Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Paetsch Puts Pen to Paper

The Sabres locked up their last potential arbitration hearing by signing Nathan Paetsch to a 3-year deal on Tuesday. The financial terms were not released, but where the market stands for Paetsch, I would imagine he'd get a tiered deal which would probably even out to be around $2 million a year. That would fit him underneath the cap and give the Sabres seven solid defensemen.

Paetsch managed 24 points in 63 games last season, including 2 goals. That ranks him 74th amongst all defensemen last season, which is definitely pool worthy. With a bit more of a regular job, you could see an increase in points by about 10, depending on his desire to be in the line-up.

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Lil' Hossa Avoids as Well

Marcel Hossa has joined the list of players not sitting down with the arbitrator this summer. If the independent arbitrators of the league wanted to spend more time with the family, they're more than certainly getting it. Appointments left, right and centre are being cancelled. Hossa signed a 1-year, $780,000 deal, which should be par for his ability.

Hossa only scored 10 goals in 64 games with the blueshirts and really hasn't lived up the high expectations his big brother, Marian, placed on the family name. Marcel has had troubles really blending in and being a full-time threat in the big leagues, but he hasn't done too badly when it comes to waiting for a contract to land in his lap.

Expectations for Marcel should increase this season, as he's had ample opportunity to be a consistent contributor, both in Montreal and the Big Apple. He's certainly a gamble for any pool team, but he's becoming more and more of a long shot as the years go by.

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Kelly Re-Ups

Avoiding arbitration is the new fad in the NHL this summer. Players would like to get fair-market value, but it seems to be a kisses and hugs relationship that teams and players are having... no one wanting to present a case to an arbitrator... unless you're the Rangers or Sean Avery. Chris Kelly signed a 1-year deal with the Sens on Tuesday, worth $1.265 million. Kelly proved to be very handy for the Sens down the middle and will have another kick at the can to improve his numbers and his contract situation.

Kelly played in all 82 games, scoring 15 times and adding 23 assists. That put him 219th in pool rankings, which would be a sixth or seventh forward in a deep draft. It was a career year for the 26 year old forward and with a touch more confidence, he might find himself in the midst of more scoring plays.

On Monday, Oleg Saprykin signed a deal in Russia for next season. It seems unlikely he'll come back to the Ottawa fold right away, but you never know how much the Sens may need another winger down the stretch.

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Can the Canes Blow Back?

The Hurricanes struggled last season and didn't make the playoffs. There were a few guys on the team who underperformed in 2006/07, but that could all very well change in the new season upcoming.

With no significant acquistions in the offseason, Hurricane management has decided that the core group of guys on the team are still good enough to take the Hurricanes into the playoffs and close enough to win another championship. If that is to be the case, the Hurricanes will have to get 2005/06 production from guys like Eric Staal and Justin Williams, both of whom had their points and rankings drop off. Staal fell from over 100 points to 70 points and Williams fell a little ways in the rankings going from 42nd to 69th.

On the positive side, quite a few players saw a positive improvement in their point production... Rod Brind'Amour kept moving up, Ray Whitney returned to his previous form, Cam Ward's first full season had 30 wins, Mike Commodore had a career year and Andrew Ladd continues his improvement in the NHL.

Ray WhitneyRod Brind'AmourJustin Williams
Cory StillmanEric StaalErik Cole
Andrew LaddMatt CullenScott Walker
Chad LaroseJeff HamiltonCraig Adams
Mike CommodoreGlen Wesley
Niclas WallinBret Hedican
Frank KaberleDennis Seidenberg
Cam Ward
John Grahame

The Hurricanes are in pretty good shape when it comes to the salary cap going into the summer. This roster will run about $42.5 million, which gives them a big ceiling if another playoff run is imminent.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Why so Blue, Jacket?

In the midst of some big spending teams in the West, the Columbus Blue Jackets haven't spent much money this off-season acquiring new players to join the group that finished 11th in the West, some 23 points out of the playoffs. The notable acquisitons for the Blue Jackets have only been Jiri Novotny (from Buffalo) and Jan Hejda (from Edmonton). I would think in some circles, this would be a cry for help. The Blue Jackets do have a serious amount of talent in their forward ranks, but they are certainly lacking the desire to flourish to their full potential.

It might be fair to say, that the Blue Jackets have really missed out on picking up that X-factor of veteran leadership. Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote were supposed to be "that" guy, but neither have panned out to either lead by example or seemingly lead with character. What the other teams gained this summer in individual talent, the Blue Jackets have gained in chemistry. Another year of having Nash & Vyborny onthe same line... Modin & Zherdev... Brule getting a full-season under his belt... Hainsey becoming a pillar to lean against and Klesla getting all those minutes, the Blue Jackets could very well be a more difficult team to play against.

Rick NashSergei FedorovDavid Vyborny
Fredrik ModinDan FritscheNikolai Zherdev
Jason ChimeraManny MalhotraGilbert Brule
Jiri NovotnyAlexander SvitovJody Shelley
Ron HainseyRostislav Klesla
Adam FooteDuvie Westcott
Jan HejdaOle-Kristian Tollefsen
Fredrik Norrena
Pascal Leclaire

As you can see, it looks as though Fredrik Norrena will be the favourite to take the number one job in Columbus for next season. Nothing is guaranteed, but he did play well last season, winning 24 times and was almost good enough for a point-per-game. He actually finished 26th amongst goalies in pool rankings. Leclaire just can't seem to nail down that job as it was seemingly his when the Jackets dealt Denis to Tampa Bay. Leclaire only managed 24 appearances and winning 6 times.

