Friday, February 29, 2008

Look like your logo

I imagine Olli Jokinen wins the contest of trying to emulate his crest:



Another former NHLer to join ownership ranks

Len Barrie's far from a household name, but growing up in Kamloops, he's someone I'm certainly familiar with.

In 1989-90, Barrie put up one of the best seasons in WHL history for the Blazers, as the then 20-year-old centreman potted 85 goals and 185 points in 70 games. On a team that boasted a 16-year-old Scott Niedermayer, Barrie was the star.

He was only a sixth-round pick (by the Oilers in 1988) and had a 184-game NHL career, but Barrie's been busy since his last game in pro hockey for the Panthers in 2001. Now a property developer in Victoria, he's building a 1,300-acre, $2.5-million resort called Bear Mountain in the area.

And he's apparently buying the Tampa Bay Lightning.

To this point, we've heard all about the face of the new team's new ownership group, movie maker Oren Koules, but his partners have, for the most part, remained relatively unknown. It's only been in the past week that Barrie's name has been unearthed, and according to The Globe and Mail's Brian Milner, he'll own as much as 47 per cent of the team.

NHL ownership by former players has always been limited to the ultra-elite — Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky — so it's interesting now that a journeyman could be buying in. Barrie played in California for Long Beach of the IHL and the Kings in 1999-00, which may be where the connection comes in to the Hollywood producer.

Still, a lot of things remain rather fishy about this Lightning buy, not the least of which is the constantly rotating cast of rumoured "partners" for Koules.

Add Barrie to the mix.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Richards does Dallas

Last night, it was Steve Bernier with the big debut in Buffalo, but tonight Brad Richards showed just what Dallas might have in their big deadline deal acquisition, potting five assists in his first game as a Star.

When you're playing for one of the worst teams in the league, a change of scenery would do anyone a little good.

From the team's postgame release:
  • Richards is the first forward to earn 5 assists in one game in franchise history.
  • Richards became the first Star to earn 5 points in a game since Mike Modano (1-4-5 pts) on 2/10/02 at Anaheim.
Not bad.

Richards played on a line with Niklas Hagman, who had a hat trick, and Antti Miettinen, two of the Stars youngsters who have really broken out this season with solid campaigns. That Tampa Bay didn't have anyone of their calibre on its second line speaks volumes as to why Richards struggled there this season.

Granted, it was only Chicago that Dallas beat up on, but I've got a feeling that, once the Stars are fully healthy, they'll be one of the teams to beat this postseason.

"I'm so happy to be a part of this," said Richards. "They've got a good thing going here. I went from looking like I'd be done the first of April to making a good run at (the Stanley Cup)."

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Low blow

The National Post's Mark Spector was just on the radio here in Toronto and made a good point about the house cleaning the Senators had yesterday.

As in, there was another body moved out that no one's paid any attention to:
Ottawa assistant coach Ron Low also was fired yesterday.
Low was the team's goaltending coach for three years until this summer, when he was moved into the assistant's role. He was a netminder for 11 years in the NHL during his playing days.

From the Edmonton Journal on Dec. 30:
Emery wanted his own guy, Eli Wilson, to tutor him, and listened more to Wilson than Low. Now, Wilson is the Sens' goalie coach.
And even after the train wreck in the Senators crease this season, Wilson isn't going anywhere.

Ray Emery's getting an awful lot of say in who the organization's coaches are, and you wonder how Martin Gerber feels about being tutored by the other 'tender's guy.

And was Low moved out because of his dealings with the goaltender?

UPDATE Jim Kelley blames the owner for the mess in Ottawa.

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Bernier's big debut

From San Jose to Buffalo, Steve Bernier had quite a first game as a Sabre last night:
“It was awesome,” he said of the crowd. “You hear, ‘One, two, three . . . ’ the number of goals. It’s awesome. They follow the game here. They know what hockey means, and that’s what I like about it.”
Bernier's always had that potential, scoring 30-plus goals in four consecutive seasons in the QMJHL with Moncton, and he's going to really be embraced in western New York.

Sabres fans feel better about trading Brian Campbell today.

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Fan shoots for a million

Bobby Orr seems as excited as anyone:


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wings' wounded blueline

It's a thin line between being a powerhouse and an also ran.

What's happened to Detroit's blue line the past few weeks has been absurd, really, as now Andreas Lilja is the team's top defender. The Red Wings' last 10 games have looked like this: Los Angeles, Toronto, Anaheim, Nashville, Columbus, Dallas, Colorado, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton.

They've won just one of those games (1-7-2).

And, now, the Grand Rapids Griffins are playing on defence.

I've got a spreadsheet in front of me with the ice time of all the Detroit defenders over the past 10 games, and it's rather unbelievable. Rookie Derek Meech, for instance, played 27:19 last night against Edmonton. Brett Lebda led the group with 27:41.

Another rookie, Jonathan Ericsson, was playing key minutes on the power play and Kyle Quincey the penalty kill, with Garret Stafford picking up just five minutes ice time total.

