiation full of intrigue.




New York Islanders

With approximately a zillion dollars in cap space before the start of free agency, it was thought that the Islanders could be big players in the market.

Yet GM Garth Snow showed restraint in an inflated marketplace, signing only forward Marty Reasoner from the UFA pool.

The Isles remain a little more than $10 below the cap floor.  Keeping super prospect Nino Niederreiter with the big club would eat away $3 million.  Signing RFAs Blake Comeau, Josh Bailey, Michael Haley and Ty Wishart may take up the rest.

However, don't rule the Islanders out of the trade market either.  The best values of this off-season have often come via the swap meet.  A solid vet or two added to the talented young core could launch this team back into the playoffs again.


New York Rangers

The Rangers landed the UFA grand prize when they agreed to a new deal with center Brad Richards.  the team also added grinder Mike Rupp, but they are far from done this off-season.

New York has a premier crop of RFAs including heart and soul Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle, that they must sign, or move after the arbitration process. 

A pair of defensemen need to be added as well.

Though not in dire straights, the $12 million in cap space they current possess may not be enough to get the job done, forcing the Rangers to create additional space by, say... buying out the remainder of Wojtek Wolski's $3.8 million cap hit?


Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay can complete it's NHL roster by signing RFAs Teddy Purcell, and some guy named Steven Stamkos.

They have $14 million available this season to do it.

Few players have created the stir that Stamkos' RFA status has this off-season.  Message board users, newspaper reporters, bloggers, fans and dreamers around the hockey world have imagined scenarios involving their team landing Stamkos.

That's all well and good, but a pipe dream.

Stamkos has scored 96 goals over the past two seasons.  Players of that caliber will invite all sorts of takers, but no one, and certainly not the Lightning are interested in giving them away.

One thing is certain, Stamkos will get big money.  The thing to watch will be how long the Lightning extend themselves for the budding superstar.


Washington Capitals

The Caps made a lot of moves to toughen up their lineup.  Bringing back Brooks Laich with a hefty pay raise was only the beginning of a free agency period that say the team haul in the likes of  Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik, and the pièce de résistance, goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

All these moves come with a cost.  One of their best young talents, defenseman Karl Alzner, remains unsigned as a RFA.

To make room, as this article was being written, Washington traded forward Eric Fehr to Winnipeg, to clear cap room.

With a slew of top flight free agents looming next year, don't be surprised to see GM George McPhee make moves to secure the team's long term future.




Winnipeg Jets

The aforementioned Jets just traded to add feisty forward Eric Fehr.

But even with the new edition, the Jets remain under the cap floor.  Still the team must make a few decisions regarding some young RFA talent.

Once regarded a future franchise player, opinions now vary regarding defenseman Zach Bogosian.  It would not be a shock if management and Bogo's representatives were not close on a new contract at the moment.

Winnipeg must also decide what to pay Blake Wheeler, Ben Maxwell and Brett Festerling.

As Thrashers, those players would likely be moved over money concerns, but as Jets, they may be given the opportunity to grow in the system.

True North has shown little inclination to loyalty to the old regime, so it's tough to predict what will happen between now and the start of the season.

Yet, as this off-season has shown all of us, anything can happen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bilateral Capitals: Washington's Two-Faced Off-Season

images.forbes.com

Capitals General Manager George McPhee (GM GM) has received deserved praise for his signing of all-world goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

Vokoun's availability in a competitive, free spending marketplace came as a shock to many, particularly the elite netminder himself.

But with the shock came a surprise call from a contender.

 “Obviously [last Friday] was a disappointing day for me,” Vokoun told reporters on a conference call Sunday. “There weren’t a lot of offers. It was disappointing, no question… I thought I would draw more interest than I did. Honestly, I had the best offer from my old team but I didn’t take it and after that, it wasn’t pretty...”

“For me, as much as it’s been a tough couple of days, I know I’m going to have fun,” Vokoun said. “I’ve been on winning teams before but nothing like Washington… So I’m hoping that it’s something I’m going to enjoy and really take advantage of and play even better than I have in the past.