On the blueline, the addition of Hejda should give them some better number five or six minutes, as he did play pretty well for the Oilers last season. It will be a full-time job for him, instead of the platoon role he faced in Edmonton, so you can expect his numbers to almost double with a full season worth of work. A healthy season for Adam Foote will help his tally as well, but at 36, the years of a full-season seem less and less likely, especially with the way he plays. The big one will be Hainsey, who should have some more confidence with his shot... look for him to improve on his 9 goals from last season.

Up front, look for Jiri Novotny to make a splash. Yes, he's the new kid in town, but he showed some pretty special hands in Buffalo late last season and he could find himself on the second line in no time. He is a natural centre, but with the way the Jackets are rolling out, he's just shifted to the left for now. Watch Novotny push for Fritsche's job on this list.

It was a fairly healthy year for Nash last season, but he'll need to return to his 50-goal days to help Columbus win. A certain level of confidence will have to be reached before he can be that dominating power forward again. Zherdev and Brule will be looked towards to bring their real A-game this season and if they can have a good camp and jump right out of the gates with a few wins, they could have their confidence built and the season could be a bountiful one.

And what's their cap number, you ask? This line-up here will cost a mere $37 million. I wouldn't be surprised if they made a push for a player like Jeff O'Neill or Wes Walz, but it isn't very likely that they'll spend too much more in the dollar department.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Panthers Unveiled

The cat will come back in 2007/08 to Miami, but his duds will be just a little bit different. Over the weekend, the Panthers unveiled their new jerseys in the new RBK style and they don't look too bad. The team still doesn't have a great deal of bite offensively, but they have certainly improved at the back end when they acquired Tomas Vokoun from the Nashville Predators. How much of a difference will Vokoun give the Panthers? When healthy, Vokoun can be a Top 50 or even a Top 10 player in pool rankings and that means wins. A lot of wins. I'm sure players like Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Van Ryn, who are more offensively gifted, will improve their numbers this year, because they know they have an elite keeper behind them.

Up front, they added Brett McLean, Radek Dvorak and Richard Zednik... three guys who can play a good character role and chip in a few goals here and there. Where everyone will fit in is the big question for the Panthers. As much as they can rely on Olli Jokinen to have a superb season, the Panthers will really look to Nathan Horton to improve his numbers and the same goes for Rostislav Olesz. Horton scored 31 goals last season, but the Panthers are looking for a 40-goal season and it may not be too far off. In Olesz, he only scored 11 goals in 75 games... he'll have a vast improvement in his tallies. It should be a better year for the Panthers, but it still may not be a playoff season for them.

Ville PeltonenOlli JokinenNathan Horton
Brett McLeanJozef StumpelRadek Dvorak
Rostislav OleszStephen Weiss *Richard Zednik
David BoothGregory CampbellDrew Larman
Jay BouwmeesterRuslan Salei
Bryan AllenMike Van Ryn
Steve Montador *Branislav Mezei
Tomas Vokoun
Craig Anderson

Cap-wise, this line-up is only worth about $37 million. Stephen Weiss is still unsigned, but not going to arbitration. Steve Montador has his arbitration hearing on August 3rd. With these two signings left to do, the Panthers brass won't have to worry about coming too close to the cap this season. They still might find themselves in the market for some of the Unrestricted Free Agents that are remaining.

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Canadiens Get Their Ryder

Well, you can eliminate the asterisk beside Michael Ryder's name in the story down below. Ryder signed a 1-year deal with the Canadiens on Sunday. He avoids his arbitration hearing that was supposed to get underway on Monday. Now the monetary figure hasn't been announced just yet, but like it was mentioned yesterday, the Canadiens are not in any cap trouble going into camp. I think you'll see Ryder earn somewhere between $3 and $4 million next season, as that's what the market dictates.

Last season, Ryder saw all 82 games with the Canadiens, scoring 30 goals and 58 points. He finished 105th in pool rankings, up 13 spots from the season previous. He did finish 47th in 2003/04, so the potential is there for him to be in the Top 100, so as a bit of a sleeper, he can go up on anyone's list for a pretty decent gamble. I won't be able to do it himself though... watch who he ends up playing with in camp and if he gets himself a bonafide playmaker as a centre, that's when he'll be at his best for the pool.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Defense for Montreal?

The Montreal Canadiens are a team I rarely cover, which is a definite shame. The Habs are quite possibly one of the most mystical teams when it comes to team judgement, because I can never get a good read about what's going on there. It was appearing on TSN.ca this morning that the Habs had offered veteran defenseman, Patrice Brisebois, a 1-year deal worth about $700,000. This is rather puzzling, as the the Canadiens are stocked up on d-men for the coming year, but what's a little bit more veteran presence gonna hurt? Okay, that isn't the real question... the real one is, who's gonna get bumped?

