Aug 042009

We are now into mid-August, the dog days of the hockey season, but there are still a number of pretty solid NHL players that are available as un-restricted free agents, including Nikolai Zherdev who was let loose by the NY Rangers today. That got me to thinking, if we took the best of the currently unrestricted free agents, what might the team look like. Here is one possibility.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Alex Tanguay Robert Lang Nikolai Zherdev
Vaclav Prospal Dominic Moore Petr Sykora
Todd Bertuzzi Manny Malholtra Jason Williams
Miroslav Satan Rob Niedermayer Mike Grier
Blair Betts Maxim Afinogenov
Matthieu Schneider Dennis Seidenberg
Martin Skoula Marc-Andre Bergeron
Christian Backman Jassen Cullimore
Francis Boullon
Manny Fernandez
Joey MacDonald

That is actually not all that horrible of a team. Every one of the forwards on the projected top 4 lines had at least 10 goals with 9 of them getting at least 15. Blair Betts is a nice reserve defensive specialist and Afinogenov has great speed and some skill that went missing last season but certainly has 15-20 goal offensive upside, if not more. On defense you have three defensemen with at least 30 points and some decent depth, though nothing exceptional. All totaled, those 18 skaters accounted for 253 goals and 646 points which isn’t too shabby considering the Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, only had 258 goals and 706 goals. Accounting for the fact that the above all-UFA team didn’t total the typical number of man-games that a normal team would have (i.e. 12*82=984 for forwards, and 6*82=492 for defensemen) and the all-UFA offensive production is more like 260 goals and 668 points.

The goaltending is clearly a little weak but if Fernandez can remain healthy enough to play 40+ games it may not be too bad. MacDonald had a decent year for the Islanders last year as well.

So my question(s) to you all is this: How many teams in the NHL as their rosters current sit are worse than the above team? Islanders? Kings? Avalanche? Lightning? Thrashers? Could the above team compete for a playoff spot in the eastern Conference?

Aug 022009

Monday is going to be an interesting day in the Phoenix bankruptcy court room, and it could be a bad day for the Coyotes future in Phoenix.

Up for discussion is a motion filed by the NHL and the City of Glendale to postpone the auction for the sale of the Coyotes to parties interested in keeping the franchise in Phoenix until mid-September and thus cancel or delay until after the 2009-10 NHL season the auction to relocate the Coyotes. But there are a number of other issues that have arisen as well.

1. We have learned that neither the Jerry Reinsdorf or the Ice Edge Holdings bids for the franchise include any cash and will only assume debt. This is an issue because the court bidding procedure required a $10 million deposit be placed, something neither Reinsdorf or Ice Edge Holdings have done. This has prompted Moyes and Balsillie to put forth a motion calling for the cancellation of the August 5th auction stating that there are no qualified bids.

2. Within the Jerry Reinsdorf bid there are indication as to what arrangements have been discussed with the City of Glendale. Apparently what has been discussed is having the city set up a new taxing district around arena that could provide up to $23 million in new funds which presumable would get funneled into team coffers. There is also an out clause that if the team is losing money after 5 years Reinsdorf can get out of the lease and move the team.

3. But maybe the most significant development is we have learned that SOF Investments Ltd., the largest secured creditor and owed approximately $80 million, has come out in support of the Jim Balsillie offer for $212.5 million stating that that was the only bid that would repay them in full.

4. Also rejecting the Reinsdorf offer was AEG who has a contract to manage arena stating there is a dispute over how much money AEG is owed. As we know, a significant condition of the Reinsdorf offer is that they can renegotiate the terms of the contracts and debts with many of the creditors. The more they can’t come to an agreement with (and SOF and AEG are significant) the more difficulties the Judge will have in accepting the Reinsdorf offer (and presumable the Ice Edge offers are similar).

In short, what the Reinsdorf and Ice Holdings offers entail are just an assumption of restructured debt and contracts without any up front cash. At this point in time the largest secured creditor (SOF), the largest unsecured creditor (Moyes), and at least one contract holder (AEG) object to the offers. Plus, neither Reinsdorf or Ice Edge have come to a final agreement with the City of Glendale either. Right now, the Coyotes remaining in Phoenix might be a long shot at best. I look forward to hearing what Judge Baum has to say on all of this tomorrow but with everyone wanting Wednesday’s auction either delayed or canceled outright, the chances of getting a resolution to this mess on Wednesday seems somewhere between slim and none, and leaning towards none.

More details can be found here and here.

Is the NHL/Glendale stalling?

