1) Probably the most surprising thing for me coming out of the Eastern Conference has been the Washington Capitals. With a new head coach and several players being in mid season shape thanks to stints in the KHL, I expected the Capitals to be one of the stronger teams in the conference. However, they skated to an abysmal 0-3-1 record this week, and are struggling at both ends of the rink. I still feel like the Caps will be a playoff team this season, but they will be in tough to catch the Lightning for the South-East Division crown.
No need to hype this series up, no need to refresh anybody’s memory about the hatred these two teams have for each other. That being said…
Danny Briere’s having a tough season. At $6.5 million a year, the Flyers are paying him $154,761.91 per point. That’s an even worse ratio than Alex Ovechkin ($147,540.98), who is having the worst season of his career. But what the Flyers are really paying for in Briere is an exception playoff performer, whose playoff point per game (.990) is nearly 20 per cent higher than his season point per game average (.838).
-I have been hearing this a lot out of the hockey media recently, “No one in the East will be able to beat Boston in a 7 game series.” Well, with their win this week, the Rangers have now taken all three of their meetings with the Bruins this year. While the atmosphere will certainly change in the playoffs, the Rangers have the goal tending, defence, and size up front to hang with the Bruins.
With the holiday season upon us the musings will look a little different this week. All of the good and bad will be condensed into one post, but do not fear, a return to normalcy will come next week. With that being said, there were no shortage of stories this week. We had trades, players hiding injuries, the return of a superstar, a language war in Montreal, a new coach hired, and one of the flossiest goals I have ever seen. Here are some points to consider from the NHL’s 11th week.
Despite all of the negative stories coming out of the NHL this week there was still lots to get exited for. One of the best players in history had his number retired by the team that drafted him while that same team’s standout rookie rapidly established himself as a top line player in the NHL. We saw the Oilers make a shrewd decision regarding one of their blue chip prospects by sending him to the AHL to develop. On the flip side another Canadian team sent their prospect back to Russia. Finally we saw the glorious return of HBO’s 24/7 series. Here are some points to consider from the NHL’s tenth week.
1. Boston Bruins
Additions: Joe Corvo, Benoit Pouliot
Losses: Tomas Kaberle, Michael Ryder
Injuries: Marc Savard (concussion), Nathan Horton (concussion)
How could you not rank the reigning champs first? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, ” but the Bruins still upgraded Kaberle to Corvo (a better fit) and replaced Ryder with Pouliot. This young Bruins squad is good and they’ve got the winning experience to back it up. Did I mention Tim Thomas is a Hero?
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Additions: Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, Steve Montador, Sean O’Donnell, Ray Emery (tryout)
Losses: Chris Campoli, Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Marty Turco
Bowman’s biggest accomplishment this summer was making his team cheaper but better. Kopecky and Campbell took their $10 million to tax-free Florida, while Bowman’s gone out and picked up serviceable guys like Brunette, the stone-footed yet ageless wonder, O’Donnell, to give Patrick Kane’s head a smack once in a while, and Carcillo, because Blackhawks party limos need better parties. And if you’re not rooting for Emery, you’re a jerk.
3. San Jose Sharks
Additions: Brent Burns, Michal Handzus, Martin Havlat, Colin White
Losses: Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, Kyle Wellwood
If Brent Burns is the solution to all of the Sharks’ problems, his value alone would outweigh all of their losses. White further solidifies their blueline, which all of a sudden looks quite formidable, although I wonder why they passed on Hannan, who not only is a familiar face but also more familiar with the West’s style of play. Having Handzus also means both Couture and Pavelski move into the top six permanently, giving the Sharks the second scoring unit they’ve been longing for.
4. Vancouver Canucks
Additions: Marco Sturm, Owen Nolan (tryout), Todd Fedoruk (tryout)
Losses: Christian Ehrhoff, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass
Injuries: Ryan Kesler (hip), Mason Raymond (back)
The Canucks breezed through the season and came within one game of winning the Cup, but with the way the series played out, you could’ve argued for the Canucks to either revamp the roster or give this core another chance and find support in both schools of thought. Gillis, ever the players’ GM, chose the latter. But the injury to Kesler and the Canucks’ penchant for slow Octobers (5 L in 9 GP) means the Canucks must bring their A-game from the get-go. And if Gillis thinks Nolan is the Mark Recchi-type the team was missing in June, I point to Recchi’s two rings earned prior to joining the Bruins.
5. Detroit Red Wings
Additions: Ian White, Mike Commodore, Ty Conklin
Losses: Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper, Mike Modano, Chris Osgood
The Red Wings are like those Canadian Chevy commercials from the early 2000’s: “Tried, Tested, and True” – while Commodore’s game has slipped, Holland again prefers his well-traveled and experienced vets and shied away from the market. The additions are solid and the emergence of Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar couldn’t come at a better time, with ALL of the Wings’ personnel losses due to retirements (except Modano… but it’s close for him too).
