Oct 212008
 

The Minnesota Wild have been rumoured to have offered Marian Gaborik upwards of $8 million per season on a long term contract but so far Gaborik has refused to accept any of Minnesota’s offers.  It seems almost certain that Gaborik’s days in Minnesota are drawing to a close.  Unless Gaborik changes his mind he will almost certainly be traded before the trade deadline and maybe even much sooner than that.

There are really two types of teams that would be interested in Gaborik.  The contenders and the rebuilders.  The contenders are top level teams looking to bring in Gaborik primarilly for a Stanley Cup run.  The rebuilders would look at Gaborik only if they could get him to sign a long term contract and become a key component of their rebuilding team.  So, lets take a look at who might be interested in Gaborik and what they might need to offer in return.

The Montreal Canadiens have 13 regulars set to be free agents next summer, many of them of the unrestricted variety.  Because of this Montreal is likely to make all the moves they can to make a serious push for the Stanley Cup this year as this might just be the Canadiens best hope for another Stanley Cup over the next couple years.  If Montreal wants to get serious about acquiring Gaborik the starting price will almost certainly be someone like Chris Higgins and a first round pick.

The Ottawa Senators are desperately looking for another top 6 forward and would probably have an interest in Gaborik but his price tag is probably too high both in terms of what the Wild would want in return and in fitting Gaborik’s salary under the cap.

Other contending teams that might be interested are the Flyers and Rangers but both have salary cap issues that would need to be dealt with first.  It is less likely that the Wild will trade with a western conference contender but if they are open to that I wouldn’t be surprised if Dallas was interested (again, if they can resolve salary cap issues) and Brian Burke in Anaheim has never shied away from making bold moves in an attempt to improve his team, which is struggling mightily right now.

There have been rumours that the Los Angeles Kings might have an interest in Gaborik.  Of course, this would only happen if they can get Gaborik to sign a long term contract.  Should they make the trade it is likely that Frolov or Dustin Brown would be going the other way along with a top prospect or a first round draft pick.

The Vancouver Canucks need offense badly, especially if they don’t think they can re-sign the Sedin twins, and might have an interest in Gaborik and reuniting him with his good friend Pavol Demitra.  The Canucks don’t have as many quality forwards to offer the Wild as either Montreal or Los Angeles but they do have some quality defensemen that might help get the deal done.  Kevin Bieksa might be at the top of that list.  If a forward were necessary to get the deal done the Wild might choose to go after Ryan Kesler but may settle for Steve Bernier.  A prospect or draft pick is likely going the other way as well.

There haven’t been any rumours but one wonders if Cliff Fletcher and the Leafs might try to get involved.  Fletcher has also rarely shied away from making the bold moves, particularly when rebuilding a team.  Though he may be interested in Gaborik, I suspect he won’t make a move like this since he isn’t the long term GM of the Leafs and might let a future GM make such a move.

There is no doubt there will be a number of teams interested in Gaborik.  He is a superb talent with ample offensive skills.  The main drawback to Gaborik has been his health.  He has only played more than 65 games once in the past 4 seasons (77 last year) and is already injured this season.  That might be enough for some teams to shy away from giving him a long term contract.

Whatever happens with Gaborik, it seems likely that he won’t finish the season in Minnesota.

NHL Europe

 media, NHL, Rumours  Comments Off
Sep 132008
 

So Bill Daly thinks that 10 years down the road, we could be seeing franchises pop up in Europe. This is not the same thing as two North America-based teams playing exhibition or season (god forbid) games in Europe. Daly is directly stating that it is not completely out of the question that places in Sweden, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Russia could have NHL teams.

While Europe does have a fantastic fan base, and I have no doubt that should a NHL team suddenly pop up overseas that it’ll do moderately well financially, you have to not think about the dollars when making a decision such as this.

First off, there are still many untapped markets in the NHL, most notably, southern Ontario, as Wayne Gretzky had suggested yesterday. The struggling franchise 5-6 years ago are still struggling today. Nashville, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and numerous teams in the southeastern US and California are still struggling to win fans over. One of those teams is still stuck in turmoil after an ownership debacle and now the Boots Delbaggio investigation. Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City have been pining for a NHL team, and while their potential is still hotly debated, it’s no secret that Gary Bettman and Daly still have a lot of work to do to make this game “stick” in the US. During the lockout, a poll of all 50 states showed that only residents of Minnesota missed the NHL. In some states, such as California, where it hosts 3 NHL teams, the answer was a very alarming and surprising 70% “no.”

