Oct 272009

Yesterday the NHL, Moyes, and the other creditors were in court before bankruptcy judge Redfield T. Baum and they have apparently come to an arrangement that will see the NHL purchase the Coyotes.  The intention of the NHL is to secure the Coyotes and then quickly flip them to another potential owner interested in keeping the team in Phoenix.  The most talked about potential buyer is a group called Ice Edge Holdings which had previously expressed interest in purchasing the team but was not able to come to an agreement with the City of Glendale and possibly other creditors in time to put in a bid during the bankruptcy process.

Azcentral.com conducted an interview with Daryl Jones of Ice Edge in regards to the situation.  Two things he said deserve some consideration.

Any new buyer is going to need some help, and I don’t mean concessions. You need help from the NHL to draw fans, and Glendale on a grassroots level.

Interesting that he said “I don’t mean concessions” which I read to mean concessions from the city. I don’t buy this. I believe this is a publicity statement because everyone agrees that the Coyotes cannot operate under the current lease arrangement and the NHL is purchasing the Coyotes only committing to keep the current lease through the end of this season. Essentially the existing lease agreement is going to be torn up at the end of this season and anyone purchasing the Coyotes with the intent of keeping them in Glendale will only do so with a different lease arrangement. Ice Edge, or any other ownership group, will have the ultimate bargaining power with the City: let us play here for next to nothing, or we will leave. Daryl Jones can call it something other than ‘concessions’ but the only way the team stays in Glendale is under a new, and much cheaper, lease arrangement that will see less net flow of money from the team to Glendale.

No we’re not going to do that. I know other parties have tried to do that. We quite frankly don’t have a backup plan. Our plan is to make it work in Phoenix. In our opinion, it’s the wrong way to approach the partnership with Glendale – a “we’ll try it but if it doesn’t work out we’re going to leave.

That statement is just plain stupid. No one, and I mean no one, will be willing to put $140 million into a relatively risky investment without a backup plan. They may not state it publicly but I can guarantee you they have discussed a backup plan. The guys behind Ice Edge Holdings Inc. are investors looking to make a profit, not mega rich guys looking for a hobby to spend their money on. They view this as a way to get into the NHL on the cheap. If an NHL franchise in say Kansas City is worth $200 million and they purchase the Coyotes for $140 million, that gives them a $60 million cushion to work with. If they can get a much better lease arrangement with the City of Glendale and get some additional revenue from playing a handful of games in Saskatoon they could theoretically test the Coyotes market for say 3 years before they eat up that $60 million. From an investment standpoint, they don’t start losing money until they go beyond the $200 million point. If anyone thinks that Ice Edge Holdings hasn’t discussed this you are fooling yourself. Even the NHL didn’t want to buy the team without an out clause in their conditions to purchase the team.

There is also some talk that Gary Bettman is continuing discussions with a Toronto group that is interested in purchasing the Coyotes and keeping them in Phoenix. Again, my skepticism remains the same. I just can’t imagine anyone without any specific ties to the Phoenix area being willing to purchase the Coyotes and be committed to keeping the team in Phoenix long term. No one will put that much money at risk without at least some assurances that if it doesn’t work out in a few years they can move the franchise. Publicly they may state otherwise, but most assuredly they will be looking at an out.

Since we are on the topic of the Phoenix Coyotes, Gary Bettman conducted and interview on Coyotes TV in which he said something completely ridiculous in regards to the Coyotes franchise.

The vital signs with everything that this franchise has been through are actually pretty good.

Here is the reality of it all. They held an opening night promotion selling all tickets at $25 or less and they managed to sell out the arena. Since then they have average just under 9,000 tickets sold per game (with fewer fans bothering to show up). Barring a completely unexpected change of fan interest the Coyotes will not reach an average of 14,000 fans per game which will see their revenue share allotment cut back by 25%, or nearly $4 million and if they don’t reach that level again next year it will be cut back even more. That makes a dire situation look even worse. Now, I am not sure of Bettman’s definition of ‘pretty good’ is, but I would not call those pretty good vital signs.

