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.
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Aug 052009

Judge Redfield T. Baum has decided to allow all bidders into the September 10th auction, including Jim Balsillie against the pleading of the NHL. It was the most significant decision that Judge Baum has made so far in the bankruptcy case and in my opinion has clearly put Jim Balsillie’s offer for the Coyotes at the front of the line.

On June 15th, Judge Baum ruled against the Balsillie offer to purchase the team largely because Balsillie could not prove that the NHL was violating anti-trust laws mostly because they had not yet denied his request to move the team to Hamilton. This was a setback for the Balsillie camp, but only a setback. Today’s decision of Judge Baum’s to allow Balsillie to participate in the September 10th auction is an outright nightmare for the NHL. It really is a worst case scenario because unlike what was set to occur, a Glendale only auction followed by a relocation auction only if necessary, the new setup will see any bids to keep the team in Glendale directly compared to Jim Balsillie’s bid and that is bad news because it will likely now just come down to how much Jim Balsillie is willing to pay for the team. In essence the Phoenix Coyote’s are now Jim Balsillie’s team to lose. Yes, there will be appeals by the NHL and possibly by Glendale, but that probably won’t change the outcome.

I suspect that there are two key factors in Judge Baum’s decision today. The first is that he has no assurances that either the Reinsdorf or the Ice Edge bids can resolve all of their outstanding issues (and there are still a number of significant outstanding issues with both bids) prior to the September 10th auction meaning there might still be no bidders on September 10th just as there were no bidders for the auction that was supposed to be today. The second significant factor, and maybe the primary factor, is the statement from Michael Dell’s investment company SOF Investments Ltd. in which they supported the Jim Balsillie bid as it was the only bid that provided cash to fully repay the nearly $80 million in secured debt that SOF is owed and neither the Reinsdorf or the Ice Edge bids had come to any satisfactory arrangement with SOF (Reinsdorf has stated he wants to renegotiate the loan arrangement but hasn’t even talked to SOF yet). Furthermore, SOF and nearly every other creditor outside of the NHL spoke to the importance to have these bankruptcy proceedings resolved by the end of September at the latest and of course right now, keeping the Jim Balsillie bid alive is the only way to assure that of happening. These factors made the NHL Board of Governors vote against Balsillie look like a small issue in comparison.

With all the issues that still surround the Jerry Reinsdorf and Ice Holdings bids and the fact that they are now going to be bidding against Balsillie, it would not surprise me if one or both of them drop out of the process. Jerry Reinsdorf has previously threatened to drop out and his attorney’s in court on Monday stated they they never expected to be bidding against relocation bids. With all the backlash that has come about regarding the $23 million subsidy request Reisndorf has made to the City of Glendale I might actually be surprised if Reinsdorf just says it is not worth it anymore and pull his offer.

I eagerly await the response from Gary Bettman and the NHL regarding this decision. I expect the response will be to fight the decision however it can, but the proper response should be, at least behind closed doors, is to start preparing for hockey in Hamilton this October.

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  

The Waiver Wire and Other Moves

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Mar 032009

Some interesting non-trade moves have taken place today that might shed some light on trades and player value for tomorrows trade deadline.

First, Niklas Backstrom has signed a four year contract extension in Minnesota. That means, if there was any doubt, that Backstrom will not be traded. But what it does mean is that quite possibly young backup Josh Harding could potentially be used as trade bait for the Wild either leading into tomorrow’s trade deadline or in the off season.

A number of intriguing players have been placed on waivers today. The list included Miroslav Satan, Gary Roberts, Brendan Morrison, Martin Gerber (re-entry waivers) and lesser players Aaron Voros, Erik Reitz, Eric Perrin, Jon Sim and Craig Adams.

Miroslav Satan is interesting because while he hasn’t been great as a linemate for Sidney Crosby, he does have 17 goals and 36 points which has to be worth something to a team hoping to make a run in the playoffs. To me, seeing Satan on waivers can only mean that the Penguins need/want that cap space to make another move (who knows, it may be Guerin). I would say there is a chance that someone will pick up Satan, but if they don’t, will the Penguins look to alternatives to free up that cap space? Brian Burke has in the past said the Leafs would consider taking on salary dumps, if they came with a draft pick. Would the Penguins be interested in trading Satan and a 3rd or 4th round pick to the Leafs for next to nothing in return, just to rid themselves of Satan’s salary so they can make another move? We’ll have to wait and see.

Gary Roberts and Aaron Voros are interesting cases as well because they give us an indication of what the market value for that type of role player is. Presumably the Lightning and Rangers would have tried to trade those guys for whatever they could get, even if it were just a 7th round pick, before they decided to put them on waivers, but they found no takers. Their value, in terms of what other teams are willing to give up for them, is essentially zero. So if that is the case, what does that say for the value of similar players like Chris Neil of the Senators or Jamal Mayers of the Leafs or Ian Laperierre of the Avalanche? Not much, though Mayers is signed for next year so is not just a rental player.

