A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Jack, (Acid) Queen, and Two Kings

This weekend is my annual "weekend o' hell" at work. It always falls on the weekend preceding my birthday, or, when the stars are aligned just so, ON my birthday. This year, it also falls on the weekend preceding opening night.

Anyway, the huge news came down at some point on Friday, and I didn't catch wind of it until around midnight because of my 15-hour day.

The "huge news" is, of course, the trade. In a few years, this might be referred to as "The Trade (v. 3.0)". For now, no quotations, no capitals.

The Canes give up Oleg Tverdovsky and the rights to Jack Johnson. In return, they get third line center Eric Belanger and third pairing defenseman Tim Gleason from the Kings.

My initial reaction was one of shock. I couldn't believe they actually pulled the trigger. Then, I wondered "Wait.... We get Belanger, Gleason, and what else???". Then I thought about it. And thought about it some more. And then I had an IM chat with the Acid Queen. And then I read Scott Cason's brilliant piece. Then I read some other stuff.

My conclusion: I like it.

First, I'll explain what the Canes give up.

  • Oleg Tverdovsky
  • Last summer, the Canes took a big chance on Tevvy. They signed him to a three year deal, paying him $2.5 per season. It had been more than two years since the Russian had played in the NHL. He once showed promise as a top defenseman with offensive upside, and the Canes were hoping to get that out of him. Unfortunately, either the "new NHL" has passed him by, or he had a bad season. Or both. His 23 points (3/20) were less than what the Canes were hoping for, and his less than spectacular play on the defensive front made him look like the most overpaid player in the league. He scored two own goals. TWO!! He was often the target of criticism when the defense was sub-par. I and my friends even named an "award" for feeble play in his honor. All summer, I've been hoping for, and loudly asking for, a trade involving him. Given that he didn't dress at all in the Stanley Cup Finals, and the fact that his quality of play had diminished by then anyway, I would have settled for a seventh round draft pick and a bucket of practice pucks.

  • The rights to Jack Johnson. I was trying to be positive about the Jack Johnson thing. I was trying to encourage people to be patient with the kid while he enjoys the college experience. College, I would say, would be good for sanding off his well known rough edges. He needs to grow as a person before he can grow as a hockey player, I would say. He needs a little development. Of course, in the back of my mind, I knew that Johnson and the Canes would never be a fit. We knew all along that he would spend one year in Ann Arbor. When the Wolverines were eliminated from NCAA play last spring, he rejected the Canes' offer to join the team and play on the big team. When the playoffs started, more of the same. After we won the Cup, more of the same. As summer wound down, Johnson announced his intention to stay in Ann Arbor another season. Reports started to pop up that his indisposition to turn pro had to do with the Canes rather than with his "not being ready". I dismissed these reports as hogwash.
    One interesting side note is that until just a few days ago, we were unable to get any comment at all from Jack himself. Anything we heard out of the Johnson camp came from his father, who is a very strange bird. According to some source, Jim Rutherford had a dinner meeting with Jack Johnson a few weeks ago. While the two had dinner and presumably discussed the defensman's future, Jack Senior waited in the car. The whole time. At some point, Jack let on that dad was in the car. Rutherford, shocked, asked why Jack Senior didn't come in and eat with them. There was no answer. Cason thought that it was pretty much done at that point:
    The bridge was already on fire before that faithful (sic) evening. The bridge probably collapsed after that bit of strange cimema (sic).

    There's a lot that we don't know about Jack Johnson, including when he will decide to enter the NHL. It was looking more and more likely that the talented defenseman had no intention of ever joining the Carolina Hurricanes.

If Carolina had just selected Gilbert Brule last summer, this wouldn't be happening right now. If Carolina had selected Mark Staal, they'd have a defenseman, and this wouldn't be happening right now. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts....

By trading away Oleg Tverdovsky, the Canes have an addition by subtraction thing going on. They rid themselves of a hefty contract, and they rid themselves of a player that wasn't working out.