Oct 162009

So the word out of Phoenix last night was that the announced attendance for the Coyotes game was 6,899 but that probably more like 5000 people actually showed up. Clearly attendance in Phoenix is going to be a major issue this year, but it won’t just be Phoenix if early attendance numbers are any indication. Here are attendance numbers for three other southern U.S. teams that have played at least 3 home games so far.

Carolina Hurricanes

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
18680 18680 0
18680 16186 -2494
15016 13597 -1419
15635 14053 -1582

Nashville Predators

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
17113 14797 -2316
13259 14209 950
12042 12179 137
14704 13103 -1601

Tampa Bay Lightning

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
18552 17454 -1098
14420 14212 -208
15191 14126 -1065

It is still early but those are significant drops in attendance figures. Nashville is going to be particularly interesting to watch because they need to keep attendance above the 14,000 mark to maintain a full share of revenue sharing. Failure to achieve an average of 14,000 will cause them to lose 25% of their revenue sharing allotment which would equate to close to $4,000,000 which is significant to any team, particularly one that is struggling to break even. If Tampa struggles on the ice and fans become more disinterested because of it this could become a problem for them as well and we already know how unstable their ownership situation is. This despite a significant drop in average ticket price for Lightning games.

What is also interesting is that falling attendance may not be limited to non-traditional southern US hockey markets.

Ottawa Senators

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
20182 18075 -2107
20179 19360 -819
19318 17014 -2304
18952 17732 -1220

The rise in the Canadian dollar will help offset some of the drop in attendance revenue and if Ottawa can play well then I can see their attendance improving, but clearly some of the luster of high flying Senators teams of a few years ago when they sold out every game has faded away.

Detroit Red Wings

2008-09 2009-10 Difference
20066 20066 0
19011 19122 111
20066 17782 -2284

We all know that Detroit is an extremely hard hit city economically and it may start reflecting in the Red Wings attendance this year. The 17,782 that showed up to watch the Red Wings last night is 1,080 fewer fans that last years lowest attendance level of 18,862.

I revisit these teams and also take a look at a few other franchises (Atlanta, Florida, Dallas, etc.) in a few weeks once each team has played a few more home games but early indications are not all that good for some franchises.

Oct 122009

Last week I wrote on the worst team money can buy and in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving I figured I would write up a similar article this time discussing all the players we can be thankful are on our team because they provide good value for their salary.

The NHL salary floor is $40.8 million so in making up this roster I intend to get as close to that floor as possible, and certainly within $1 million of it. The other restriction I am putting on myself is to not select any players on entry level contracts. Everyone else is fair game though. Here is what I have come up with:

LW: Zach Parise, $3,125,000
C: Ryan Getzlaf, $5,325,000
RW: Daniel Alfredsson, $4,875,000

LW: Brooks Laich, $2,066,666
C: Brandon Dubinsky, $1,850,000
RW: Teemu Selanne, $2,625,000

LW: Rene Bourque, $1,350,000
C: Ryan Kesler, $1,750,000
RW: Alexandre Burrows, $2,000,000

LW: Shawn Thornton, $516,666
C: Manny Malholtra, $700,000
RW: Tyler Kennedy, $725,000

D: Niklas Kronwall, $3,000,000
D: Ryan Suter, $3,500,000
D: Mark Stuart, $1,300,000
D: Braydon Coburn, $1,300,000
D: Ian White, $850,000
D: Jay McKee, $800,000

G: Cam Ward, $2,666,666
G: Josh Harding, $1,100,000

Total: $41,424,998

Most of the players on the list above are on their second contracts after their entry level contract and signed before they became unrestricted free agents or older players who have taken home town discounts (Alfredsson, Selanne) or players who were forced to sign cheap because of lack of money to go around (Malholtra, McKee).