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Jul 312009

Yesterday, both the NHL and the City of Glendale have filed motions to the court to delay the ‘Glendale only’ auction from August 5th to sometime in November.

From the NHL:

Based on the foregoing, the NHL moves the Court to extend the hearing date for the sale of substantially all of the assets of the Phoenix Coyotes to September 10, 2009.It is clear to the NHL that the Reinsdorf Group’s Bid presents a significant opportunity to sell the team to an owner thatis dedicated to keeping the team in the City of Glendale, thereby avoiding the massive damage to the City, which has been described to this Court, as well as providing for the Debtor’s secured creditors and a substantial percentage of Debtor’s unsecured creditors.The NHL also understands that the Reinsdorf Group is close to a deal with the City of Glendale, which representsits most significant outstanding contingency. The NHL believes that once the Reinsdorf Group reaches an agreement with the City of Glendale that the other deals they are attempting to work out with creditors will also fall into place.

From the City of Glendale:

In recognition of that fact, each of these two bidders has steadfastly worked over the three weeks permitted here to satisfy all such contingencies and to make the modifications necessary to make such bids fully compliant with what this Court and all creditors would expect as a final bid. Glendale is very pleased to report that it has conducted very extensive, constructive and good faith discussions with each bidder and as of this day, is very close to a definitive agreement with each of the Reinsdorf Group and Ice Edge that would allow the Team, under new ownership, to continue to play at the Arena in Glendale for the foreseeable future with strong economic essentials and support from all necessary constituencies.

Those statements from the NHL and from the City of Glendale are quite telling because they are essentially arguing that over the past three weeks they have worked their butts off to come to an agreement with Jerry Reinsdorf but have not quite been able to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s yet but given another few weeks they could accomplish just that. But what has me confused is the NHL’s assertions that Jerry Reinsdorf was set proceed with an intent to purchase agreement way back on May 5th only to be shunned by Moyes taking the team to bankruptcy only hours before a meeting with Moyes. If the City of Glendale, the NHL, Reinsdorf, and the creditors have only been working on an agreement for the past 3 weeks, what were they doing during May and June?

If the NHL/Glendale can get Judge Baum to postpone any relocation auction it will give the NHL/Glendale almost another full year to find a new owner for the franchise that will keep the team in Phoenix, even if both Jerry Reinsdorf and the Ice Edge groups drop out which if they can’t come to an agreement with the City of Glendale will certainly happen. The hope might be that a couple things happen: 1. The economy turns around and credit becomes more obtainable making the purchase of an NHL team more viable to more people. 2. The Coyotes young players really take a step forward this season and turn the Coyotes into a playoff team generating more fan interest and more revenue and thus making the Coyotes a more attractive team to buy and keep in Phoenix. Or, failing that, it will give the NHL more time to find an owner of their choosing (read: anybody but Balsillie) to relocate the team to a location of their choosing (read: Kansas City, Las Vegas, etc.).

As I wrote yesterday, I expect Judge Baum to view this as a delay tactic and choose not to delay the Glendale only auction and rather just state that these bidders can participate in the open auction already set for September 10th if they can’t participate in the August 5th auction. The question will be, will there be any bidders come next Wednesday’s auction? Presumably not since everyone is stating they need more time.

Jul 302009

There have been a lot of developments over the past couple days in the Phoenix Coyote situation and the next week will be an interesting one for sure.

Yesterday the NHL Board of Governors voted to approve Jerry Reinsdorf as a potential owner of the Phoenix Coyotes while voting against Jim Balsille and postponing any decision on the Ice Edge group do to an incomplete application. None of this is really surprising news but the vote against Balsillie is an interesting one as Judge Baum in an earlier ruling that barring material changes PSE (Balsillie’s company for purchasing an NHL team) should be an acceptable owner.

Absent some showing by the NHL that there have been material changes in PSE’s circumstances since 2006, it appears to the court that the NHL can not object or withhold its consent to PSE becoming the controlling owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. –Judge Baum

So if this was Judge Baum’s ruling, why would the NHL vote against Balsillie? The NHL was quick to point out that the vote was because of a clause in the NHL by-laws addressing ones character and integrity.

“The criteria set forth in the (NHL) constitution and bylaws relates to financial wherewithal, character, integrity and the view whether or not the other owners would deem you a good partner,” –Gary Bettman

Clearly financial wherewithal wasn’t the concern so it had to be in regards to character, integrity and whether Balsillie would be a good partner. It will be interesting to see the NHL defend their vote in the court of law should it get that far because they didn’t seem to have many problems with him when Balsillie was looking into buying the Penguins or Predators.

