Thursday, June 23, 2005

Leafs to sign Steen

June 23 @ 9:00 AMIn a clear indication the NHL is preparing to get back to business, the Leafs have spoken to Steen's agent, Don Baizley, about signing him to a contract, reports the Toronto Star. Teams are not allowed to do any NHL business while the lockout is still on, but can sign players to AHL contracts, something they have discussed. "We've talked a lot about the fact that the Leafs want to sign him and Alex is ready to try it," Baizley said. "Both parties have expressed a willingness to do a deal, but until we know what the situation is, there's not a lot we can do." Steen has also reportedly already told his MoDo club in the Swedish Elite League that he has no intention of returning next season.
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Monday, June 20, 2005

Hard At Work...28 Hours of work

NEW YORK (CP) - The NHL and NHL Players' Association wrapped up 28 hours of talks for the week Friday and will resume discussions Monday in Toronto.
The two sides, who met for 12 hours Monday and Tuesday in Toronto, met in New York from 1:30 p.m. EDT to 11 p.m. EDT Thursday and 8 a.m. EDT to 2 p.m. EDT on Friday. Senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge represented the union in New York on both days while Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer and executive vice-president, and outside counsel Bob Batterman represented the league.
The NHL and NHLPA continue to inch closer to finally ending the ninth-month lockout. The economic framework for a collective bargaining agreement is largely in place but another two weeks or so of work remains.
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Wild Cards - Turin 2006 Winter Games

Goal: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins.Defence: Brad Stuart, San Jose Sharks; Mike Rathje, San Jose Sharks; Brad Lukowich, Tampa Bay Lightning; Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames.Forward: Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver Canucks; Paul Kariya, Colorado Avalanche; Michael Ryder, Montreal Canadiens; Trent Hunter, New York Islanders; Sidney Crosby, the No. 1 overall pick whenever the NHL holds the 2005 entry draft.Is this the year Fleury shows us why he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2003?Stuart and Rathje don't get their due because they play in relative obscurity in San Jose but they're among the NHL's top blue-liners. Lukowich, a real long shot, was among plus-minus leaders in 2003-04 at plus-29. Phaneuf will one day be a mainstay on the Canadian blue-line, but this is maybe too early for him.Let's face it, if Bertuzzi had been reinstated by now, he'd be a sure bet, not a wild card to make this team. He remains the best power forward in the world. But Gretzky won't touch him unless commissioner Gary Bettman puts him back on the ice.Although he wasn't picked for the World Cup, Kariya was on the 2002 Olympic team and was a second-team NHL all-star just two years ago. It's not as if he's forgotten how to play, he's at his best on the big ice, and a year off might have rejuvenated the nifty forward who meshed so well with Lemieux in Salt Lake City.Ryder (63) and Hunter (51) were the top two rookie point-getters in 2003-04.Crosby? If he lights it up in the first three months of his NHL rookie season, maybe Gretzky will hand him the 13th forward spot?
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Outside shot - Turin 2006 Winter Games

Goal: Andrew Raycroft, Boston Bruins; Dwayne Roloson, Minnesota Wild.Defence: Sheldon Souray, Montreal Canadiens; Bryan McCabe, Toronto Maple Leafs; Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators; Adrian Aucoin, New York Islanders.Forward: Mike Peca, New York Islanders; Daniel Briere, Buffalo Sabres; Alex Tanguay, Colorado Avalanche; Brendan Morrison, Vancouver Canucks; Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators; Mike Fisher, Ottawa Senators; Scott Walker, Nashville Predators.Roloson (.933) and Raycroft (.926) were among the save percentage leaders during the 2003-2004 season. Raycroft won the Calder Trophy as top rookie. They deserve to be in the mix.Souray and Phillips had big years on the big ice in Sweden this past year although they struggled somewhat at the world championship. McCabe was a second-team NHL all-star in 2003-04 and has been knocking at the door. Aucoin keeps delivering without notice: 44 points and a plus-29 ratings in 2003-04.Briere was outstanding at 2003 and 2004 world championships in teaming up with Heatley on gold-medal Canadian squads. Peca was in Salt Lake and remains one of the game's top defensive specialists, not to mention a tremendous leader. All Tanguay does is keep scoring (79 points in 69 games in 2003-04) and yet can't make a Canadian team. Morrison, Walker and Fisher all played for Canada in Austria. Spezza led the AHL in scoring this past season and is ready to take off in Ottawa.