That lineup is quite strong down the middle (Getzlaf, Dubinsky, Kesler, Malholtra) with some solid wingers and a healthy dose of physical play spread throughout. There really aren’t many, if any, teams with a forward group as good as the above group and the top line of Parise-Getzlaf-Alfredsson would be among the top in the game. The defense is a little thinner as I allocated more money to the forwards but Kronwall-Suter make for a pretty good top pairing and Stuart-Coburn make a good young second pairing. Jay McKee can be a PK specialist who will block a lot of shots and White can do a number of things well and is capable of eating up ice time at a relatively cheap price. The defense is good but certainly not Detroit good or Anaheim from a couple years ago good. In goal you have a quality goalie in Cam Ward (who will not be on this list next year with is sizeable pay increase) who has won a Stanley Cup and a very very good backup in Harding who has starter potential down the road.

Overall, I think this team could compete with any team in the NHL today and might in fact be the Stanley Cup favourite.

Oct 092009

While reading Greg Wyshynski’s article on CapGeek.com, it got me thinking, what are the most over paid players in the NHL? I later refined that question to be, what is the worst team money can buy? By that I mean, if one built a team out using current players and their salary cap hits, what is the worst team I could come up with if I spent to the salary cap of $56.8 million?

The guidelines I went with were that I needed 12 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies with at least some resemblance of four left wingers, four right wingers and four centers though there are many forwards that play multiple forward positions (especially either wing) so there is some leeway here. Furthermore, I didn’t take players that were not on active NHL rosters (i.e. Michael Nylander) and I only took players with a salary greater than $1,000,000 believing that anyone making close to the league minimum is probably a reasonable value even if they aren’t that great or could be easily replaced with a decent enough player. I also had to have the total team salary above $56 million but below the cap of $56.8 million. So, with those guidelines in mind, this is what I came up with:

LW: Dustin Penner, 4,500,000
C: Chris Drury, 7,050,000
RW: Fredrik Modin, 3,250,000

LW: Jonathan Cheechoo, 3,000,000
C: Jeff Halpern, 2,000,000
RW: Radim Vrbata, 3,000,000

LW: Darcy Tucker, 2,250,000
C: Brendan Morrison, 1,500,000
RW: Colton Orr, 1,000,000

LW: Jamal Mayers, 1,333,333
C: Chris Kelly, 2,125, 000
RW: George Laraque, 1,500,000

D: Wade Redden, 6,500,000
D: Ruslan Salei, 3,025,000
D: Tom Preissing, 2,750,000
D: John Erskine, 1,250,000
D: Sean O’Donnell, 1,250,000
D: Darryl Sydor, 1,000,000

G: Jose Theodore, 4,500,000
G: Vesa Toskala, 4,000,000

Total Salary: $56,783,333

There are some decent players on that list. When forced to spend to $57.8 million you really can’t avoid not taking some decent players. The team is fairly defensively minded at center ice and has several physical/tough guy players but I think goal scoring is going to be a problem. On defense there isn’t really much of anything mostly consisting of older players past their prime or a guy like Redden who for some reason has forgotten how to play quality hockey over the past couple seasons. At $2.53 million he might be decent value, at $6.5 million he is horrible value. In goal we have a former great starter who like Redden seemingly has forgotten how to play decent hockey and a once decent backup who has yet to show he can be a decent starter.

Three players that almost made the list were Lee Stempniak (2,500,000), Chris Neil (2,000,000) and Cristobal Huet (5,625,000) but I ended up going with Penner, Orr and Theodore instead because for $2 million more I don’t think you are going to get much more offense from Penner and I believe that Huet still has greater upside than Theodore though I’ll admit with a higher salary may not be greater value. I think Neil is significantly over paid at $2 million but I had to take Orr at $1,000,000 instead because Neil would put me over the cap.

So, what do you think? What would be your worst team money can buy?