By trading away the rights to Jack Johnson, the Canes no longer have to deal with that media sideshow. It has been a distraction all summer, and really even longer than that. Johnson may turn out to be Pronger Junior. If he does, Rutherford will look like a jerk. If he fails to polish those rough edges, if he parties too hard in college, if he never really transitions to the NHL game, JR looks like a genius. I'm a little sad that we're giving up on such a hot prospect. At the same time, I'm glad that we don't have to deal with that mayhem anymore. I'm not even sure if those "rights" will mean anything. It could be the case that JJ stays four years, and re-enters the draft. I don't know the ins and outs of the CBA well enough to know how that works. Anyone???

The Canes address some immediate needs with this trade, and although it's rarely a good idea to make trades with the "here and now" in mind, this is what we've done. As far as that's concerned, I like very much what the Canes are getting.

  • Eric Belanger A bona fide NHL center capable of having a 40 point season. Last season, he had 37 points (17/20) in just 65 games. He'll center the third line, a position which we had Trevor Letowski playing out of position. Now Letowski (or Walker, for that matter) will move to the left wing on the third line. If Belanger indeed ends up centering the third line, and can put up the kinds of numbers he is accustomed to, we'll get our Matt Cullen back. Hopefully more. Ryan Bayda has worked his tail off in camp and in the preseason, but he's the clear odd man out here. If he makes the big club roster, he just went from being the third line left wing to being a healthy scratch.

  • Tim Gleason. The former first-round pick is still very young for a defenseman at 23. He's a big strong dude with offensive potential, and room to grow. He's described as an "average defender" with a ton of grittiness, above average speed, and a decent shot. He's certainly no Frantisek Kaberle, but as long as he isn't a bump on a log, he's going to be better for the Canes than Tevvy ever was. Addition by subtraction, and addition by addition. He's ready for the NHL, and removes some of that third pairing trepidation Canes fans were having. We still might see more of Andrew Hutchinson than this guy, but it'll be a while before we know. And the kid has potential. As Cason puts it:
    The Kings get Tverdovsky. The Canes get their Tverdovsky. Only difference is that the Hurricanes new Tverdovsky has the chance to become Frankie Kaberle with manly pipes and a mean streak. Their Tverdovsky will more than likely stay just a Tverdovsky.

At the end of the day, I, like the Acid Queen, have experienced something like relief with the end of the Jack Johnson saga. I assume that Jim Rutherford knows something about Jack that none of us knows, and said thing pressed his hand to make this deal. This doesn't exactly have the markings of a deal we couldn't turn down. Unless, of course, JR was privy to some information that JJ would never be available to us. Perhaps Jack and Jack Senior rubbed JR the wrong way. Perhaps JR thinks that JJ will never lose his rough edge. I don't know, and we probably won't know until about 2011.

He's the Kings problem now.

The new guys give us some unfamiliar things. Belanger will be the first "French" guy we've had since Marty Gelinas. Gleason will be the only "Tim" that I can remember. This'll give us loads of chances to scream out "Timaaaaay!!!"

Monday, September 25, 2006

Canes lose two more preseason games

On Saturday, the Canes lost the back end of a home and home series with the Preds. The score was 7-3, but it wasn't even that close. I listened to the Nashville radio feed, and the Canes sounded horrible. In a five and a half-minute span early in the third period, the Justin Peters gave up five goals. Included in this onslaught was a three-goal outburst in a 99 second span. Without seeing the game, it sounded like the defensemen were giving up a lot in the Carolina end of the ice, and Justin Peters got rattled. At one point, the Nashville announcer said "That was entirely too easy".

Anton Babchuk started the scoring with a shorthanded goal early in the first, and that lead held up until the second period, but it would soon take a big turn for the worse.

Josef Vasicek scored again for the Preds. Martin Erat scored twice, while Paul Kariya, Steve Sullivan, JP Dumont and Alexander Rudolov each scored once.