Other than Lilja and Lebda, the Detroit blueline hadn't had more than a handful of games of experience in the NHL prior to this season.

Here's who's filled in on the blueline over the past 10 games (ice time is shown as percentage of team minutes played):

B. Lebda D 10 0 1 -7 21 18.9% 23.0% 10.5% 19.4%
A. Lilja D 10 0 0 -5 17 18.4% 5.7% 24.4% 19.8%
D. Meech D 10 0 3 0 24 14.8% 19.4% 1.3% 15.9%
N. Lidstrom D 7 1 5 -7 11 14.0% 19.0% 15.3% 12.9%
C. Chelios D 8 1 0 1 8 11.4% 10.2% 21.7% 10.0%
B. Rafalski D 4 0 1 -4 10 8.9% 12.0% 7.4% 8.5%
K. Quincey D 6 0 0 -3 5 7.2% 4.2% 14.4% 6.6%
J. Ericsson D 3 1 0 -4 7 5.3% 6.4% 4.9% 5.2%
G. Stafford D 2 0 0 0 1 1.2% 0.0% 0.0% 1.5%

Brad Stuart is on the way, so that'll help — although from the looks of his brief stint with the Kings, it might be a small relief until the cavalry comes.

Lidstrom does an awful lot for this team, that's for sure, but even he's went in the tank briefly before getting hurt.

The real wonder is if the Wings can put Humpty together again in time for the playoffs.

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Paddock gets axed

Four hours later...
Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray today announced that John Paddock has been relieved of his head coaching duties. Murray, who will return behind the bench as head coach, will continue to perform his duties as Senators general manager. Assistant coach Ron Low has also been relieved of his coaching duties.

Assistant coach Greg Carvel, goaltending coach Eli Wilson, conditioning and player development coach Randy Lee and video coach Tim Pattyson remain on the staff.
The writing wasn't just on the wall — it was everywhere. Paddock really doesn't have a ton of NHL head coaching experience and was promoted based on his minor-league success, but with so much pressure on one of the league's top clubs, simply hasn't been able to get Ottawa to perform up to some pretty lofty standards after a terrific start.

It's not likely he'll ever get another head-coaching gig after the mess that's gone on the past few months.


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On the air

A quick note that I'll be on the Team 1260 out in Edmonton with host Bob Stauffer at 5:50 EST tonight.

Performance-enhancing political committees
Bettman joins the big boys

How can you still tell hockey's a major-league sport in the United States?

Well, the Commish has been whisked off to meet with the politicos, called out with the other ringleaders to address society's latest Greatest Evil. (Substance abuse in professional sports.)

No Nascar honchos to be found. Tractor pull doesn't register on this ratings scale.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told a U.S. House subcommittee on Wednesday that hockey is not plagued by steroid use among its players.

Bettman joined his major-league counterparts — baseball commissioner Bud Selig, NBA commissioner David Stern and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — in Washington where he testified that only one player has tested positive for steroid use in the 2½ years since the NHL resumed play after the 2004-05 lockout.
Bettman went on to tell the committee that substances that make one stronger or recover faster from injuries have little use for the average hockey player, who is a muscleless, uninjurable athlete:
"Indeed, while our historical experience indicates that performance-enhancing drugs are not a problem in the NHL, we nevertheless agree that the public at large and our fans in particular are entitled to have confidence that our games are being played in an environment free of performance-enhancing substances."
Historical experience indicates some pretty funny things about major league baseball, and even present experience would tell you the NFL is clean as can be.

Does anyone honestly believe that Sean Hill, the only guilty party found in two and a half years, is the only one?


Anyway, I think the NHL should use this opportunity to remind people they're still one of the four major sports, and haven't sunk into WNBA territory. Bettman should have a Versus logo on his forehead, and Doc Emrick could be brought in to do play-by-play.

I'd watch that.


Forsberg set to debut?

Newly signed unrestricted Free Agent Peter Forsberg has joined the Avalanche in Vancouver.

He will be made available to the media today at 5:30 pm (PST) inside the media room at GM Place.
>> team release
There's no word yet on whether he'll play tonight, but the game's the late telecast on TSN, and I imagine at the very least he'll be giving his first on-camera interviews in a while.

It seems likely he'll get a few practices in before suiting up, but you never know.

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THN ranks the goalies

From the March 4 issue of The Hockey News, the magazine's crew (with input from scouts) ranks the top 30 NHL goaltenders:
  1. Luongo
  2. Nabokov
  3. Brodeur
  4. Leclaire
  5. Osgood
  6. Giguere
  7. Vokoun
  8. Miller
  9. Lundqvist
  10. Turco
  11. Kiprusoff
  12. Hasek
  13. Thomas
  14. Bryzgalov
  15. Conklin
  16. DiPietro
  17. Toskala
  18. Backstrom
  19. Legace
  20. Theodore
  21. Gerber
  22. Huet
  23. Biron
  24. Ellis
  25. Garon
  26. Ward
  27. Harding
  28. Niittymaki
  29. Mason
  30. Lehtonen
Last year's list is available here.

