After an unavoidable delay due to life’s usual intrusions, the round-up returns. This week, the Flames re-up their elder statesman, Ilya Kovalchuk is on the loose, and Tomas Kaberle’s Leaf days might be numbered.
The club did what I think most of us expected from them when they inked Craig Conroy for another season at the minimum. No harm, no foul, IMO. Good guy, still useful, and dirt cheap. Trust me, if a young guy can oust him, the club won’t hesitate, and Connie can head to the broadcast booth. Until then, it’s a perfectly acceptable gambit. Jay Feaster’s disclaimer that the the signing wasn’t related to the Langkow injury might well be true, since I suspect that the club won’t leave Mikael Backlund lounging about as an 8 minute a game type. Brett Sutter is likely the player that Conroy would have to beat out to stick, and my guess is that if Conroy looks like he won’t make it, we’ll have a nice retirement ceremony for him in short order. In other words, I doubt he’s headed to Abby as a player.
Off-ice, the club has eliminated the PPV offerings from its TV schedule, joining forces with the Oilers in a 10 year partnership with Rogers. The two clubs will shuffle the extra inventory on to the new Sportsnet One channel that begins airing this weekend, with a minimum of 58 games per season on either SN West or SN One. No news on the value of the deal for the two clubs, but I wonder if the new People Meter approach to TV ratings might have boosted the price. Back in January, Bill Houston noted that the Flames’ TV ratings were up nearly 60 percent, averaging over 200,000 viewers to that point, and I know that the early April SN games against Colorado and Chicago drew nearly 500,000 viewers apiece. Just as a comparison, the Islanders have a contract that pays them north of 20 million a year, and their viewership numbers aren’t within hailing distance of Calgary’s local figures. Different markets, to be sure, but I suspect the Flames made out OK. As for the Oil, well, they need the money to ensure Daryl Katz and Pat LaForge don’t have to go begging in the streets to keep the team afloat. Or something.
The league got its way in front of Richard Bloch this week, as the arbitrator ruled in favour of the NHL on the Kovalchuk matter. We’re back to where things were in mid-July, so again, I’m done with this issue until he signs or decides to stand in front of league headquarters yelling "Attica". If you want more on the matter, Elliotte Friedman has a few words about it all.
At the lower end of the pay scale, as more than a few of us predicted earlier this year, some worthwhile free agents are being squeezed pretty hard. Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin might well be fighting for one spot in PIttsburgh, with the loser having a tough time finding a decent job. Up the road in E-town, Fernando Pisani talked to Jim Matheson about his own precarious status in the league. There were a few guys that went the tryout route last fall, with Blair Betts coming to mind as a player that made a roster absent any guarantees. This fall might see many more veterans headed down that path. The middle class of NHL players is being pushed out, which means that any team with a few stray dollars in its cushions might get some very useful men for less than a million per.
Of course, as we’ve noted on these pages before, there are a bunch of teams that aren’t interested in spending any dough at all. Luke DeCock delineated the moves that Carolina has made in their efforts to cut costs before a potential sale of part of that club’s equity, Mike Heika has his take on the Stars’ budget matters, and Phoenix still hasn’t done anything with Martin Hanzal, although the two sides appear to at least be in some sort of contact. The situation in Dallas interests me to some degree. Ownership issues and a softening of local ticket sales have forced a formerly high spending outfit to the cap floor, and even with fresh investment, I wonder if a bit of the bloom is off the Sunbelt’s best market. Tonight brings news that Fox has bailed out of the potential auction for the club, leaving Calgary’s Bill Gallacher and Vancouver’s Tom Gaglardi as the remaining suitors. Meanwhile, in Phoenix, oh, nevermind…
Tomas Kaberle’s Leaf career might finally be at its end. The Toronto rearguard’s NTC kicks in after this weekend, and Brian Burke has been openly shopping the talented Czech. L.A. makes financial sense, since they don’t have to ship a pile of salary back to balance the books. They’re also down a D with Matt Greene injured. I’d guess Burke might like the Meat Train as part of the package, but Dean Lombardi might not be quite ready to part with a player who’s a proper NHLer at the age of 21. I’m certainly not buying tonight’s Twitter BS about Dustin Brown being the return, either.
Chris Pronger’s in the news this week for something besides cheap shots and petty larceny, as the Flyer revealed he was hurt during the second round of this past season’s playoffs. Pronger’s public statement that he might not be ready to start the year was in slight contrast to his coach’s remarks that the club expected their leader on the blue to be ready for September. At any rate, the hard man from the shores of Wabigoon Lake had his knee scoped to move loose bodies, in contrast to his normal approach for such procedures.
Finally, Pat McLean has done some yeoman work in reviewing the ’72 Summit Series over at BDHS. His review of Games One and Two suggest that coaches were hip to a lot of the things that we talk about around these parts, like match-ups, Zone Starts, and out-shooting, even back in the alleged Dark Ages of the game. I’m certainly anticipating the rest of the review, especially the games in Russia, where the real fireworks were let off.
That’s all for this week. If there’s anything you’ve seen of note, feel free to add a link in comments.