Alexei KovalevSaku KoivuMichael Ryder *
Christopher HigginsBryan SmolinskiGuilliaume Latendresse
Tomas PlekanecGarth MurrayAndrei Kostitsyn
Max LapierreSteve BeginTom Kostopoulos
Roman HamrlikAndrei Markov
Mark StreitMike Komisarek
Francis BouillionMathieu Dandenault
Cristobel Huet
Jaroslav Halak

This line-up, with Michael Ryder's arbitration hearing coming next week is worth roughly $39 million, so there is plenty of room to move when it comes to Ryder's fair-market value. The Habs were in the running for quite a few of the high profile free agents, like Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, but fell short in what I could only guess was their presentation. Bob Gainey was thrilled to have picked up Hamrlik and Smolinski though when the market had finally opened.

Bakc to the defense situation... listed are six defensemen that all made good last season and this would be Brisebois' competition going into camp. The lowest pool-ranked player on the six is Dandenault at 8 points in 68 games... Brisebois only managed 11 points in an injury-riddled 33 games. The Habs also have young defenseman Josh Gorges in the mix (acquired in the deal for Rivet) and veteran Jamie Rivers, who's also trying to make a push for the bigs once again. Let's not forget the prospects... Andrew Archer and Mathieu Biron. They'll also be sitting in the wings waiting for a chance. It's a bit of a train wreck, really... but once they have decided on the best six going forward, it should be a very competitive blueline.

Up front, it will also prove to be a big race for spots. Only Michael Ryder is the only big signing left, unless they want to lure Alexander Perezhogin back out of Russia for the coming year, but that looks doubtful. The Canadiens were looking to upgrade themselves down the middle in the offseason and the pickup of Bryan Smolinski has done that to a certain degree, but he wasn't exactly the second line centre they were looking for. The Habs are quite high on youngin's like Mathieu Carle, Kyle Chipchura, Corey Locke and Sergei Kostitsyn; and any of those four have a good shot of knocking someone off the top roster. This team update page will probably see some major changes to it by the time draft day rolls around.

Finally, in goal... the Habs don't lose any sleep here. Cristobel Huet will go into camp as the clear favourite to man the crease come October 3rd (in Carolina), but with the way Jaroslav Halak played in Huet's absence and how Carey Price won the AHL's Calder Cup for Hamilton, this job isn't safe for anyone... except the Canadiens. I would understand that most, if not all, Habs fans are quite excited about the prospect of winning a lot of games beacause of their goaltending this season.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Roy Agrees Early

Of course, as soon as I publish the post that Derek Roy is going to arbitration, he settles just before his hearing. And instead of getting fair market value, the Sabres pony up some serious cash over the long haul. Roy will earn $24 million over the next 6 years, which is what the Panthers' Nathan Horton will earn over his next 6 year tenure. With the departure of Briere and Drury, Roy will take on a bigger role, much like Horton, and his numbers should then increase.

Maxim AfinogenovTim ConnollyThomas Vanek
Derek RoyJason PominvilleJochen Hecht
Drew StaffordNathan Paetsch *Ales Kotalik
Paul GaustadDan PailleAdam Mair
Brian CampbellTeppo Numminen
Dimitri KalininJaroslav Spacek
Toni LydmanHenrik Tallinder
Ryan Miller
Jocelyn Thibault

Now the Sabres only have Nathan Paetsch left to negotiate with before his August 2nd arbitration hearing. This roster for the Sabres, thanks to the big deals from Vanek and Roy, now sits at about $47 million, which doesn't leave a boat load of room to move in the season. If Paetsch is to get fair market value, then he would be looking at the $1 million mark or maybe a touch less. This line-up should skate into the season at around $48 million.

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Arbitration Day

On Friday, Derek Roy will more than likely have his arbitration hearing with Buffalo Sabres brass to try and iron out a figure for his 2007/08 salary. Roy joins a fair sized list of players who couldn't settle the deal themselves, rather letting a third party arbitrator handle the number crunching. Roy scored 21 goals and had 63 points last season, which should entitle him to one big raise this summer. The election to go to arbitration should settle this in a hurry, as the Sabres will more than likely accept fair-market value for Roy, which should be in the range of J.P. Dumont's $2.5 million.

Washington's Brook Laich settled his deal with an arbitrator on Tuesday, inking a new 1-year deal worth $750,000 and Dallas' Antti Miettinen had his hearing on Thursday and is awaiting the results, either late today or first thing Saturday. Other notable players for arbitration this summer is the Kings' Mike Cammelleri and the Canadiens' Michael Ryder. Check out TSN.ca's list of all players going to arbitration this summer.

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Offer Sheet - Take Two

Kevin Lowe is at it again. Yesterday (July 26), he signed Ducks Restricted Free Agent, Dustin Penner, to an offer sheet worth $21.25 million over 5 years. This comes a couple weeks after Lowe failed in the same sort of attempt to get Sabres forward, Thomas Vanek. There is an immediate difference to both these offer sheets. The Sabres had lost both of their big two Unrestricted Free Agents and had cap space to spare for the large offer sheet Vanek had signed. The Ducks, on the other hand, do not have the cap space to give Penner over $4 million a season. If Brian Burke is to let Penner go, the Ducks will receive a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick in next season's draft.

To me, this one is a no-brainer. Let Lowe overpay for Dustin Penner, Burke will gladly take 3 more picks in next year's draft (one of the deepest in recent history) and watch the plan utterly backfire against Lowe and the Oil. However, Penner's 29 goals last season was pretty good... I would almost think though, the rough & tumble games of the Northwest Division will probably take that total down a bit, if he was to end up in Edmonton.

