Archive for the ‘hypotheticals’ Category

Pro-cap-stination Continued: Montreal to Washington

July 10, 2009

For a typically excessive explanation of this series and the first half of NHL teams, click here.

Basically, this post should serve as a guide for those Armchair GMs who want to daydream about their team capitalizing on the shortsighted team management of opposing builders. Each entry includes the team’s CURRENT cap commitments, the number of players listed/being considered on the pro roster, some of the bigger names/bigger cap hits under contract, a list of the crucial UFA/RFAs to re-sign and finally an educated guess regarding whether or not the team will be a buyer in July 2010.

Naturally, this is for nerdy fun and speculation. As we saw from Philadelphia and Chicago, a lot can change in a week … let alone a year. That being said, this might give you an idea of where your team may stand during SALARY CAP JUDGMENT DAY.

Montreal Canadiens
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: just under $42.5 million
Players under contract: 5 forwards, 6 D and no goalies
Noteworthy players: Gomez, Cammalleri, Gionta, Markov, Hamrlik, Spacek
Most important RFA/UFAs: Price,
Buyer potential: Mild buyer, depending on the cost of Price

Nashville Predators
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $32 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 3 D and no goalies
Noteworthy players: Arnott, Erat, Dumont, Legwand, Sullivan, Weber, Suter
Most important RFA/UFAs: Rinne
Buyer potential: Strong, budget permitting

New Jersey Devils
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $38 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 4 D and 1 goalie
Noteworthy players: Elias, Parise, Rolston, Brodeur, Oduya
Most important RFA/UFAs: Martin, Zajac (2009)
Buyer potential: Strong

New York Islanders
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $28-30 million (Throwing in a flippant Tavares cap hit estimate)
Players under contract: 5 forwards, 4 D and 2 goalies
Noteworthy players: Tavares, Ricky D, Rolo, Streit, Witt (teehee), Alexei Yashin’s enormous buyout
Most important RFA/UFAs: Okposo
Buyer potential: Strong

New York Rangers
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $44.5 million
Players under contract: 9 forwards, 3 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: Gaborik, Drury, Kotalik, Redden, Rosival, Lundqvist
Most important RFA/UFAs: Dubinsky (2009)
Buyer potential: Sellers, unless someone takes Drury/Redden/Rosival

Ottawa Senators
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment:
about $46.5 million WITH HEATLEY
Players under contract: 9 forwards, 2 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: Heatley, Spezza, Kovalev, Fisher, Alf, Kuba, Phillips, Leclaire, JAMES O’BRIEN (the one with talent)
Most important RFA/UFAs: Volchenkov, Foligno
Buyer potential: HEATLEY HEATLEY HEATLEY

“I’m so rone-ry …”

Philadelphia Flyers
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $45.7 million
Players under contract: 9 forwards, 3 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: Richards, Briere, Gagne, Carter, Hartnell, Timonen, Pronger, Carle
Most important RFA/UFAs: Emery(?), Coburn, Parent
Buyer potential: Treading water/Sellers

Phoenix Coyotes
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $30.6 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 4 D and 2 goalies
Noteworthy players: Doan, Turris, Breezy
Most important RFA/UFAs: Supporting players
Buyer potential: Depends on their budget/owner/locale

Pittsburgh Penguins
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $41 million
Players under contract: 10 forwards, 2 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kunitz, Orpik, Fleury
Most important RFA/UFAs: Gonchar, Letang
Buyer potential: Treading water

San Jose Sharks
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $35 million
Players under contract: 4 forwards, 5 D and 0 goalies
Noteworthy players: Thornton, Michalek, Clowe, Cheech, Boyle, Vlasic, Ehrhoff
Most important RFA/UFAs: Marleau, Nabokov, Pavelski, Setoguchi,
Buyer potential: BIG Sellers?

St. Louis Blues
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $28 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 3 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: McDonald, Boyes, Brewer, Jackman
Most important RFA/UFAs: Johnson, Kariya, Perron, Mason
Buyer potential: Buyers

Tampa Bay Lightning
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: Somewhere between $36-40 million depending upon how Stamkos/Hedman count on the cap
Players under contract: 6 forwards, 4 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: Lecavalier, St. Louis, Malone, Hedman, Stamkos, Meszaros, Ohlund
Most important RFA/UFAs: meh
Buyer potential: Who knows?

Toronto Maple Leafs
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: About $31 million
Players under contract: 4 forwards, 5 D and 0 goalies
Noteworthy players: Blake, Hagman, Komisarek, Kaberle, Frenchie, Finger, Schenn
Most important RFA/UFAs: Toskala and the MONSTERRRAAWWRRR
Buyer potential: Buyers

Vancouver Canucks
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: About $31 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 4 D and 0 goalies
Noteworthy players: Weird looking ginger twins, three average D making $3 million, Burrows
Most important RFA/UFAs: ROBERTO LUONGO, Kesler
Buyer potential: Mild buyers?

Washington Capitals
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: About $36 million
Players under contract: 6 forwards, 5 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: OV, Green, Nylander’s unpopular contract, Poti, Varlamov
Most important RFA/UFAs: Semin, Backstrom
Buyer potential: Mild buyers, depending on RFAs

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The beauty of pro-cap-stination (Anaheim to Minnesota)

July 9, 2009


To make this more manageable, we decided to break this post up into two posts. Today, we’ll cover the first half of the NH-aLphabet with Anaheim through Minnesota. Tomorrow, we’ll put up the rest. Eventually, we’ll probably merge the two for one mega post/reference point. Maybe.