The Carolina scorers were Babchuk, Ryan Bayda and Justin Williams.

The positive thing about this game was that the Canes "won" the shootout. They only needed two rounds to do it. Peters stopped the first two Preds shooters, while the two Carolina shooters both scored. A small victory, I know.

I don't think I should be too upset. Nashville was already a good team, and they added JP Dumont, which makes them a lot better. They used their stud goaltender (Vokoun) while we started Andrew Peters, who probably won't even make the AHL River Rats.

On Sunday, the Canes lost again. This time to the Blue Jackets, by the score of 4-2 -- dropping them to 0-3 in the preseason. Justin Williams and Rod Brind'Amour were the scorers for the Canes, while Rick Nash scored twice and Dan Fritsche and Geoff Platt scored once each for the Jackets.

Ryan Bayda, who is competing for a final spot on the Canes forward lines, played well again, picking up two assists.

The Canes will play Columbus again, at home, on Friday. The preseason will wrap up on Sunday with a matinee in Washington.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Big Joe's homecoming -- Preds 5, Canes 4.

On Friday night, the Hurricanes opened their pre-season with a 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators. As if it was all written out by a fabulous poet, Josef Vasicek got the game winner on a short-handed breakaway with about a minute and a half to play in regulation. Vasicek was traded this summer from the Canes to the Preds for Scott Walker. The Preds won't play in Raleigh this season, so it will be a long time before we see big Joe again. I missed my chance to wear the Vasicek 63 sweater one last time.

I wasn't able to make it out to the rink, but Chris (aka Penalty Killer)was there, and offers his game recap. This season, Chris and I have seats that are close enough to each other that we could practically share a tub of popcorn.

It's hard to place much, if any, stock in these preseason games, but the word on the street is that Shane Willis, who is one of several players competing for a final spot on the forward lines, played well. He had one goal and one assist. A lot of brows were furrowed this summer when the Canes signed Willis to bring him back into the organization. He had a good season for the Canes in 2000-01, scoring 44 (20/24) points. However, he was literally knocked out of the playoffs by a brutal Scott Stevens hit. Willis wouldn't return to that series, which Carolina lost. The following season, he was traded to the City of Tampa Lightning in exchange for Kevin Weekes. This would prove to be a very good move for the Canes, who made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002 thanks to the outstanding playoff goaltending of Kevin Weekes. That season, Willis scored a total of 24 points (11/13). Since then, Willis only played in 12 NHL contests. Most people say that he was a promising youngster prior to getting laid out by Stevens, and that he lost a good deal of his "game" with the hit. We're hoping that his play last night is indicitive of a return to form.

Kim Staal (no relation) scored two goals for the Preds, while Scott Nichol, Ramzi Abid and the aforementioned Vasicek got the other Nashville tallies.

Ray Whitney scored twice for the Canes, while Andrew Ladd and Willis had the others.

They used the same format as last preseason -- shootouts in all games. All I know is that Vasicek scored and the Preds "won" the shootout.

Tonight, the b-squad Canes and the b-squad Preds square off in Nashville. I'll be listening on the radio as I participate in my on-line draft.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My two cents on Keith Primeau

Last week, Keith Primeau announced his retirement from hockey. The 34-year old failed to receive medical clearance to play after suffering post-concussion symptoms going all the way back to last October. He had been banged up and concussed a number of times before, but this time he couldn't shake the cobwebs.

The former Whalers/Hurricanes captain played his last NHL game on October 28, 2005 against the Hurricanes. That game, by the way, was one of the most exciting games I've ever been to. Heck, it's one of the most exciting games I've even heard about. Carolina fell behind 2-0 and later found themselves down 5-3. The Canes won the game 8-6, and it would be what many Caniacs called a "classic" and a "defining game". Indeed the Canes showed a tremendous amount of character in that game.