The other thing that the NHL was quick to point out was that this had nothing to do with relocation. To me, I believe that this had everything to do with relocation in that the last thing the NHL wants to do is consider relocation. By voting against Balsillie the person they don’t have to conduct a vote against relocation of the Coyotes to Hamilton because had they made that vote that would be all the ammunition that the Balsillie group would need to conduct an anti-trust case against the league. The main reason why on June 15th Judge Baum rejected the Balsillie bid was because he rejected Balsillie’s claim the NHL was violating anti-trust laws because the NHL had never voted against any team relocating and without such a dispute the judge felt no obligation to overrule the NHL constitution and by-laws. The NHL does not want to open themselves up to that so they are avoiding it by not addressing the relocation issue and clearly stating that the vote against Balsillie had nothing to do with relocation.

There have been more developments today as well that are quite interesting.

In a motion filed in bankruptcy court on Thursday, Moyes’ attorney said that Reinsdorf’s bid “cannot be approved as a matter of law” and that “there are no qualified bidders” based on terms set by the court.

We should find out tomorrow what the details of the argument against Reinsdorf and we’ll find out if the motion has substance or just more legal posturing.

Glendale said that it is “very close to a definitive agreement with each of the Reinsdorf group and Ice Edge that would allow the team, under new ownership, to continue to play at the Arena in Glendale for the foreseeable future with strong economic essentials and support from all necessary constituencies.”

The filings did not divulge what the “strong economic essentials” would be or provide details of the negotiations.

Glendale asked Judge Redfield T. Baum to postpone the sale to “early to mid-September.” The NHL, meanwhile, asked Baum to set a Sept. 10 deadline.

In my mind the agreement between the City of Glendale and the Reinsdorf and Ice Edge groups is a key to whether Balsillie has any chance of purchasing the team. If no agreement can be reached both the Reinsdorf and the Ice Edge offers to purchase the team go away and Judge Baum will have no choice but to open up bids to groups interested in relocating the team, and for that matter, the NHL will have no choice either.
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Jul 242009

Ok, I just read an article that Howard Berger wrote yesterday on how the Leafs must trade Tomas Kaberle. It was a pretty disturbing read actually because it showed the ignorance of just how good Tomas Kaberle has been and how ignorant Howard Berger is to what Brian Burke is trying to build in Toronto (not just a team of tough guys).

While he is unquestionably the Leafs’ best defenseman, Kaberle is not, nor has he ever been, in the upper echelon among NHL stars. He is an above-average performer some nights; middling and ineffective on many others, with an enviable ability to head-man the puck. His repertoire does not include even a shred of physical aptitude, which would seem to disqualify him as a Burke protégé.

I will accept that Kaberle has some flaws, mostly in the defensive end (be he is not really a liability either) but to call him middling and ineffective on many nights is short changing Kaberle a whole lot. In Kaberle we are talking about a defenseman who is among the top scoring defensemen post lockout. Here are a comparison of defensemen post lockout.

Niedermayer: 291games, 50g, 166a, 216pts, +4
Kaberle: 295games, 32g, 177a, 209pts, -14

Now when you take into account differences in the quality of each defenseman’s teammates and Kaberle’s numbers start to look very impressive. And as for Kasberle and his softness not being a Burke type player, well Burke has always said he tough guys on his squad to make room for skilled guys like Kaberle and the guy Berger is promoting Burke trade Kaberle for, Phil Kessel, is certainly not a physical presence either. Brian Burke was more than happy to make room for Markus Naslund in Vancouver and Teemu Selanne in Anaheim and it’s not like Scott Niedermayer is the most physical of defensemen either. Pair Kaberle with Beauchemin and you have a great mix of skill and physical play. Post lockout the Leafs have been in the top 12 in scoring every season and that isn’t because the Leafs have had an abundance of highly skilled forwards. It is because the Leafs have had skilled defensemen like Kaberle and to be so eager to trade him away is just plain silly. I am glad Brian Burke has more sense than that.

Though some may invoke Kaberle’s “many contributions to the Maple Leafs”, the club could just as easily have missed the playoffs the past four years without him. Fact is, Kaberle hasn’t appeared in a post-season game in more than half-a-decade, and we can easily count, on one hand, the number of playoff encounters he influenced prior to 2004.

The one thing that really bugs me about Howard Berger is that he often jumps to conclusions about players based on whether that player has made the playoffs yet. Just because Kaberle hasn’t been in the playoffs the past four seasons is not evidence that he is a bad player. It astonished me that for someone who watches as much hockey as Howard Berger does that he seems to forget that hockey is a team sport. There are reasons why the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs and Tomas Kaberle’s name should not come up anywhere on the list of reasons. Using that logic Roberto Luongo must be a bad goalie because he has only won 6 playoff games in his career spanning nine NHL seasons.