“Everything happens for a reason and I’m excited. I’ve never had a chance to play for a team like this; it came to me as a little bit of a surprise.” 
As we mentioned earlier, McPhee and the Caps have received plenty of recognition for the Vokoun deal.

It would seem the euphoria created by one great signing has clouded the vision of those looking at the Capitals overall off-season picture.

Let me start off by saying that I believe George McPhee to be one of the finest GMs in the game.

However, I believe that his off-season thus far, has been equal parts both genius and foolishness.

Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images
Without question the Vokoun signing, the trade haul (first AND second round picks) for Varlamov, and the bargain acquisition of Jeff Halpern provide ample evidence of McPhee's brilliance.

Yet, the Varly coup was somewhat offset by an earlier deal for a 25-year-old restricted free agent forward who largely has been a disappointment in Chicago. Troy Brouwer cost the Capitals their 2011 first round selection.

While he does provide Washington some grit, and Cup winning experience, Brouwer has not been the goal scorer that he was expected to be at the NHL level. Nor has he been an effective player in the post season.  Particularly last season, when he was completely blanked in the series against Vancouver.

Brouwer's production simply has not been consistent with that of a player worthy of a first round selection. So why give one up for him?

Compounding the issue is Brouwer's new deal which will come with a two-year cap hit of $2.35 million.

Consider also the signing of Roman Hamrlik. On a team rich in blueline puck movers, was the addition of a $3.5 million, lock-down 35+ contract necessary for an aging defender well past his prime?

Given you can argue the need for Brouwer and Hamrlik, even at their cost; but what is the rationale for locking up Joel Ward to the tune of $12 million over 4 seasons?

Ward had an impressive playoff performance for Nashville last season.  Yet was it so impressive that the third, and sometimes fourth line player, became worth the investment of a $3 million cap hit?

Not hardly.

Like McPhee, I like Joel Ward... at a third of the cost.

Certainly, Ward's intangible contributions are the stuff that Washington is desperate to add to their lineup.  They just didn't need to appear so desperate to do so.

The Caps were one of the NHL's elite again last season. That is to say, regular season elite. 

After another early post-season flame out, players, coaches, team executives and fans alike, were left scratching their heads, searching for answers.

With the moves made by McPhee, are they a better playoff team today?  Probably, yes.

With RFA Karl Alzner still unsigned, and next seasons' group of impending free agents which includes the likes of Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Mike Green, Dennis Wideman and John Carlson, did they need to invest so much into the role players they acquired this season?  Probably not.

Time will answer both of these questions, and also whether McPhee's summer was, in fact, a Jekyll and Hyde act.

For now, like Will Hunting's job interview proxy, I believe McPhee's off-season to be "suspect."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jagrgate: Jaromir Signs With Philadelphia


Brian Fantana tells us that he has learned that Jaromir Jagr has signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.

TSN reports the same.
The Philadelphia Flyers have signed unrestricted free agent Jaromir Jagr to a one year deal worth $3.3 Million.

Earlier in the day, the Penguins withdrew their offer to Jagr.  Detroit soon followed suit.

After Jagr's agent Petr Svoboda, said Thursday that his player's "heart is in Pittsburgh," he signed with their arch rival?

One thing is sure, if his heart is indeed there, he better hope that Penguins' fans never discover it's location, as it would surely be trampled.

Mr. Fantana:  You are released from duty.  You may now head home.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jagrgate and Other Free Agency Updates


Brian Fantana, utilizing the National Security Council's simplified alert system, has officially moved Jagr Watch to Jagrgate status.

Jaromir Jagr's North American based agent Petr Svoboda, declared that Jagr was headed to the States on Wednesday afternoon, and that we could expect a decision soon thereafter.

Following a turtle induced delay into New York, Svoboda at one point stated that he had lost contact with Jagr on Wednesday.

After contacting Pittsburgh, Detroit, Montreal and supposedly other mystery organizations, Svoboda mentioned that a decision could be forthcoming on Thursday... to no avail.

With fanbases becoming impatient, speculation regarding the involved teams ran rampant.

Whispers of dollar figures, and offers being pulled from the table began circulating.

Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, however does not seem the least bit perturbed by the delays.


