Our nation’s 143rd birthday is just a day away and since the start of the NHL’s free agency period is now as much a part of that occasion for hockey fans as fireworks and bad face-paintings of maple leafs, it seems like a good time for the round-up. This week, the Flames waive Ales Kotalik, but for unknown ends, Sergei Kostitsyn will get a chance to try out his act on Barry Trotz, and a Star moves on.
As reported everywhere, the Flames waived the enigmatic winger on Monday, with many believing that Darryl Sutter was on his way towards buying out the first player of his regime. Errrr, maybe not. I don’t doubt that there may well be a plan to have Kotalik head to Europe or Abbotsford, and I suppose that this move may have been simply an attempt to judge interest.
I could have saved Daz the trouble if that was the point of the exercise, because AK’s contract and performance are likely to scare anyone sensible away from making a deal for Kotalik. I know the criteria of sensibility may well exclude several GMs, but even most of those have limits.
The Flames signed recent acquiree Henrik Karlsson to a one year, 500k deal. CapGeek shows it as a one-way ticket, and the club will need waivers to send him to Abby. If that precludes them from exploring the UFA market for a back-up keeper, it’s wrong-headed. Irrespective of your views on Kipper or back-ups in general, the goalie market is the ultimate buyer’s paradise this year, and I’d be mildly surprised if at least one decent stopper wasn’t still looking for a job in August.
The only other piece of news was Vicki Hall’s late night tweet that Eric Nystrom’s agent still hasn’t heard back from Sutter. I think he’s likely gone. There’s been no other info from the notoriously tight-lipped outfit regarding Higgins or White beyond negotiations are ongoing. One thing to remember is that teams can go over the cap by 10% in the summer, provided that all accounts are squared by the season opener.
If we see moves that appear financially untenable, that may well be a clue that Staios and/or Kotalik are gone in every way but officially. Or Daz could move Langkow for Ryan O’Reilly and send half this blog’s readership (and writership, come to think of it) to the emerg with aneurysms. It’s Sutter. Who the hell knows?
Other teams used this week’s waiver wire to prepare themselves to buy players out. The Oil waived Moreau, O’ Sullivan and Nilsson, and I for one hope Ethan Moreau continues playing, if for no other reason than the phrase "Moreaunic penalty" would be able to keep its currency. I suspect O’ Sullivan and Nilsson will continue in the league on cheaper tickets, but for a guy like Donald Brashear, it could well be the end of days. Jonathan Cheechoo was the first player to get his walking papers, with the Sens cutting him loose on Tuesday. If teams want to buy a player out, they must have him on waivers by tomorrow at 10 am MT.
Former Flame Dustin Boyd has a new home, at least for one more day, as his rights and those of Dan Ellis were traded to Montreal in exchange for Sergei Kostitsyn. Boyd might have a chance in Montreal. They need cheap depth, and he can provide that. The Ellis move is interesting if Montreal actually signs him, since they sent Halak away with the presumption that Les Glorieux would simply bring in a veteran back-up for Carey Price. Ellis has the whiff of another co-equal, but it’s always possible that the real prize for the Canadiens was running off Kostitsyn the Lesser. He had a rather checkered go of it in Montreal, what with the clubbing, mob schmoozing and the like. Oh, and some pretty indifferent play to go with it all. I’m sure that sort of stuff will fit the family-friendly atmosphere the Preds are known for to a tee. To a tee, I say.
There have been a few other rights of UFAs-to-be passed around this week as well, with Dan Hamhuis moving from Nashville to Philly to Pittsburgh in a week. I like the guy, but he was no more than a second-pairing Dman on a OK Nashville club, and I don’t see how paying him 4 million+ fits most teams’ needs. The Flyers really are at the center of these rights transfers, as they’ve had a chance to talk to Nabokov and Turco this week. The former likely wants twice what he’s worth, and the latter claims he turned down a reported three year deal, with rumours continuing that he’d prefer the West Coast. Maybe Ed Belfour taught him to hold out for a billion.
One club that might have a difficult time holding on to its UFAs is Atlanta. Colby Armstrong and Max Afinogenov are almost certainly headed to the market, and players like Pavel Kubina, Johan Hedberg and Cristoph Schubert might well join the exodus. If a team needs a 6th/7th D, Schubert might be a player of interest for cheap. There are the usual thoughts that Afinogenov may head for the KHL, but I am mindful that people said that last year when he had no leverage at all coming off a difficult season in Buffalo. He signed for 800k just to stay in North America, so if there’s any kind of decent deal, I’d bet he remains in the NHL.
Getting deals might be getting a bit harder for players in the collective, though. Teams like Carolina, Anaheim and Dallas have been big spenders as recently as last season, and yet there’s every chance that all of them might be under 50 million in payroll next year. Carolina is talking about being at the floor, with a hoped-for cap number around 44 million. Even if league revenues are up, there are several teams for whom spending to the cap makes poor financial sense. That could tighten the UFA market. A smart team with a bit of cap room that is willing to wait out the initial rush might still find a few bargains in late July. I wish I knew a team like that.
Finally this week, Mike Modano’s 20 year sojourn with the Stars has ended, as the club announced that he was no longer in the plans. He’s making noises, at least for now, that he might prefer to extend his career. I might be in the minority on this matter, but if he feels like playing and a team chooses to employ him, I have no issue with it at all. I always get the sense that as much as us non-players talk about loyalty, legacy-tarnishing and the like, the players seem to have a more prosaic view. It’s their job, and one most of them quite correctly enjoy. Why not keep doing something you love? If he wants to play, fine, and if not, he had a wonderful career. It should be good either way.
That’s all for this week. We’ll be back next week to examine the carnage from the opening of UFA season, and maybe we’ll get a sense about what master plan Darryl Sutter has in mind, frightening as that may well be to some.