Second, with the increase of oil prices, a hectic 82-game schedule plus playoffs, back-to-back home-and-home series, the travel is just simply impossible. Unless the NHL cuts its regular season games down to around 70, which will never happen, players will start fatiguing before the playoffs. Could you imagine if Anaheim or Vancouver got to the finals and had to play a team based in Prague? Fatigue and injuries would start to kick in, and that doesn’t make for a very good finals – never mind that it doesn’t feature a team from a big American market – I would think that it would be very hard to keep track given the time differences. The logistics of it just don’t make sense. A team based in a city without a very big international airport, say Ottawa, would have to fly through either Toronto and/or New York to get to European destinations. Could you imagine?

Third, Daly made no mention of franchise re-location – meaning that it’s assumed that the NHL may expand to over 30 teams in 10 years. Thanks, but no thanks. The NHL seriously needs to think about downsizing, perhaps just be even 2 teams. There’s tons of talent in the NHL to make all 30 teams relatively competitive, although not all at the same time, but losing two teams won’t hurt. In fact, it may even be beneficiary to the league. While that does mean that 40 regular spots are gone, it also means that the game itself becomes that much more competitive. The fringe players will continue to trickle through to Europe, but the best of the best remain in the NHL.

Gretzky manages to have some kind words for Bettman and his crew, but unfortunately the fans (the ones who matter most), disagree. As a side note, I wonder what Bettman would do if Gretzky had some choice words to say about the direction of the league. Would he hand down a strict fine to Gretzky to show everyone who’s boss of the league, or would he simply let it slip, as Gretzky is the NHL’s premier spokesperson?

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 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 132008
 

Despite the fact that the Lightning defense still seems a little suspect, boasting little veteran presence or even a big name, Oren Koules maintains that he is satisfied with his current defensive corps. The Lightning still have to get under the cap enough to ensure that they can accommodate Steven Stamkos‘ cap hit, which would be 3.75 should he reach all performance bonuses. Remember that this upcoming season is the last year of the current CBA agreement, and that there will be no performance cushions. Nashville, as noted in the article, remains a very enticing trading partner, with 13 draft picks in 2009 and a plethora of young talent on their blueline. A trade makes sense for both teams, as JP Dumont has voiced his opinion that the Preds need more bite. Jussi Jokinen, who will be replaced by Vaclav Prospal on the top line, Michel Ouellet, and Jason Ward remain their biggest trading chips. The Lightning enter next season as a Southeast Division contender once again, although it remains to be seen if a young defensive corps and Mike Smith will hold up. David has a more in-depth look at the Lightning’s roster here.

Mark Parrish apparently is the Canucks’ answer should they fail to land Mats Sundin. Folks at TSN are calling it Mike Gillis‘ “Plan B,” although it should be more like “Plan D,” considering the discrepancy between Parrish and Sundin. As the Sundin saga dragged along (it’s now rumoured that he is leaning towards retirement, if only anyone knows what means nowadays), it was clear that the Canucks had no answer should Sundin not sign. Gillis maintains that he has been talking trade with several teams regarding one or two defenseman on his team, but I would think that he would like to keep his defense intact. When Parrish was bought out, he was immediately linked to Vancouver and Nashville, two western teams that have had plenty of looks at the big forward. Both teams were in similar situations and needed to get bigger and better offensively. A lot of fans in Vancouver aren’t very happy with how things have gone this summer, after all, Gillis had promised sweeping changes and a drastically different team with offense as its number one priority. So far, the only sweeping changes have come upstairs and the team remains arguably as potent offensively as it was last year, which is to say, still not very potent. Should Parrish find himself in Vancouver he will get looks on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, but for now Steve Bernier seems to be the favourite going into camp. It’s tough to gauge what sort of money Parrish will get, but I would be very surprised if it is anything over a year.

Aug 102008
 

For Garth Snow and the Islanders, their search for a new head coach to replace Ted Nolan has come down to three candidates: Bob Hartley, Paul Maurice, or the AHL’s Scott Gordon.

Hartley’s NHL coaching career started in 1998 in Colorado, whose strong QMJHL and AHL records had caught the eye of then-GM Pierre Lacroix. He enjoyed 4 very successful years in Denver, including a 52-16-10-4 record and a Stanley Cup win in 2001. He was fired the following season in 2002 after a slow start, and joined the Thrashers a month later. Although he had gone from a perennial contender to a basement dweller, it didn’t stop Hartley from winning. In 2007, the Thrashers set a franchise record with 41 wins and their first ever playoff birth. But once again, despite his success the previous season, his Thrashers were off to a cold start and he was fired by Don Waddell after going pointless in six straight games. Despite all this success, depending on who you ask, Hartley isn’t exactly an angel. In 2005, against the Lightning, Thrasher Eric Boulton elbowed Paul Ranger in the head, resulting in a concussion and a fractured jaw. Boulton was subsequently suspended for six games, but it didn’t stop John Tortorella from lambasting the enforcer, saying that “no one wants to see him on the ice.” After the suspension, Boulton pleaded innocence, and claimed that he was only doing what he was told to do, implying that a frustrated Hartley had told him to get out there and headhunt. After all, Boulton is an enforcer and that’s what he’s employed by NHL teams to do. It was never definite whether or not Hartley asked Boulton to headhunt, but Hartley was under fire for a short while and since then the Thrashers and Lightning have enjoyed quite the rivalry.