Oct 012009

Here are my eastern conference predictions:

1. Washington, 109pts – This is a bit of a gamble that the Capitals are going to get good enough goaltending from Theodore and Varlamov, but if they do, 109 points is easily within their reach. They had the pure offensive stars last season and I think that the singing of veteren and more physical winger Knuble will be one of the best free agents signings of this past summer.

2. Philadelphia, 104pts – They lost a bit of scoring up front with Knuble signing in Washington and Lupul traded to Anaheim but a healthy Briere and the progression of youngsters Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk and Pronger gives them a true stud on defense. Like Washington they are going to need better than average goaltending to obtain these lofty point totals but if they get it reaching 104pts shouldn’t be a problem.

3. Pittsburgh, 99pts (fourth seed) – They won the Stanley Cup and they are a great team, but even as a great team they have been streaky from time to time over the past couple seasons and that will probably continue and will stop them from reaching 100+ points. But they will still be a tough team to beat come playoff time.

4. Boston, 98pts (third seed) – The Bruins are going to drop off a fair bit from last season simply because I don’t really think they are really as good as they performed last year. A lot of things went really well for them and not many didn’t, plus they lost Phil Kessel and that will hurt their depth a little. But they are still a good team with Thomas in goal, Chara on defense and several very good forwards.

5. New Jersey, 97pts – New Jersey is no longer the elite team it one was largely due to a far more average defense group than they have in the past, but with some solid offensive players combined with a good team defensive system and elite level goaltending they will once again be middle of the pack of eastern conference playoff teams, right there between great and mediocre.

6. Toronto, 95pts – Now I know a lot of people will scream bias at this prediction but I truly believe that 95 points is relatively easily obtainable if they even get average goaltending. Maybe I shouldn’t assume that but with a healthy Toskala, a promising prospect in Gustavsson and a more than decent third option in Joey MacDonald not to mention one of the best goalie coaches in the game in Francois Allaire getting average goaltending is certainly within reach. They also have a good and deep defense and a significant number of forwards capable of scoring 20-30 goals so they should produce enough offensively. Goaltending is key.

7. NY Rangers, 93pts – The Rangers desperately need Gaborik to remain healthy if they want to make the playoffs. Furthermore, they could definitely use another experienced defenseman or two and I expect we’ll see them address that at some point. They have elite level goaltending and that should be good enough to get them in the playoffs so long as Gaborik can be mostly healthy.

8. Buffalo, 92pts – One could easily argue that if Ryan Miller didn’t get injured and miss several weeks last year they the Sabres would have made the playoffs. The reality is there is enough talent on this team that they could finish as high as 5th in the conference if not challenge Boston for the team lead. I am just not sure their defense is good enough right now so I’ll say they will finish in 8th spot.
Continue reading »

Oct 012009

Here are my western conference predictions. Eastern conference predictions to come later this afternoon.

1. San Jose, 113pts – They have lost some depth but added a big time scorer in Dany Heatley. I am not sure if they will be a better team, or most importantly for San Jose fans, a better team in the playoffs, but they are still good. They need aging Rob Blake to have another good year in him though and youngsters Setoguchi and Clowe to repeat or improve on last year.

2. Chicago, 107pts – Detroit’s loss is Chicago’s gain with the addition of Marian Hossa although he will miss the early part of the season, possibly up to a couple of months. But the remainder of the young Chicago players will take another step forward which should be enough for them to take the central division. The big question mark is in goal which could hurt their chances to be a 100+ point game.

3. Vancouver, 104pts
– Vancouver may not have the offensive flair of the Sharks and Blackhawks or a few of the eastern conference teams but they have a very well balanced team with an elite goalie, a solid and deep defense and a well rounded group of forwards. It is hard to pinpoint any significant flaws except that as a group they don’t have a history of success, particularly in the playoffs. They are a very good team though.