Shero said the Penguins' offer to Jagr remains "on the table," and that not hearing from Jagr tonight would not alter his hope of signing Jagr when the NHL free-agent period opens tomorrow.

"He's not holding us hostage or anything," Shero said, adding that he believes the Penguins can sign Jagr and keep right wing Tyler Kennedy given their salary-cap space.

Shero said he never set a deadline of Wednesday for Jagr to accept an offer presented Tuesday after Shero spoke with Svoboda and Jagr.

"Petr thought the decision would be made by Wednesday; I never put a deadline on it," Shero said. "I said that certainly us, and probably a lot of other teams, would want to know by the start of free agency — that I'd like to have an idea of what's going on."
While Hockey Plumber News reporter Brian Fantana grows ever more incensed by the Jagr camp shenanigans, he does have other free agency updates.

The St. Louis Blues have re-signed forward T.J. Oshie to a one-year, $2.35-million contract.

The Carolina Hurricanes have re-signed forward Jussi Jokinen to a three year contract worth $3 million per season.

After trading for negotiating rights, the Chicago Blackhawks agreed to a four-year contract with defenseman Steve Montador. Terms were undisclosed, but reports say the deal is worth $11 million.

Also following a trade for exclusive rights, the Buffalo Sabres have signed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to 10-year, $40 million contract.

What's the point of  Hockey Christmas if the gifts are already opened?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jagr Watch Update


Hockey Plumber News reporter Brian Fantana has learned that there will be no decision made tonight. 

Leading him to ask the question, "when does Jagr Watch turn into Jagrgate?"

Inside Pittsburgh Sports also reports:

Jaromir Jagr joining the Penguins is on hold.

Pensblog reported:

...Svoboda [Jagr's agent] broke the news that no decision about Jaromir Jagr's future would be announced tonight...
So it appears the Fantana, as well as the local sports media in Pittsburgh have another restless night on their hands.

In related news Pittsburgh did come to terms with Aaron Asham per @TSNBobMcKenzie.

One year deal worth $775k.

Jagr Watch: Decision Expected Today


Let's go to Brian Fantana who's live on the scene with a Hockey Plumber News exclusive. Brian?

Fantana begins, "Jagr Watch! The mood is tense; I have been on some serious, serious reports but nothing quite like this. I uh... Jarimor, uh.. Jah... Jagr is on his way here right now. I tried to get an interview with him, but they said no, you can't do that he's on a plane, and cell phone use is strictly forbidden." Fantana looks to the sky...

"Hey, you're making me look stupid. Get out here, Airplane Jerk!"




Great story. Compelling, and rich.

Per Rob Rossi  in the Tribune Review:

The agent for Jaromir Jagr said today that Jagr is en route to the United States and will inform of a decision on his NHL future late this afternoon.

"He is flying to New York (from the Czech Republic) right now," agent Petr Svoboda said. "He is coming this afternoon and will tell us his answer then."

Svoboda said he talked to Jagr last night about the Pens' offer, and that Detroit and Montreal are also known to have made offers.

Jagr is not expected to arrive in the U.S. until at least 3:30 p.m. Svoboda said he expects to know Jagr's decision within an hour of his arrival.
It's speculated that the Penguins' offer to Jagr is in the $2 million range for one season, although GM Ray Shero would not confirm the dollar amount.

"[Today] is decision day," Shero said. "We'll see what he does. ... He's got all the information he needs from us [to make up his mind]..."

"We feel he's a guy who can help us this year," Shero said. "And then retire as a Penguin."
Everyone is expecting a decision by 5pm today.  Jagr has never been one to give out just what is expected, so who knows how long this could all drag out.

The Red Wings are still in the mix, and it is assumed that Montreal or another team may still have some input regarding Jagr's decision making.

One thing is for sure though, Brian Fantana will be on top of this story until the very end!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Getting Busy: Pending Free Agents Reaching Deals To Resign

 A Lot To Laich


The Washington Capitals have signed Brooks Laich to 6-year deal worth $27 million.  Laich has been a core player with the Caps.  He is popular among teammates and fans alike.  Laich can battle on the boards, deliver a hit and score big goals.