Who's missing here? Well, I think Jason LaBarbera, despite playing on a rotten team, deserves to be among the top 20 or 25. And if Josh Harding makes the list, where's Carey Price?

Pascal Leclaire, Chris Osgood and Jose Theodore are too high on the list, even if it's entirely based on this season, while I'd have Cristobal Huet and Kari Lehtonen much higher.

The comments always get ugly on these lists...

Lame duck Paddock

Critics say if New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello can fire Claude Julien and take over behind the bench as he did with a week to go before the playoffs last season — even though the team was leading its division — then Murray would be more than justified in doing the same here. Especially after what he did with the team as coach in 2006-07.

If the team continues to flounder, the pressure for Murray to take over might get unbearable for both him and Paddock.
Adami goes onto say that a move will be made in a couple of weeks, but the writing's already all over the wall. It's hard to imagine a more public platform for a coach to be canned in the press than on trade deadline day, when everyone's watching, and the only way speculation will stop is if this team goes on a torrid winning streak, beginning tomorrow in Philadelphia.

Given the two eggs they just laid against Toronto and Boston, however, that's unlikely. A lot more unlikely than John Paddock sticking around a couple more weeks.

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The deadline and the standings

What follows is a look at the standings with teams ranked based on the point pace they're on, with the right hand column indicating the relative improvement (or step back) of the teams' roster based on moves made the past two days.

I'm including Peter Forsberg and Vinny Prospal in this table.

>>> indicates a team was made considerably stronger
<<< indicates a team was made considerably weaker

RK Team P% /82 TR
1 NJD 62.5% 102.5 >
2 PIT 61.7% 101.2 >>>
3 OTT 60.9% 99.9 -
4 MTL 60.2% 98.7 <
5 BOS 58.1% 95.3 -
6 NYR 56.3% 92.3 -
7 PHI 54.8% 89.9 >
8 BUF 54.8% 89.9 <
9 CAR 53.8% 88.2 -
10 NYI 52.3% 85.8 -
11 WSH 51.6% 84.6 >>
12 TOR 49.2% 80.7 <
13 FLA 48.5% 79.5 -
14 ATL 48.4% 79.4 <<
15 TBL 46.0% 75.4 <<

RK Team P% /82 TR
1 DET 69.2% 113.5 -
2 DAL 63.4% 104.0 >>
3 ANA 59.8% 98.1 >
4 SJS 59.7% 97.9 >>
5 CGY 58.6% 96.1 -
6 VAN 58.1% 95.3 -
7 MIN 57.9% 95.0 -
8 NSH 56.3% 92.3 -
9 PHX 54.8% 89.9 -
10 COL 54.7% 89.7 >>>
11 STL 52.4% 85.9 <
12 CBJ 52.3% 85.8 <<
13 CHI 51.6% 84.6 <
14 EDM 49.2% 80.7 -
15 LAK 43.8% 71.8 <

The point being here is that teams near the top are likely to be buyers, Stanley Cup contenders looking to solidify their position, and those at the bottom are prepping for next season.

In the west, no one in playoff position took a step back, although quite a few teams stood pat. In the east, Montreal and Buffalo sold off fairly key cogs for various reasons.

On paper, Washington and Colorado should be the teams to watch for, but it doesn't always work out that way.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The ultimate deadline day list

I've posted a team-by-team run through of all of today's deals over at Globe on Hockey that works as a good reference point.

And the posts from today:


Trade deadline winners

It's time for a brief break for me, but I'll be back with wrap up information and to fill out some of the posts below that came in at the end:

And I should add a big thanks to everyone for coming by. It's been a record day already in terms of traffic, and the polls have been busy.

More to come!


A few minor deals

The Ducks have picked up J-S Aubin from the Kings for goaltending depth, and the Thrashers swapped prospect Alex Giroux for Washington's Joe Motzko.

Nashville also acquired Jan Hlavac from Tampa Bay and Brandon Bochenski from Anaheim.

San Jose signed netminder Brian Boucher from the AHL to backup Evgeni Nabokov.

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Bergeron becomes a Duck

Anaheim has plucked defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron from the Islanders for a third-round pick.

Bergeron is under contract for $1.2-million this season and next.

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Leafs deal Kilger to Panthers

Toronto has traded Chad Kilger to Florida to join Wade Belak in exchange for a third-round draft pick.

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Rangers give up on Montoya

The Rangers have moved prospect netminder Al Montoya and Marcel Hossa to Phoenix for Fred Sjostrom, David LeNeveu and Josh Gratton.

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Detroit gets Stuart from Kings

Los Angeles has dealt pending UFA Brad Stuart to the Red Wings for a second- and fourth-round pick.

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Minnesota claims Simon

The Islanders have dealt Chris Simon to Minnesota for a sixth-round pick.

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Penguins bet big on Hossa

Pittsburgh has just moved Angelo Esposito, Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong and a first-round pick to Atlanta for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.