6. Washington Capitals
Additions: Tomas Vokoun, Roman Hamrlik, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward
Losses: Semyon Varlamov, Scott Hannan, Eric Fehr, Anton Gustafsson
Injuries: Tom Poti (groin)
Whatever morale the Caps had built up after dismantling the hapless Rangers in five games was quickly obliterated by the Lightning in four games. Ovechkin was ineffective (for his standards) and only managed to match last year’s point totals. This summer the Caps received their makeover, landing a veteran goalie and adding more physical wingers, but given how uninspired the locker room is rumoured to be, you just wonder if the Caps will be anything more than just regular season paper tigers.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins
Additions: Steve Sullivan
Losses: Max Talbot
Injuries: Sidney Crosby (concussion)
Of all of the Penguins’ UFAs, Talbot was the last player I thought Shero would let walk. Regardless, the Penguins’ future depends on Crosby’s health. If he’s 100%, the Pens are undoubtedly the best team in the East. Without Crosby the Pens are much less dynamic, as would any team without the league’s best player, but a Malkin-Staal 1-2 punch isn’t bad either. There’s enough for the Pens to seriously contend but they need Crosby, as does the NHL.
8. Los Angeles Kings
Additions: Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Colin Fraser, Ethan Moreau
Losses: Ryan Smyth, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Injuries: Colin Fraser (foot)
The two biggest trade chips Lombardi dealt away are aged 20 and 23. The pair of former Flyers, the two new big acquisitions, are aged 26 and 31. It’s “win now” time for the LA Kings.
9. New York Rangers
Additions: Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, Tim Erixon
Losses: Chris Drury, Matt Gilroy, Bryan McCabe
Gaborik’s deal looked great when he was churning out 4-goal games on a regular basis, but by his sophomore year the Rangers were really regretting that contract. Could Richards turn out the same? There are two opposing opinions of Richards: one, he’s a playoff performer who’s averaged more than a point per game for the past two seasons; and two, he’s a minus player, a powerplay specialist who benefits from having good wingers. I tend to buy into more negative opinion, if only because the players Sather throws money at are consistently disappointing. (Steve has more on the Rangers here.)
10. Buffalo Sabres
Additions: Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr
Losses: Mike Grier, Rob Niedermayer
My opinion of Terry Pegula went downhill pretty fast. Just because you have money doesn’t you can just throw it around and expect things to work out, but while the Sabres are enjoying their new-found optimism I shudder to think what the future ramifications of Ehrhoff’s contract are. The Sabres are a much deeper team and could use a bounce-back year from Tyler Myers, but the real worry is cap management.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
Additions: Ilya Bryzgalov, Brayden Schenn, Jaromir Jagr, Max Talbot, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek
Losses: Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Brian Boucher, Kris Versteeg, Nikolay Zherdev
Injuries: Chris Pronger (back)
There’s no argument that the Flyers are the biggest unknown heading into 2011-’12. It’s like the Flyers started June as Ke$ha then came out of July looking like Hilary Duff – the image is undoubtedly cleaner (and more sober), but we’re still not sure whose music we hate more. The season hinges on Schenn while the playoffs hinge on Bryzgalov. That’s a lot of pressure for a rookie and goalie who likes going to parks. And yes, Jagr did completely poo-poo on his legacy in Pittsburgh, but I’m betting by the end of the year he’ll be the most hated person in all of Pennsylvania. Actually, you can take that to the bank.
12. Anaheim Ducks
Additions: Andrew Cogliano, Andrew Gordon, Kurtis Foster
Losses: Teemu Selanne, , Ray Emery, Todd Marchant, Jarkko Ruutu, Andy Sutton
The superstar trio of Getzlaf, Ryan, and Perry can keep the team afloat without Selanne, but they need more sidekicks and Visnovsky’s 68-point performance will be hard to replicate. Heads will turn to Andrew Gordon, the former St. Cloud St. star who is a prolific AHL scorer and will get his opportunity to shine in Anaheim after being buried in top-heavy Washington. We’ll see if the 26-year old goes the way of Matt Moulson or Jeff Tambellini (coincidentally, both are former Kings, except Moulson managed to stick around on Long Island).
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
Additions: Mathieu Garon, Matt Gilroy, Ryan Shannon
Losses: Sean Bergenheim, Simon Gagne
I’m disappointed in Yzerman’s quiet off-season. With a Conference Finals appearance it would’ve been the perfect time to attract some good depth players and even though the market wasn’t very good (didn’t stop Tallon), there were a couple of players the Lightning could’ve used. Instead, the Lightning lost Bergenheim to in-state rival Panthers and Gagne to LA. Picking up Garon may be the shrewdest move of the summer, since expecting Roloson to start 60+ games would be foolhardy. We’ll also have to see if Guy Boucher’s magic touch is for real.
14. Calgary Flames
Additions: Scott Hannan, Chris Butler
Losses: Robyn Regehr, Adam Pardy, Steve Staios, Tim Erixon
With everyone in the organization breathing a little easier without Darryl Sutter around and having survived the “Iggy to LA?” scare, Feaster’s promises of change brought in a new wave of optimism. Dealing away Regehr (thanks to Pegula) and letting Staios walk were no-brainer decisions and just as you thought Feaster was turning the franchise around, he commits no-trades to Tanguay, Glencross, and Babchuk, bringing the total number of NTCs on the Flames’ roster to 12 (of 20 regulars). But remember, the Flames went 24-11-9 under Feaster, so maybe it was all psychological.