Stay tuned!

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gelinas Goes to Nashville

Martin Gelinas adds yet another team to his storied journeyman career with a stop in Music City to play with the Predators. He signed a 1-year, $1.25 million deal on Thursday. It's quickly becoming a big race for jobs there in Nashville, as Gelinas will join a pretty experienced roster already. He may provide some of that leadership that was somewhat lacking in their attempt at a Cup run last season. His 1-year deal also makes him a good rental player, if the Predators fall short of the mark this season.

Gelinas finished last season with 14 goals and 30 assists, ranking him 179th amongst all players and 128th amongst forwards. He should be finding himself on many pool teams, as his helpfulness hasn't disappeared and could still be a good late-round pick.

J-P DumontSteve SullivanMartin Erat
Jason ArnottDavid LegwandAlexander Radulov
Jared SmithsonRadek BonkMartin Gelinas
Darcy HordichukJed OrtmeyerScott Nichol
Vern Fiddler

Jordan Tootoo
Shea WeberMarek Zidlicky
Ryan SuterDan Hamhuis
Greg de Vries
Cody Franson
Chris Mason
Pekka Rinne

The Predators roster is growing a lot, but they still border the cap minimum which is around $34 million. This roster with two scratched forwards stands around $32 million at the moment.

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Peachy in Atlanta

This off-season really hasn't appeared to be too productive for the Atlanta Thrashers. They made their goal of making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history with a couple deals at the trade deadline, but past that, it really seems like the status quo in Georgia. Some might say that they were kind of lucky to retain the services of Slava Kozlov as he sat on the open market for a few days after it opened. I suppose the opportunity to keep playing with Kovalchuk and Hossa was enough for him to stay... I certainly can't blame him.

Pool-wise, last season, the Thrashers were not very deep in the way of point-getting talent. They had four players in the Top 50 (Hossa, Kozlov, Kovalchuk & Lehtonen), but you didn't see another player for quite sometime afterwards. If you were to stick with those names again, you surely won't be disappointed, but buyer beware on the rest of the squad.

Ilya KovalchukSlava KozlovMarian Hossa
Pascal DupuisTodd WhiteEric Perrin
Jim SlaterBobby HolikEric Boulton
Chris ThorburnSteve RucchinDarren Haydar
Alexei ZhitnikNiclas Havelid
Ken KleeSteve McCarthy *
Garnet ExelbyMarc Popovic
Kari Lehtonen
Johan Hedberg

The current Thrashers squad shown here is worth roughly $39 million, plus the signing of Steve McCarthy, who isn't going to arbitration this summer, rather just waiting to see how much company dough is left for him later on.

When you look at the squad, most likely to dress today, you will notice that there is a large veteran presence both down the middle at centre and on the blueline. The addition of Ken Klee should make the blueline a little more difficult to pass, which should make Kari Lehtonen's numbers increase a little more. It's unclear how much they should go up, but a good healthy season should have him winning a couple more games and more than likely registering a couple more shutouts.

In training camp, it should be an interesting race to see who earns the wing spots on the third and fourth lines. I don't think you'll see many pool entries from those spots exactly, as the forward depth isn't too high, but you may see a small glimmer of hope from 2006 1st round pick, Brian Little. You may also want to keep a keen eye on Alexandre Giroux in camp this fall. He has been touted fairly high by Thrashers brass as well.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Young Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are resting on their youth, by the number of big signings they've made this summer. That isn't to say that they haven't signed any quality players, but there really hasn't been many marquee guys to fill up lockers in the dressing room. What they did manage to sign were good veteran players that can provide some leadership for the new players who are up and coming.

Martin HavlatRobert LangTuomo Ruutu
Radim VrbataYanic PerreaultJason Williams
Martin LapointePatrick SharpSergei Samsonov
Patrick Kane *Jonathan ToewsRene Bourque
Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Cam BarkerJim Vandermeer
Andrei ZyuzinJames Wisnewski *
Nikolai Khabibulin
Patrick Lalime

Please remember, these are not line match-ups, they are just where they would fit according to last season's numbers. Obviously, you look at someone like Toews, he could very well jump to that number one spot at centre in no time.

As noted, you can see a few new names to the Chicago line-up that should help everybody out. Robert Lang, Yanic Perreault and Sergei Samsonov will help lead the youth of the Blackhawks, not to mention their possible linemates. If Lang is to hook up with Havlat this season, the stock should immediately rise for Lang, saying that Havlat can play at least 70 games. Perreault won't likely see much time on the second line, he'll probably adapt to a reliable third line centre role, used a lot for his face-offs.

Toews is expected to make the line-up this year and is my favourite to win the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie, but let's not count out Patrick Kane. He will be given every opportunity in camp to make the team and with help from a guy like Toews or Martin Lapointe, he may find himself with enough backing to get there. The smell of 'dynamic duo' is wafting in Chicago.

The new face of the blueline is Andrei Zyuzin. Zyuzin only scored 6 points in 49 games for the Flames last season, which was far from expectations, but won't come to the Blackhawks squad as the go-to guy for offense. He does bring more size to the table and will generally relied upon that as the new guy in town. Barker, Seabrook and Keith could all very well break out this year as the excitement for winning is surely upon that young core.