That’s why it is almost impossible to conceive that Burke will not be presented an adequate trade proposal before Aug. 15th. Though the GM contends he will only move Kaberle if his “socks” are blown off, he knows he isn’t bartering Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom, Dion Phaneuf, Dan Boyle, or any front-of-the-pack NHL defenseman.

I’ll accept that Kaberle isn’t Chara who has such a unique set of attributes or Lidstrom who might be the best defensemen in the NHL ever and probably not Phaneuf who also adds a physical dimension to the game that Kaberle doesn’t bring, but I’d say Kaberle is definitely comparable to Boyle. In fact, Boyle might be Kaberle’s best comparison. Neither are big or play physical and statistically over the last four seasons they are fairly comparable with Boyle being a bit more of a goal scorer while Kaberle having more assists. Both are good skaters and very good puck handlers and both are very good anchoring the power play. Kaberle’s strengths and weaknesses compare very favourably to Boyles and at a $4.25 million salary Kaberle’s value is outstanding.
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Mid-summer hockey thoughts

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Jul 242009

We are approaching mid-summer, though the weather seems to indicate it is still late spring with below average temperatures and lots of rain. That said, the NHL draft is over as is the prime free agent season and while several teams have new looks and have pretty much set rosters, other teams still have moves to make. Here are a few mid-summer hockey thoughts.

Are the Philadelphia Flyers a better

The Philadelphia Flyers made one of the boldest moves of the summer trading away Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and a couple of first round picks for Chris Pronger. As good as Pronger is though, are the Flyers a better team? In addition to losing Lupul they have also lost Mike Knuble to the Capitals via free agency and between Lupul and Knuble that is a loss of 52 goals. That is a big hit to the Flyers offense that they will have to make up. A healthy Briere and the development of Claude Giroux or James Van Riemsdyk could offset some of that loss. On defence Pronger definitely makes the Flyers a better team. With Pronger, Timonen, Coburn, Jones, Carle and Parent they will have one of the better defences in the NHL but there isn’t a lot of depth beyond those top six so staying healthy will be important. But the real problem for the Flyers has been their problem for the past 15 odd years. Goaltending. Last year the Flyers had the 6th best team save percentage as Biron had a .912 save percentage and Niittymaki had a .912 save percentage but both goalies suffered from inconsistent play from time to time. While Biron and Niittymaki are far from elite level goalies, both played fairly well in goal last year but neither of them were welcomed back to the Flyers. Replacing them will be Ray Emery returning from the KHL and Brian Boucher who had a good year in San Jose last year but over his career he hasn’t proven to be anything more than a decent backup. It may not be a stretch to say that Ray Emery will be a key to how good the Flyers will be in 2009-10. Is Emery capable of playing 60 games of quality goaltending? It is certainly possible as he played 58 games for Ottawa in 2006-07 posting a 33-16-6 record with a .918 save percentage. Problem is, he followed that up with a dismal 2007-08 season going 12-13-4 with a very weak .890 save percentage. It seems he had a good year in the KHL last year so maybe his 2007-08 season was an off year but it seems clear to me that for the Flyers to be a better team Ray Emery has to be pretty solid in goal and that is a big question mark. Without decent to good goaltending the Flyers can’t be considered among the top Stanley Cup contenders.

Are the Calgary Flames better

The Flames made a similar move to the Flyers in acquiring Jay Bouwmeester but are they really a better team? To make room for Bouwmeester the Flames had to part with Jordan Leopold, Adrian Aucoin and most importantly Mike Cammalleri. Last season the Flames finished 8th in the NHL in goals but Cammalleri scored 39 goals for the Flames and was a big part of the Flames offense. A full season of Olli Jokinen will pick up some of the slack but the Flames offense will be centered around Jokinen and Iginla and not a lot more. Additionally Rene Bourque scored 21 goals (in just 58 games) last year which was a career high and it might be a stretch to expect him to repeat. It is difficult to imagine the Flames offense next year being as good as last years. The defense is in many way comparable to the Flyers with an excellent top four of Bouwmeester, Phaneuf, Regehr and Sarich and a couple of decent guys to fill out the depth charts but not much beyond that if there many significant long term injuries. But like the Flyers, the problem I see with the Flames is in goal. That may surprise some but Kiprusoff has been relatively average the past few seasons. His save percentage has dropped from .933 in 2003-04 to .923, .917, .906 and down to .903 last season. That is not a trend that a Flames fan would enjoy seeing continue but is there really any reason to believe it won’t? One of the problems has been that the Flames have never brought in a good enough backup to give Kiprusoff any rest time and another off season seems to be passing by where they have chosen not to address that issue. I don’t see the Flames being any better this upcoming season and may in fact take a step back.