4. Detroit, 103pts – With the loss of several significant players – Hossa, Hudler, Samuelsson, etc. – the Red Wings will almost certainly take a bit of a step back this season, at least until some of the new players adapt to their new roles. That said, their defense is still second to none and they still have a number of top level forwards so they will still be a team to contend with.

5. Anaheim, 98pts – I have Anaheim higher than maybe most people do but I believe they are an elite level team and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were even better than I am predicting. Few teams can boast the quality of forwards that the Ducks have with a top six of Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, Lupul, Selanne and Koivu. Their defense isn’t as strong as in the past with the loss of Pronger but it isn’t bad and they are certain to have quality goaltending with either Giguere or Hiller.

6. Calgary, 95pts – I am not as optimistic on the Flames as many are. Sure they added Bouwmeester which will give them a very good defense, but the loss of 39 goal scorer Cammalleri will hurt the offense in a significant way. But making matters worse is Kiprusoff’s steady decline from elite level goalie to just a good one, at best. His save percentage has dropped steadily (.933, .923, .917, .906, .903) an his goals against average has risen steadily (1.70, 2.07, 2.46, 2.69, 2.84). Those are not good trends and unless he can reverse them I don’t see Calgary being much of a threat this season.

7. Minnesota, 93pts – This year is a bit of a transition year as the Wild will move to be a bit less of a defense first team and I think they have the players that will work well in that system. They are a playoff bubble team, but I think they will get in.

8. St. Louis, 91pts – Last year was a break through year for the Blues and they went from one of the worst teams in the league to a playoff team. I am not sure their young players are quite ready to take the Blues from borderline playoff team to a contender but they should remain in the playoff hunt again. Goaltending and the play of Erik Johnson are keys to the Blues success.
Continue reading »

Sep 302009

I am sure you have all heard by now that Judge Baum has issued a ruling in the Phoenix bankruptcy case. In short his ruling states that he cannot award Balsillie the team and allow it to relocate to Hamilton because over ruling the NHL’s ability to choose its owners and the locations of the franchises is not something that can be done within the rules of a bankruptcy court. (sidenote: it may be possible in an anti-trust lawsuit though) With respect to the NHL’s bid, Judge Baum rejected it stating that the NHL can’t pick and choose which unsecured creditors get paid and which do not. Specifically, he stated that the NHL cannot choose to pay off in full most unsecured creditors while not leaving much money for Wayne Gretzky and Jerry Moyes, but he left the door open to the NHL to submit a revised bid. So where does that leave us now?

With respect to Balsillie, he has issued a statement saying he will not appeal the decision and has accepted the judges decision.

“From the beginning, my attempt to relocate the Coyotes to Hamilton has been about Canadian hockey fans and Canadian hockey. It was a chance to realize a dream. All I wanted was a fair chance to bring a seventh NHL team to Canada, to serve the best unserved hockey fans in the world. I believe I got that chance. I respect the court’s decision, and I will not be putting forward an appeal.”

“Nobody can deny that we are now a big step closer to having a seventh NHL team in Canada. It doesn’t matter who owns that team. When that day comes, I will be the first in line to buy a ticket to the home opener.”

“I want to take this opportunity to thank my family for all their love and support. I also want to thank the more than 200,000 fans who supported the bid online and the countless others who contacted me personally to show their support. This bid always was about the game we all love.”

It sounds as if Balsillie has given up on his quest to be an NHL owner, but he hasn’t outright stated that. Time will tell, but I’d be shocked if someone so eager to get an NHL franchise will five up on owning one forever. Maybe he will wait it out and take a mode passive approach. Maybe he brought on Doug MacLean in part to attempt to try and smooth things over with the other owners and attempt once again to try and get in the front door. Maybe he is going to wait until some NHL team comes calling for a new owner and the NHL is unable to find one. Maybe he is going to hope that the Coyotes situation doesn’t turn out well for the NHL and they get stuck with the team and stuck funding substantial losses and it all backfires on Bettman and he gets fired and a new commish is brought in with a new plan and direction for the league. Who knows what Balsillie has planned now, but I have a hard time believing that his quest for an NHL team is done for good.