That is a ton to bet on a rental player, albeit a great one. Montreal and Ottawa were rumoured to be the Hossa front-runners all week, and I imagine all three teams offered up considerable value.

You can see why Pittsburgh won these sweepstakes, however.

Atlanta gets
Armstrong: nine goals and 24 points in 54 games
Christensen: nine goals and 20 points in 49 games
Esposito: 26 goals and 55 points in 48 games (in QMJHL)
A first-round pick, likely 21st or higher

Pittsburgh gets
Hossa: 26 goals and 56 points in 60 games

Hossa, 29, is one of the premier snipers in the NHL but has never had much of a playoff pedigree, scoring 13 goals and 35 points in 55 career postseason games.

Really, there are two things that will affect whether this deal is a winner or a loser for Pittsburgh: (a) how they do in the playoffs this year, and (b) how those youngsters turn out.

I actually think with Armstrong and Christensen, we've seen a lot of what they're going to ultimately give, and Esposito and a late first rounder are anything but sure things.

Still, it comes down to where you think Pittsburgh's at as a team, and if Hossa puts them over the top when it comes to contending for the Stanley Cup. Is the Penguins' time now?

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Marian Hossa Sidney Crosby Tyler Kennedy
Ryan Malone Evgeni Malkin Petr Sykora
Jarkko Ruutu Jordan Staal Georges Laraque
Pascal Dupuis Maxime Talbot Adam Hall


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Rangers deal for Backman

The Rangers have just acquired Christian Backman from St. Louis for a fourth-round pick.

Backman is under contract next season for $2.3-million and is the second defenceman the Blues have moved after Bryce Salvador went to the Devils.

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Penguins get Gill

The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded defenceman Hal Gill to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second-round and fifth round pick.

Gill, 32, signed a $6.3 million, three-year contract with the Maple Leafs in 2006.
It may have been an awful season for the Leafs, but Gill's been dependable, and he's the sort of physical, penalty killer the Penguins can use on their back end with Mark Eaton still injured..

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Canucks, Capitals swap Matts

With Cristobal Huet and Sergei Fedorov already in the mix, the Washington Capitals added anohter veteran player acquiring forward Matt Cooke from the Vancouver Canucks for left winger Matt Pettinger.
Cooke is a pending UFA, meaning he's the third rental to join the Capitals so far, while Pettinger is under contract this season and next for a $1-million cap hit.

Pettinger has had a 20-goal season in the past, but has just two goals and seven points in 56 games this season as he has filled mostly a checking and penalty killing role in Washington.

Cooke's well-known as one of the league's real superpests.

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Isles acquire Davison

The New York Islanders have acquired defenseman Rob Davison from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a seventh round draft pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

The 27-year old Davison, currently in his fifth NHL season, has played 15 games for the Sharks this season. In 176 career NHL games, the 6-3, 220-pound native of St. Catharines, ON has recorded two goals with 12 assists for 14 points. He is regarded as a tough and very reliable stay-at-home defenseman and high character player.
>> team release
Davison was made expendable when San Jose picked up Brian Campbell.

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Capitals pick up Fedorov

Columbus has sent pending UFA Sergei Fedorov to Washington in exchange for prospect Teddy Ruth.


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Foote returns to Denver

TSN reports that Columbus has dealt defenceman Adam Foote, a pending UFA, to Colorado, reportedly for a first-round pick.

Foote's had a terrific season this year in Columbus, playing on the top defensive pairing with Jan Hejda under Ken Hitchcock, but negotiations on a contract extension with the Blue Jackets apparently broke down when he was looking for upwards of $4-million a season.

Foote will join fellow Avs newcomer Ruslan Salei on a blueline that also includes Brett Clark, Scott Hannan, Jeff Finger, John-Michael Liles, Kurt Sauer and Jordan Leopold.

Including the addition of Peter Forsberg yesterday, Colorado's taken a big step forward at the deadline and will be making a major push toward the playoffs.

UPDATE Here are the specifics of what Columbus gets on this one: "The Avalanche gives up the rights to a conditional first-round draft choice in 2008 or 2009 and a conditional fourth-round choice in 2009."

UPDATE “We’re extremely pleased to announce to our fans that Adam Foote is returning to the Avalanche,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere. “His veteran presence and proven leadership abilities will be a tremendous boost to our entire team as we head into a crucial time of our season. His presence on our blue line gives us an increased physical presence for the stretch drive.”

“Colorado has always been a special place for me and my family,” said Foote. “I have some amazing memories of my time there and the fans have always been great. I’m looking forward to getting back and helping the team compete for a playoff spot.”

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What's to come

There have been eight trades so far today, and with two hours remaining, there are expected to be quite a few more.

Here are some of the names that are still likely to potentially be on the move:

Marian Hossa, Olli Jokinen, Adam Foote, Jeff Carter, John-Michael Liles, Sergei Fedorov, Tom Preissing, Brad Stuart, Ladislav Nagy, Ron Hainsey, Michael Ryder, Miroslav Satan, Bobby Holik, David Vyborny, Mike Peca, Ruslan Fedotenko, Chris Gratton, Marek Malik, Rhett Warrener


Senators acquire Lapointe

Ottawa has picked up pending UFA Martin Lapointe from the Blackhawks for a sixth-round pick.