He would have been a highly sought after player if he hit the open market, but it seems the Caps were willing to give him market value to stay right where he was.

 

Canucks Re-Up A Pair

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa has agreed to terms on a 5-year, $23 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks.  The team has also signed impending restricted free agent Maxim Lapierre to a two-year contract worth a total of $2 million.

Bieksa known for his shot and nasty streak, received a lot more exposure this post-season due to his fine play throughout the playoffs, which included a dramatic OT winning goal that sent Vancouver to the Finals.

Lapierre seemed to be a good fit with the Canucks after failed attempts with both Montreal and Anaheim. He provides an accompaniment to the antagonistic nature of Alex Burrows giving opponents reason to be wary of his antics as well as his ability to score.

 

Lightning Keep Specialist

The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed power-play specialist and defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron to a two-year contract.  Terms were not initially announced by the team.

TSN reports that RDS claimes it to be a two-year, $2 million deal. 

 

Pittsburgh Retains Not You, Not Me, but Dupuis

From Rob Rossi:

Dupuis has agreed to a two-year contract to remain with the Penguins, sources told the Tribune-Review. The deal, which will be announced this afternoon, is worth $3 million total — meaning Dupuis will count $1.5 million against the salary cap each of the next two seasons. 

Pascal Dupuis was considered a priority re-signing by the Penguins from the beginning. He is a tireless penalty killer and has the speed, grit and versatility to play on any of the four forward lines.  Something the Pittsburgh coaching staff prizes.

Moller Finds There is No Place Like Home

Bucking the trend of re-signings, CBS Sports reports that Los Angeles Kings center, Oscar Moller, who has shuttled between the Kings and their AHL club has decided to play in Sweden for the upcoming season. 

Moller, a native of Stockholm, was not mentioned in connection to a team in the SEL, but it is assumed that it is Skelleftea AIK.

We will continue to update this post as more happens.  Stay tuned. 

 

Pitkanen Back With the Canes

The Carolina Hurricanes have re-signed defenseman Joni Pitkanen to a 3-year, $13.5 million deal.

Pitkanen was thought to be out of Carolina's reach just a few weeks ago.  Carolina GM Jim Rutherford had  mentioned that he expected Pitkanen and others to test free agency, but later stated that he held hope to sign the team's top UFAs.

That hope became reality today. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

CKAC Sports Reports Jaromir Jagr Has Agreement With the Pittsburgh Penguins

This post was originally posted at The Hockey Writers

To answer Ricky Bobby's question: "What did French land give us?"

Premature news of Jaromir Jagr's return to Pittsburgh.

(Translated by Google Translate)

After weeks of speculation, forward Jaromir Jagr has made ​​his choice and he will sign a one year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So says Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune.

The team will confirm the news Friday, opening day of free agency.

Many rumors have circulated since Jagr has expressed interest to return to the NHL. Detroit, Montreal and Pittsburgh were (all) approached (as) destinations for (the) power forward.

Jagr, 39, was drafted by the Penguins in 1990, fifth overall. He won the Stanley Cup with the team in 1991.

He left the NHL in 2008, when he skated with the New York Rangers. He joined the Russian Continental League next year and has scored 66 goals in addition to recording 146 points in 155 games over the last three seasons there.

In the NHL, Jagr, the best European (player in NHL) history, played 1273 games, scoring 646 goals and 953 assists for 1,599 points.


From the report it seems likely that Penguins fans, Jagr, Mario, players and the coaching staff will get what they wanted: A goodwill/farewell tour for number 68.

However, a closer examination of Rossi's tweets reveals that he ambiguously referred to the Pens wanting to come to a handshake agreement.

In fact, the Tribine Review reported Tuesday that... "The Penguins will speak with Jaromir Jagr's agent about a contract this afternoon.

Petr Svoboda, Jagr's agent, confirmed that he is set to have a meeting with Penguins general manager Ray Shero today.

"We are meeting this afternoon to talk about a deal," Svoboda said. "Hopefully by tomorrow, we will know something.'"

Hardly official, since the scheduled Tuesday meeting is to talk about a deal, there can be no deal in place.