Leading contenders for Turin 2006 Winter Games

Goal: Jose Theodore, Montreal Canadiens; Marty Turco, Dallas Stars.Defence: Eric Brewer, Edmonton Oilers; Jay Bouwmeester, Florida Panthers; Scott Hannan, San Jose Sharks; Robyn Regehr, Calgary Flames, Dan Boyle, Tampa Bay Lightning.Forward: Kris Draper, Detroit Red Wings; Dany Heatley, Atlanta Thrashers; Kirk Maltby, Detroit Red Wings; Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning.Theodore, who showed his big-game prowess when Montreal upset Boston in the first round of the playoffs in April 2004, was the World Cup third-stringer and will push Luongo as the No. 2 man behind Brodeur, especially if he gets off to a great start with the Habs next season. Turco was the world championship third-stringer and will at least probably be invited to the orientation camp after giving up a month of his time in Austria and never once dressing. Hockey Canada doesn't forget those things.Brewer won Olympic gold in 2002 and the World Cup in '04, but his play tailed off in Edmonton last season. He needs to re-assert himself this fall.Bouwmeester, Hannan and Regehr were on the World Cup team, and Boyle was one of Canada's top defencemen at the world tourney, not to mention a big part of Tampa's Cup triumph.Draper, Heatley, Maltby, Marleau, Morrow and St. Louis all were on the World Cup team. While Heatley was once considered a lock for Turin, his play at the World Cup and at the world championship was below his standards.

Let the Games begin - Turin 2006 Winter Games

Who said there is no hockey to discuss outside of the boardroom? The Winter Games are eight months away, and Team Canada is under the microscope.
Although it is still eight months away, the lineup Team Canada will send to the Olympic Games remains a hot topic of discussion. Canadian Press pooled its resources to come up with a list of names to consider:
Sure BetsGoal: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers.Defence: Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey Devils; Adam Foote, Colorado Avalanche; Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues; Rob Blake, Colorado Avalanche; Ed Jovanovski, Vancouver Canucks; Wade Redden, Ottawa Senators.Forward: Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins; Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche; Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames; Joe Thornton, Boston Bruins; Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning; Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets; Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes; Ryan Smyth, Edmonton Oilers; Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning; Simon Gagne, Philadelphia Flyers.Brodeur, Foote, Jovanovski, Niedermayer, Gagne, Iginla, Lemieux, Sakic and Smyth helped Canada win Olympic gold in Salt Lake City in 2002 for the first time in 50 years. The nine were also on the victorious World Cup of Hockey team in 2004. This should be the experienced core of the team for Turin. Lemieux gets the 'C' again.Blake and Pronger were unable to play in the World Cup because they were recuperating from injuries but their stature should put them on Olympic ice again.Luongo (two-time world champion), Redden, Doan, Lecavalier and Thornton get in because of their World Cup play, Lecavalier winning the MVP in the NHL tournament last September.Richards picked up a much-deserved Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP when Tampa won the Cup in June 2004. He'll be even better on the big ice.Nash, who turned 21 Thursday, is in our lineup for his starring role at the 2005 world championships, where he was the class of the tournament.We still need one goalie, one defenceman and three forwards to fill out the 23-man Olympic lineup.
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Forsberg wants back in NHL

The former Avs star is now unrestricted and free to sign with any club in the league once the NHL re-opens its doors.