This waiver wire process will also act as a blocker for when trades will get made. Any team who has put a player on waivers (such as the Penguins) or a team who puts in a claim on a player will likely have to or want to wait until after noon tomorrow before making some other trades to see whether they have lost or added a player.

Finally, Martin Gerber is back on re-entry waivers less than a week after he was in the same situation with no takers. Have the Senators been given any indications from other teams that there may be an interest in picking him up, or is Bryan Murray once again hoping? Possible takers are the Red Wings (whose 8-0 loss to the Predators on Sunday may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to their goaltending), Buffalo, Calgary, and Washington.

Brian Burke was just on Fan 590 in Toronto and said that he doesn’t think that the return on rental players will be anything like what it was in the past. There will be no rental players going for a roster player, a good prospect, and a first round pick like Forsberg and others have been traded for in the past. So unless things change, even though there are more buyers than sellers, the prices to acquire players may be at a discount from previous years.

Feb 192009

The NHL trade deadline is less than 2 weeks away so it is time that we take a look at what trades might or might not happen between now and then. Here are some of the selling teams to watch as we approach the deadline.

New York Islanders

The Islanders are clearly the worst team in the NHL this season and they also have several players that they will likely trade. The two soon to be unrestricted free agent veterans that will likely draw the most attention are center Doug Weight and winger Bill Guerin. Despite the Islanders problems both are having decent seasons and will be able to provide some solid secondary scoring for any team looking to make a playoff run. Mike Comrie is another forward that is available but I am not sure there will be much interest. Andy Hilbert is also a pending UFA and could be a useful and cheap addition for some teams who don’t want to spend too much at the deadline.

Atlanta Thrashers

The Thrashers are likely the unanimous choice as the league’s second worst team and they have already made a couple moves, first by moving Jason Williams to Columbus a while back and more recently by sending Mathieu Schneider to the Canadiens. The next obvious candidate to be traded is pending UFA Niclas Havelid who could be a nice pickup for a team looking to add some depth on defense. There has been some talk that either Kari Lehtonen or Johan Hedberg could be traded but more likely a Lehtonen trade will occur in the off season.

Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the more interesting teams to watch will be the Maple Leafs because everyone is wondering what new GM Brian Burke will do. Many are expecting Burke to make a number of significant moves to turn over his lineup, but the reality is Burke is under no pressure (except fan and media pressure which he doesn’t care about) to do very much at all. The reason is, most of the Leaf roster is signed for next season. The only unrestricted free agents on the team are Nik Antropov , Dominic Moore and Brad May and all indications are that Burke would like to sign Moore to a contract extension if the dollars make sense. That means Antropov is the only player that Burke is almost 100% certain to trade and if he doesn’t get the right offers there is certainly a chance that that is all he will do. But if the right offers come along you can expect Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and Mike Van Ryn to all be available. The public word from Burke is that he does not expect Tomas Kaberle to be traded as he is reluctant to give up someone of Kaberle’s skill set who is signed long term at a very reasonable contract. While this makes perfect sense one also has to wonder if he is attempting to push the price of Kaberle up. Before the season began many thought that goalie Vesa Toskala would be one of the Leafs most sought after players at the trade deadline but that seems unlikely due to Toskala’s poor play. Finally, do not be surprised if the Leafs become buyers of contracts at the deadline. By that I mean the Leafs have the cap space to take on contracts that other teams are looking to dump in order to free up cap space to make another trade and in doing so add a draft pick. For example, if the Penguins needed to free some salary cap space to make another trade, Burke may be willing to take on Miroslav Satan and the remainder of his $3.5 million salary if the Penguins also sent the Leafs a third round pick.

Tampa Bay Lightning

There has been a lot of talk about the Lightning considering trading Vincent Lecavalier but I doubt this happens at the trade deadline. This is more of an off season move if it were to happen. But the Lightning have a couple veterans that might interest contending teams that likely won’t cost too much. Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts. Marek Malik may also draw some attention as a depth defenseman.

Colorado Avalanche

Probably the only team that is a sure bet to be sellers in the western conference at the trade deadline are the Colorado Avalanche and they will have several players available for trade. Pending UFA’s that they are likely to trade are Ian Laperriere and Jordan Leopold. The other big name that is rumoured to be up for grabs is Ryan Smyth but with his contract for 3 more years for a total of $16.5 million that might be a tough sell. Only teams with ample salary cap room in the upcoming years will likely consider him.
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Jul 102008

There are some strange happenings in regards to the Toronto Maple Leafs attempts to sign Jonas Frogren and one has to wonder if and why the NHL is standing in the way of the Leafs signing the Swedish defenseman. Yesterday was the day it was expected that the Leafs would finally announce the signing of Frogren but instead news came out that the league had nixed the deal stating that Frogren had to be signed to an entry level contract, not a standard contract.