15. Nashville Predators
Additions: Niclas Bergfors, Zack Stortini
Losses: Joel Ward, Cody Franson, Shane O’Brien
Retaining Weber was Poile’s biggest and best move this summer. Without him, the Preds are rudderless and would forced to rely solely on Pekka Rinne. The Preds are at a natural disadvantage when it comes to luring free agents due to their small market business model, but if they don’t add some significant bodies to show Weber that the team is willing to spend and win, I think he leaves. Brace yourself for a potentially excruciatingly slow divorce, Nashville. Barry Trotz is the one constant in Nashville.
16. Montreal Canadiens
Additions: Erik Cole, Peter Budaj
Losses: Roman Hamrlik, James Wisniewski, Brent Sopel, Paul Mara, Benoit Pouliot
It doesn’t really matter when you have Price in net, but the return of Markov and Gorges should offset the quadruplet of defensemen Gauthier allowed to walk. But with the saved money Gauthier opted for Cole, a player coming off his first ever injury-free season and eclipsed the 80 games played mark for the first time since 2004. Price and Subban become RFAs next summer and you can’t help but think that Gauthier missed a golden opportunity to beef up his roster and failed to capitalize on the low cap values of Price and Subban ($3.625m combined, when their on-ice value is closer to $10m).
17. St. Louis Blues
Additions: Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Scott Nichol, Brian Elliott
Injuries: David Perron (concussion)
I think the idea behind signing Arnott and Langenbrunner was not only to stabilize a young locker room, but to also give some of the team’s developing young talents, like Patrik Berglund, a big nudge in the right direction. A talented team is not a winning team until a clear leader has been appointed. The team has to decide whether or not this is the right core for the next five years. It’s showtime in the “Show Me” state.
18. Toronto Maple Leafs
Additions: John-Michael Liles, Cody Franson, Matt Lombardi, Tim Connolly
Losses: J-S Giguere, Brett Lebda!
Injuries: Matt Lombardi (concussion), Colton Orr (concussion)
Getting rid of Giguere and Lebda alone was a big step forward for Burke, but signing Connolly, upgrading Kaberle to Liles, swiping Franson, and learning Lombardi is getting healthy gives Leafs Nation rational reasons to be optimistic. Best case scenario: Lombardi and Connolly both stay healthy and the Leafs make the playoffs because of it. But the landscape also has to be conducive for the Leafs to sneak in – one of Washington, Philly, Pitt, Boston, Tampa, Montreal, Buffalo, and NYR has to drop out of the top 8… and it’s difficult to pick which one. (Habs would get the most votes, I imagine).
19. Carolina Hurricanes
Additions: Tomas Kaberle, Anthony Stewart, Brian Boucher, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Losses: Joe Corvo, Cory Stillman
I’d snort if you signed Poni for $3.2 million, but at $1.5 million I might even take you seriously. He was laughably horrendous for the Kings last year but like Calgary’s gamble with Tanguay, what if Poni pots 40 points? Picking up Boucher was also an astute move because Justin Peters couldn’t cut it (pure ugly: 3.98 GAA, .875 SV%). It also still amazes me that Eric Staal can be one of the league’s worst in the circle (amongst FOW leaders only he and Grabovski are sub-50%) and he’ll need Jeff Skinner to light it up again if they want to make a late playoff charge.
20. New Jersey Devils
Additions: Peter DeBoer
Losses: Colin White, Brian Rolston, Trent Hunter
Injuries: Travis Zajac (Achilles)
The big addition was DeBoer, a good coach who got stuck on a really bad team. I originally thought Hunter would dress for the Devils, since he’s the type of blue-collar winger they like, but Lou’s cold – he bought out Hunter and veteran Colin White and jettisoned Rolston a second time. They were forward-moving moves though, but losing Zajac for 3 months with a torn Achilles was a definite step back. The biggest reason for optimism? Zach Parise’s return.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets
Additions: James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter, Vinny Prospal, Mark Dekanich, Curtis Sanford
Losses: Mathieu Garon, Jakub Voracek, Ethan Moreau
Injuries: Kristian Huselius (pectoral)
After the Flyers, the Jackets are the NHL’s number two biggest unknown. The big question everyone’s asking is how well Carter will mesh with Nash. You’ll have supporters and detractors, but if Nash-Carter combine for less than 70 goals the team’s in trouble. The real question for me is how long Steve Mason can convince Howson he’s not a bust. The team’s biggest safety net last year was Garon (10 wins) and he hasn’t been adequately replaced, with apologies to both Sanford and Dekanich.
22. Dallas Stars
Additions: Glen Gulutzan, Michael Ryder, Vern Fiddler, Jake Dowell, Adam Pardy, Sheldon Souray, Eric Godard
Losses: Brad Richards, Marc Crawford
If it’s any consolation to Crawford, the Stars sans Richards are even less likely to make the playoffs. (I don’t think the issue with Richards was money – the Stars spent close to $10 million on this year’s roster alone – but I do think the pull of playing on Broadway in MSG under Tortorella on a good team was just too great. Brad Gardner wrote a must-read piece on Richards.) Ribeiro becomes the de facto number one centre and if that’s not bad enough, there’s now a huge void on the second line. A lot of their success will also depend on Lehtonen’s health, whose 34 wins last year were the most by a Stars goalie since 2007.
23. Minnesota Wild
Additions: Mike Yeo, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Josh Harding (knee)
Losses: Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Todd Richards, Cam Barker
A lot of dead weight was sent packing to San Jose, but a lot of dead weight came back with it. What the Wild are really counting on is Mike Yeo, Todd Richards’ highly-touted replacement, tutored by Bylsma and aced the AHL test last year. Are the Wild, the 20 players that make up the nightly roster, any better though? I’m not convinced, especially for a team that has little resembling a six-man defense corps.