Should the Leafs keep Kaberle

There have been a number of rumours this summer about the Leafs trading Tomas Kaberle. The biggest rumour was Kaberle to the Bruins for Phil Kessel but in recent weeks the rumours have died down and the other day Burke came out and stated that he believes that Kaberle will start the season with the Leafs. For Leaf fans, I think this is good news as I believe that keeping Kaberle is in the Leafs best interest. Going into next season the Leafs could have a top 4 defence grouping of Kaberle-Beauchemin-Schenn-Komisarek. That is a pretty good group with a nice mix of offense and defense and physical play and when you round it out with two of White, Van Ryn, Finger, Exelby, Frogren and Stralman and you have one of the better top 6 in the league.
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Jul 072009

There are several teams that are tight against the salary cap, such as the Flyers and Flames, but those teams look like they can manage without any major roster moves. The same can’t be said for the following three teams.

Ottawa Senators

With the Kovalev signing they are now over the cap for the 2009-10 season by close to $1.5 million and next season doesn’t get much better as they have about $46 million allocated to just 11 players and only 2 defensemen. That doesn’t include prospect defenseman Erik Karlsson who would earn $875,000 with bonuses that could take him to $1.3 million. Yes, they will trade Dany Heatley which might save some money but they will likely have to take significant money back as well. In the Edmonton deal they were set to take back Dustin Penner’s $4.25 million contract as well as potentially a couple million for Cogliano and Smid. Jason Smith and his $2.6 millio contract is a likely target to be dumped if necessary but that won’t help next years cap problems which could mean big problems if the cap drops any significant amount.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks currently have about $1.5 cap space next season but still need to add about 4 more forwards to fill out their roster and at a league minimum salary of $500K that won’t be possible. The Sharks are going to have to shed at least a small amount of salary. Prior to the sharks signing Ryan Clowe to a 4 year, $3.5 million per year contract there were a number of rumours that he could be traded and I suppose he still could in the right deal. More likely to be traded though are defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Christian Ehrhoff each of whom come with a $3.1 million cap hit or possibly cheaper defensemen Douglas Murray ($2.5 million) or Brad Lukowich ($1.566 million). Johnathan Cheechoo is a possibility too but with his poor play in recent years it might be difficult to find a taker for his $3 million cap hit over the next 2 seasons.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks don’t really have any problems this season as they have over $4 million to spend and really only Kris Versteeg to sign. That is unless the issue with the late qualifying offers results in Versteeg being made a UFA in which case he may find a lucrative offer elsewhere. In some respects though, that may be a blessing in disguise for the Blackhawks because next summer will be real tough for them as they have committed close to $40 million in cap space and will have to sign Kane, Toews and Keith, all of whom might command in the $5 million per year range and they will still need to find about 6-8 players to fill out the roster and I haven’t even considered what might happen with Versteeg. This might be the year for the Blackhawks to make a run at the Stanley Cup because next summer will see them trading away at least a couple of big salaries or at the very least dumping Huet and his inflated salary in the AHL and going the Red Wing route with cheap goalies.

Jun 302009

It seems that the majority of the Toronto hockey media seem to have the belief that the Maple Leafs are at least 3-4 years away from being a good team and that the best way to get there is to do nothing this summer and hope to get another high draft pick in next years draft. Howard Berger is a prime example as we can see from his latest article, as well as his comments on the radio today.

It’s the reason Burke has to do his utmost to resist temptation this week. A number of distinguished names will be available on the open market, but none will lift the Maple Leafs into the Promised Land. At least, not yet. Furthermore, signing expensive free agents will diminish the ice time required for the club’s growing list of youngsters to prove whether they belong in the NHL.

I understand Howard’s argument that you build success through the draft and player development and there is some truth to that. You can build your team by being bad for a number of years and stocking up high draft picks as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington have done. But more often than not, that doesn’t work. See Columbus. See Atlanta. See Florida. See Los Angeles. See Phoenix. Maybe someday these teams will be good, but honestly, can you see Columbus, who made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, compete for a Stanley Cup in the next few years? Not me. On the flip side, how many high draft picks has the Detroit Red Wings had over the past 10 or 15 years? Their highest pick in the past 15 years was in 2005 when they drafted Jakub Kindl 19th overall and more often than not, they don’t even draft in the first round.