Yesterday news came out that the NHL has rejected the Leafs contract with Jonas Frogren stating that his contract needs to be an entry level contract. Steve discussed the issue saying that the contract issues made no sense because the CBA states that a player age 28 isn’t required to sign an entry level contract and although Frogren is 27 now he will be 28 on August 28th so the Leafs just need to wait until then.

But it gets even stranger because in the same section of the CBA that states that a player aged 28 does not need to sign an entry level contract it also states the following:

9.2. Age of Players. As used in this Article, “age,” including “First SPC Signing Age” means a Players age on September 15 of the calendar year in which he signs an SPC, regardless of actual age on the date he signs such SPC.

Now I don’t give Gary Bettman and his gang a lot of credit but I will give them the benefit of doubt and assume that they are able to read. Now I believe my reading comprehension skills are not too shabby either and when I read the above it seems clear to me that Frogren’s age when he signs the contract is not an issue but rather his age on September 15th of the year he signs the contract. Now my understanding of the calendar is that August 28th is before September 15th and thus Frogren will be 28 on September 15th. Hmmm, maybe they can’t read all that well.

So you would think that Fletcher just had to call up Mr. Bettman and inform him of the rules and the contract would go through. But apparently that hasn’t happened, or at least Bettman didn’t accept Fletcher’s argument. Instead Frogren’s agent Don Meehan said “We are working with the NHL Players’ Association to resolve the matter.” So it appears that the NHLPA is going to have to file some sort of informal or formal grievance on behalf of Frogren to get the deal to be accepted.

So, what could be the issue? Well, as many of you are probably aware, the NHL and the European teams no longer have an IIHL transfer agreement in place. The transfer agreement allowed NHL teams to bring over their European prospects at a cost of $200,000. But now there is no agreement and thus NHL teams are technically free to bring over whoever they want, potentially even players signed to a contract with a European club with no compensation required. Essentially the NHL could grab any European player regardless of their contractual situation with no consequences. Conversely the European teams could do the same. In essense a contract signed in one league is not required to be honoured by other leagues.

This is a potentially big issue for the NHL because of the cration of the new Russian super league. If the Russian Continental Hockey League is not required to honour NHL contracts there is no obligation by Continental League teams to wait for an NHL players contract to expire before the lure them over to Russia to play. The fear is that at some point down the road, maybe one year, maybe 5 years, some Russian team will offer Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin a $20 million a year contract that Ovechkin or Malkin can refuse and the NHL will lose one of their prime superstars. So, it is in the best interest of the NHL to not get into the habit of breaking existing contracts and set a precident.

And guess what? Jonas Frogren has an existing contract with Farjestad. The Hockey News Ryan Dixon has an interesting story on the Frogren contract and how he himself is going to buyout the final year of his Farjestad contract.

In the absence of a player transfer agreement between the NHL and IIHF, teams associated with both organizations have agreed not to go after players currently under contract on either side of the Atlantic.

The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement prevents teams from negotiating individual release fees with each other, but by giving Frogren the money directly by way of a salary – which will count against the cap – the Leafs found a way to get it done.

To get around those issues the Leafs are seemingly intending to give Frogren a hefty signing bonus which Frogren will use to personally buy out the contract he has with Farjestad. So if this is all true, could the NHL big wigs be looking at the hefty signing bonus and Frogren’s personal buyout as a workaround to the system and ultimately create a fear that this could be the first step down a downward slope to a near anarchy system where contracts on both sides of the ocean are not honoured as the NHL hopes they will be? Could this be the reason why this seemingly imminent announcement more than a week ago still has not been announced and is this the reason why the NHL is playing every possible card in the book to hold up the signing, including playing semantic games with CBA rules that are seeming perfectly clear to anyone able to read? It is the only possible motive for the NHL nixing the deal that I can see.

Nov 202007

The question I pose to all of you today is this: If you were a GM of a team and you could choose any player in the NHL to be the anchor of your franchise for the next 8-10 years, who would it be?

My Answer: If you are looking for 8-10 years and beyond, you have to be looking at a fairly young player. With that in mind I am going to target players born in 1980 or later. I also am looking for a player that has shown himself to be healthy and durable as well as being a good team player and leader, despite being young. So with that criteria in mind, here is my top 20 young franchise players.

