Friday, July 2, 2010

Can the Islanders really land Kovalchuk?

Is it worth it? For most teams 10 years and $100 million is a tough commitment to make. But when you are the New York Islanders, a team desperate to get an arena deal and sell out home games, it might make sense. It's also probably the only way to get a player like Ilya. Talk about it below...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

10 Random Thoughts on Day One of Free Agency

Not sure today was worth calling in sick for, but nonetheless it was a very interesting, and sometimes perplexing opening day of free agency. Defense was the most sought out position as teams ponied up serious cash for offensive defensemen as well as stay at home types. Typically, the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, and Red Wings are most active on July 1, but this year the Canadian hockey clubs made the most noise on Canada Day. Some for the better, (Vancouver,Ottawa), and some for the worse, (Calgary). In case you missed it, here were the top ten items of the day.

10. Martin Biron starts the day off as the first player signed. Funny how the former Islander goalie was signed so late a year ago(7/22), and signed so early this year by the NY Rangers.

9. What deals exactly are Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco waiting for? Turco reportedly turned down a contract from Philadelphia at a substantial price and who knows what the market is like for Nabakov. With eight goaltenders being signed today, all for less money than Nabokov and Turco would of wanted, teams clearly found other options.

8. Four goons were signed on July 1st. I found it surprising that teams went for tough guys this early in free agency. Jody Shelley, Raitis Ivanans, Derek Boogard, and Tim Jackman all were signed today. Maybe even more surprising was that Calgary signed two of them in Ivanans and Jackman. The Rangers gave Boogard, who has not scored a goal since 06, a four year contract. The Philadelphia Flyers gave Shelley a three year contract. At least we can look forward to a Shelley-Boogard tussle during the next Ranger-Flyer game.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs sign another 3rd line player. Colby Armstrong is a good player, and a great teammate, but doesn't Toronto have too many second and third liners? I can't come up with a true first line forward on that roster.

6. Clearly the biggest winner of the day was Sergei Gonchar. Kudos to his agent for getting him a three year contract when Pittsburgh was not going to go past two years. At $5.5 Million per year to play in Ottawa he did quite well today.

5. The Dan Hamuis and Zbynek Michalek factor. These two defensemen who are more the stay at home type, commanded lot's of interest around the league. Neither are household names, but they attracted big bucks and are now playing on teams with Stanley Cup aspirations. Hamhuis will help the Vancouver defense, and Michalek should fit in well in Pittsburgh with Goligoski, Letang, and Orpik and the newly signed Paul Martin.

4. Ilya Kovalchuck still not signed. Lot's of rumors all day that a deal was imminent with Los Angeles but nothing to report of as of tonight. Besides New Jersey, and perhaps Toronto, no other club has been linked to him. Maybe the KHL?

3. Steve Yzerman quietly improved the Lightning. Yzerman traded Mezaros and his $4M cap hit to Philadelphia, and shortly afterward signed Martin St.Louis to a contract extension. Tampa signed Dan Ellis at a bargain price to compete with Mike Smith to shore up the goaltending position.

2. The Flames did WHAT? The look of shock on the faces of the TSN panel were priceless when it was announced that Calgary had signed Olli Jokinen. What made the move more disconcerting was the fact that Calgary traded him to the NY Rangers on Februrary 1st. This site is not a fan of Jokinen, but may be even less of a fan of Raitis Ivanans who was signed by Duane Sutter hours after Jokinen. Throw in the signing of another former Flame, Alex Tanguay and it's very puzzling as to what is going on in Calgary these days.

1. Following Twitter with the latest updates was the way to go. Yes, it provided bogus trade rumors at times, but also produced classic lines like this one from Kingscast directed to the LA Kings. "This whole Kovalchuck watch is basically hockey blue-balls"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Free Agency Preview

The countdown to Christmas for hockey fans, July 1st at noon ET is only 24 hours away. Although this years free agent class is not as stellar as years past, we can still expect lot's of player movement and lot's of owners cash being spent. The rumors have been rampant for months now building up to this point. We will rank our top ten free agents of 2010 and their likely suitors.

#1 Ilya Kovalchuck New Jersey LW 27 years old

How much is a two-time 50 goal scorer and elite sniper worth? Kovalchuck is simply the best free agent available in 2010. He has never scored less than 29 goals in his eight year career, has breathtaking speed and a lethal slapshot. The one knock on Ilya is that he has never won a post season series. Actually, he has only won one playoff game in his career. Spending 7 1/2 years in Atlanta attributed to that mark, but still it is something that burns inside this guy. The question for a potential suitor becomes, Do we spend $8 million or so a year on one player? Only a few teams have the cap room to afford Kovalchuck, and there is always the possibility of big money being offered from the KHL.