24. Colorado Avalanche
Additions: Semyon Varlamov, Jan Hejda, J-S Giguere, Shane O’Brien, Chuck Kobasew, Peter Mueller (concussion), Joakim Lindstrom
Losses: Peter Budaj, Brian Elliott, Tomas Fleischmann
All the pieces are there, but it’s just now a question of how they’ll fare, both new and returning players. I know Varlamov and Giguere can stop pucks between alternating visits to the IR, but I’m not sure which direction Erik Johnson’s trending or if Mueller even remembers how to get to the rink. Is Stastny staying or going? How will the high air affect SOB’s drinking? Why didn’t Sherman just offer sheet Varlamov? If everyone gels and Duchene takes the next step though, watch out.
25. Winnipeg Jets
Additions: Kevin Cheveldayoff, Claude Noel, Eric Fehr, Tanner Glass
The Jets fly into the season (first and only time I do this, I swear) largely unchanged. The summer was spent getting caught up to speed, recruiting for AIRCOM, leaking the logo, and deciding which players would whine the least about living in Winnipeg. They flew out of the gates under Ramsay/Dudley (6 games over .500 by December) but faded down the stretch, and with no improvements look for them to post similar numbers to last year. The Jets should feel lucky they’re in the Southeast this year – once they move west they’ll quickly become cannon fodder.
26. Florida Panthers
Additions (deep breath): Jose Theodore, Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky, Sean Bergenheim, Matt Bradley, Marcel Goc, Kevin Dineen
Losses: Tomas Vokoun, Sergei Samsonov
I’m still convinced that Tallon will have dealt half of these players by Deadline Day 2013, and that none of them will still be a Panther if, and when, the Panthers become legitimate contenders. There’s really no pressure to win in Florida, which sends off all sorts of warning flags in my head about the competitiveness of this team, but there’s enough fight in Kopecky and charm in Versteeg to keep things interesting. Theodore wasn’t bad in Minnesota (15 wins, .916 SV%) but does he still have the ability to carry a team?
27. New York Islanders
Additions: Mark Streit (shoulder), Brian Rolston, Marty Reasoner, Evgeni Nabokov
Losses: Zenon Konopka, Trent Hunter
The Islanders’ PP was only 17th, but the return of Streit will certainly change that. I have no doubts that the Islanders will be busy scoring goals, but I’m wondering how they’ll manage to keep pucks out of the net. The Islanders’ options in net are: a 26-year old whose career NHL SV% is inexplicably 20 points higher than his AHL SV%, a mouthy never-was who has won only 11 games over the past 3 years (but signed for 9 more), and a Russian who didn’t want to be affiliated with the team at all.
28. Edmonton Oilers
Additions: Cam Barker, Andy Sutton, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Smyth
Losses: Andrew Cogliano, Kurtis Foster
Injuries: Ryan Whitney, Gilbert Brule (concussion)
Lombardi publicly declared he’d rather invest in Bernie Madoff’s word than Tamby’s after the Fraser-Smyth fiasco, and the Kings have officially filed a grievance. I find it curious that the Oilers under Tambellini, and Kevin Lowe before that, are a team that no one really likes to deal with. By rights the talent level of the Oilers doesn’t warrant a 28th rank but they still have a lot of learning to do. With their wealth of scoring talent this is still a team that went 0-37 with the man advantage through January. Defensively and in net the Oilers are still very much behind. James Mirtle and Tyler Dellow sure didn’t mince words in their assessment.
29. Ottawa Senators
Additions: Zenon Konopka, Alex Auld, Nikita Filatov
Losses: Cory Clouston, Alexei Kovalev, Pascal Leclaire
The Sens had their yard sale at the deadline and did their damage at the draft, although I think picking up Konopka was a very understated move (307 PIM, 57.7 FO%). I like that Murray has kept Spezza around (still considered young at 28) because I think he’s still a very talented playmaker and hard to replace. The Sens will ice a very young team (read: lose a lot of games) so players like the high-scoring Bobby Butler are the ones to watch. We’ll also have to see if Anderson is worth 4 years and $12.75 million (I doubt it).
30. Phoenix Coyotes
Additions: Mike Smith, Raffi Torres, Boyd Gordon, Kyle Chipchura, Petteri Nokelainen (again)
Losses: Ilya Bryzgalov, Ed Jovanovski, Vern Fiddler
The last line of defense on any team is usually the goalie, but for Tippett it’s Keith Yandle. The brick wall that once was Bryzgalov has become one made of straw (or sticks?) with a Smith/LaBarbera tandem (combined 20 wins last year – Bryz alone had 36). The Coyotes’ 2.68 GA/G (13th) will balloon and their middle-of-the-pack, offense-by-committee (G/G was 14th, 8 15+ goal scorers) won’t be enough to bail them out. The Coyotes had 99 points and could face a 30+ point drop. It’s not so much that the Coyotes are THAT much worse without Bryz and Jovo, but because everyone else is getting better.
I’m positive there won’t be any more trades tonight, at least none coming from the Flyers’ camp. Ryan Smyth will get moved to either Edmonton or Calgary, but I’m guessing that talks have died down with two blockbusters today and more will get finalized tomorrow at the draft. Now’s a good time to catch up and reflect.