With youth and inexperience comes a liability for opposing shots on goal. Nikolai Khabibulin will take another shot at protecting the Hawks' net and at $6.75 million this year, he'll be expected to do well. He won 25 games last season for the squad and that should crack the 30-mark barring injury. His importance amongst goaltenders should go up from being ranked 27th in pool points.

Where does this all leave Chicago against the cap? With Wisnewski and Kane unsigned at the moment, the Blackhawks starting 20 sits at roughly $38.5 million. There's plenty of room for the Hawks to move in and possibly acquire some character third or fourth liners in the coming weeks.

** UPDATE ** Patrick Kane signed a 3-year entry level deal with the Hawks with a base salary of $875,000 and a bonus package worth another $2.8 million. The base salary will lift the cap number to about $39.4 million.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stempniak Signs

Lee Stempniak signed a new deal with the St. Louis Blues today. The Blues have been rather quiet in this off-season, besides the trade of late. It's pretty rare that I even post a Blues article these days, but I thought since Stempniak is becoming a good little pool player, his signing is certainly worth a few words.

Stempniak finished last season with 27 goals and 52 points, placing him 139th in the pool rankings. That's a pretty good jump from his 338th spot in his rookie season. Stempniak definitely earned his 3-year, $7.5 million deal. He's becoming a pretty solid point-getter and should be considered in that same area where he finished last season. The Blues didn't really improve too much around him this off-season, but we'll have a look at what they've done anyways.

Paul KariyaDoug WeightKeith Tkachuk
Lee StempniakBrad BoyesMartin Rucinsky
Petr CajanekJay McClementDavid Backes
Jamal MayersDan HinoteRyan Johnson
Eric BrewerBarrett Jackman
Christian BackmanBryce Salvador
Jay McKeeJeff Woywitka *
Manny Legace
Hannu Toivonen

I am a bit critical of the moves to pick up Paul Kariya and spend money on Keith Tkachuk. Stempniak may benefit from one or both of these guys, which may make him a better commodity on the pool market, but I don't think it helped the Blues goaltending to get wins. Defensively, they aren't quite the strongest as neither Brewer or Jackman have had a good run at winning as lead guys to really give confidence. Maybe that's just me. The Blues will need some great chemistry to make it through this season.

Cap-wise, the Blues without the signing of Woywitka sit at roughly $41 million against the cap. It gives them a lot of breathing room when it comes to signing another defenseman or two. Possibly another good grinding forward as a role player.

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A Meaner Shark

Well, here's the new logo for the San Jose Sharks... made official this morning on the Sharks website. Well, it's a part of the logo. This will be what the Domain will use for all Sharks news from now on. But since I'm here with the new logo, maybe I'll put together the team update as well.

Milan MichalekJoe ThorntonJonathon Cheechoo
Ryan ClowePatrick MarleauMatt Carle
Marcel GocJoe PavelskiSteve Bernier
Patrick RissmillerCurtis BrownMike Grier
Christian EhrhoffMarc-Edouard Vlasic
Craig RivetKyle McLaren
Doug MurrayRob Davison
Evgeni Nabokov
Taylor Dakers

Everyone on the list there is signed up for the coming season and the running total against the cap is only a mere $35.9 million (roughly).

Scoring shouldn't be too much of an issue for the top three lines. All should be good considerable pool picks when it comes down to it all. On defense, I think you'll see a great jump to the next level for Vlasic. His ice-time was so high last season, that it won't be the learning curve around that this coming season, rather the offensive talent curve will be the one tested. In goal, the race for the back-up job will either be within the club against Dakers or Restricted Free Agent, Dimitri Patzold. There are a few goaltenders out there looking for jobs, so you may see a dip into the Free Agent Pool by the Sharks.

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Emery Avoids Arbitration

The Senators have avoided a messy arbitration hearing today with Ray Emery by signing him to a 3-year deal, worth $9.5 million according to TSN. Emery, who helped the Senators to the Cup Finals this past Spring will be rewarded handsomely for his efforts and will officially be the number one guy for Ottawa.

Emery finished the regular season with 33 wins in 58 games, including 5 shutouts, which put him in 46th place in the pool rankings, 12th amongst goaltenders. Depending on how the rest of the team fills out, a small increase in production should be acknowledged, as his confidence should be going through the roof. As the pool ranking may suggest, he should be more of a high second round pick, than a late first rounder... unless you have reason to believe otherwise.

Daniel AlfredssonJason SpezzaDany Heatley
Oleg Saprykin *Mike FisherAntoine Vermette
Dean McAmmondChris Kelly *Patrick Eaves
Shean DonovanBrian McGrattonChris Neil
Joe CorvoWade Redden
Andrej MeszarosChris Phillips
Christoph Schubert *Anton Volchenkov
Ray Emery
Martin Gerber

With this fat new contract on the books, the Senators face a bit of a salary challenge. Redden, Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson aren't coming cheap this season... it's around $22.4 million for the four of them. Phillips will add another $3.5, Emery will be $2.75 this season, but the real big number on the books at this point in time is Martin Gerber's $3.7 million he'll be owed as the back-up. All told, this Sens line-up above is worth around $45.3 million and three of those players aren't even signed yet.

It really does seem now that the marketplace for goaltenders is becoming stocked with some high priced back-ups, who have potential to be a starter. Gerber in Ottawa and Raycroft in Toronto immediately come to mind. Teams like Ottawa will probably have to take very little in return if they want to move such high-priced talent, but the number of teams in need seems to be rather small.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Prospect Deal

The Bruins helped out the confusion in the crease going into training camp by dealing Hannu Toivonen to St. Louis for prospect centre, Carl Soderberg.