If anything, the NHL in the new salary cap era is probably less about drafting well because talented young players are getting big time money upon leaving their entry level contracts which is completely different from the pre-lockout environment when you could keep your young players relatively cheaply for much longer. The biggest difference in the new system is you can’t afford to make mistakes or over pay players for what they provide. This is what makes Burke a good General Manager. He is resolute in that he has a game plan and he will stick to it. In trades, he won’t over pay even if it is for someone he really wants (see moving up in the draft) and likewise in free agency he won’t pay more than he thinks a player is worth. But there is no reason why Burke shouldn’t try to sign a big name, big salaried free agent so long as he believes that the player is a player who can be a component of a winning team both now and in the future and so long as he isn’t over paying for that player.

The New York Rangers have made mistakes. Signing Gomez, Drury and Redden to such big contracts was a mistake, not because those are bad players, but because they are all making probably 1-2 million more per season than they should be. Had they been on more reasonable contracts the Rangers could very well afford another $4-5 million player which would make them a much more competitive team and might move them from a first round playoff exit to a contender to go deep into the playoffs. If Brian Burke can sign a big name free agent or two for a reasonable contract then I absolutely believe that he should, and I believe he will.

Free Agent Signings

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Jun 302009

The following are free agent (or pending free agent) signings.  I’ll update as free agents are signed. Newest free agent signings will be at the top.