If you count the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter deals as one (and really it is), this is only the second time in which dumping salary was not the primary concern. In most deals that free up cap space to make room for certain player(s), in this case Ilya Bryzgalov, the returning package is usually a mish-mash of mid-level prospects and picks. Case in point, the Flames realized they couldn’t handle having both Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester with Robyn Regehr (total: roughly $17 million + Jarome Iginla and it’s nearly 1/2 the cap in 2008) and proceeded to dump Phaneuf for a pile of garbage.
This is different. Had Paul Holmgren traded only Carter then it was clearly a salary cap-motivated move. But trading the captain? Richards’ issues with the Philly media has been well-documented, but it never occurred to me that the Flyers were thinking about a complete dressing room overhaul. No one’s sure what happened but there’s the general belief that Chris Pronger and Richards were simply not getting along.
Holmgren reportedly got choked up about dealing Carter and Richards so I’m sure this was a decision that was made over an extended period of time. Carter was reportedly discussed between Scott Howson and Holmgren back in December, but as per usual when deals fall through it’s because one or both GMs can’t decide on which prospect to swap. Dean Lombardi refused to include uber-prospect Brayden Schenn in any deal and Richards was unavailable at the deadline. Carter and Richards were both upset about their trades (as would I – Richards seemed destined to be a Flyer for life, and he believed it too, otherwise he wouldn’t have signed the extension) but excited about their future prospects.
If there is a good comparsion, it’s the Erik Johnson–Chris Stewart deal. A lot of people have the Flyers getting shafted and Carter and Richards are both good players but two, three years down the road, the Flyers could have a better core than what they had before. Committing to Bryzgalov and losing such a big piece on forward means that the Flyers are changing directions as an organization (per Holmgren’s comments) and building from the net out, starting with Bryzgalov and Pronger.
A couple of further notes:
1. Schenn, in my mind, is the best prospect in the league. He’s gonna be something special. I’m guessing the Flyers see him eventually filling the void left by Richards, while for now Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux are the top dogs now.
2. Wayne Simmonds was a great pick-up. Flyers fans will love the way he plays. Interestingly enough, he is good friends with Chris Stewart and train together in the off-season near Toronto.
3. Carter and Richards did not qualify for no-trade or no-movement clauses in their contract, but when they signed there was the belief that they would not be traded. I think some players may now be wary of signing long-term contracts without some sort of NTC.
4. Bryzgalov is 3-8 in his last two playoff runs combined. If the Flyers win a Cup all is forgiven, but what if he doesn’t?
5. Brian Burke was in the running for Richards at one point (could’ve been a great fit) and discussed moving both Nikolai Kulemin and Nazem Kadri. The Kings’ offer was overwhelmingly better and I don’t think Holmgren would like Richards and Carter to stay in the East. He may have traded them but he knows they’re good players too. Like I said, the East GMs are a rowdy bunch.
6. Carter and Rick Nash may join Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Jarome Iginla as some of the most prolific scorers of this decade but the important thing to remember is that they’ve combined for zero rings. I don’t think Carter is the answer to Columbus’ problems. You’re still looking at a non-playoff team in Ohio.
7. The roster is set in LA except the wingers. Richards and Anze Kopitar form a dynamic 1-2 punch, but Dustin Brown‘s offensive capabilities are limited and there’s only one Justin Williams to share. I can’t see Alexei Ponikarovsky coming back and who knows which Dustin Penner will show up in camp.
8. Jakub Voracek is going to be a good player. He’ll do well in Philadelphia and I’m surprised it’s him, not Derick Brassard, going the other way. I’m guessing it has to do with numbers – given Voracek’s production and Devin Setoguchi‘s extension (3 years, $9 million), Voracek’s new cap number will not eclipse $3 million.
9. If Terry Murray doesn’t hit the ground running, he’s getting the axe. I imagine Lombardi will too if he can’t get the Kings over the hump. (I already predicted Howson to be more Doug MacLean than not, and so far my opinion hasn’t changed. I have a feeling the Jackets won’t like Carter’s extension.)
10. Unless the Flyers plan to go with Briere-Giroux-Schenn down the middle, they’re still missing a top six centre. The moves opened up about $13 million for Holmgren, but more than 1/3 has already gone to Bryzgalov and he’s yet to sign Voracek, Simmonds, and others. (Is Matt Walker coming back?) For now, it doesn’t look like Brad Richards is in the Flyers’ plans, and I don’t imagine he’s a player Flyer fans would like. (Not enough piss and vinegar.)
Bonus: If you stack up the remaining forwards, the Flyers still look the best. Giroux’s emergence as a superstar made pulling the trigger easier. These transitions, when an organization outgrows a player, are made easier when others can readily fill the void.
LA: Kopitar, Brown, Richards, Williams, Penner, Stoll (120 goals, 20 each)
Jackets: Nash, Carter, Huselius, Vermette, Umberger, Brassard (107 goals, 17 each)
Flyers: Briere, Hartnell, Giroux, van Riemsdyk, Versteeg, Simmonds, Voracek (139 goals, 19 each)
As rumoured, the Flyers have shipped Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets in exchange for RFA Jakub Voracek, Columbus’ 1st round pick this year (8th overall), and a third round pick. I discussed this potential trade about two weeks ago and this obviously means that Ilya Bryzgalov is going to be a Flyer, probably closer to $5.5 million than the $7 million he supposedly wants.