Here's an excerpt of my game summary:
I can't begin to give all the details about this game. I can say, though, that I haven't seen such excitement since we made our 2002 run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Okay... I take it back. I was on Franklin Street after UNC won the National Basketball Championship this year, but that's different. Seriously, though, the building was electric. It was good to see it that way again. It hasn't been like that in a looooong time.

One of the best things was that the "pouting petulant prima donna" also known as Kieth Primeau was a minus three and had no points while our end of that trade, Rod Brind'Amour, was a plus three and had a goal and an assist. To make that even sweeter, Justin Williams (another former Flyer) assisted on Brindy's goal and was himself assisted by Brindy on a lovely goal from a faceoff in the second period. Actually, Primeau only had one shot on goal -- a breakaway chance in the first period during which he was booed thunderously. Later in the game, pockets of fans throughout the arena chanted "Pree-mo ... pree-mo ... pree-mo .... YOU SUCK!" It's way more fun chanting this at a skater than it is at a goalie.

To read the game summary in its entirety, go here.

Seriously, though. I need to thank Keith Primeau.

First and foremost, while wearing a Hartford Whalers sweater during the 1996-97 season, Keith Primeau provided generations of future hockey fans with one of the funniest/dumbest/most confusing things that has ever happened in the NHL. He fought his own brother. Wayne, playing for the Sabres, was a little rough with Whale goaltender Sean Burke. Keith stepped in, and they went at it. You can click here or simply click the embedded player above to see the video of the fight.

More than that, though, I need to thank Keith for his pouting, his petulance in the fall of 1999. Had he not been a whiny prima donna, had he not held out, the Canes would have never made the trade for Rod Brind'Amour, and we might not have a Cup in Carolina right now.

So Keith.... Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hutchinson to be on the Cup

This past week, we learned some good news about Andrew "hot dog with cheese" Hutchinson. Although he did not meet the League's criteria for having his name etched on the Cup, the Canes successfully petitioned to have his name included.

The 26-year old defenseman who joined the Canes last summer 28 games with assorted injuries, and played in 36 regular season games. The League requires a player appear in 41 regular season games with the team for their name to be etched on the Cup. He did not appear in any Stanley Cup Finals games, which is the other criterion.

Hutchinson notched 11 points (3/8) in limited (mostly power-play) action, but proved to be a hard worker who shows a ton of potential.

The other news about Hutchinson is the story surrounding the number 24. Hutchinson wore that number with the Canes last season. This summer, the Canes acquired right wing Scott Walker from the Nashville Predators. Walker has always worn 24, and there was all sorts of speculation about what would happen when he arrived. When camp opened, it was revealed that Hutch would switch to 28, letting Walker have 24. Many folks assumed that Walker paid Hutch for the number, or that they worked out some arrangement. According to News & Observer writer Luke Decock, it was really simple:

When Scott Walker arrived from the Nashville Predators, in a July trade for Josef Vasicek, he inquired if Andrew Hutchinson was willing to part with the No. 24 jersey.

Willing? Hutchinson couldn't get rid of it fast enough.

"He said it was no big deal, but it was no big deal for me," said Hutchinson, who switched to No. 28. "I was hurt for three or four months anyway. It didn't bring me any luck."

Full story here

In other related news, the Canes also successfully petitioned to have defenseman Anton Babchuk's name etched on the Cup. The 22-year old played in 22 games for the Canes after a January trade with the Blackhawks. In all, the former first round draft pick (21st overall in the 2002 draft) played in 39 NHL games during the 2005-06 season. He didn't appear in any SCF games. Although he's a little unproven as a defenseman, he's a big, big guy and loves to hit things. He's also got a ton of offensive upside. The thing that EVERYONE talks about when they see this kid play is his slapshot. His shot is so hard (heavy, fast, whatever) that it makes your skin go all goose-fleshed. As a power-play quarterback, this is a very good asset. Provided, of course, that it's reasonably accurate.

Babs and Hutch will both be asked to step up their play due to the blueline injuries. I hope they're able to answer the bell.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Sabres sweaters ... not that bad

Today, when the Sabres officially opened camp, they unveiled the new sweater. Although it was the worst kept secret in the history of poorly kept secrets, there were still some things that were unknown.