Toivonen appeared in 18 games for Boston last season, winning 3 of them. Toivonen was losing the battle last season against Tim Thomas and company for crease-time and spent a great deal of time in the minors. Now with the Bruins acquiring Manny Fernandez from the Wild, Toivonen has officially been deemed the odd man out and has now been sent to St. Louis. Unfortunately, the roster in St. Louis may be a tad tough to crack. The Blues are currently holding Manny Legace, Jason Bacashihua and Marek Schwartz... all of which are eyeing the number one job there. With four quality goaltenders now, the race for two spots will be increasingly tight.

Soderberg, a 2nd round pick in 2004, was more than likely on the verge of cracking the Blues squad last season, but never quite made it. He ended up going back to Sweden to play in the Elite League for IF Malmo and almost registered a point-a-game there. He might be able to crack the Boston line-up in the centre position with a strong camp. Soderberg, 22 in October, should now have the physical capabilities to play in the NHL and could find himself in a third-line role with the big club or a first-line role in Providence for seasoning.

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Simon to Whack Out Wins

After the large suspension, the New York Islanders have made the decision that Chris Simon does provide the team with a lot of grit and experience beyond some indiscretions that Ryan Hollweg can atest to. Simon signed a 1-year deal worth $800,000 on Monday morning.

Before his suspension, Simon did manage 10 goals and 27 points in 67 games and could provide a great level of penalty minutes, if your pool counts them towards your point total. It would be a pretty big stretch to see him in a goals & assists pool, but he could make it really deep... maybe. Okay, probably not.

The Islanders scraped their way into the playoffs last season, but when looking at the current state of the team on paper, it looks like they'll be even luckier to make it that close... or close at all.

Bill GuerinMike SillingerMiroslav Satan
Ruslan FedotenkoMike ComrieTrent Hunter *
Richard ParkJon SimShawn Bates
Jeremy CollitionSteve TambelliniChris Simon
Marc-Andre BergeronRadek Martinek
Chris CampoliBrendan Witt
Freddie MeyerBruno Gervais
Rick DiPietro
Wade Dubielewicz

When I look at this Islander line-up nothing really jumps out at me and says, "playoffs!" There really isn't anything there that screams pool wins, unless you can cleverly pick up a guy like Satan in the second or third round. Satan finished 99th in the pool rankings last season with only 59 points and really isn't going to get the kind of service he needs from a centre like Sillinger or Comrie. Unless you find a player in the system that can provide some good centre service to your key wingers, the Islanders will probably not float.

Another concern for the Islanders is the salary cap. They aren't even close to the maximum... rather, they're barely going to scrape the minimum. If you thought Edmonton was going to be a tough place to lure in players, it looks like the crazy house on the island is becoming quite tough. They threw a lot of money at Bill Guerin and Rick DiPietro doesn't have to worry about his savings account for 14 more years, but they really don't have much that stands out salary wise (if the formula is salary = wins). With Trent Hunter still to be signed, he'll probably get handed a big contract to fill the void, but GM Garth Snow should be looking at some free agents to fill some gaps as well. It's a patchwork team as it is, so a guy like Jeff O'Neill, Tony Amonte, Anson Carter or Nils Ekman could surely take a spot on the roster.

It could very well be a long season for all the fans of the Islanders... it's sad to say.

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New Look

Thanks to the Capitals going back to their original logo idea this offseason, it looked kind of funny on the black background, so something new had to come around on the Domain. I've gone to a white background so you can actually tell it's Washington's logo I'm using. The nice and clean white will be used for the coming season and quite possibly beyond.

Tomorrow (July 24) we should have the new San Jose logo, as it's being announced with the revealing of the new jerseys. I have heard that the new Vancouver jerseys should be out on July 31st or August 1st. I'm just as excited for these new looks as you might be.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Maple Leafs are Almost Ready

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in pretty decent shape going into camp this summer. A few major signings should make them a little bit more credible. 2007/08 should be a little bit more successful than this previous season, but I also think it's probably going to be the last good chance for management to do the business before heads begin to roll. The Leafs can suit up a full squad at the price of $46.75 million heading into camp, which should leave them enough room to make one or two moves come the deadline.

Alex PonikarovskyMats SundinJason Blake
Darcy TuckerKyle WellwoodMatt Stajan
Alex SteenNikolai AntropovBates Battaglia
Jon PohlChad KilgerMark Bell
Tomas KaberleBryan McCabe
Ian WhitePavel Kubina
Hal GillCarlo Colaiacovo
Vesa Toskala
Andrew Raycroft

It will take a lot of convincing by the depth of the Leafs forwards that they are the business, because they have yet to really put together a good enough case to say they can provide adequate service to the top two lines. The addition of Jason Blake should help the forwards out a great deal, especially a guy like Mats Sundin. A budding goal scorer was exactly what the doctor ordered for the offense.

Building from the back seems to be working. In Toskala, they've acquired a guy that really seemed reliable in San Jose, but it wasn't like Raycroft's 37 wins were anything to sneeze at. The goaltending situation looks to be quite sewn up, as they have also acquired Scott Clemmensen as some insurance or a back-up if and when they deal Andrew Raycroft to free up some cap room. As of today, however, it's a pretty good bet that Toskala and Raycroft will platoon to start the season as most of the holes for goaltending are really beginning to be filled.