It’s possible that Bryzgalov may get his asking price, but that’s unlikely. Voracek is a RFA, as is Dan Carcillo, and I imagine Paul Holmgren would like to see impending UFA Ville Leino back to offset the loss of Carter. Again, I think it’s a great deal for the Flyers because they plug a huge need.
For the Jackets, I can’t believe Scott Howson was willing to commit to a player with such a long-term contract, especially one that he didn’t give. Carter did not qualify to have a NTC in his contract but it’s usually understood that contracts are signed based on good faith, which is why Dan Boyle was so angry (and rightfully so) at the Lightning when they signed him to a lengthy extension and then dealt him before the contract even kicked in.
No one’s going to challenge Holmgren and Bobby Clarke, but I wonder how this organization is perceived. The Flyers are an organization that isn’t afraid to cut ties and be aggressive, so I guess in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, but the Flyers have been very good at moving players with big contracts (Glen Sather too, with Scott Gomez and Wade Redden).
I also can’t believe the price was so high. The original rumour was Voracek and the first rounder, which I felt was fairly close to Carter’s value. However, the pick is within the top 10 and I felt like Voracek was one of Columbus’ better players last year. I thought he was certainly better than Derick Brassard, who I would’ve made Holmgren take instead (Carter and then Antoine Vermette and maybe Ryan Johansen if he makes the team, rounded out by Sami Pahlsson).
Rick Nash is ecstatic because Carter’s a quality player on most nights and he won’t have to carry the offensive load anymore. If it works out Howson comes out on top but everything seems to work against Columbus most of the time (bust prospects, injuries, luck, strong competition, shaky goaltending). Next year, I guess the Jackets will have two 60-point players instead of one.
Sit back and relax, Peter Chiarelli. Other than thinking about what ring size he is, the Bruins are set-up perfectly to defend their title. He needs to worry about two things: making sure Tomas Kaberle finds Logan International and boards his flight on time and extending Brad Marchand. The Bruins have already committed about $50 million for next year already but the cap is expected to top $60 million, and with Marc Savard‘s career seemingly over, that’s roughly $15 million for the Bruins to re-sign Marchand and loads more. One banner just isn’t enough anymore in Titletown. Sidenote: I find it interesting that two of the brighter GMs in the game, both former player agents, met in the Finals. The two teams have two very similar yet distinct cap structures. For example, the Bruins choose to spread out their salaries on forwards and have one $7 million guy in Zdeno Chara. For the Canucks, it’s the opposite – the salaries are spread out on defense and two $6 million twins. That’s why there is no clear standout on the Canucks’ defense (Bieksa, Hamhuis, or Edler?), just as there is no clear standout on the Bruins’ offense either (Lucic, Bergeron, Horton, or Krejci?).
It’s a great summer if you’re a Sabres fan. A new owner, tons of salaries coming off the books, and more importantly, this new guy’s willing to spend. And Tim Connolly is a free agent (rejoice, Buffalo!!!!). Boy, it really looks like this team’s going to be really fun to watch too. A lot of small players but with tons of skill and they won’t have to worry about employing an enforcer because the bangers like Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian have been signed. Of course this team still hinges on Ryan Miller, and do I think we’ll see 2010 Olympics Miller? Nah. But he’s still a very, VERY good goaltender and he’ll give you a chance to win every night. The only hole (and it’s actually kinda big) I can see is on defense, where it looks like (overrated) Jordan Leopold is going to be counted on for some big minutes again. But it’s fine, Tyler Myers, I know you were a bit overwhelmed last year and hit a bit of a wall, but Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk are coming along nicely too.
Jim Rutherford‘s already went on record and saying that he wants to revamp his defense. Good idea, Jim, but with who? Word is that they’re going to let Joni Pitkanen walk, which means their highest paid defenseman will be Bryan Allen ($2.9 million) and Tim Gleason will have to play about 30 minutes a night. (Again, I have to re-iterate my point that the Hurricanes would not be in this situation had they not dealt away Jack Johnson so rashly.) I think Rutherford’s looking to really beef up his blueline. We saw how important it is to have a guy who can help clear the front of the net. Lots of salaries coming off the books too and it doesn’t look like Jussi Jokinen will be back either (a thumbs up to any GM who signs him, this guy can really score when you need a goal). There’s not a whole lot I like in the pipeline – their supposed early round “scorers” have become more two-way grinders at the NHL level. I don’t think a full-on rebuild is necessary but this team’s got to improve their top six and top four.
With just around $18 million committed towards next year’s roster, you just have to hope that Dale Tallon has learned his lesson and doesn’t hand out some idiotic 8 year, $57 million contract to fill ONE need. But then again, the Panthers have plenty of needs, so that might not be so bad after all if they want to reach the cap floor… Anyway, this team’s going to be the worst team in the league (by a healthy margin, I think) but if you check out that pipeline, especially the 13-player haul Tallon made at last year’s draft… Wow. Erik Gudbranson, Jacob Markstrom, John McFarland, and Quinton Howden will join Dmitry Kulikov, Evgeni Dadonov, Keaton Ellerby, and Niclas Bergfors (if he returns) in a couple of years. You just hope that these guys don’t end up enjoying the sunshine more than the ice and end up forgetting why they played hockey in the first place. But Tallon – man, does he have an eye for talent or what?! Also, don’t expect Kevin Dineen to last. Like his predecessor Peter DeBoer (good coach), he has NOTHING to work with. By the time all those kids are ready, Dineen will have been long gone.
