The Other One

 Anaheim Ducks  Comments Off
Aug 302008
 

We know that Joe Sakic‘s coming back. Mats Sundin‘s still deciding. But what of Teemu Selanne? The Finnish Flash has remained quiet this summer, but reports from Sportsnet and a Finnish source say that he is returning this year – after the Ducks move Mathieu Schneider of course.

The Ducks are roughly $1.5m over the cap space with Schneider, which begs the question of how much Selanne is coming back for. If Schneider was dealt with the Ducks not taking on any additional salary (I highly doubt they will), they’d be roughly $3m-$3.5m under the cap, a perfect figure heading into the season as an emergency cushion, as Bobby Ryan, Petteri Wirtanen, and Logan MacMillan are on bonus-laden, entry-level contracts. The Ducks have to ensure they have enough cap room to accomodate their bonuses should they reach them. That being said, the question is, how cheap will Selanne come? Sakic re-signed with the Avs for $6m, but the Avs had made sure they had ample room to accomodate their captain, and sit roughly $5m under the cap.

While Selanne’s situation is a little different than Scott Niedermayer‘s in the sense that Selanne’s not under contract, Brian Burke‘s moves to replace Niedermayer (Schneider), are now preventing him from re-signing Selanne, but not for long. Either way, adding Selanne gives them another formidable offensive weapon, and whatever Selanne signs for, I don’t think this will be the end of the moves made by the Ducks before Opening Night. Todd Marchant ($2.5m) is still rumoured to be on the block.

Aug 302008
 

So the Lightning were in fact seriously interested in Andrej Meszaros, and they got what they wanted, once again. The young blueliner was unable to come to terms on a contract with the Sens, after asking for roughly $1m/year higher than what Bryan Murray was willing to give. In exchange, the Sens will receive two blueliners, Filip Kuba and Alex Picard, as well as the first round pick acquired from San Jose in the Dan Boyle trade.

This is not a sign-and-trade deal, meaning that the Lightning will have to negotiate with Meszaros on a new contract, although that should not be a big stumbling block. Sources say that the Lightning will have a six-year, $24m offer on the table, an average of $4m against the cap per year. The Bolts, after shedding Kuba and Picard’s salaries, will be adding a paltry $0.2m to their salaries. The Sens take on $3.8m in the swap.

TSN’s poll shows that, at first glance, 63% of voters believed that the Sens walked away with the better deal, and I agree. Meszaros is a young defenseman with tons of upside, but so is Picard, and Kuba is no slouch either, averaging almost 25 minutes a game while posting 30+ points for the second straight year. Added to the Bolts’ package is a first round pick, which will undoubtedly be a late one, but in a deep draft year the Sens will happily take it. For roughly the same price, the Sens added some depth to their blueline without sacrificing their top two defensemen, any forwards, and/or youth. The Bolts, however, despite claims from Oren Koules that they’re looking to add more veterans and depth to their blueline, traded away one of their oldest players and a young prospect for a player who is coming off a difficult sophomore season, also shortening their depth chart by one player. Again, a bit of a perplexing move by the Bolts, who have still yet to address their problems at forward.

Aug 282008
 

A month ago both sides seem to be optimistic about a new deal. Now that training camp is fast approaching and Joe Sakic has re-signed (rejoice, hockey fans), Andrej Meszaros and the Sens seem to be drifting further and further apart. Despite claims from both sides in earlier months that a contract extension was near, it seems as though that may be quite contrary to the truth. The young rearguard, who is coming off a rather disappointing sophomore campaign after a marvelous rookie one, is asking for around $4.5m/year, while the Sens remain adamant that $3.5m/year is a much fairer number.

Should the Sens give in to Meszaros’ asking price, it would make him the Sens’ highest paid defenseman – fellow teammates Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov are playing for at least half their open market value. The length of the deal is apparently not a concern to Meszaros, but money is. Bryan Murray claims that he has offered the Meszaros camp contract offers ranging from one to five years, but has not heard much feedback, possibly because Meszaros is refusing to take into consideration any offer that isn’t near his asking price.

Meszaros is still currently a RFA and subject to offer sheets. While Murray won’t pony up $4.5m/year, you can bet that there are teams out there that will pay up for the former WHL standout, and force Murray’s hand. Should Murray lose Meszaros, he has stated that he will not be replacing him via trade of free agency, but will instead promote from within, which is great news for Lawrence Nycholat, Matt Kinch, and Matt Carkner, all three coming off good seasons with Binghamton, Ottawa’s AHL affiliate.