The only place that didn't change so far this offseason has been the blueline. The top six listed is pretty much the same top six that you saw last season at this time. Lots of veteran experience in Kaberle, McCabe, Gill and Kubina should hopefully provide a big blueline presence and a year's worth of chemistry should be much better for those four.

In camp this fall, keep an eye out for some new talent to make a big jump or make an eyebrow or two lift... forwards Jiri Tlusty and Simon Gamache, defensemen Jay Harrison and Staffon Kronwall, goaltender Justin Pogge. You may want to tag them on your list as someone to watch as the camps progress.

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Last Big Piece of the Oil Well

The Oilers managed to put pen to paper with young defenseman, Joni Pitkanen, on Friday. Pitkanen rounds out a blueline which should give the Oil faithful a little more hope in the coming season. Pitkanen signed a 1-year, $2.4 million deal, which will let both sides avoid arbitration in the coming weeks. As outlined earlier, the Oilers were only really waiting on Pitkanen to sign before they had a full squad that they could line-up on opening night (October 4, home to the Sharks).

Pitkanen was the key to the deal at the beginning of the month for the Oilers. He'll bring some offensive skill to the table, especially since he'll have Sheldon Souray on his side as well. The Edmonton blueline has gotten to be something to worry about for the opposition when taking penalties.

This signing leaves the Oilers well under the cap and should give them plenty of room come the trade deadline, if they find that they are in the mix for the playoffs or on the cusp of making them. The Oilers have roughly $42 million set aside for the line-up this year, which should be good enough to compete in the heavy Northwest Division.

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Aebischer to the Desert

Swiss keeper, David Aebischer, has signed a 1-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes for a mere $600,000. Aebischer, who has spent time in Colorado and Montreal, will look to become the Coyotes number one guy in 2007/08.

In Montreal, he spent a couple seasons fighting a losing battle to both Cristobel Huet and Jaroslav Halak after spending some time as the Avalanche's number one guy after Patrik Roy left. Aebischer went on to lose his job to Jose Theodore and Peter Budaj and really has started to make a career as being the odd guy out.

In Phoenix, he will go into camp as the favourite to take the number one job ahead of Mikael Tellqvist and David Leneveu, but even Leneveu has a good line on the job heading in as well. Tellqvist is more of a career back-up, but if the starting job wasn't a good race, then the back-up one will be.

Aebischer finished last season with 13 wins and ranked himself 325th on the list (37th among goaltenders). That was a long way down from the season previous where he finished 80th, but he did take most of the starts in Montreal that year. I think a good comparison of points for this coming season would be to look at what Curtis Joseph did (18 wins & 4 shutouts, 30th among goaltenders) and maybe shave a bit off. Phoenix isn't going to have a great season... they are far from that at the moment. Aebischer would have to stand on his head to make the Coyotes a better team.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Predators to be Prey?

The Nashville Predators have been mired in controversy since the midway point of last season, when everyone started to notice that the seats at the Nashville Arena (formerly the Gaylord Entertainment Center and soon-to-be Sommet Center). With this in mind, the ownership has been riddled with questions as to whether they are going to sell the team to someone for either re-location or a better marketing strategy. Unfortunately for the Predators, they haven't done either and they've revamped the highly-competitive squad they had last season into something completely different.

J-P DumontSteve SullivanMartin Erat
Jason ArnottDavid LegwandAlexander Radulov
Jared SmithsonRadek BonkScott Nichol
Darcy HordichukJed OrtmeyerJordan Tootoo
Shea WeberMarek Zidlicky
Ryan SuterDan Hamhuis
Greg de Vries
Cody Franson
Chris Mason
Pekka Rinne

The roster above is all currently signed on for roughly $40 million and there is still Vern Fiddler to re-sign as a Restricted Free Agent.

There are plenty of new faces to this line-up, amongst some old favourites, and there are some faces notably missing. It's going to be a different team going into training camp and it's going to be a team that will make good use of their young prospects when they go to training camp in September.

The most notable new faces to this line-up would be Radek Bonk, Greg de Vries, Pekka Rinne and Cody Franson. Bonk will serve as a good third-line centre with his background as a checking centre and faceoff man. We shouldn't expect him to return to his Top 100 form in the points department in Nashville, but he should go up from his 23 points he had last season with the increase in ice-time I'd imagine he'll receive. Greg de Vries adds some veteran experience that the had lost from free agency. He'll be a big help to those young kids on the blueline and will help the power play out from time to time. He'll be a big ice-time player for Nashville, so you may want to increase his potential a little bit. Pekka Rinne is the odds-on favourite to take the back-up role now that Tomas Vokoun has shipped off to the Sunshine State. Rinne has been touted quite highly for some time now and will have big shoes to fill. Now, Cody Franson isn't a lock to take the sixth spot on the roster, but he's my favourite to take the job after a great year in Vancouver with the WHL Giants. Look for him to have a strong camp and join the very young, but very capable Predator blueline.

With Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell and Tomas Vokoun out of the picture in Nashville... it's hard to believe that they'll be as dominant as they were last season. Chris Mason will take the starting job and do well, but the forecast isn't quite as rosy as his record last season may suggest. Unlike Vokoun, Mason isn't known to steal a lot of games... but if you have some faith in him, you may want to consider Mason as a second round pick. Steve Sullivan and J-P Dumont didn't rely on Kariya or Forsberg for points, so they should manage the status quo without them... and you can still watch for a breakout year for Alexander Radulov. A full season under his belt will hopefully give him the attitude adjustment he needs to fit in with the big club.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Minnesota is Wild

With Kurtis Foster signing a deal today for 1-year, $1.025 million, the Wild are pretty much ready to go, but they still have quite a bit of room to move if they like someone who is still on the list of free agents.

Marian GaborikPavol DemitraBrian Rolston
Mark ParrishPierre-Marc BouchardMikko Koivu
Branko RadivojevicEric BelangerPetteri Nummelin
Stephane VeilleuxDomenic MoorePetr Kalus
Brent BurnsSean Hill
Kurtis FosterKim Johnsson
Keith CarneyMartin Skoula
Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

This roster is worth about $41 million, but there seems to always be a snag with the Minnesota Wild. Injuries. Last season, when they were a healthy team, they were quite powerful. Unfortunately, Gaborik only played 48 games... Demitra missed 11 games... Foster missed 25 games... some key guys missed a lot of key games. When thinking about your potential pool team, it's a buyer beware team in Minnesota.

The roster as it stands is very competitive, not like the Northwest needs more competition. The Wild will be a very hard team to play against if the team stays healthy. They'll need Marian Gaborik to play a full season and the playoffs are quite likely.

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Cullen Goes South

Matt Cullen was dealt to the Hurricanes on Tuesday for Andrew Hutchinson, Joe Barnes and a 3rd round pick in 2008. Cullen had reportedly asked for a trade out of the Big Apple not very long ago and it wasn't long before he was actually moved. The Rangers were in need of some breathing room when it came to cap space and his $3.1 million he'll make this season will be gladly unloaded for a couple of depth players and a pick.

The Hurricanes picked up a Top 200 player who scored 16 goals last season in Cullen. He could end up being a very decent second or third-line player for the Hurricanes, who was in need of a little more depth up front. Cullen was a part of the Hurricane's Cup team in 2006 and had a big season there, so he should improve his numbers from 42 points last season. Stock is certainly up here.

The Rangers picked up a couple decent depth players... Hutchinson should be able to jump in as the sixth defenseman at the start of the season and greatly improve his numbers, be it the games played and then the points would come with more ice-time. Watch him in camp and see where he fits in. This could be a decent little sleeper in a deep pool as he did manage 14 points in 41 games.

Barnes didn't manage to get into a game last season and does join a team which is deep in young talent already. It will be a tough climb to make it to the big club, so don't really count on him for any pool value.

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Winger Swap

Tuesday morning brought a trade down between Ottawa and Boston. The Sens shipped winger Peter Schaefer to the Bruins in exchange for Shean Donovan.

At first glance, this does seems to be a lateral move for both teams, but in some respects, this move does seem to make a lot of sense. The Senators will become a bit faster and grittier with a guy like Donovan and they'll save $1.2 million in salary, which may help in terms of re-signing Ray Emery. Donovan should provide a boost to the depth chart, where the Senators may have missed out in the Finals. He may not provide the same amount of scoring punch, but there is an intangible characteristic in Donovan, which he displayed in his time in both Boston and Calgary that could be very beneficial to the Sens. Moving from Boston to Ottawa should increase Donovan's pool value and could be ranked a round higher as he could be a good fit for one of the skilled centres.

For the Bruins, they were a bit desperate for more scoring and Schaefer can come in and provide a punch to the second line immediately. Schaefer is also the kind of character guy you would like to have in your dressing room when it all comes down. The Bruins could afford to take on a bit more of a salary, as they're hovering around the $43 million mark. He'll provide the Bruins with some good quality minutes and his pool value may increase, if his ice-time is to increase in Beantown.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Souray is Edmonton Bound

Well, if the trades so far this summer weren't enough for you... and somehow I think that's the case, then Kevin Lowe got one of the last marquee free agents to put pen to paper on Thursday. The deal is only known as long-term, but with the cap space the Oilers have, it won't be a surprise if the deal hovers around $5 or $6 million a year for however many years.

Raffi TorresShawn HorcoffAles Hemsky
Geoff SandersonJarret StollFernando Pisani
Ethan MoreauMarty ReasonerPatrick Thoreson
Marc PouliotRobbie SchrempZach Stortini
Joni Pitkanen *Sheldon Souray
Steve StaiosDick Tarnstrom
Matt GreeneLadislav Smid
Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

What exactly does this all mean for the pool? Well, Souray will add a presence on the point for the Oiler power play. There isn't much question about that. Will he score a record breaking amount of goals or even come close in Edmonton? I wouldn't say it was likely that he'll have the same form of last season right away... but you never know. Yes, it's as sketchy as it sounds. On the bright side for Souray, the Oilers were better in the faceoff circle than Montreal and both Horcoff and Stoll are key faceoff men on the powerplay. So, there's a plus. When it comes to goals against, Souray did not fare well in his plus/minus statistic, but the Oilers were better defensively than Montreal. Does that mean better coaching? Perhaps. There's a lot of question marks left with this deal, but right now, I don't see any real benefit to either side signing the deal.

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