If the Habs can somehow get rid of Scott Gomez (close to impossible), this would be the team I would love to run this summer. As it stands, the Habs have about $20 million to spend but that doesn’t include at least five RFAs that I think are already pencilled in for a roster spot next year (with Gomez gone that number’s close to $30 million). The best part about this team is that they have a $6 million goalie making only $2.75 million this year and I honestly think Carey Price has the potential to be the best goalie of his generation. They have to take advantage of Price and PK Subban‘s ($875,000 salary) bargain bin value. The key decisions aren’t necessarily on forward where it will be quite an offense by committee (when’s the last time the Habs had a marquee forward?). The Habs will have to decide if it’s worth retaining the talented but oft-injured Andrei Markov for close to $6 million a year. Roman Hamrlik‘s void will have to be filled too. (For the record, I think only James Wisniewski will be back. He fits in Montreal and I think he was quite good for them.)
Everyone’s going to be watching the Zach Parise arbitration case closely and if the two sides can’t come to an agreement, he’s going to be the hottest commodity in recent memory. You know Lou Lamoriello wants to keep him but it’ll be a tight cap fit, which means no money to shore up an atrocious defense. If you look at the Devils’ cap structure, other than Ilya Kovalchuk‘s idiotic contract, there’s actually some logic behind it (other than Brian Rolston‘s). By all means, Parise was supposed to be the Devils’ $6-7 million dollar player, but I guess making headlines was more important for the Devils’ owners. I noted last year that the Devils will have trouble moving the puck up the ice to their forwards after losing Paul Martin and they did (for awhile, they were THE lowest-scoring team. Even Atlanta didn’t have trouble scoring), so I hope Lamoriello does something about that. That’s also not mentioning that the Devils are going to sorely, sorely miss Jacques Lemaire. When Ilya Kovalchuk sings your praises, and you’re “lucky” enough to be his coach, that’s got to say something. (Sidenote: I wonder if Marian Gaborik misses him at all. He had a good thing going on in Minnesota.)
(Is it just me or do East teams have MUCH better logos?) That’s about the only positive thing I can come up with for the Islanders before going on a tangent about Garth Snow and Charles Wang. Like Panthers fans, Islanders fans should be excited because they got exciting young talent. There’s no questioning that there’s a solid amount of young players in their system. The only problem I have with the team is that I don’t trust a single guy in their front office. I think this franchise DESPERATELY lacks direction and values. The old glory days with Mike Bossy, Billy Smith, and Denis Potvin? Forget about it. This team needs an owner who won’t meddle and a GM who isn’t a puppet. After the Evgeni Nabokov incident, the Chris Botta controversy, and the embarrassing Pens-Islanders brawl, do you really trust anyone upstairs to make the right decision? The organization just doesn’t breed too much goodwill, y’know? And that kind of stuff going on upstairs trickles down to the locker room. Don’t believe me? Just ask Brent Sutter. (All right, I’ll stop the bashing. If there’s one real positive, it’s this: from the hash marks in, no one is more dangerous than John Tavares. He’s unreal).
If you love hockey, you’ll love the Rangers. A lot of history, a legendary home arena, an extremely colourful and effective coach in John Tortorella, and a team that won’t quit. The team’s play hinges on Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan (NY-native with “future Rangers captain” written all over him) up front and that’s going to be a big problem this summer. With rumblings that Chris Drury‘s buyout may not go through due to a lingering injury, the Rangers will have a harder time fitting both under the cap and have virtually no chance at Brad Richards. A lot of what the Rangers can do depends on what happens with Drury, but they do desperately lack an offensive weapon. Marian Gaborik is a fantastic talent who can make an entire rink go “Ooohhhh!…” but the problem is that he just doesn’t do it enough and getting another star might help take some pressure off him.
I feel bad for Jason Spezza because I think he’s a world-class player stuck on a team that’s clearly in transition. In hockey terminology, that’s usually not a good thing. While some teams trend up, the Sens are trending down (or stagnant at best) because in the cap world, the general belief is that you need to suck for a few years, get high picks, then let it all play out. But given what’s transpired the last few months of the season, starting from making Cory Clouston a lame duck coach and then confusing everyone by extending Bryan Murray when the team was stinking and a “new direction” was needed, I’m not so sure I trust that Eugene Melnyk knows what he’s doing. It certainly doesn’t help when Brian Lee (a pick that I clearly remember hating on) hasn’t panned out too well or when he stupidly throws money at a high-risk player like Sergei Gonchar. Even the free agent “finds,” like Jesse Winchester and Stephane Da Costa, were overhyped and rather ordinary. (Da Costa played just four games, but I thought he was close to invisible in all four. He looked lost.)
