With player movement beginning to heat up, it seems like a good time to have a look around the league for a few items of interest. This week, the first significant trades of the off-season are in the books, the players take the escalator, and the HHoF’s new class includes one of the Flames’ founders.
Pretty quiet in Flamesland. In fact, Domebeers has it about right. We should start seeing this weekend if Sutter can re-organize his payroll, or if the moves he made during the year are about to ham-string his summer plans. In other organizational news, head scout Tod Button laid out a defence of the club’s recent drafting in an interview with the Herald’s Vicki Hall. Between the Phaneuf pick and the Backlund pick, the Flames had three iffy first round selections, with only Pelech even in hailing range of the NHL, so Button’s claim that the Flames got better at drafting after Sutter came in is a bit questionable, although some of the picks in recent seasons do have potential.
Elsewhere, Steve MacFarlane examines whether tanking in order to rebuild the franchise should be considered. It’s always easy to advocate tanking as a possibility when you don’t pay for tickets, of course, so I try not to suggest that the club go that route. It’s no guarantee of success, either. St. Louis has several nice young players, including a first overall pick in Erik Johnson, but that team’s not really that close to winning anything. Atlanta picked high forever, and all they have to show for it is, well, nothing at all. No panaceas out there, in other words.
Finally, the Herald asked a Council of Elders what they would do to fix the club, and the usual "find a #1 center" stuff quickly popped up. I’ll say this as directly as I can: teams don’t trade those dudes unless something has gone very wrong, and the Flames aren’t exactly sitting with many assets these days. I also noted that not one of them said "overpaying for a few old Dmen is a lousy plan".
Stan Bowman began the purge in Chicago this afternoon, sending Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu to Atlanta for Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin and the 24th and 54th picks in this weekend’s draft. The Hawks will save about 5 million in cap space, and Atlanta receives a player who really is more famous than good. Dustin Byfuglien might have terrorized Roberto Luongo, which was very nice for those of us who like to see the Canucks humbled, but he’s been a pretty indifferent player in the big scheme of things.
The players voted to extend the CBA and build in the 5% growth factor, which will see the cap increase to 59.4 million dollars for 10/11. There are more than a few teams, and the Flames are assuredly in that number, that are quite relieved to have the wiggle room. I do wonder if the players will get tired of the escrow clawbacks that we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons, but apparently other needs have won out again.
Nathan Horton had his wish granted, as the Panthers sent the winger and Gregory Campbell Boston’s way, with Dennis Wideman and the Bruins #15 pick headed the other way. Dennis Wideman is a nice enough player, but he’s not cheap for what he is, so if Horton can stay healthy, he’s a good pickup for the B’s. They do have a number of pretty expensive forwards on the payroll, though, with 7 of them slated to make at least 3.5 million next year and Blake Wheeler, Johnny Boychuk and Mark Stuart are all in need of new deals. Someone has to go, and Michael Ryder, Wheeler or maybe Marc Savard could be moved, particularly if the Bruins end up with Tyler Seguin on Friday night.
The Habs, fresh off shipping Client Halak to St. Louis, decided that keeping Tomas Plekanec around was worth 30 million over the next six seasons. He’s a decent player, and cuts a fine figure in a turtleneck, but I do have the sense the Canadiens paid right at the top of the market for a man who plays against the other team’s second lines on many nights.
Up in Shelbyville, the Oilers decided that having a coach that wore an onion on his belt might not be the best plan for their future, so Quinn is out in favour of Tom Renney. I suspect that having a coach who understands that occasionally matching lines can benefit a team will be a bonus for the Oil, and I say that as someone who spent a season watching his team’s coach routinely run its fourth line over the boards when the other team iced the puck. There are a times in a game where active bench management can steal you a game, and that just wasn’t Pat Quinn’s deal. Jonathan Willis pretty much had this deal sussed out last spring, for what it’s worth.
Scott Niedermayer chose to move on yesterday, ending an 18 year journey filled with virtually nothing but success, both personally and on a team level. His relocation to the West Coast was the beginning a nice run for the Ducks, with a 4th Cup win during his second season in Orange County. Earl Sleek broke out the Photoshop to send the grizzled one off to a well-earned retirement.
Evgeni Nabokov will be elsewhere next season, as the Sharks advised the 34 year old that he was surplus to requirements. I can’t really argue with Wilson’s thinking on this one. Nabokov is a decent goalie, but not much more, and he appears to want a premium price for his services. There are entirely too many goalies that are roughly equivalent to the Russian stopper who will command a much smaller paycheque, and a team that needs to sign Joe Pavelski and would like to re-up Patrick Marleau had to make this sort of choice.
Finally, the Hockey Hall of Fame chose its new class yesterday, with more than a bit of controversy. Dino Ciccarelli was the only NHL player selected, with men like Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Howe, Pavel Bure and Eric Lindros among the excluded. I feel a bit bad for Mark Howe as an old WHA fan, because his excellence with New England is often forgotten or held against him when assessing his career. On a sunnier note, one of the Flames’ original owners, Doc Seaman, was added to the Hall’s membership via the builder category.
That’s all for this week. Like most of you, I’m hopeful that at least some the Flames’ less palatable contracts are on the move by this time next week.