As for the NHL, what is there game plan now. They have successfully blocked Balsillie from owning the team, but weren’t able to gain ownership themselves. But maybe that was the best possible outcome. Does the NHL really want to own the Coyotes? Is there really a benefit to the NHL to submit a revised bid and take ownership of the franchise or is it best to just let the franchise wallow in the bankruptcy court for the time being while the NHL works behind the scenes to scrounge up another suitable potential owner that will put in a bid in the coming months. Whether they own the team outright or the team remains in bankruptcy the situation is more or less the same, the NHL is going to be spending the next several months looking for a new owner. The difference is, if the NHL owns the team outright they will be responsible for the losses from this point on, if the team is still in bankruptcy the NHL will still fund the sale but they will be the first to be paid when a sale is eventually made. I suppose there might be an advantage if they owned it outright in that sale negotiations can be made in private, as opposed the the public nature of bankruptcy court, but is that worth the potential losses the NHL will be responsible for? Who knows. We’ll soon find out if the NHL is really interested in owning the team or whether they just wanted to get rid of Balsillie. The future of the Coyotes is still undetermined.

Sep 302009

I am going to come out with complete 2009-10 season predictions for the eastern and western conferences later today or tomorrow but for now let me focus on my favourite team, the Maple Leafs.

Coming out of training camp there is a lot to be optimistic about the Leafs future. Nazem Kadri showed very well in his first NHL training camp and gave every indication that he has a bright future in the NHL. Youngsters Hanson, Bozak and especially Stalberg all played quite well and all showed that they have a future of some kind at the NHL level, especially Stalberg and Bozak who should make an impact this season. Furthermore, come some time in early November the Leafs should be inserting a 36 goal scorer into their lineup when newly acquired Phil Kessel returns from his shoulder injury. At that point there will be more speed and skill on this Leafs roster than we have seen since before the lockout. On defense the additions of Komisarek, Beauchemin and Exelby add additional toughness and a more balanced grouping and Ron Wilson informed us all that Tomas Kaberle is no longer fat so we can be optimistic that he can return to his 60+ point form.

But what Leaf fans need to be most optimistic about is goaltending. Ok, I realize that some of you may still be skeptics considering that Toskala gave up 7 goals on Sunday and looked bad and his backup is a raw rookie with just 3 periods of exhibition play, albeit good play. But what Leaf fans really need to be optimistic about is that last season the goaltending was truly dreadful and it is almost impossible for this seasons goaltending to be worse. As bad as Toskala was last season, and he was quite bad, the trio of backup goaltenders (Joseph, Pogge, Gerber) that were used were significantly worse. Last season Toskala had a record of 22-17-11 while the backup goalies had a record of 12-18-2. Even if Leaf fans assume no improvements in the forwards and defense and that Toskala is just as bad in 2009-10 as he was in 2008-09, if the backups, be it Gustavsson or MacDonald, can even be just as good as Toskala they would have posted a 17-14-1 record. Yes, if the backup goalies last season posted a similar record to Toskala, who was still a bad goalie, the leafs would have had 9 extra points. That would have given them a total of 90 points, just 3 points behind 8th place Montreal.

So, even if Toskala remains the same and the backup goaltending improves from horrific last season to a Toskala-like bad this season, the Leafs should be in playoff contention. If you believe that a now healthy Toskala can even be a little bit better or that Gustavsson is the real deal or if you believe that the there are improvements on defense or up front, you have to be optimistic that the Leafs have a very good shot at obtaining a playoff spot. If the Leafs goaltending can be anywhere close to middle of the pack they are probably a lock for a playoff spot. Even if they only take their save percentage from .885 to .900, which would put them on par with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders of last year, the Leafs should make the playoffs.

In short, Leaf fans should be optimistic because the goaltending was so horrific last season that improving goaltending enough to make the playoffs is not really a difficult task and certainly one that the trio of Toskala/Gustavsson/MacDonald should be able to accomplish.