I had picked the Flyers to come out of the East at the beginning of the season (Red Wings for the West). I predicted correctly that the Flyers were going to go with Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton to start the season (simply because there were really no other options – Sergei Bobrovsky was a nice surprise, though) but also wrongly predicted that tandem would hold. Well, it did, in the sense that they still made the playoffs, but there was no question that goaltending was Philly’s biggest weakness. The Flyers head into next season with essentially the same roster, but acquiring Ilya Bryzgalov‘s rights was huge. Even if signing him means losing Jeff Carter, that’s a swap I’d gladly make – I fill a gigantic hole with an All-Star goalie and take off an 11-year contract I’m already starting to think I don’t want. A 2012 Flyers-Bruins East final? Oh, man…
It took awhile for the 2011 Penguins to get going, but once everyone was healthy and in sync, this team FLEW. Sidney Crosby is undoubtedly, unequivocally, unquestionably the best player in the game and he makes everyone around him better. But then everyone start to get hurt and the April lineup looked so drastically different from the one in January. With another early exit (albeit with some big positives, like Jordan Staal unleashing his offensive fury), parts are going to be switched yet again. Ray Shero‘s always been aggressive, which is great, but he just hasn’t hit that home run. I think that James Neal deal came close but it’s TBD because he hasn’t played a single shift with Crosby yet. I don’t think Pascal Dupuis will be retained and that means a top six role has potentially opened up, but that also depends if the Pens are willing to consider moving Evgeni Malkin to the wing permanently (which would arguably make him the best winger in the game). All Shero’s got to do is worry about the forwards. The defense and goalie are good until 2014.
This playoff run was HUGE for Steven Stamkos. He showed us what kind of player he is with the way he battled, even when he wasn’t scoring. He’s the second-best centre in the East. He’s a future Hall of Famer, the Bobby Hull-like scoring wizard of our generation. I’ve been impressed with Steve Yzerman so far – he won the recruiting war for Guy Boucher, signed the right players (Mattias Ohlund, Dominic Moore), claimed the right players (Dwayne Roloson), and traded for the right players (Eric Brewer). I’m thinking that Roloson comes back for another year, but he’s going to need a backup to fill in for 20-30 games, and that defense needs to be beefed up with better supporting players. Clutch scoring may have saved the Lightning’s asses in the playoffs but I’m not confident in Sean Bergenheim or Teddy Purcell‘s abilities to generate consistent offense. I think they could use another top six forward to help them out, and it’s not going to be Simon Gagne, who was a complete bust. (…maybe Brad Richards?)
For all the Brian Burke haters, compare the roster he inherited to the one he has built. The 2011 Leafs would absolutely murder the 2008 Leafs in a game. (Their records are very similar, but I think that’s more a coaching problem. I don’t think Ron Wilson is the right guy for this team. He’s a good coach, but not a good fit). I think Burke’s done a great job in Toronto overall, even though I agree that there are some eyebrow-raising contracts. This team’s definitely trending up. They’re missing a few key pieces (a centre, for one), but in the wide-open East if things fall into place you’re looking at a playoff team (albeit probably swept in the first round). I think Phil Kessel is good but quite obviously not a franchise player (he’s not even paid like one really) but the team is at least taking shape (or a shape, at least). There’s enough in the pipeline to be intrigued but nothing spectacular, although I do have a good feeling about Nazem Kadri, which hasn’t been too often when it comes to the Leafs. Sidenote: I just can’t see Brad Richards in Toronto. He’s a low-key guy and Toronto’s not a low-key city but there’s no doubt he would make that team a lot better.
The Caps are a very, very good team, but with the amount of Russians they’re quickly accumulating on that roster and those jersey colours, this might as well be Soviet CCCP squad. (The Alex Ovechkin ripple effect – Russian kids are more willing to leave their country to have a chance to play with their national hero, making the Caps more likely to gamble on Russians than most other teams). The East GMs are a rowdy bunch (very aggressive, very old school – Holmgren, Burke, Shero, Tallon, Sather, etc.) and George McPhee‘s one of the rowdiest. He won’t shy away from making comments and he’s less shy about making big moves. He’s got a lot of interesting questions this summer, though. In the past most free agents the Caps have acquired have been rentals, but Jason Arnott was huge for them and may stick around for awhile longer. I don’t think there’s any questioning that Brooks Laich will be back, but Semyon Varlamov is reportedly fielding offers from the KHL. The biggest question mark, in my mind, is behind the bench. At this point I’m growing increasingly skeptical of Bruce Boudreau‘s ability to get this team over the hump. I think he routinely gets outcoached and his f-word schtick must be getting stale by now (I was done by episode 2 of 24/7). I’m sure he’s an offensive mastermind, but maybe a new voice in the room would go a long way. He’s on a very short leash, that’s for sure.
Even if True North says otherwise, they’ll always be the Jets to me. I’m a little shocked that Rick Dudley, and potentially Craig Ramsay, were fired. I think it takes about a full year for players to adjust to a new coaching staff and system, and after such a promising start to the season, the
Thrashers Jets will have to start fresh again. Whenever that happens, there’s usually no playoff berth at the end of the year. It’ll be busy for them this summer as they get caught up to speed but I don’t expect any big roster moves, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets went on the offensive and attempted to move up in the draft to make a little splash. The Jets won’t be a cap team but they’ll have the money to retain their players (as long as the Canadian dollar holds), and once Ron Hainsey and Nik Antropov‘s atrocious contracts are off the books, we could see them be a really good team. Lucky for them they’ll be in the Southeast Division this year because once this team moves to the West, the competition is going to be so much tougher.
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