The picture here, of Danny Briere wearing the "road white" sweater was lifted from sabres.com. As you can see, the much maligned "slug" is indeed the primary logo. What was unknown, and isn't clear judging from this picture, is the secondary logo. It's believed to be a "B" with a single sword piercing it. Larry Quinn said back in July that the logo would feature "sabres". At the time, he didn't clarify whether he meant the word "SABRES", or swords. There aren't any words on the sweater, and the capital B with a single sword is a little more subdued than most people probably imagined. One picture I saw yesterday indicates that the secondary logo is tiny on the sweater.

The blue is in fact much deeper than I was guessing it would be. You can see that on Briere's sleeves, and on the player in the background donning the "home color" sweater.

We all know by now about the third sweater with the old school running buffalo and crossed swords. It has been suggested that the blue on the third sweater won't be as deep as that of the normal home sweater. When the third sweater is worn, the pants will look a little goofy because they won't match.

One unique feature of the sweater that I actually (kind of) like is that the player number is placed on the right side of the chest, opposite the "C" or "A" as well as on the sleeve. It seems a bit redundant, and the league doesn't actually require the numbers be on the sleeves at all (see Thrashers, Atlanta -- third sweater) I wonder if they'll stick with that, or remove one or the other set of numbers.
The only thing with those numbers being on the chest is that there would be no place to put a Stanley Cup Finals patch. I suppose they could put it somewhere on the sleeve. Obviously, I hope we don't find out the solution to that problem.

In all honesty, I have to admit that Quinn was right. The logo standing alone doesn't look that great, but on the sweater, it looks decent.

I'll know for sure on October 4, when the Sabres will be our guest for the Stanley Cup Champs banner raising party. Oh... By the way, opening night for the Canes sold out before tickets went on sale to the public.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Once again --- Charles Wang is a lunatic

When I read this article about Rick DiPietro's new ludicrous 15-year contract, I thought I had stepped into a time warp. Exactly one year and one week ago, the New York Islanders offered goaltender Rick DiPietro a 15-year deal valued at over $67.5M. On September 6, 2005, I referred to that offer as "insanity" and "just plain loopy" DiPietro rejected the offer then, partly because of insurance complications. He would later sign a one year deal for $2.5 M. Today, they conned him into signing that exact same 15-year deal.

The Islanders, as I pointed out in that post last summer, didn't learn from the Alexi Yashin 10-year contract that is an albatross around their neck. Yashin is playing nowhere near the level of a 7.6 million dollar man, but they're stuck paying him that. They can't trade him, and they can't renegotiate the contract, and they'll have him until 2011.

Now they will be stuck paying DiPietro $4.5M for the next 15 years regardless of how (or even if he plays. 15 YEARS!!!

The league responded to the monstrosity by essentially throwing up their hands and saying "whatever"

''Clubs are free to make their own decisions within the confines laid out in the collective bargaining agreement and other applicable league rules,'' NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press. ''Some decisions turn out well, others not so well. Time will tell whether this will be a good decision or a bad one for the Islanders.''

DiPietro will be the eighth highest paid goaltender in the league. His GAA of 3.02 last season placed him at 32nd in the league. His SV% of .900 placed him at 26th in the league. His 30 wins put him at 15th in the league.

Since he is guaranteed the money, there might be an issue with motivation. One GM, commenting anonymously to the Canadian Press suggested that the unproven youngster might sit there, knowing that he'll never need to prove himself, never need to "earn" a contract renewal. He may, as the GM suggests, simply bask in his windfall:
''How's he going to react to all this?,'' wondered one GM. ''He's never going to have another negotiation in his career, how motivated will he be? If this Rick DiPietro isn't a completely passionate athlete, he's going to sleep. He has to, that's just human nature."

Some others look at it more optimistically, saying that if he eventually becomes the second coming of Ken Dryden, the Islanders will have struck a good deal.