Either way, expect a flurry of moves after Mats Sundin makes his decision and Mathieu Schneider (which Murray claims he has little interest in) is moved.

EDIT: THN reports that a rival team has made an offer sheet to Meszaros for $5m/year, but Murray has denied any knowledge of such a thing and the Ottawa Sun claims that two league sources have denied it as well. The rumoured offer sheet was apparently made by Tampa, but that’s impossible. If the Lightning did make the offer sheet, they’d be subject to be give up their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks. Under the CBA, all picks must be the team’s original picks – meaning that Tampa cannot substitute any of those picks with picks they’ve acquired from other teams. The Lightning’s original 3rd round pick is owned by Pittsburgh, who acquired it in the Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts trade.

Aug 282008
 

“It’s very important for us to put on a great show in Kansas City. We owe it to Kansas City. Because we have so many good young players, we’re able to do this.”

Those were Kings president Luc Robitaille‘s words, when asked about the Kings’ exhibition game on September 22, reported by the Kansas City Star. The Kings kick off their preseason with two simultaneous games on the 22nd, splitting up their training camp roster of 60 to play against St. Louis in Kansas, and Phoenix in LA. Paul McGannon, who is the head promoter of the game, had this to add:

“They are bringing their best players. We went over that before we scheduled the game. They want Kansas City to work, and they want a good showing, and as owner-operators of the building, they want to put their best step forward… Those folks wouldn’t be coming up for a B-squad.”

Question, Mr. McGannon, who, exactly, is “we,” “they,” and “those folks”? It’s probably the NHL’s worst kept secret that they want their preseason games in non-NHL cities to work (financially), especially in Kansas City and Las Vegas, where it’s being held at the prestigious MGM Grand. These preseason games will be auditions for future destinations for folding or re-locating franchises – Hamilton, of course, is not an option, having no NHL preseason games scheduled there. Apparently, Robitaille has promised McGannon that the Kings will send their best players to Kansas City, including the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, and Drew Doughty. While I’m all for promoting hockey throughout the States and Europe, this move does not speak highly of the NHL or the Kings.

For the NHL, to the surprise of no one, Gary Bettman is more interested in money matters than the game itself. Bettman’s trying to sell the game too hard, in my humble opinion. His rule changes, made to allow for more scoring and hence more excitement, is obviously not working as well as league revenue reports make them out to be (Honestly, isn’t a 2-1 nailbiter more exciting than a 7-3 blowout?). A lot of the NHL’s revenue these days is based upon the strong Canadian dollar and very low revenue expectations from the onset of the new CBA. To ensure that this whole Kansas City experiment isn’t a bust, the Kings are sending (perhaps Bettman asked) their top players to that game, in the hopes of generating more hype… because apparently Los Angeles is already bit by the hockey bug. Bettman needs to realize that he needs to fix the status quo. McGannon made reference to Kansas City as possibly a potential destination for a NBA team (there’s going to be exhibition game there too) , and I can’t help but wonder if Bettman’s trying to compete with the NBA. I say drop it, Bettman, there’s no way you can win that battle.

For the Kings, it’s really a dumb move to stockpile all your good players on one team for an exhibition game. I don’t think there’s any need to elaborate more on that. The Kings seem to be the puppet, the test rat, the human experiment, of the NHL. The Kings should be more concerned about how to flesh out the rest of their roster than figuring out who to send to Kansas.

The Kings and the NHL don’t owe Kansas anything.

Aug 272008
 

More on Mats Sundin. The endless carousel goes ’round and ’round, with still no end in sight.

“This is the song that never ends,
As it goes on and on my friends.
Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was,
And they’ll continue singing it forever just because…”

While Sundin sits on his sofa and mulls over his options, teams are getting anxious, reports Bruce Garrioch. Sundin is going to be the first domino to fall – once he decides what to do, there will be a flurry of moves as teams move to their Plan Bs. Others are waiting to see where he signs, because some players on the block, like Mathieu Schneider, are of interest to team(s) who are in the Sundin sweepstakes as well. I think that team’s the Habs, and here’s why.