Player Team Yrs Cap Hit Comments
Alexei Kovalev Ottawa 2 5.0M Expensive for a streaky 36 year old who most years ends up with ~65 points.
Francois Beauchemin Toronto 3 3.8M Decent price for a solid defenseman. Leafs likely to trade a defenseman now.
Shane O’Brien Vancouver 1 1.6M Needed to keep O’Brien after Ohlund left for Tampa.
Andrew Raycroft Vancouver 1 500K Dot he Canucks now have the best goalie and the worst goalie in NHL?
Christopher Higgins NY Rangers ? ? Had a break out season last year but can he repeat or improve?
Shane Hnidy Minnesota 1 ? Useful depth defenseman.
Ryan Clowe San Jose 4 3.5M Had a break out season last year but can he repeat or improve?
Ruslan Fedotenko Pittsburgh 1 1.8M Surprised he went with just a one year deal.
Mikael Samuelsson Vancouver 3 2.5M Will provide the Canucks with some decent secondary offense and all-round play.
Chad LaRose Carolina 2 1.7M Good solid 3rd line guy who may still improve some.
Jordan Leopold Florida 1 1.75M He is no Bouwmeester but will fill the hole on defense at a relatively low cost.
Rob Scuderi Los Angeles 4 3.4M The Kings are putting together a pretty solid defense, just need a good goalie.
Karlis Skrastins Dallas 2 1.375M
Adrian Aucoin Phoenix 1 2.25M Aucoin’s best days are behind him but still useful.
Nik Antropov Atlanta 4 4.0M This and the Kubina trade are to show Kovalchuk they are committed to winning to get him to sign an extension.
Mark Recchi Boston 1 1.0M Good veteren leadership and he’ll chip in a few goals too.
Chris Thorburn Atlanta ? ?
Martin Havlat Minnesota 6 5.0M Havlat has the talent and if he stays healthy $5 million is a reasonable cap hit.
Jason LaBarbera Phoenix 2 ? An average at best backup goalie
Fredrik Sjostrom Calgary 2 750K Flames need some cheap players to fill out their roster and Sjostrom achieves that.
John Madden Chicago 1 2.75M Good defensive center that Blackhawks hope can help them go deep in the playoffs.
Marian Gaborik NY Rangers 5 7.5M If he is healthy, might not be a bad deal but he has only once played more than 65 games since 2002-03.
Brian Gionta Montreal 5 5.0M Gotta love how Montreal is adding size to their lineup.
Chris Neil Ottawa 4 2.0M That’s a lot of money for a 3rd liner with 9g and 30 points over the past 2 seasons.
Mathieu Garon Columbus 2 1.2M Nice experienced backup for Steve Mason.
Jason Strudwick Edmonton 1 700K
Samuel Pahlsson Columbus 3 2.65M Nice player, but way too much money.
Steve Sullivan Boston 2 3.75M If he stays healthy he’ll put up 60+ points.
Steve Begin Boston 1 850K Nice 3rd/4th line center
Greg Zanon Minnesota 3 1.66M
Vernon Fiddler Phoenix 2 1.1M
Mike Komisarek Toronto 5 4.5M He and Schenn make for two solid physical defensive defensemen.
Byron Bitz Boston ? ?  
Michael Cammalleri Montreal 5 6.0M Pricey but he’ll add some needed scoring punch
Kent Huskins San Jose 2 1.7M Nice 5/6 defenseman with Stanley Cup experience.
David Koci Colorado 1 575K  
Ian Laperierre Philadelphia 3 1.17M Adds some toughness and grit.
Mike Rupp Pittsburgh 2 825K Useful role player.
Hal Gill Montreal 2 2.25M I like Hal Gill though many do not. Not a bad signing.
Scott Clemmensen Florida 3 1.2M Good replacement for Craig Anderson at a decent price.
Adam Pardy Calgary ? ?  
Nikolai Khabibulin Edmonton 4 3.75M Oilers had to do something after being unable to re-sign Roloson.
Erik Cole Carolina 2 2.9M Cole should be a Hurricane
Jaroslav Spacek Montreal 3 3.83M I like Spacek as a #4 defenseman at this point in his career but not at that salary
Brian Boucher Philadelphia 2 925K Boucher and Emery = NHL backup and KHL starter. Can Pronger play goal?
Joel Ward Nashville 2 1.5M Seems like a lot but then I haven’t seen Ward play a whole lot.
Aaron Rome Vancouver 1 $525K Yawn…
Lukas Krajicek Tampa 1 ?  
Scott Niedermayer Anaheim 1 6.0M Plus bonuses. Good signing considering Pronger trade.
Mike Knuble Washington 2 2.8M Nice addition of a more physical second line player.
Donald Brashear NY Rangers 2 1.4M Colton Orr replacement.
Steve Montador Buffalo 2 1.5M Solid all-round defenseman for 3rd pairing.
Tomas Kopecky Chicago 2 1.2M  
Dwayne Roloson NY Islanders 2 2.5M What does this say about DiPietro’s health?
Ty Conklin St. Louis 2 1.3M Good backup for Mason
Matt Walker Tampa Bay 4 1.7M Is Tampa once again going by the lets sign a bunch of players and hope someone pans out theory?
Marian Hossa Chicago 12 5.2M Two Stanley Cup appearances, 13 games and 3 goals (and maybe not coincidentally no ring).
Craig Anderson Colorado 2 1.8M He is better than Raycroft but can he repeat last years good season.
David Booth Florida 6 4.25M Good signing so long as he doesn’t pull a Nathan Horton and take a step back after signing long term.
Andy Greene New Jersey 2 737.5K Useful depth defenseman
Colton Orr Toronto 4 1.0M Some toughness that Burke desperately wanted.
Radek Dvorak Florida 2 1.7M Re-signed at a reasonable price.
Mattias Ohlund Tampa 7 3.75M A Swedish mentor for Hedman.
Daniel Sedin Vancouver 5 6.1M Probably never seriously considered leaving Vancouver.
Henrik Sedin Vancouver 5 6.1M  
Erik Christensen Anaheim 1 ?  
Jay Bouwmeester Calgary 5 6.68M Better hope he learns how to win because he didn’t in Florida.
Jere Lehtinen Dallas 1 1.5M If healthy, very good deal for Stars
Johnny Oduya New Jersey 3 3.5M Good signing, reasonable price
Peter Budaj Colorado 1 1.25M Still in market for goalie help
Rob Blake San Jose 1 3.5M Affordable after good season
Bill Guerin Pittsburgh 1 2.0M Quality veteren at very good price
Brad Winchester St. Louis 1 800K  
Mike Weaver St. Louis 1 800K  
Jussi Jokinen Carolina 2 1.7M Rewarded for good playoff.
Craig Adams Pittsburgh 2 550K  
Dave Bolland Chicago 5 3.375M Needs to continue improving to make contract worthwhile for Blackhawks
Cody McLeod Colorado 3 1.03M  
Keith Tkachuk St. Louis 1 2.15M Will provide size and mentor kids again.
Petr Prucha Phoenix 2 1.1M  
Steve Reinprect Florida 3 2.05M  
Alex Goligoski Pittsburgh 3 1.83M Important signing after Whitney traded
Ray Emery Philadelphia 1 1.5M Taking a gamble but could work out
Marty Reasoner Atlanta 2 1.15M  
Curtis McElhinney Calgary 2 525K  
Anssi Samela Atlanta 2 ?  
David Krejci Boston 3 3.75M Good to get him locked up.
Rick Rypien Vancouver 2 550K  
Jay McLement St. Louis 3 1.45M  
Steve Bernier Vancouver 2 2.0M  
Jun 252009

The 2009 NHL entry draft takes place tomorrow evening so lets talk draft and trade rumours. The first thing that everyone needs to know is that not all players drafted tomorrow night in the first round will become NHL star players, or even good NHL players. The truth is the majority of those drafted in the first round tomorrow will go down in history as ‘draft flops’. That is unfortunate because most of them aren’t flops, they are just subject to the laws of reality and the reality is that it is simply not possible for every top 18 year old hockey player to make the NHL and excel. There just aren’t enough NHL roster spots for that to occur.

