Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thoughts on the Draft and the trades leading up to the UFA season

-The top 3 picks went as expected with John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene went 1,2,3 respectively.

-5 out of the 6 Canadian teams (with Calgary being the exception) made very good picks.

Now the juicy stuff,

Chris Pronger was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and two first round picks: Well I wouldn't want to be a team in the eastern conference next year, especially one in their division. The battles between the Flyers and the Penguins next year are going to be epic. The Flyers now arguably have to be considered to power in the east if Ray Emery can get back to his 2007 form. With a defensive top 3 of Pronger, Tiominen, and Coburn to go along with Richards, Carter, Briere, Gagne, Giroux and Hartnell. But on the other side the Flyers gave up an absolute kings ransom for Pronger. In Lupul they lose potentially 30 goals, Sbisa was their top defensive prospect and two first round picks make it a very steep price to pay so Pronger better damn well pay off.

Jay Bouwmeester's negociating rights were traded to the Calgary Flames and then he signed a 5 year, 33 million dollar contract: What a blue line the Calgary Flames are going to have next season! With JBo, Phaneuf, Regher and Cory Sarich as their top 4 it's going to be hell trying to get anything done in Calgary's end and the former 2 have 60 point potential. Jay is only 25 years old and is just heading into his prime so Calgary now has the potential to have 2 of the top blueliner's in the league on their roster for a very long time. However don't expect this team to have any depth considering all the money they have sunk into star players. Not only that but this team's window could be closing with Olli Jokinen slated to become a UFA next year, the expected plunge in the salary cap and Daymond Langkow and Jarome Iginla are starting to gain some tread on their tires so this is a win now trade as well.

Scott Gomez and two minor leaguers were traded to Montreal for Chris Higgins and prospects Ryan McDonaugh and Pavel Valentenko: The Montreal Canadiens get a potential #1 centre who comes with some issues however and give up a chronic underachiever who thinks he's better then he is along with one top end defensive prospect in Ryan McDonaugh and one who abandoned the Habs AHL team to go back to Russia in mid-season for more money in the KHL. Scott Gomez is a player who could very well put up massive numbers but he'd need someone else to play with which is an oppurtunity he had in New Jersey but never in New York. So he could turn back into a really good centre or he could be the 7 million dollar a season bust he was in NY. Chris Higgins is a player better suited for being a defensive forward but he thinks he's a natural goal scorer who can pot 40 (not a chance in hell). I won't really miss him and his probable future hellacious contract negociations or Pavel Valentenko and his bolting to Russia but Ryan McDonaugh could turn out to be a very solid top 4 defenseman. This deal could go either way for both teams.

Dany Heatley has been traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid: The Edmonton Oilers have finally gotten their first pure scoring winger since Jari Kurri left for Los Angeles all those years ago. He has the potential to score 50 goals every year and hopefully he's paired with Sam Gagner to speed along his developement instead of Shawn"The Anchor"Horcoff. However Heatley does come with the baggage of demanding a trade off his team for the second time now and apparently their were dressing room issues with Heatley in Ottawa so we'll see how Pat Quinn handles him. The Oilers actually managed to rid themselves of Dustin Penner and his outrageously brutal contract but they do lose ultra-fast goal scorer Andrew Cogliano and tough as nails defender Ladisalv Smid. Ottawa gains those two along with expensive reclamation project Penner who Brian Murray believes he can save.(Update: Heatley has decided to sleep on waving his NTC till tonight because it appears he wants GM Bryan Murray to work on trading him to San Jose or New York)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Offseason Story lines

Here are some interesting story lines and possible endings for them this offseason:
-Firstly the Dany Heatley saga has become the major story of the upcoming draft much the same way that Chris Pronger was a few years ago. By demanding a trade out of Ottawa Heatley has forced GM Bryan Murray into dealing him and odds are he will be heading out West somewhere and there's no way that Ottawa will get back equal value for him either. As you'd expect the western canadian teams have figured prominently into rumors and while Vancouver and Edmonton are two viable options (Calgary won't have near enough cap room) they'd have to give up healthy packages for him and Vancouver simply doesn't have the depth. Personally I think it would take a package of Tom Gilbert (whom Ottawa is reportedly smitten with) Andrew Cogliano (whom apparently Oilers management doesn't want to trade) and the 10th overall pick. However if I had to pick a current frontrunner for Heatley I'd say it would be San Jose who has Patrick Marleau, Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski to chose from to trade along with prospect Logan Couture so they have much more to offer up to trade.

-The Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has promised to go out and spend boatloads of money this offseason and with the Sedin twins looking more and more like they aren't going to re-sign in Vancouver and with the history between the two sides it would not be suprising to see the Sedins in Leaf blue next year along with a couple of other high priced free agents.

-Will the Montreal Canadiens, with the most cap room in the league, so spending crazy or will they do something that is long overdue and rebuild. Also the free agent class next year (Roberto Luongo, Marc Savard, Ilya Kovalchuck, Rick Nash) will be far superior and with the cap going down, some smart GM's will be hoarding cap space like it's gold for next season and I hope/a part of me believes that the Habs will be very quiet and do this.

-With a lot of important UFA's and it seems that they're going to let alot of them walk away and without a whole lot of prospects outside of Cody Hodgson the Vancouver Canucks could very well be in a tough spot especially because with the noises that Roberto Luongo is making about only wanting to play for a contender, Mike Gillis is going to be in tough to deliver one for Roberto next season.

-There will be over 7 new head coach's in the NHL next season, how will they fare?

-Will the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins be able to stock up to get back to the cup finals for the third year in a row?

-Will the Islanders take Tavares or Hedman? My money is on Tavares, natural goal scorers don't come along every day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Russian Bear is coming

Team Canada, the home team for the Olympic hockey tournament next year, at least in my opinion is in very deep trouble when the Russians come knocking next year. In the three units of a team as it stands right now, the Russians are better in 2 out of the 3 areas:

1) Forwards:
When it comes to scoring forwards there is no team with more talent in the coming tournament then the Russians. They have 3 of the top 5 forwards in the league with Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk and behind them Kovalchuk, Semin, Kovalev, Frolov, Slava Kozlov, Nikita Filatov along with Alexei Morozov and Alexander Radulov who are playing in the KHL. Canada has 2 of the top 5 with Crosby and Iginla but the support staff, while good and with more depth, isn't as good as the Russians. Rick Nash, Vinny Lecavalier, Dany Heatley, Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Marc Savard and Jonathan Toews. However the Russians don`t have a semblance of a checking line while the Canadians will have a superb one with Brendan Morrow, Mike Richards and Shane Doan.

2) Defenseman:
Well Canada has a definite advantage in this department because beyond Andrei Markov the Russians have a bunch of no names and old broken down past their prime guys like Sergei Zubov. Canada is obviously hoping that Scott Niedermayer is going to be there as he is still our country`s best defenseman. However they also have Chris Pronger, Dion Pheneuf, Brent Burns, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regher, Dan Boyle, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook and Mike Green are there to be chosen from.

3) Goaltending
Before this season I would`ve said Canada without a doubt, but after Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo choked hard in the playoffs I`m going to give the edge to Russia. Ilya Bryzgalov, Nik Khabibulan and Evgeni Nabakov are a better threesome of goalies then Canada can come up with. After the former two, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury, Steve Mason, Marty Turco and possibly Carey Price if he has a bounce back season will all vie for the #3 position.