The Rangers sit only $2m below the cap ceiling, and wth Sundin they’ll have to clear at least $7-8m (assuming that Sundin signs for $7m/year) to accomodate him. Only 3 Rangers are making more than $7m, and two of them are, you guessed it, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, the Rangers’ big spendings last summer. Getting Sundin will give them arguably the strongest group down the middle (perhaps Dallas can challenge), but to accomodate Sundin one of them has to go. It seems a little strange that Glen Sather would deal away a younger player on a long-term contract for a short-term, one-year fix like Sundin – but then again, it is Sather, and he’s known for bold moves. Once Sundin retires, the Rangers will once again have money to play with, and once again in search of another scoring centre. Gomez can be moved to the wing since Drury is better at face-offs, but in actuality it was Drury who spent more time on the wing last year than Gomez. Not including this year, Gomez has 4 years remaining on his contract while Drury has 3. Gomez’s cap hit is slightly higher than Drury’s, but he is 3 years younger. I don’t think either player will be too pleased with the Rangers if they get traded, but they will give the “it’s part of the business” speech regardless, even though both sides had publicly stated that they’re committed long-term and the contract was signed in good will.

If the Rangers are ready to go to such drastic lengths to accomodate Sundin, then I would think that they’d be ready to accomodate Schneider as well. Schneider’s $5.625m cap hit is smaller, but the Rangers will still have to clear some $6m of cap space, and that’s harder than accommodating Sundin. Even with a package of Paul Mara and Petr Prucha that’s not enough. I’m not too sure who would be sent away should Schneider end up a blueshirt, but I would think that both Gomez and Drury would stay. I would rule Wade Redden, Dmitri Kalinin, and Michal Rozsival out of the question, considering they’ve just signed this summer. It does not speak well of the Rangers organization if they do trade either of them, after all, they’ve finally clawed their way back to respectability with “proper” team building. Paul Mara would be an interesting option, but with his $1.95m salary he’d have to be packaged with someone else. Added to that speculation is the fact that Schneider is a native of New York City.

The Habs have $6m in cap space. Without moving anyone, they can accomodate Schneider, but for the sake of having emergency cap space, they’d only have to deal away one player, and considering that their player salary structure isn’t as extreme as the Rangers, they have a lot of mid-salary players they can part with, including Francois Bouillon and Mathieu Dandenault, who are going to be UFAs next summer. Simply put, I think the Habs will have a much easier time accomodating Schneider’s salary than the Rangers, and they do have plenty of youngsters to offer Anaheim. Tack on the fact that Bob Gainey has made it known that he’s less than optimistic about Sundin going to Montreal, he may have had enough of the waiting game and elected to bolster his blueline instead.

Toronto and Vancouer are long-shots to land Schneider, and I would think that Vancouver has little to zero interest in the veteran blueliner considering their current defensive corps. Toronto could make a pitch to replace the soon-to-be-Panther Bryan McCabe, but I don’t think adding more salary, especially with a 39-year old, is in the team’s best interests going forward.

While the Habs and Rangers are fine without either Sundin or Schneider, there’s no doubt that the addition of either would help, it just all depends on who’s going out the door.

Aug 262008
 

says, Joe Sakic, who will be holding a press conference before his annual charity golf tournament on Thursday. While it’s not unusual for such a high-profile athlete to have a press conference/media junket for a charity golf tournament, you can bet that questions will be asked about Sakic’s decision on whether to return or not (my bet is he will).

Colorado’s success this year will very much depend on Sakic’s decision. While Paul Stastny is a good (he will be great some day), he is no Sakic, and no one on the team is good enough or ready to take over his mantle. Adam Foote may be the one to take over the locker room (I bet he’s captain if Sakic retires), but Sakic’s offense cannot be replaced. His mere presence on the ice means that the defense will clog up the shooting lanes and get guys like Milan Hejduk or Ryan Smyth good looks. Without Sakic they’re that much weaker and easier to play against.

Aug 242008
 

Rather slow news day, but a couple quick rumours:

Andrej Meszaros has yet to sign, and could still be given an offer sheet. Meszaros reportedly has a standing offer from the KHL for $4m/year, but is still willing to negotiate with the Sens, in the hopes of reaching an agreement before camp. It’s a little odd that he hasn’t signed already, considering how “close” both sides said they were. I’m not expecting to see Meszaros in anything but a Sens uniform, however.