Now 34, Lapointe's become a bit of a forgotten man since signing in Chicago coming out of the lockout, but there was a time when he was the most coveted third-line forward in the league after a 27-goal campaign with the Red Wings.

Lapointe will offer depth to the checking lines on the Senators and is a guy who has won multiple Stanley Cups. He hasn't played in the playoffs since skating in seven games with the Bruins in 2004.

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'Hawks deal Ruutu for Ladd

Chicago has begun its fire sale, trading Tuomo Ruutu to the Hurricanes for Andrew Ladd.

Two former first rounders are swapped for one another, as Ruutu was picked ninth overall in 2001 and Ladd was drafted fourth overall in 2004.

Neither has turned into much of a producer so far in the NHL, but I like what I've seen from Ladd, who is still just 22 years old and a tough competitor. Ruutu, meanwhile, has managed just 21 points this season despite the fact he's had plenty of opportunities with the Blackhawks, and at 25 might be running out of chances.

I'm actually not quite sure why Carolina made this move now.

Both players make approximately $1.8-million this season and are restricted free agents this summer.

Luke DeCock from The News & Observer has more.


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Colorado picks up Salei

The Avalanche switch up their defensive depth by adding Ruslan Salei from Florida, who is signed through 2009-10 for $3.025-million a season, in exchange for Karlis Skrastins and a third-round pick.

Skrastins is under contract for one more season at $2.4-million.

NAME TM GP TOI/60 QUAL COMP G/60 A1/60 A2/60 PTS/60
RUSLAN SALEI FLA 65 17.41 0.00 0.11 0.27 0.27 0.64
KARLIS SKRASTINS COL 43 14.93 0.04 0.09 0.09 0.19 0.37

RUSLAN SALEI 2.17 2.49 2.43 2.36
KARLIS SKRASTINS 1.96 1.96 2.92 3.00

“Ruslan Salei gives our club a solid and reliable asset on the blueline,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere. “We feel he can assume a major role within our defensive corps and provide some added stability in that area.”


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Canadiens trade Huet to Washington

TSN is reporting that the Capitals have acquired Cristobal Huet for a second-round pick.

Tyler Dellow had a great post last week on Washington's desperate need for a No. 1 goaltender, and given the low price here, I have to commend GM George McPhee for making this move. Washington's on the outside looking in but in hot pursuit of Carolina atop the Southeast Division, and they could potentially go on a run if they do get into the playoffs.

And Olaf Kolzig has been awful this season.

From the Habs' perspective, rookie Carey Price has outplayed Huet recently and they have a capable backup in Jaroslav Halak in the minors. It's still incredible, however, that one of the top teams in the league is now going with a 20-year-old first-year starter as its goaltender.

Huet is going to be a UFA on July 1, which obviously was a factor in the return here.

Goaltender comparison
Huet: 21-12-6, 2.56 GAA, .916 sv%
Price: 12-9-3, 2.83 GAA, .909 sv%

You'd imagine the Habs get a veteran to split the duties with Price heading into the playoffs, as it's a lot to ask the youngster to takeover. If he falters, what then?

For Washington, Huet's a major upgrade. If Kolzig had a .916 save percentage at this point, the Capitals would have allowed 35 fewer goals with their starter between the pipes, which would improve the team to a 2.49 goals against average (10th best in the league).

Right now, they've allowed 3.00 per game, 25th in the NHL.


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Richards dealt to Dallas

Brad Richards has waived his no-trade clause and been traded with Johan Holmqvist to the Dallas Stars for goaltender Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern.

The big caveat with Richards, of course, is his huge deal, one that will pay him $7.8-million the next three seasons, but he's a far more dominant player than he's been in Tampa Bay this season. Dallas has needed another front-line forward for years, and he can fill that role, especially in an environment with a strong defensive system like the Stars have.

Smith, meanwhile, has been tagged as a real up and comer in goal, and has presented a bit of a challenge to Marty Turco the past two seasons from the backup spot. Smith wasn't a star in junior hockey, but has played very well as a pro in the AHL, and beat out Dan Ellis for the backup job.

Ellis has gone on to establish himself with Nashville this season as a pretty capable netminder.

Here are the contracts involved:

To Dallas
Richards: $7.8-million until 2010-11
Holmqvist: $1-million, UFA on July 1

To Tampa Bay
Smith: $950,000 until 2008-09
Jokinen: $1.813-million until 2008-09
Halpern: $2-million until 2009-10

Dallas depth chart:

Brenden Morrow Brad Richards Jere Lehtinen
Loui Eriksson Mike Ribeiro Antti Miettinen
Niklas Hagman Mike Modano Krys Barch
Joel Lundqvist Steve Ott Stu Barnes

Jokinen and Halpern, meanwhile, give the Lightning some badly needed depth up front, although without the scoring punch of someone like Richards.