Sep 252009

As a Leaf fan I follow the Leafs quite closely, but as a resident of Ottawa, I also am very familiar with the happenings and goings on with the Senators. From this perspective I have observed many things, the first being that the Senators fans have to be among the more optimistic fans in the NHL. They always have high hopes for their team and always seem to have a positive outlook on the team heading into the season. Last season they started to get a little down on the Senators, but a late season surge after Cory Clouston took over a coach and their optimism made an equally dramatic surge. Leaf fans on the other hand are often pessimistic and are often very critical of their players. Even though there have been dramatic improvements to the Leafs team heading into the 2009-10 season, many fans are still pessimistic about their chances of making the playoffs, or even competing for them. Yeah, I am generalizing here and there are definitely exceptions to both those generalizations of Senators and Leafs fans but that is my basic observations. But where Sens fans and Leaf fans do not differ is their excitement level and probably excessive exuberance over the prospects that each franchise has in their organization.

For the Senators, this training camp has all been about how center Peter Regin and defenseman Erik Karlsson have impressed in camp and made a strong case for making the team and the play of journeyman AHLer forward turned defenseman Matt Carkner has also been impressive in camp and may have earned a spot on the regular season roster. For the Leafs young forwards Kadri, Bozak, Hanson and Stahlberg have impressed at camp and everyone also expected that Jonas Gustavsson was a lock to back up starter Vesa Toskala if not challenge for the starters role.

For the Senators this has put General Manager Bryan Murray in the position of having to seek a trade to see if he can open up room for Regin, Karlsson and Carkner. The problem is, he can’t seem to find any takers for what he is offering. Specifically, winger/defenseman Christoph Schubert, defenseman Alexandre Picard, forwards Chris Kelly and Jarko Ruutu. There really is no surprise here. Chris Kelly makes over $2 million as a third/fourth line player that has seemingly forgot how to play with a bit of an edge, and Ruutu earns $1.3 million as an fourth line player, and Schubert and Picard may have been edged out on defense by Carkner, a 28 year old journeyman AHLer with 2 NHL games under his belt and who played more games as a winger than a defenseman last season for the Binghamton Senators. If Schubert and Picard can’t make the Senators roster over Carkner, is there really much chance that anyone else will want them? Bryan Murray will have some decisions to make when finalizing his 21-22 man roster but it seems unlikely he’ll get any help from anyone else via a trade.

For the record, I used to really like Chris Kelly. He used to play with speed, intensity and a dash of feistiness despite his small stature. But the last season or two he has lost his edge and while he’ll score you a dozen goals or two and can kill penalties, he isn’t worth anywhere close to $2 million if he isn’t playing with intensity and an edge to his game.

For the Leafs, their young prospects have played exceptionally well too. Kadri has shown some good offensive flair, Stahlberg has shown exceptional speed, Bozak has shown good hockey sense and all round play and Hanson has been effective as well. Problem is, unlike the Senators, the Leafs just don’t have many roster spots open. If there are 13 roster spots open for forwards Blake, Ponikarovsky, Stajan, Grabovski, Stempniak, Hagman, Mitchell, Primeau, and Orr are a lock for 9 of them. Coach Ron Wilson has stated that Rickard Wallin has probably done enough to earn a spot and although he has been unspectacular this preseason I expect Kulemin to keep a spot as well. So that leaves maybe 2 spots left, one which will be given to Kessel when he returns in November and other more experienced options for the final position are Jamal Mayers and Jiri Tlusty.

In essence there really wasn’t and forward spots available on the Leafs heading into camp and barring a veteran just not playing well or a rookie absolutely playing lights out it would be tough for one of the youngsters to make the team out of camp. Adding to the young players challenge is it seems both Burke and Wilson are intent on playing players where they project them to be playing in the future. By that I mean, if they envision Kadri to be a top six player, he will only make the roster if he earns a top six roster spot. Being better than Jamal Mayers isn’t good enough. Same for Bozak, Stahlberg and Hanson. Because of this, barring injuries or a trade Leaf fans should be prepared for the possibility that none of these young forwards breaks camp with the Leafs.