Vitaly Vishnevksi has been placed on waivers by the Devils to clear some cap room. The Devils have only roughly $1m in cap space and will need at least triple that for emergency purposes to open the season. However, it remains to be seen is Vishnevski, who has two years remaining (including this year), will be bought out, or simply demoted.

Josef Boumedienne makes his return to the NHL as a Leaf on a two-way contract. He is signed purely for depth purposes, and is not necessarily a sign that Bryan McCabe is moving for sure.

Aug 222008
 

“Vicarious liability.” That’s the technical term for the liability that is imposed on the employer for the conduct of his/her employee, on the grounds that the employer should be held accountable for third party losses. Bruce Dowbiggin at the Calgary Herald argues that the recent turn of events in the Steve Moore case could set a precedent to the NHL’s policy of allowing “extreme violence” in the sport. This trial is extremely significant for the NHL because unlike the Marty McSorley or Dino Ciccarelli case, this is a civil case, not criminal.

Marc Crawofrd has vehemently denied any responsibility for Todd Bertuzzi‘s actions, and had argued that he was in fact trying to get Bertuzzi back to the bench moments before the sucker punch. Dowbiggin’s source claims that the trial will come down to Moore’s own decision to play that game. Should Moore have willingly dressed for that game, he will have to assume some responsibility, since it is assumed that there would be some concern for injury and high levels of risk.

However, Moore is arguing that the form of violence he was expecting was not “clean,” meaning it wasn’t a body check or a fight. He is further arguing that Bertuzzi had used unreasonable force, and if the judge sides with Moore there could potentially be a big payday for Moore. Should Moore win, the NHL head office may have to make drastic policies in allowing vigilante justice and violence, and perhaps change the overall face of the game. Intimidation tactics like the ones the Broad Street Bullies and the Ducks used may very well be a thing of the past.

Dowbiggin’s source also doesn’t think the blame should solely lie on the shoulders of Crawford, Canucks management, or Orca Bay, but the league as well:

“The NHL could have avoided this. Knowing the level of tension involved in Moore’s hit on Naslund, they could have simply suspended Moore for the two remaining games against Vancouver. That would have solved it. But the league was so arrogant it thought nothing would come of the situation. That let it happen. Now, they’re in a position where it may rebound on them big time.”

Apparently no one else in the world has 20/20 hindsight like Dowbiggin’s source. I would think that the league would’ve come under a lot of fire if they had to suspend Moore for “safety reasons.” Could you imagine to what lengths the league would take precautionary actions for a guy like Sidney Crosby? Would future Buffalo-Ottawa games not feature Ottawa’s entire top line? I’m sorry, but that’s just a bunk argument.

Condolences to…

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Aug 212008
 

Ron MacLean‘s family, whose mother passed away last night from pancreatic cancer. MacLean will return to Oakville to be with his family and has left the anchor position for CBC’s Olympic broadcasts. He has covered every single Olympics since 1988, and has been on Hockey Night in Canada for the past 18 years.

We, at HockeyAnalysis.com, give our sincerest condolences to the MacLean family.

Aug 212008
 

Bryan McCabe‘s move to the sunshine state is generating a lot of buzz lately, and the Palm Beach Post has suggested that McCabe’s acquisition is Jacques Martin‘s way of saying “we’re serious about winning” in the hopes that Jay Bouwmeester would bite.

I say that’s wishful thinking, Jacques. I say the only way they can get Bouwmeester to stay is if they reach the playoffs and put up a fight in the first round, but the former seems unlikely already. While McCabe is a huge step up over Mike Van Ryn, who is rumoured to be going the other way, he’s not exactly a guy that can just turn around the fortunes of an underachieving team. The Panthers still have a shoddy offense and have yet to replace Olli Jokinen, and even with McCabe’s offensive abilities they’re still lacking bite.

On a semi-related topic, the Panthers are one of 8 teams who still have not named a captain, and James Mirtle has brought up some names.

For the record, I don’t think anyone on the Thrashers, Panthers, Kings, Leafs, or Canucks roster is captain material, but if I had to pick it’d be Ilya Kovalchuk, Nathan Horton, Dustin Brown, Tomas Kaberle, and Willie Mitchell, respectively. But my picks were Chris Drury for the Rangers, Mike Richards for Philadelphia, and Vincent Lecavalier for Tampa.