Yet, for optimists, it would seem more likely than ever before that Jagr and Crosby will doing their version of "shake 'n bake" on the NHL's other 29 teams.
 
"Doesn't that just blow yer mind? SHAKE 'N BAKE!"

Friday, June 24, 2011

Winnipeg Whatevers No More. The Jets Are Back


Both CBC and TSN have reported that True North, the ownership group for the new Winnipeg franchise, is expected to officially announce that the team will indeed be called the Jets.

Making use of the grand stage, both literally and figuratively, the group will unveil the franchise name just before making their 7th Overall selection at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

However, their selection will not pull on an old Jets sweater according to the CBC:
The player Winnipeg selects with its top draft pick on Friday night is not expected to don a Jets jersey. Instead, he'll put on a sweater bearing the black and grey colours of the NHL's logo, Winnipeg assistant general manager Craig Heisinger said Thursday.
We assume since they have just arrived at a name, they don't have the design of the logo and sweater together just yet.

The return of the Jets name was almost a necessity. The Moose or Falcons, etc... just wouldn't be the same.

Because of the sentiment of the fans, the Jets moniker was clearly favored.  After what just happened in Vancouver, no one wanted to see burning cars or Aussies making out in the street, so they got what they wanted!  (Pure speculation, of course!)

Some concept ideas below.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Philadelphia Signs Bryzgalov, Guts Team To Do It

Flyers no more
 As an update to our early post regarding the trade of Jeff Carter to Columbus, the Philadelphia Flyers also traded team captain, Mike Richards to Los Angeles for forward prospect Brayden Schenn, veteran forward, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick.

Um... wow!

The trades clearly were for cap clearing purposes to make the Ilya Bryzgalov signing possible.

Bryzgalov signed a reported $51-million, nine-year deal.

So let's look at what the total day meant to the Flyers.

Out: Mike Richards (LA), Jeff Carter (Columbus), Matt Clackson, 3rd round choice in the 2012 Draft, and future considerations (Phoenix).

In: Ilya Bryzgalov, Jakub Voracek, First- and Third-round picks from the Blue Jackets, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick from the Kings.

Maybe we are missing something, but we don't like these moves for the Flyers.


As the AP put it:
This would be like the Phillies trading Ryan Howard and Chase Utley ... on the same day.
Teammates in Philly
Bryzgalov has proven himself as a top backstop. Brayden Schenn is a very nice prospect.  Wayne Simmonds has shown promise as a power forward, Voracek has shown flashes of his skill, and the Flyers will add top end talent with the #8 Overall selection this season. 

Yet Bryzgalov had a disastrous playoff against Detroit.  By the final game of the series, honestly he looked a bit disinterested.  It was that bad.

Simmonds and Voracek both have tantalized with their abilities, but both showed regression in their production last season.

In addition, look what they gave up. 

Carter was the team's best natural goal scorer.  Richards, the team's leader, is one of the games' premier two-way centers.

Comparing the last three seasons, the Flyers are subtracting 199 goals scored, while adding 78 back.  Are Schenn, the draft picks and Bryzgalov going to make up for that kind of production difference?

Unlikely.

Time will tell if Ed Snider's mission to add a veteran goalie will get the Flyers over the hump, or whether he will resemble another Snyder, Daniel in the mold of meddling ownership wrecking their team's chances of success.

Philadelphia Flyers Deal Jeff Carter To Columbus Blue Jackets


No, no, no... it's not going to happen.  Jeff Carter will not be traded. So we have heard countless times from the Carter camp and even the Flyers.

Today, Jeff Carter was traded to the Jackets in return for Jakob Voracek, the 8th Overall selection of the 2011 NHL Draft, and a yet undetermined Third-round pick.

We will update the story as more info comes in.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 2011 NHL Awards. An Annual Hockey Plumber Tradition Gone Wrong

LIVE from Las Vegas, Nevada it's Saaaaaturd... no wait.  Ok, it is NHL Awards time again.