Toronto media and fans love to talk trash about the Leafs drafting ability over the past decade or two but it is really unfounded. Many call Nik Antropov a bit of a failure because while he is a good player, he didn’t turn out to be a star as one would expect from a 10th overall pick. Let me toss out 10 names for you: Jocelyn Thibault, Nolan Baumgartner, Radek Dvorak, Lance Ward, Brad Ference, Bransilav Menzei, Mikhail Yakubov, Dan Blackburn, Eric Nystrom, and Andrei Kostitsyn. Those names represent the 10th overall draft picks in the five years before Nik Antropov was drafted in 1998 and the five years after. Dvorak has had a pretty decent career as a second line player. He’s played 976 games, scored 194 goals and racked up 502 points. Kostitsyn is a skilled player that looks to have a promising career probably not unlike Dvorak’s though possibly a bit better. He currently has 52 goals and 108 points in 186 games played. Jocelyn Thibault had a pretty decent career has a second tier starter or solid backup. The rest didn’t really turn out to be much of anything. So is Antropov, who currently sits at 527 games played with 132 goals and 304 points, a bust. Not even close. Rather, he seems more like the upper end of the scale of what you can expect with the #10 pick. Yes, there will be the odd truly star player taken 10th overall like Teemu Selanne in 1988 but they are rare.

For more discussion on draft picks and the likelihood that they will become NHL regulars you can take a look at my Draft Schmaft post from a few years ago. Scott Cullen over at has a similar analysis and you can also find an interesting draft analysis over at Pension Plan Puppets.

There has been a lot of talk about Brian Burke’s public statements that he would love to trade up in the draft and select John Tavares. This task just became more difficult when it seems that Oren Koules has won the power struggle over Len Barrie. Koules it seems is more interested in cutting salary to levels very close to the salary cap floor ($40 million). If this is ones goal it probably means that you want young players on your roster so they are more likely to keep the pick and are less likely to be interested in someone like Kaberle who, outside of Luke Schenn (who is unlikely to be traded), is their most valued asset. It seems more likely that Burke could trade up with Atlanta to get the #4 pick where he could select Evander Kane or Luke’s Schenn’s brother Brayden. My gut tells me that if Burke can’t trade up to get into the top 5 and one of the top 5 for some reason doesn’t fall to #7 he’ll seriously consider looking at trading down and picking up an extra pick or two in the process, not unlike what the Islanders did last year when they traded the 5th overall pick to Toronto for Toronto’s 7th overall pick and a 3rd round pick and a 2nd round pick in this years draft and then flipped the 7th overall pick to Nashville for the 9th overall pick and a second round pick. So the Islanders dropped from 5th to 9th and picked up two second round picks and a third round pick in the process. Burke may try to do something along those lines to help fill out the Leafs prospect pool.

Another Leaf rumour going around is that the Leafs are interested in Wade Redden. This has shocked many because most people see Redden as a flop and at his salary and contract length is a waste of time. There is some truth to this. His game has fallen off a bit the last couple of seasons and he is over paid at $6.5 million but he is still a good player capable of playing big minutes (he was 23 in time on ice per game for defensemen at 23:24) and in the right trade, it could make sense. First off, acquiring Redden would make it easier to trade one or both of Kaberle and Kubina which should land Burke with more prospects or draft picks which would amount to cheap players being on the team to offset Redden’s expensive contract. Second, it may be possible for the Leafs to rid themselves of a big contract in the process by, for example, including Jason Blake in the deal. It may also be the case that the Rangers, who have cap issues, may be looking to get rid of Redden at any cost and may be willing to include a draft pick and/or a prospect in the deal just to make it happen. Burke is looking long term and he desperately wants to stock up on prospects to make that happen and if he can flip Kaberle and Kubina (and their $9.25 million in contracts for the upcoming season) for prospects and pick up Redden to offset that loss and maybe pick up a draft pick or prospect or dump a big salary of his own as well it may very well make sense to make that move and it should not be dismissed as a mistake in the process.
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