"Trading Brad Richards was one of the most difficult moves I have made as manager of this hockey club,” Tampa GM Jay Feaster said. “However, as we have discussed for some time now, we need to address our goaltending situation and we have been targeting Mike Smith for the past two seasons.

"We would not have given up a player and a leader such as Brad unless we were getting outstanding value in return and we feel that Mike, as well as Jeff and Jussi, certainly meet that objective. It is very difficult to say goodbye to Brad and Holmer, however, we feel strongly that we have improved our hockey team now and going forward with this transaction."

“Brad is a difference-maker and one of the premier playmakers in the National Hockey League,” said Stars Co-General Manager Les Jackson. “At 27 years of age, he is in the prime of his playing career and a proven winner who has elevated his game to the highest levels in the playoffs. Johan Holmqvist is a reliable NHL goaltender and somebody that we will be confident in each time he is in net. It was difficult to part ways with Jeff, Jussi and Mike, since they are all consummate professionals who have done great things for our organization. Tampa Bay is getting a solid trio of players and we thank them for all they did for the Dallas Stars.”

“We are thrilled to acquire Brad Richards, a top-line talent who can play with any combination of line-mates,” said Co-General Manager Brett Hull. “His Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the 2004 playoffs shows he is capable of great things in the postseason. He is certainly a major addition to our group.”


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Campbell traded to San Jose

TSN is reporting that the Sabres have dealt defenceman Brian Campbell to the Sharks in exchange for Steve Bernier and a first-round pick.

The Buffalo News reported yesterday afternoon that Campbell would be playing his final game last night against Philadelphia. Campbell had turned down a three-year, $5.75-million per season contract earlier and will be a UFA on July 1.

Certainly this is a tough move from a fan's perspective given the Sabres have recently lost Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, but Campbell's not the sort of player I would give a Dan Boyle type deal to.

San Jose gets one of the league's highest-scoring defenceman, someone who can take over the power-play quarterbacking duties. Craig Rivet had been playing the point on the Sharks top PP unit, and Campbell's certainly an upgrade on him in that regard.

Where he's struggled somewhat this season is defensively and on the penalty kill, but San Jose's been great 4-on-5 and needs help 5-on-4.

Bernier, meanwhile, is a 22-year-old power forward who has yet to really play up to his potential in San Jose. His best NHL season remains his first one, when he had 14 goals and 27 points in 39 games, and he has managed just 28 goals and 54 points in 121 games since then.

He was nonexistent in the playoffs last season.

Bernier was San Jose's first-round pick in 2003 (16th overall) and was regarded as a can't miss prospect after he put up 49 goals and 101 points as a 17-year-old in junior hockey with Moncton of the QMJHL.

“Brian’s a guy that gets the puck out of your zone quick,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. “He’s a quarterback on the power play and he will compliment our group really well.”

“We wish Steve the best,” Wilson added. “He’s worked really hard for us and we think he will go on and have a tremendous career.”


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Leafs deal Belak

Toronto doesn't have all that many soon-to-be UFAs, but one of them is enforcer Wade Belak, who has been dealt to Florida for a fifth-round pick.

Not much more to say on this one.

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Devils acquire Salvador

St. Louis Blues President John Davidson announced today the club has acquired forward Cam Janssen from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Bryce Salvador.
>>> team release
The Blues had been trying to re-sign Salvador, who is a UFA this summer and has been in the Blues organization since 2000-01, but he's apparently headed for a payday on July 1.

The Devils, meanwhile, are looking for experience on defence, and would like to move Vitali Vishnevski out of a regular role on the blueline. My guess is they'll add another defender before the day's over.

Salvador, 32, plays on the penalty kill and was used in a shutdown role in St. Louis alongside Eric Brewer, where he'd done quite well this season. He's played close to 20 minutes a game and will fit in well with the Devils.

Janssen, meanwhile, is a little used enforcer whose contributions include suspensions and fights. He's also from St. Louis.

“We feel that Cam’s style of play will bring energy and grit to our lineup and being from St. Louis, feel that he will be an instant fan favorite here,” said Davidson. “Our depth at defense enabled us to make this move. We admire and respect Bryce as a player for what he did on and off the ice in St. Louis and thank Bryce and his wife April for their contributions as members of our family.”

Devils coach Brent Sutter has gotten incredible contributions from his unheralded defence this season, a group that is led by Paul Martin. Andy Greene, Mike Mottau, Colin White, Johnny Oduya and Karel Rachunek round out a cast we have heard very little about despite the fact New Jersey could finish first in the Eastern Conference.

“In Bryce Salvador, we have acquired a veteran NHL defenseman with good size and strength who plays a physical game,” said Devils GM Lou Lamoriello. “We look forward to the depth Bryce will bring to our roster.”

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TSN: Paddock on the outs

I've been hearing rumblings of discontent with Senators coach John Paddock for months now out of Ottawa, and TSN's reporter Brent Wallace just said on air that he is on the way out the door.