Jay Mohr returns to host at the Palms Casino.  Mohr will doubtlessly remark on his lack of hockey knowledge, throw out a few quick one liners on Luongo's hair, etc... and intro a few puzzling music selections, in between the cavalcade of every celebrity that claims a connection to the game of hockey.

Sounds great, right?

So let's get right in to the bad jokes:  Our picks and predictions. 



Hart Memorial Trophy
Given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season. Past Winners.

  Corey Perry- Ducks, Daniel Sedin - Canucks, Martin St. Louis - Lightning

If we had a vote: Crosby... but he's not a finalist. OK, Perry.  Without Perry absolutely lighting it up down the stretch, the Ducks would not even had a sniff of the post season.  The Ducks have their fair share of talented scorers, but Perry put the team on his back in crunch time.


Prediction: Daniel Sedin. The Writers love the Sedins for some reason, and he had the highest point total.  Leading scorer usually equals receiving the award.





Vezina Trophy
Given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs. Past Winners.

  Roberto Luongo- Canucks, Pekka Rinne - Predators, Tim Thomas - Bruins

If we had a vote: Thomas.  His season was just off the charts.  It's a regular season award, but really all he did was carry his regular season into the playoffs and was equally impressive and deserving of the Playoff MVP.

Prediction: Tim Thomas.  Should be a slam dunk.


Calder Memorial Trophy
Given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season. Past Winners.
 Logan Couture- Sharks, Michael Grabner - Islanders, Jeff Skinner - Hurricanes

If we had a vote: Grabner.  It's a close race.  All are deserving.  We just believe that Grabner accomplished what he did with the least amount of help.

Prediction: Jeff Skinner.  He received the most buzz all season.  With Couture playing on the west coast, and Grabner, well, on the Islanders, Skinner gets the default hype vote.


James Norris Memorial Trophy
Given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season. Past Winners.

  Zdeno Chara- Bruins, Nicklas Lidstrom - Red Wings, Shea Weber - Predators

If we had a vote: Weber.  Just didn't feel the Chara regular season, and we don't like Lidstrom's sub par defensive season.  Weber had the best all-around play of any blueliner this season.

Prediction: Nicklas Lidstrom.  He put up phenomenal offensive numbers this year, and we bet the writers were banking on the fact that this season could have been his last.  Lidstrom has won the Norris so many times, it should be renamed after him.




Jack Adams Award
Presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach judged to have contributed the most to his team's success. The winner is selected in a poll among members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association at the end of the regular season. Past Winners.

  Dan Bylsma- Penguins, Barry Trotz -Predators, Alain Vigneault - Canucks

If we had a vote: Bylsma.  No one had to do more "coaching" than the guy who lost his best two players, and at times during the second half was missing as many as twelve regulars from the line up at one time.  Through it all, the Penguins finished tied for the division lead in points, and third overall in the conference.

Prediction: Dan Bylsma.  The Jack Adams has become an adversity award lately.  Disco Dan "hustles" home with the win.



Frank J. SelkeTrophy
Given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season. Past Winners.

Pavel Datsyuk - Red Wings, Ryan Kesler - Canucks, Jonathan Toews - Blackhawks


If we had a vote:
Kesler.  He was a dominating figure this season.  He was fearsome as a shutdown center-man when asked to be; and he scored fourty-one goals, too!

Prediction: Ryan Kesler.  He received much more national attention this year.  He will get the votes.




Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season. Past Winners.

  Nicklas Lidstrom- Red Wings, Loui Eriksson - Stars, Martin St. Louis - Lightning



If we had a vote: St. Louis. He's such a great player, but receives little recognition. He does it all on and off the ice.

Prediction: Martin St. Louis.  Like last year, the stats should give him the edge with voters.




Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
Given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season. Past Winners.

  Ray Emery- Ducks, Daymond Langkow - Flames, Ian Laperriere - Flyers

If we had a vote: Laperriere.  Another year, another gruesome injury for the guy.  Everywhere the guy goes he is beloved by teammates and fans alike for his guts and determination. After taking a slapper to the face in last years' playoffs, he had to be argued with by the training staff to keep him from returning with shattered skull bones.   