  1. Henrik Lundqvist – Goalies are the most important position in hockey (maybe in all of sport) and Lundqvist is the best there is right now.
  2. Roberto Luongo – Despite a slow start to the season, Luongo is right there with Lundqvist.
  3. Sidney Crosby – Should be the most dominant player in the NHL for the next dozen years.
  4. Vincent Lecavalier – It took a few years but Lecavalier has finally figure out how to dominate in all aspects of the game.
  5. Alexander Ovechkin – He does everything and unlike many wingers he can do it on his own.
  6. Dion Phaneuf – He is already one of the top defensemen in the league and will only get better.
  7. Henrik Zetterberg – Plays a good all-round game. but this season we will find out if he is very very good or elite level.
  8. Eric Staal – Needs to repeat his 100 point season before I am sold on him as one of the elite players.
  9. Ilya Kovalchuk – As offensively gifted as anyone but could use improvement on his all round game.
  10. Dany Heatley – The best sniper in the league but needs a playmaking center like Spezza to achieve greatness. He may not be a player who can excel on his own.
  11. Rick DiPietro – Showing that the Islanders were smart in locking him up on a 15 year contract and proves the theory you can have some success without a star forward or defenseman but with an elite level goalie.
  12. Evgeni Malkin – He has had a great start to his career but how much has he benefited from playing with Crosby? Needs to refine his game to take himself to the next level.
  13. Jason Spezza – Would be higher but I would be concerned about his injury issues having missed 29 games over the past 2 seasons and 6 more already this year including back and groin problems that can become chronic.
  14. Ryan Getzlaf – Maybe not as gifted offensively as the players above him on this list but might play the best all round game.
  15. Anze Kopitar – Has good size and very good offensive skills but needs to round out his game a little.
  16. Brad Richards – He isn’t living up to his $7.8 million per year contract but still one of the better centers in the game.
  17. Carey Price – Despite very limited action in the NHL so far it looks like his junior and AHL success will translate to the NHL level.
  18. Rick Nash – He is a power forward goal scorer like Jarome Iginla but has never put up 60 points yet. I’d love to see him play with a
    gifted playmaking center.
  19. Ryan Whitney – Looked like he was on the verge of stardom last year (59 points) but has taken a step back this season.
  20. Kari Lehtonen – A star goalie in development but needs to get healthy and gain a bit more consistency in his game.

Honorable Mentions:
Patrick Kane
Erik Johnson
Jack Johnson
Jonathan Tavares

Just not enough experience to judge their long term success at the NHL level yet.

Have I missed anyone?

Update: I made a glaring omission by leaving Thomas Vanek off the list. He slipped my mind but he definitely deserves to be there. I’d probably place him between Spezza and Getzlaf but has the potential to be worthy of a higher spot.

NHL Power Rankings – Nov. 20, 2007

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Nov 202007

The mover of the week is the Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrashers who finished last season horribly and started this season off 0-6 have turned it around and are 10-4 under new coach (and current GM) Don Waddell and have won 6 of their last 7 games. That has allowed them to jump into 18th spot from 27th last week. In the “who’d have guessed it category” the whole central division ranks in the top 11 teams. They accomplished that by being a combined 31-17-2 vs. teams outside their division. Nashville has the worst outside division record with a measley .500 record at 6-6-0.

Rank 7 Days
Team AdjWinP SchedStr Power
1 1 Ottawa 0.816 0.527 0.828
2 2 Chicago 0.525 0.569 0.659
3 3 Montreal 0.575 0.548 0.657
4 7 St. Louis 0.583 0.534 0.646
5 4 Detroit 0.650 0.504 0.632
6 8 Columbus 0.550 0.538 0.619
7 5 Carolina 0.625 0.474 0.560
8 10 Boston 0.500 0.540 0.558
9 12 Toronto 0.429 0.577 0.550
10 6 NY Islanders 0.647 0.455 0.546
11 18 Nashville 0.525 0.509 0.524
12 13 NY Rangers 0.524 0.495 0.522
13 14 Vancouver 0.553 0.471 0.512
14 9 Colorado 0.526 0.480 0.506
15 15 San Jose 0.571 0.469 0.505
16 11 Minnesota 0.600 0.457 0.487
17 16 Philadelphia 0.583 0.450 0.482
18 27 Atlanta 0.450 0.489 0.442
19 21 New Jersey 0.425 0.492 0.438
20 22 Phoenix 0.444 0.490 0.437
21 24 Buffalo 0.389 0.540 0.437
22 19 Calgary 0.425 0.484 0.433
23 20 Pittsburgh 0.400 0.514 0.433
24 28 Dallas 0.450 0.485 0.422
25 23 Anaheim 0.429 0.491 0.418
26 17 Los Angeles 0.400 0.489 0.395
27 29 Tampa Bay 0.500 0.435 0.394
28 25 Florida 0.386 0.478 0.371
29 26 Washington 0.300 0.488 0.303
30 30 Edmonton 0.275 0.486 0.284

AdjWinP is a teams winning percentage when shootouts are considered ties and there are no points awarded for overtime losses
SchedStr is an indication of a teams relative difficulty of schedule
Power Rank is the teams expected winning percentage if team played all .500 teams