GM Bryan Murray, who coached this team to the Stanley Cup finals last season, would likely take over behind the bench.

Darren Dreger said rumours were flying last night after an ugly 5-0 loss to the Leafs that Paddock could be fired, something that is likely music to the ears of a lot of Senators fans who have been calling for his head since a seven-game winless streak that ended in early December.

Let's just say there's no shortage of "fire Paddock" matches on Google.

Ottawa's 11-12-2 since Jan. 1. Toronto's gone 12-12-1, Tampa Bay is 10-9-4 and the Kings are 12-10-2 over that same stretch.

UPDATE The best answer so far in the "other" category: "I support the Sens having incompetent coaching."

Good stuff.


Howson: Not a blog reader

I had some advice for Columbus GM Scott Howson last week, but according to today's Columbus Dispatch, he wasn't listening:
If Richards joins the Blue Jackets, an NHL source said, Howson is more likely to do what it takes to sign Foote and make a full-on push for the playoffs, perhaps acquiring other players, as well.
With Columbus only five points out of the Western Conference's final playoff spot, coach Ken Hitchcock and his players have made less-than-subtle pleas to keep the club intact.
Moses is going to have to part the waters for this team to make the postseason.

Yes, it appears the Blue Jackets are close, but having played more games than the rest of the bubble teams (64) and on pace to finish in 12th with just more than 85 points, they're out of the running.

And while fans have been turning away this season, the worst possible move to make here would be to bet the farm by hanging onto all of the team's pending UFAs. This team is getting closer to being in the mix, and could really take a step forward next season with a few new pieces.

Things got goofy last season at the deadline when desperate teams like Atlanta and Nashville made ridiculous pitches for players and overpaid, and I'd hate to see that happen in a fragile market like Columbus.

Howson has apparently "offered forwards Gilbert Brule and Dan Fritsche, and defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen" for Brad Richards.


The coverage begins

Does anyone else find it strange that three of the worst GMs of the past decade have all found work as trade deadline analysts?

What profound wisdom will Mike Milbury have for us regarding the art of the deal? How about Doug MacLean and John Ferguson, whose own train wrecks are still on full display in the sellers department?

Maybe it'll be best if they get these three together for a "trades to make" session, whereby afterwards the network can run a disclaimer for other GMs out there watching:

"Whatever these guys just said, be advised to do the opposite."

Six hours to go.

Comrie stays on the Island

Sources say the Islanders and centre Mike Comrie have agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal to keep the Edmonton, Alberta native in Long Island.

In 63 games this season, Comrie leads the Islanders with 27 assists and 45 points.
Comrie's been a pretty important cog for the second lowest scoring team in the league, leading the power play and providing some offence despite the cast he's had around him. After bouncing around a bit, from Edmonton to Philadelphia to Phoenix to Ottawa, he's finally found a home.

He's played close to 20 minutes a game for the first time in his NHL career, and they haven't been easy minutes. That's led to a team-worst minus-20 rating, but a ton of those minuses have come as shorthanded goals against.

Most importantly, Comrie's well liked by coach Ted Nolan, something that can't be said for many of his NHL bench bosses to this point.

"Mike Comrie has been everything we could have asked of him in his first season as an Islander," said general manager Garth Snow. "He's been our top center, on the first unit of our power play and he has contributed in so many ways. He's also been a great teammate and a first-class pro, on and off the ice. We are delighted that he wanted to remain an Islander and we were able to work out a contract for next season."

If anyone can get him to become a defensively responsible No. 1 centre, it just might be Nolan.

"I'm extremely happy to have reached an agreement with the Islanders for the 2008-09 season," said Comrie early Tuesday morning. "I love being an Islander and wanted to stay. The management and the coaches have shown great belief in us as players and I am honored to be a part of this organization. I would like to thank Garth Snow and my representative, Ritch Winter, for making this a deal that both sides are comfortable and happy with. I look forward to the rest of this season and I'm thrilled to be an Islander for at least another season."

Comrie was going to be a UFA on July 1 and was one of the Isles' names rumoured to be on the block.

UPDATE Islanders blogger Mike Schuerlein is in the Blog Box at Nassau Coliseum early this morning and will be talking to Snow at about 10:30. Check in with him for any Isles-related news today.

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Report: Stars to acquire Richards

The Dallas Stars will acquire Tampa Bay Lightning center Brad Richards in a multi-player trade ... an executive within the league said Monday night. The Stars have looked to make a splash since Les Jackson and Brett Hull took over in the co-general manager role for the fired Doug Armstrong earlier this season. The source said Dallas is expected to package veteran checking center Jeff Halpern, backup goalie Mike Smith and young defenseman Mark Fistric to the Lightning.
Well, he's reporting this one as a soon-to-be done deal, and the Richards-to-Dallas rumours have been coming early and often the past week or so.

I'm going to wait for more official confirmation before offering more.

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Report: Hossa to Habs

Atlanta Thrashers right wing Marian Hossa is heading to the Montreal Canadiens before the NHL trade deadline, an executive within the league said Monday night.
With Mats Sundin declining to waive his no-trade clause, Hossa's the marquee forward on the block, and I'd be surprised to see him moved until right before the deadline, and after a furious bidding war.