Likely Destinations: St.Louis, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Colorado

#2 Evgeni Nabokov San Jose Goalie 34 years old

Sharks GM Doug Wilson has indicated that Nabakov will not be back with San Jose and reportedly has granted permission to the Philadelphia Flyers to speak with his agent. The bottom line with Nabby is that he was getting paid $5.4 million this season and most teams that are looking for goaltending do not have that much money available under the cap. He may be offered more money in the KHL

Likely Destinations: KHL, Philadelphia, Washington

#3 Sergei Gonchar Pittsburgh D 36 years old

Very key part of the Penguins defense, especially on the power play. Although Gonchar is getting up in age he is still one of the top offensive defensmen in the league. Gonchar was severely missed from the Pittsburgh lineup when injured for 20 games this season. He also missed 57 games last season and while he was out the Penguins were in danger of not making the playoffs. The question with Sergei will be length of contract to a player that is 36. He is seeking at least two years and that may be a risk for some teams.

Likely Destinations: Pittsburgh, Buffalo

#4 Anton Volchenkov Ottawa D 28 years old

To succeed in the NHL playoffs today, teams must have stay at home shutdown defensmen. Anton Volchenkov fits that bill. At 6-1 226 lbs. this bruising defensemen is someone who becomes invaluable during big games. Think how difficult teams found it to play against a Hal Gill or Chris Pronger type of player. Volchenkov only produced 14 points last season for the Senators, but he will be paid for his defense not offense.

Likely Destinations: Washington, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders, NY Rangers

#5 Ray Whitney Carolina LW 38 years old

One of the more underrated players in the league today. If you're looking for a solid veteran to chip in 25 goals, probably score around 65 points, and play a second line role, this is your guy. Yes, he is 38, however he played 80 games for Carolina and was their third leading scorer. Whitney will not cost as much as Kovalchuck and could put a team that is close to winning the cup over the top. He has indicated in the past about wanting to play in Pittsburgh.

Likely Destinations: Pittsburgh, Toronto, Los Angeles

#6 Dan Hamhuis D Nashville 27 years old

His rights have already been traded twice, first to Philadelphia, and most recently to Pittsburgh. It appears that he will head into July 1st as a free agent as talks with Pittsburgh have reportedly stalled. It sounds like Hamhuis is looking for a deal in the $5 million per year range which may be a bit pricey for a guy with limited offense. Hamuis is a solid player that can log twenty plus minutes of ice time and be effective in his own end. Just not worth huge bucks in our opinion.

Likely Destinations: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, St.Louis

#7 Chris Mason G St. Louis 34 years old

Chris Mason is a true starting goaltender in this league in our opinion. The Blues traded for Jaroslav Halak last week as he will now assume duties as the St.Louis netminder. Mason played 60 games last season and had a record of 30-22-8 2.53 GAA .913 SV%. He made $3 million last season and will probably get an offer similar to that. With Nabakov and Marty Turco commanding considerably more, Mason is a good option for a better price.

Likely Destinations: Atlanta, San Jose, Washington

#8 Alexander Frolov LW Los Angeles 28 years old

Frolov scored the fewest number of goals this year besides his rookie season. He was even a healthy scratch at one point by the Kings this season. When Frolov is on his game, which is not every night, he is one of the strongest players in the league at controlling the puck. He should be good for 25-30 goals and has scored big goals in the past for the Kings. Frolov is probably a second line player on a good team. Fortunately for him, this years free agent class is lacking on goal scorers so he is one of the best available.

Likely Destinations: Montreal, KHL, NY Rangers

#9 Marty Turco Dallas G 34 years old

We contemplated not even putting him on this last after watching him play so poorly last season. Granted the Dallas Stars play more of an open system under Marc Crawford where playing defense is optional. He may find his game in another uniform, but again the price will be hefty for a 34 year old goaltender that may not be a difference maker at this stage in his career.

Likely Destinations: San Jose, Philadelphia, Washington

#10 Zbynek Michalek Phoenix D 27 years old

Another defensemen who is not known for offense, but will block a ton of shots and will rarely be caught out of position. He is not overly physical as Volchenkov but does what it takes in his own end. Michalek missed ten games this season which led to his drop off in points, but when he plays a full 82 games he is capable of producing close to 30 points. Will not cost as much as Volchenkov or Hamhuis and his stock appears to be on the rise.

Likely Destinations: NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Ottawa