Tuesday, July 26, 2005

NHL Roundtable for Tuesday, July 26

Not much beats a good banter about hockey happenings, and there's no better time to do so than right now. As such, I'm going to bring some of these conversations with various sources onto the site.

Today's questions:
  1. What in the world are the St. Louis Blues doing?
  2. How will the Leafs fare in the new NHL?
  3. Who will be the Eastern Conference's top teams?
  4. The Niedermayer brothers to Vancouver?
Since this is the first time I've done this, I've only got one voice joining me: my good friend, Peter Evans, who by day works as a reporter with the Financial Post. Let the fruits of his sound hockey mind (albeit one of a Leafs' fan) guide our ramblings:

PE: TSN is reporting that Pronger will not be qualified, yet the Blues are saying they will not buy out Tkachuk or Weight either. WTF? If they qualify him, they'll have 21 million locked up on 3 players, so that's impossible. But why are they cutting loose the best one of the 3? No way Tkachuk is worth more than Pronger. The new NHL is just plain loopy.

JM: To qualify Pronger, the Blues would have to give him the maximum (he was on a $10-million deal I believe). And Tkachuk has a cheap team option the year after this coming one. I had heard they were going to buy out Weight, but after listening to the team president yesterday, I seriously believe the Blues don't have the money (or aren’t willing to spend it) to make that move. Remember, they are looking for a new owner. St. Louis is screwed next year.

[Editor’s note: See Jes Golbez for more info on the Blue’s plight]

PE: What do you reckon Pronger is worth on the open market? I think if the max is $7.8-million, the only D-man who comes close to deserving it is Niedermayer. I'd give him $7-million. Maybe.

In that case, I say Pronger might be worth $5-6 million on the open market. Which means the Leafs are paying McCabe ($3.5-million) more than 60% of what Chris Pronger might get. That's insane! McCabe isn't half the player Pronger is — and I actually like McCabe.

The more I think about it, the Leafs should buy out all but Sundin and build a team with 28-year-old free agents who want to come here and try to win in the next two years. Some totally random team is going to win the Cup this year, I'm thinking.

JM: My guess is Pronger will get around $6.5-million somewhere (although that's still too much to pay him). So the question is: Are two McCabe's worth one Pronger?

I'd say yes. All the Leafs need to do is have the cap room and get another player of his ilk for $3.5-million and they are laughing.

I think the reason there have been few buyouts is that they are damn expensive... it's nice to see teams like St. Louis and the Islanders stuck wallowing in those ridiculous contracts though. And even to see the Flyers Ed Snider have to stomach paying all that dough just to dump Leclair.

Nolan will be the only buyout for the Leafs... it'll be a tough year in Toronto, but they'll be a playoff team.

PE: I think Nolan's a lock to get bought out (just for the bad blood alone) but you're right — I'd kiss goodbye to Belfour and possibly McCabe, but that's not likely to happen.

My formula for a winner this year?

Max money for a top flight goalie or MVP-calibre player.
Top six forwards should get avg.3 million max
Top three D-men 2-3 mil avg.

Get three workable vet forwards, and two vet d-men, at way under a million each, hopefully as dirt cheap as possible. Call up your top 3 prospects and hope for the best. And that's only possible if your team can spend the max. Even then I think my calculations are over.

I guess a top three of Kaberle, McCabe and Klee, all making less than 3 mil each on avg is pretty good. I'll take that on D. It's the forwards who will screw the Leafs. Unless Wellwood, Coliacovo and possibly Steen all make the jump this year, my boys are in trouble.

JM: You're over your limit there. Players making $1.5-2 million are going to be on the second lines of every team. The good news for Toronto is that there are a lot of teams in trouble.

But Philadelphia's dealings should scare the East though — Clarke may be a lot of things, but he certainly knows what he's doing there. The fact that they pulled Richards and Carter out of the same draft year in the later first round picks is just astounding... that could be paying off for the next six or seven years.

The Devils are in trouble on their backend, as they could lose all three of Niedermayer, Rafalski and Stevens. Tampa Bay looks to keep most things together, and I would even say they'd have a decent chance of things without Khabibulin in net (the team's record was better during the season with Grahame anyway, I believe).

Who are your other powerhouses in the East? Even Ottawa looks decent provided Hasek doesn't play like he's on the wrong side of 40.

PE: Am I over?

One top flight goalie at $7.8-million, plus your top six forwards for $3-million each at 18 million. You’re at $25-million total. Three top d-men at $2-million each = $6-million = $31-million total. Three vet forward and two vet d-men for under $5-million = $36-million total. Three prospects to fill out roster = $3-million = $39-million total.

One star goalie, 11-12 forwards, 5-6 d-men all for $39-million. Sign Corey Schwab as backup for the league minimum, and you're good to go. I'm not way over I don't think.

JM: Speaking of St. Louis, Spector reported today that LA wants Pronger. I’m not sure where he’ll go, but I don't think he's worth $7.8-million. What player is worth 20% of your payroll? Brodeur maybe... but few others.

PE: There's no way Pronger deserves the max. I forget where I read this suggestion, but basically the only ppl who are worth the max are legitimate Vezina-candidate goalies and a select few skaters (Iginla leaps to mind). I think there's maybe a dozen players league wide I'd offer the max to.

JM: You mentioned that Niedermayer may be one of those guys. There are rumblings that the Niedermayers (yes both of them) want to go to their home province (B.C.). While a lot of guys are going to be eyeing championships with where they go, when you think about it, what else can Scott win in this league anyway?

PE: Scott Niedermayer's agent is balking at taking less to stay in NJ, so I don't know why he'd do it in Vancouver. But I guess that's a better bet than anywhere else for him to do it. You might be right. Even so, he'd get at least $5-million I'd say. Which I think is roughly what Naslund will get and I'd take Scott N. over Naslund. Good luck with that.

JM: Who knows... I have little faith in the rookie GM in Vancouver. This will be any NHL GM’s most difficult year in history. For fans in Vancouver, it feels like going from the best GM in hockey to a guy who could very well be over his head.

[Editor's note: See Cousin BJ at Red Line Sports for more on Canucks GM Dave Nonis]

PE: For a guy who’s likewise untested (and for the past 18 months has apparently been unwilling/unable to disagree with anything his predecessor-turned-employee did), I'm actually strangely confident in [Maple Leafs GM John] Ferguson. I'll give him at least this year. Maybe next. Then I want his head on a platter.

My thanks to Pete for being the first guinea pig. I'd like to have other parties join my roundtables in the future, so if you'd like to hash out some things, feel free to toss me an email.


At 1:06 p.m., July 28, 2005, Blogger deepfriedgold said...

I want in on the next one, dude. Trust me, by the time the season starts, I'll be nice and unemployed.

Any merit to buzz about Belfour being bought out and Khabibulin coming in?


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