That, however, is a big if.

I don't get this at all. Last summer, when it didn't happen, I pleaded for an explanation of the offer. I never got an explanation. Again, I'll beg.

Somebody please explain this to me. I understand wanting to make him "an Islander for life" but there are other less risky, less idiotic ways to do that. We all know that Charles Wang wears the pants around there, and the GM position on Long Island is strictly figurehead. Therefore, I don't blame Garth Snow for this nonsense, just as I didn't blame Mike Milbury last summer. Is this a product of legally documented insanity, or is this something else? I sure as heck don't get it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cap woes part II

The following is part two of a two part series on teams finding themselves in a tight spot versus the salary cap. Scroll down (below the post about Frantisek Kaberle) or click this to read part one.

The Buffalo Sabres, who will unveil their new sweaters on September 16 when camp opens, are one of four teams pressing hard against the cap. Going by the numbers provided at the NHL Team Salaries page, the Sabres are actually over the cap. Counting Ryan Miller's cap hit, and Tim Connolly, they have 22 players with a total cap hit of $44.244M. Tim Connolly, though, is having concussion issues and will probably not be ready to start the season. Any time he misses means his cap hit will be pro rata. Other estimations indicate that the Sabres are coming in a few thousand dollars under the cap. Either way, no room to wiggle. They will figure it out, and they will be a good team. However, they will be VERY close to the cap, and that will make Darcy Regier's job that much more difficult. It's still my outsider's opinion that they could free up some room by dealing Martin Biron for a defenseman and a pick. Then they could sign a free agent or call up one of the Rochester Amerks to be the backup to the clear-cut #1 Ryan Miller.

The muckiest situation, though, for the second summer in a row, is that which the New Jersey Devils are in. Including the injured -- defenseman Richard Matvichuk, and center Jason Wiemer -- they are well above the cap, with 21 players and a total cap hit of $45.742. Wiemer is expected to be out for six months after knee surgery. Even if you discount his entire cap hit of $950k, they're still three quarters of a million over the cap. AND they're understaffed. Counting Matvichuk, they have just five defensemen. Matvichuk had back surgery, and may miss some time to recover. Last summer, they also had problems with the cap, but Hepatitis Boy's salary wasn't going against the cap while he recovered. This summer, things are quite different. The cap discount for the injured player is far less significant. They, too, will figure it out. I have no idea how, but they'll find a way. They have to sign players AND free cap space at the same time.

This could be more fun than a soap opera during sweeps week.

Frantisek Kaberle to miss 4-6 months

One month after receiving the news that LW Cory Stillman would need shoulder surgery and would miss possibly half the season, the Canes learned that D Frantisek Kaberle would also need shoulder surgery and will be expected to miss 4-6 months. (story)

Kaberle, who scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in game 7 against the Oilers, has been battling a lingering shoulder injury. Last month, he told doctors that he was feeling better, giving hope that he could avoid surgery. Kaberle was first on the team among defensemen, and 23rd in the league among defensemen in scoring, with 44 points (6/38).

This is an unfortunate turn, but when players play hurt during the playoffs, and there's so very little turn-around time from the Cup finals to training camp, this is what happens. Carolina has depth at defense, but they will have to depend upon some younger players to really step up. Anton Babchuk, who I really have liked, will probably be asked to step up his role from "guy in the shadows" to every-day player. Andrew Hutchinson won't be a healthy scratch very often, like he was last season.