DENVER (CP) -- Superstar centre Peter Forsberg is eager to return to the NHL next season.
"I'm looking forward to next year," Forsberg told the Rocky Mountain News in Friday's edition.Forsberg, who turns 32 next month, will be unrestricted free agent once the lockout ends and available to the highest bidder. But he favours returning to the Colorado Avalanche if they can fit him under the new terms of the salary cap."I've always had a good time playing (in Denver) and I've always had a good team," he said. "There's a lot of things that have to work out, but I've always liked it here in Colorado. Everything's got to be worked out. I wouldn't have any problem coming back."Forsberg played for his hometown club Modo in Sweden this past season. The Avs tendered him a $9.5-million US qualifying offer to retain his rights last summer as a restricted free agent, but he's now unrestricted and free to sign with any club in the league once the NHL re-opens its doors."If something could be worked out in Colorado, he'd be happy," Forsberg's agent, Don Baizley, told the Denver Post last week. "But he knows very well that it's a whole new ball game here."
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

With a deal so close....A New Crazy Hockey World Awaits us all

When the new CBA is reached, agreed upon, and finally signed, fans and all those involved in hockey will awaken in a new crazy state. Namely Free Agency. With the likeliehood of 24% salary cuts across the board we will see a drastic change on all teams. Some questions arise:

1. What happens to the status of the players contract over the last year? Does it count as a year of their contracts, or do they pick up where they left off.

2. What will happen to the abundant free agents, or released players that result from a team trying to get below the cap and avoid revenue sharing?

3. Does this mean the end of the typical 4th line "grinder", or "goon." Looks that way to me.

Here are some interesting facts from

The "Big Cut"
Given that the union's offer of a 24 per cent salary rollback remains a key part of the new deal, the NHL will return without any skaters over the $10-million US range. The league's highest-paid player, Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers, will see his salary adjusted from $11 million to $8.36 million.Keith Tkachuk of the St. Louis Blues, Alexei Yashin of the New York Islanders and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings go from $10 million to $7.6 million while Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin falls from $9 million to $6.84 million.

Re-Stocking Rosters:
NHL GMs will have their work cut out for them, not only learning a new system but also needing to quickly stock their rosters. The Boston Bruins and New York Islanders have the fewest players under contract for next season -- five apiece -- while the Washington Capitals have only six and the Carolina Hurricanes seven. In my opinion, if big players become available due to the cap, watch out for these teams to make a drastic improvement from the last. Especially, if Unrestricted Free Agensy age is pushed to 30 instead of 31. Interesting isn't it? At the other end of the spectrum, the Phoenix Coyotes already have 21 players signed for next season, while the Columbus Blue Jackets have 20.

Restricted Free Agency in the "Capped World"
Some big-name restricted free agents need new deals, the likes of Jarome Iginla in Calgary, Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta, Jose Theodore in Montreal, Joe Thornton in Boston, Rick Nash in Columbus, Milan Hejduk in Colorado, Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit, Ryan Smyth in Edmonton, Roberto Luongo in Florida, Patrik Elias in New Jersey, Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat in Ottawa, Simon Gagne in Philadelphia, Patrick Marleau in San Jose, Dan Boyle, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier in Tampa and Mattias Ohlund and Brendan Morrison in Vancouver. This situation, along with UFA's, is very interesting. This is where the strategy and thinking of the GM comes into play. Who to sign as your core players and for what under the cap.

Unrestrcited Free Agents:
Unrestricted free-agent stars will include the likes of Peter Forsberg, Nikolai Khabibulin, Markus Naslund, Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Gonchar, Mike Modano, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Leetch.

Is it good to be 30?
In no man's land right now are Saku Koivu, Chris Pronger, Miroslav Satan and any other 30-year-old free agent. If unrestricted free agency drops from 31 to 30 in the new agreement -- something that is being discussed -- then those players become available to the highest bidder, albeit in a new world where the market has been re-adjusted by 24 per cent and with teams only having so much money to spend under the cap.

With all this in mind, one thing is for sure. It will have us all back on each of our respective "band-wagons" and back into the game we love so much.

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