The rumours I've seen on this deal have Chris Higgins and/or Michael Ryder going the other way.

I'm going to wait for more official confirmation before offering more.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Boyle re-signs for big money

Defenceman Dan Boyle gets his mammoth new deal, $40-million over six years, as per TSN.

The size of the contract almost certainly means Brad Richards will be moved on Tuesday, as with the team's Big Three plus Boyle's $6.67-million cap hit, they've already got about $38.5-million committed next season, and that's without a starting goaltender.

Including the now-departed Vinny Prospal, Tampa Bay has eight pending unrestricted free agents to replace on the roster come this summer.

The cap hit's a steep figure for an offensive defenceman who is going to be 32 in July and is coming off of a gruesome, freak wrist injury that has kept him out of all but 17 games this season. Boyle's a great puckmover, but I can't imagine that'll be the case in 2013-14.

He's really only had three truly productive NHL seasons, was never drafted and is undersized for his position.

The Brian Campbell camp just got a new target to aim for, but if I'm a Buffalo Sabres fan, I'm calling for Darcy Regier to walk away from anything remotely close to this one.

Jay Feaster may be moving Richards, but his club is still stuck with far too much salary going to too few players — something that will likely hamstring Tampa Bay for years to come.

Some teams never learn.


Prospal dealt to Flyers

It appears we're getting started a little early:
The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired defenseman Alexandre Picard and either a second or third-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for center/left wing Vaclav Prospal, Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster announced. If Philadelphia qualifies for the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals Tampa Bay will receive Philadelphia's second-round pick in 2009, and if they do not the Lightning will receive Calgary's third-round pick in 2009.
Prospal is strictly a rental, a pending unrestricted free agent who had really fallen out of favour in Tampa Bay this season and had zero chance of returning with the Lightning.

He'll serve as somewhat of a replacement for Simon Gagne, and especially on the power play, where the Flyers have been the league's second most dangerous team. Philadelphia finally won tonight in a shootout in Buffalo, but have really been struggling, as the win ended a 10-game losing skid that put them out of playoff position.

Prospal began his career with the Flyers after they drafted him in the third round in 1993, but was dealt to Ottawa after just 59 games as a Flyer. Now 33, he's only played 43 career playoff games, scoring six goals and 21 points.

He was not a member of the Lightning team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Prospal was red hot to start this season but had cooled off lately, scoring only a handful of points in a month-long stretch from mid-January to mid-February that saw him ride the pine and grapple with coach John Tortorella.

Since then, he's managed six goals in his last six games, giving him a career high 29 on the year.

On the Lightning side of the deal, they get a decent prospect in Picard, the Flyers' third-round pick from 2003. Still only 22, he's played in 72 NHL games to this point and was a major contributer with the AHL Phantoms this season with 38 points in 53 games.

He's big, but not physical, but should turn into an NHL-calibre defender at some point.

It's interesting to see the Flyers go for it after finishing dead last in 2006-07, and I expect them to be active in picking up a defenceman tomorrow as well.

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Forsberg signs with Colorado

Well, well, well... this just hit my inbox:
The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced today that it has come to terms with unrestricted free agent Peter Forsberg on a new contract through the 2007-2008 season.

"We're proud to announce to our fans that Peter Forsberg has decided to come back and play with our franchise where he's enjoyed so much success early in his career," said Avalanche Executive Vice President and General Manager Francois Giguere. "His addition should complement our roster and will bring our team to an even higher competitive level."

"Over the last several months, I have worked extremely hard in order for this to be possible. I am looking forward to putting this jersey on again," said Forsberg. "I have so many great memories of my playing days in Denver. I'm excited about helping my new teammates and former teammates in the coming weeks, and hopefully I am able to do that in the very near future."
Currently in 10th place in the Western Conference and battling to get back into the playoffs, Colorado can certainly use a healthy Forsberg. What we don't know at this point is just how healthy he'll be, and how much he'll be able to contribute.

Even still, last season running at nowhere near his peak potential, Forsberg had 55 points in 57 games for Philadelphia and Nashville, and was still a first-line player. The Avs have battled key injuries to their forward corps all season, with Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic and Paul Statsny all missing considerable time.

All three are now back in the fold, and with Forsberg added to the mix, things have all of a sudden gotten just a little tighter in the west.

Wojtek Wolski Paul Stastny Marek Svatos
Ryan Smyth Peter Forsberg Milan Hejduk
Jaroslav Hlinka Joe Sakic Ben Guite
Andrew Brunette Tyler Arnason Ian Laperriere

TSN is reporting Forsberg's contract is for $5-million, which works out to just more than $1-million for the remainder of the season. There's been no word yet if it contains performances bonuses like the midseason deal Teemu Selanne signed in Anaheim.

UPDATE Eric Duhatschek has more.

UPDATE And here's the transcript of Forsberg's conference call.


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