To be honest, I never liked Maurice. He did a great job in Carolina, but I thought from the beginning that he was a terrible choice for the Leafs. Despite his successes, it’s always been overlooked that he is a poor special teams tactician. Throughout his coaching career, Maurice’s teams have traditionally never been good at killing penalties. In 2001, the Hurricanes had the second-best PK% in the league, but it all went downhill from there. When the Hurricanes made the finals in 2002, they were tied with the Devils with the worst PK% for playoff-bound teams in the East, with 83.7%. In his next full years, Carolina would rank 24th on the PK. In his first season with the Leafs, they had a 17.7% PP (17th) and 78.5% PK (27th). This year, their PP was 17.8% (15th) and PK 78.1% (29th). It can be argued that Maurice didn’t have the right players to work with (Peter Laviolette hasn’t exactly gotten the Canes’ PK out of the basement yet either), but I don’t think it’s a valid excuse for a playoff contender to finish near dead last in the league. He was under a lot of scrutiny in Toronto, and perhaps a move to a less hockey-crazed city would be a good change of scenery and hopefully be able to repeat the successes he had while in Carolina.

Gordon is the least well-known of the three, but is apparently well-respected in hockey circles. The former netminder enjoyed three successful years at Boston College, and started his coaching career in the IHL before moving onto the ECHL then head coach for Providence in the AHL in 2003. The 45-year old was the winner of the Louis Pieri Memorial Award, annually given to the best coach in the AHL. Considering the recent success of promoting AHL coaches (ie. Bruce Boudreau), it could be a good idea to take Gordon over the other two.

Aug 072008
 

Everyone’s least favourite fictional hockey rumour blogger is back at it again. Yup, Eklund has yet another Mats Sundin rumour.

Did we stumble on what the holdup may be?

The source, who has MANY years experience in the NHL, told me this…”I just heard that Toronto wants Sundin back and Sundin wants back in Toronto. Toronto will sign him today as long as Mats is willing to NOT include a NO TRADE CLAUSE in the contract.. That is the hold up currently and ONLY that.”

Every day Eklund has some kind of Sundin rumour. The other day he had him on the verge of signing with the Canadiens and now he has him on the verge of signing with the Leafs, if only Fletcher would give him a no trade clause.

Guess what friends, Fletcher has offered Sundin a no trade clause and has publicly stated he has no issues with offering him such a clause.

From a CBC article

Sundin earned $5.5 million last season and refused to waive his no-trade clause prior to the trade deadline. Fletcher had indicated in early June that if the Leafs were to make an offer, they would have no qualms about giving Sundin a no-trade clause again.

“If Mats comes to me and says, ‘I will sign, but I have to have a no-trade contract,’ and it is a one-year contract, he has got it,” Fletcher said.

The only hold up in the Mats Sundin saga is Mats Sundin himself. Mats Sundin is unsure if he wants to play at all next year, let alone has he decided where is is going to play. This is nothing new. Last summer John Ferguson Jr. offered Mats a one, two, or three year deal with no trade clauses and Mats took the one year deal because he wasn’t sure he wanted to play more than one more season. He has said all summer, directly or through his agent, that he has not yet decided if he wants to play next season. He just got married and it is perfectly understandable if it is now that he decides to hang up the skates and retire. But it is also perfectly understandable if he wants to take his time to make that decision.

I have heard people compare the Sundin situation to the Brett Farvre situation but the situations are completely different. Farve had a contract, retired, and then came back leaving his team on the hook for his salary in a salary cap league. Mats Sundin has no contract, he is a free agent and he will leave no teams obligated to pay him a dime should he decide not to retire. If Sundin’s is holding up or messing up any teams plans for next season then only that team is to blame because they chose to wait for Sundin. They didn’t have to. The Favre situation is analagous to the Scott Niedermayer situation from a year ago when Niedermayer chose to return and put the Anaheim Ducks in a tough position of having to deal away Andy McDonald to make room for him.

Sundin is a private person. He doesn’t tell many people about his decision making process or which direction he is leaning. Even his agent isn’t sure of what he is going to do or which way he is leaning. My guess is the only person who knows really what he is thinking is Mats himself, and possible his new wife. Anyone who tries to portray the situation as any different is feeding you a load of nonsense. Anyone who is giving you daily updates of which team is in the lead for Sundin’s services next season is feeding you a line of fiction. It’s all bogus. It is a shame that fans get all hyped up about such nonsense.

Oh, and why aren’t we hearing a daily Joe Sakic watch?