It seems really bad, but like I say, Carolina does have depth. These guys can't "replace" Kaberle, but they'll be good stand-ins. They'll probably have defensive parings that look like this:

Oddly enough, I honestly see Hutch getting more playing time than Tevvy, who is the Canes highest paid defenseman. Tevvy has, without question, been a major disappointment. We're hoping that while he sat in the press box during the Stanley Cup Finals as a healthy extra, he took the time to realize what he needed to do in the offseason. We certainly hope he shows up to camp in better playing shape and has sharpened his skills. All this Tevvy-hating aside, Hutch is quite good at running the point on powerplay. This is one of Kaberle's strengths, so we'll obviously need someone to do the same in his stead. Don't bet the mortgage on it, but I'm guessing that Tverdovsky and his $2.5M will be riding the pine, while Hutchinson and his $450k starts in his place. In a pinch, Hutch is also capable of playing at left wing. It'll take some getting used to the fact that Scott Walker, not Hutchinson, will be wearing #24. Hutch will switch over to #28.

training camp around the corner -- some teams pressing hard against the cap

The exciting news is that training camp will officially open for all teams later this week. All teams will have a ton of prospects trying their hardest to make the team. Many young prospects have already been skating with their respective teams during the unofficial workouts. Even when these kids don't make the final cut, the fact that they show up early and show up in good shape does wonders for them.

As the teams get a very good look at their own prospects, many young players will be awarded their first NHL contract. Some teams will have roster positions up for battle, and some will be looking only to feed their AHL club.

As we approach training camp, and as the rosters get finalized, teams will have to start taking a close look at their bottom line. After perusing the NHL Team Salaries page (which, by the way, is an excellent resource) site, it looks like four teams will be in "Oh Shit!" mode.

  • Boston Bruins 23 players signed for a total of $43.455M. ($545,000 to spare) Zdeno Chara has signed an outrageous contract paying him $7.5M per season. Patrice Bergeron's contract is so ludicrously back-loaded that the salary cap hit will be $4.75M for him this season even though his salary will be just $3M. The Bs have a tiny bit of wiggle room, but nothing to work with if they find the need to bolster their roster.
  • City of Tampa Lightning 23 players signed for a total of $43.769M. ($231,000 to spare). Thanks to Brad Richards' whopping $7.8M contract and Vinny LeCavalier's cap hit of $6.875M (actual salary = $7.167M), they didn't have much to work with after that. They have exactly 12 forwards signed, and 2 of them have zero NHL experience. This team is one injury away from disaster.

After finally getting Ryan Miller to sign, the Buffalo Sabres are also in a tough spot. Far worse than any, though, is the situation the New Jersey Devils are in. I'll report about Buffalo and Jersey later. Consider this to be part I of this story. Part II will follow in about 6 hours.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

changes to the "boys of winter" fantasy league

I've gotten a decent response to my fantasy league I've set up, and now I've got some good news.

More draft times were made available, so "the boys of winter" will now be drafting on Saturday September 23 at 7:00pm eastern time. This is much better than the original time of 6:00 this coming Saturday.

I still have three two slots available. Hurry!

Again, the signup info is as follows:

Yahoo league ID #: 30896
password: stanley

or you can use this link.

The league is now full, but there's a chance that I'll organize another league. Thanks to everyone who signed up!

I'm thinking about providing a prize for the winner. I don't know exactly what it'll be.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

don't believe the talk

I've been sitting on this half-written post for a few days. I couldn't decide whether to post it or not, and finally I opted to go ahead with it. I'll apologize in advance if it seems like idle ranting.....

I make it a rule NOT to visit Eklund's site. Ever. I haven't read anything from him in probably a year.

A few days ago, I got an e-mail inquiry from a reader concerning a resurrected rumor that the Canes would be trading the rights to defenseman Jack Johnson to the Penguins in exchange for Jordan Staal. The e-mail started with the question "Did you see this one on Eklund's site today?". Of course I snickered and started to imagine in my head what his "expert" "insider" information on this was.