Prediction: Ian Laperriere.  He's a warrior.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2011 NHL Draft: The Atlantic Division's Ideal Draft Selections

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
 This story originally was posted on Bleacher Report

The Atlantic is one of the NHL's most fiercely contested divisions.
Until this season, the Atlantic was represented in the Stanley Cup Final three straight years.
There is no shortage of animosity between any of the clubs, and the draft provides yet another opportunity to get a leg up on hated rivals.
What's in store:
  • The Devils get a rare top five selection. 
  • The Islanders will try to build on their promising core.
  • The Rangers utilize their pivot slot smack dab in the middle.
  • The Penguins will look to add around their stars.
  • The Flyers will have to wait until Round 3 to make their selection...or will they?
Let's take a look at each team's best-case scenario when their turn comes around.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Correct Call: Vancouver’s Aaron Rome Suspended For Remainder of NHL Final



Cue the dated and cheesy game show music…

From the NHL offices on the Avenue of the Americas in New York City: It’s hockey’s favorite game show…

WHEEL
OF
JUSTICE!

With your host(s) Colin Campbell/Brendan Shanahan.

“Hello and welcome Aaron Rome.  Please step up and give the wheel a spin.” Rome does step to the wheel and looks it over.

“On the wheel you will see your options: One Game, Two Games, Four Games, No Suspension, Lifetime Ban, and Just a Finger Bite.”

Rome spins the wheel with just a flick of the wrist.  The the click-clack of the pegs speeds up and then slows to a stop.

The Debbie Downer horns blow.  “Wuh-wuuuh!”

“Oh sorry Aaron looks like you are out for the remainder of the Finals for your late hit on Nathan Horton.”

Rome, looks to the sky, sighs and slunks his way off the stage to the Press Box back in Boston.

“Better luck next time Aaron and thanks for playing!”

The new vogue complaint has been  to bash the NHL’s disciplinary policies.  From an armchair, they appear to be rife with inconsistency and unnerving favoritism towards first time offenders.

To the critic, they are never harsh enough.  They never match the crime, and they rarely align with the “obvious” perceived intent of the infraction.

When Colin Campbell was dismissed of his duties as the league’s discipline czar. Many cheered.

Others remained skeptical that Brendan Shanahan would bring anything better to the post.

The truth is that the post is a mission impossible.

No one will be able to please the fans, media or teammates of the victim.  No one will be able to appease the masses and the perpetrators both.

In a game that moves as fast as the NHL.  A game that is home to the finest athletes on the planet, possessors of unrivaled speed, strength and stamina. The NHL will never be able to accurately judge intent, the true ability to avoid contact, etc… without margin for error.

Yet, despite all the critics, nay sayers and skeptics, the NHL does a fairly good job of policing itself.

Wheel of Justice be damned.

The NHL got it right concerning Aaron Rome.

Before anyone argues.  Take a look at the list of reasons he was NOT suspended.

1. A dirty hit? – No
2. A hit to the head? – No
3. A hit causing injury? – No
4. A hit on a defenseless player? – No

Rome’s hit on Horton was not dirty.  It was not to the head, nor was it judged to be intended to injure.
It would have been a clean hit provided Horton was playing the puck or had possession.

The suspension was for a late hit.  Horton had possession, passed the puck, took a few more strides and then suffered the impact of Rome’s blow.

Had Rome hit Horton a stride or two earlier, it’s clean… and a wallop that would have impressed even Scott Stevens… even if Horton had been injured as a result.

The hit was delivered late.  The late hit resulted in a serious injury, which directly affected the severity of the suspension.

Rome responded to the news in the right way:
“I want to express my concern for Nathan’s well-being and wish him a quick and full recovery,” Rome said. “I try to play this game honestly and with integrity. As someone who has experienced this type of injury, I am well aware of its serious nature and have no desire for another player to experience it. I will not take away my teammates’ focus on the task at hand and intend to speak at an appropriate time in (the) future.”
He knows his intent.  He likely feels he was not deserving of the punishment either.

Regardless, the suspension was for the timing of the hit and the resulting injury.  His intent had nothing to do with the decision to suspend.

The NHL deserves credit for making the call and a little leeway as well.