As for Gustavsson, he is unlikely to break camp with the team as well. Ron Wilson has stated that he isn’t yet ready to play a full game and will only play one period or half a game tonight and then maybe another period or two tomorrow night. Are the Leafs going to take Gustavsson who hasn’t yet played a full game over MacDonald, who has played very well? Probably not. More likely Gustavsson gets sent to the Marlies for a week or two to get into game shape. Are Leaf fans prepared to watch a Leaf team starting the season without Kadri, Bozak, Strahberg, Hanson and Gustavsson? I don’t know, but they should get prepared. It could happen.

Sep 232009

In an interesting and unexpected development today Jim Balsillie has made a slight adjustment to his offer to purchase the Coyotes and move them to Hamilton. The new offer includes giving the city a non-refundable $25 million payment if Balsillie won the auction and the second payment of $25 million when the team relocates. In short, if Balsillie won the auction but it was overturned during an appeal process then the City of Glendale would get to keep the initial $25 million. Not to shabby of a deal really.

But the offer gets even better for Glendale. If Balsillie wins the auction the City of Glendale (and the NHL) will still have until the end of this year to find a buyer willing to keep the team in Glendale so long as the prospective owners are willing to pay at least $140 million plus additional debt (the amount required to pay off all the secured creditors). Additionally Balsillie’s is willing to let the team play in Glendale through the end of the 2009-10 season though there may be a window open to relocate the team to Hamilton during the Olympic break.

In essence the new Balsillie offer is giving Glendale pretty much everything that the NHL is giving Glendale plus the potential for an additional $50 million in lease buyout costs which the NHL is not offering Glendale. The only other difference is the cost required for a new buyer looking to purchase the team and keep it in Glendale. If the NHL won the auction they would have the option to choose to sell it to a prospective owner for something less than the $140 million plus additional debt if the NHL chooses to absorb the additional losses. Depending on whether the NHL is willing to lose money on the transaction that may or may not be a significant difference but this latest offer has to be quite interesting to the City of Glendale and may decide to support the Balsillie bid. That would be a coup for Balsillie as Glendale and the NHL have seemingly been in lockstep all through the bankruptcy process.

The big loser in all of this is Jerry Moyes. It was apparent that the Balsillie camp fought hard through the summer to get the deal finalized before the 2009-10 season which would have maximized the return to Jerry Moyes. With the start of the NHL season only a week or so away Balsillie has decided that trying to force a resolution before the start of the season was not possible and rather than risk having his bid tossed out completely he would reduce what would go to Jerry Moyes and set aim on having the team start play in Hamilton for the 2010-11 season. I am sure Jerry Moyes was aware that Balsillie was going to make these changes to his bid and this is what prompted Moyes to make a last ditch effort to come to a quick resolution by asking the judge to force mediation on the NHL. It might be a $50 million dollar difference for him in having the closing delayed until a later date.

In essence what these changes accomplish is it makes the Balsillie bid much more on par with the NHL bid with respect to time lines (removes NHL’s challenge that relocation for 2009-10 season not possible) as well as leaving open the possibility of finding an owner interested in keeping the franchise in Glendale. What this does is remove and question marks as to whether Balsillie’s offer is better, from a financial or structural point of view, than the NHLs. With these changes the only thing left for Judge Baum to decide is whether legally he can over rule the NHL board of governors decision to disapprove Balsillie as a prospective NHL owner and in turn allow Balsillie to relocate the Coyotes to Hamilton. That is still a very large hurdle for Balsillie to overcome, but these changes give Judge Baum all the time he needs to explore those questions fully. It would not shock me if a ruling is still weeks away.