"Eklund" wrote a piece, essentially saying that it's a no-brainer for both sides because Carolina has an overabundance of defense and Pittsburgh only needs two forwards (Crosby and Malkin). He went on to say that according to his insider information, the deal was already in the works and they were just "waiting out the holiday" to make it happen. Now we all (at least the ones of us who are at all savvy) know that the "insiders" that Dwayne Kessel "Eklund" refers to are
  • his dog
  • his deranged uncle who lives in the attic and writes love poems to Mamie Eisenhower
  • a life-size cardboard cutout of those Bartles & James guys
  • the best friend of his eight-year-old nephew's classmate's next door neighbor
  • his co-worker Pete, who played intramural hockey in college

Still, though, this rumor has managed to gain some momentum and has all the message board types drooling. They're looking at this prospect of a trade in terms of how it would work in the here and now. They're mistaking Johnson's quest for an NCAA championship for Eli Manning-esque petulance. They look at our current roster and say "We don't need another defenseman. Ever. Especially if he refuses to play for us"

While Carolina is in good shape defense-wise this season, they need to retain the rights to Johnson. By the time he leaves Ann Arbor (whether it's the spring of '07 or the spring of '09), the 87 year old Glen Wesley will have retired, and Bret Hedican will probably do the same. Honestly, I'm quite surprised that Wesley didn't already retire after winning the Cup. Hedican, who is held together with duct tape and Bondo, will be lucky to make it through this upcoming season. I half expected him to retire as well. After the 06-07 season, the timing will be just right for Jack Johnson to make the jump and fill Carolina's defensive needs.

A defenseman of his calibre doesn't come around very often. Good defensemen, by anybody's account, are much harder to come across than forwards. Eklund seems to be suggesting that since the Canes signed David Tanabe to a one year deal, they no longer need the best defensive prospect this franchise has ever seen. The mouth breathing masses are gobbling it up.

Would I like to see Jordan Staal play for Carolina? Sure. Does this trade talk make sense? Maybe it did back in June, but I guess I've changed my mind.

Please note that I'm aware of the fact that I once was of the camp that favored the idea of a draft day trade involving the same thing. I'm also aware of the fact that I once (with tongue planted in cheek) ridiculed Johnson's decision to go to school. I've changed though. I've gone 180 on that, and I think it's cool that he's serious about going to school and playing college hockey. It was his boyhood dream to play hockey for the Wolverines and to win an NCAA championship doing it. He's living part of that dream. And as far as the Canes are concerned, they'll still have his rights while he's in college. He'll be developing and the Canes won't have to pay him a dime while he's doing it. It's kind of a good deal.

Oh, and just for good measure, here's a Jack Johnson clip you might not have seen:

Slots still available in my fantasy hockey league. Scroll down to previous posts for details.

Monday, September 04, 2006

fantasy hockey -- league set up, drafting soon!

As it turns out, when I went to set up a fantasy hockey league in Yahoo, there were just a few draft times available. Most of the other sites that offer fantasy hockey require $$ to make it happen. This is what you call a rock and a hard place.

I went ahead and created a league in Yahoo. A maximum of 12 teams are available, and there are 11 remaining holes. The only problem is the best draft time available was this coming Saturday at 6:00pm eastern time. All other draft times were on weekdays during the day. EDIT -- September 7 ----> The draft has been moved to Saturday September 23 at 7:00pm eastern time

I totally understand if nobody wants to join a league when you have so little time to prepare and no preseason to base your draft upon. However, if you're interested, you can go to this link and join the league. This works a lot better if you already have a (free) account with yahoo sports.

If you don't have an account, you'll have to take a few seconds to sign up.

To do it the old fashioned way, you can go to the main yahoo fantasy hockey page here, click "Sign up now" ... click "Join a custom league" ... enter the league ID# 30896 ... and the password : stanley

The way I've set it up, you have to dress two centermen, four wingers (at least one LW and at least one RW), four defensemen and two goalies. Six bench spots, and room for two guys on the IR.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fantasy Hockey

This morning, I was asked to commission a fantasy hockey league. I agreed to commission and find other folks to join.

We'll be using one of the free ones, probably Yahoo, and we'll be using a head-to-head format. I have four five other people who have committed, and we'd like to make it something like 12 teams.

If anyone is interested, please email me (redblackhockey@earthlink.net) as soon as possible.


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