We’ve hit the Chicago Blackhawks pretty hard lately, but don’t get us wrong: there are plenty of teams that will be sweating bullets come July 2010. In fact, there probably aren’t many quality teams who won’t feel the pinch if the cap plummets to $50 million as some have said.

Still, like an advantageous liquidator or a savvy pawn shop owner, one GM’s emotionally crippling loss could be another GM’s team-building gain.

Naturally, no GM worth his fancy necktie would admit to waiting ’til next year to scavenge the rotting carcasses of poorly structured teams. Yet, that’s the tantalizing potential scenario:

“Oh, so you want to get rid of an overpriced player? Sounds good. To whom should I address this seventh-road draft pick and deluxe set of luggage?”

The smart teams are doing one of three things:

1. Stockpiling good value contracts for younger players and 1-year deals for veterans (best example: Anaheim).

2. Despite being close to the cap ceiling, there are obvious “tiers” for the team and they are only giving their core guys big contracts (Pittsburgh and Detroit are doing a solid job of this, even if it forces some tough departures).

3. Licking their chops by amassing a ton of cap space and adding high-value, entry-level contracts through the draft (the New York Islanders might be the champions of this strategy if they’re smart).

OK, now that we’ve introduced the concept and discussed the generalities, let’s take a brief snapshot of each team’s 2010-2011 cap commitments to see if we can target some potential “buyers.” Naturally, a lot can change in a mere week let alone twelve months.

(Cap commitments came mostly from NHLSCAP.com, with CapGeek.com serving as the occasional pinch hitter. Both are great resources for cap info.)

Anaheim
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment:
just under $29 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 2 D and one goalie
Noteworthy players: Getzlaf, Perry, Giguere (probable trade), Whitney, Lupul
Most important RFA/UFAs: Ryan, Hiller
Buyer potential: Strong, budget permitting

Atlanta
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment:
just under $20 million
Players under contract: 3 forwards, 4 D, no goalies (Kari Lehtonen still needs to be re-signed)
Noteworthy players: Antropov, White, Enstrom, Hainsey, Bogosian
Most important RFA/UFAs: Lehtonen, ILYA KOVALCHUK, Kubina
Buyer potential: Strong, budget permitting

Boston
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment:
about $35 million
Players under contract: 5 forwards, 2 D and one goalie
Noteworthy players: Bergeron, Ryder, Krejci, Chara, Thomas, Wideman
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Kessel still not signed, MARC SAVARD, Lucic
Buyer potential: Seller

Buffalo
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $38 million
Players under contract: 6 forwards, 2 D and one goalie
Noteworthy players: Vanek, Pominville, Connolly, Roy, Miller, Rivet
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Support players
Buyer potential: Treading water or Seller

Calgary
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $42.8 million
Players under contract: 5 forwards, 5 D and two goalies
Noteworthy players: Iginla, Bouwmeester, Kipper, Phaneuf, Regehr, Langkow, Sarich
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Jokinen
Buyer potential: Treading water or Seller

Carolina
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $30 million
Players under contract: 8 forwards, 2 D and 0 goalies
Noteworthy players: Staal, Cole, Rod the Bod, Pitkanen,
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Ward, Whitney
Buyer potential: Mild Buyer or Treading water

Chicago
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $43 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 4 D and 2 goalies
Noteworthy players: Hossa, Campbell, Huet, Versteeg, Barker, Seabrook, Byfuglien, Sharp, Bolland, Sopel
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Kane, Toews, Keith
Buyer potential: Seller

Colorado
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $25 million
Players under contract: 4 forwards, 2 D and 1 goalie
Noteworthy players: Stastny, Smyth, Hannan, Lilies
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Hejduk
Buyer potential: Buyer

Columbus
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $34 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 3 D and 2 goalies
Noteworthy players: Nash, Mason, Umberger, Huselius, Commodore,
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Meh
Buyer potential: Buyer

Dallas
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $25 million
Players under contract: 4 forwards, 4 D and 0 goalies
Noteworthy players: Morrow, Richards, Ribeiro, Daley
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Turco, Eriksson, Ott, Neal
Buyer potential: Their owner might be having cash flow issues

Detroit
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $41.5 million
Players under contract: 8 forwards, 4 D and 2 goalies
Noteworthy players: Hank, Datsyuk, Franzen, Rafalski, blah blah they’re still loaded
Most Important RFA/UFAs: LIDSTROM
Buyer potential: Treading water/mild BUYERS???

Edmonton
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $43 million
Players under contract: 7 forwards, 4 D and 1 goalie
Noteworthy players: Horcoff, Penner, Bulin Wall, Hemsky, Lubo, Souray, Gilbert
Most Important RFA/UFAs: The dudes Edmonton tried to trade for Dany Heatley, other supporting cast members
Buyer potential: Treading water/mild Sellers(?)

Florida
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $45 million
Players under contract: 9 forwards, 4 D and 2 goalies
Noteworthy players: Booth, Horton, McCabe, Vokoun, Ballard, Weiss
Most Important RFA/UFAs: not really
Buyer potential: Treading water

Los Angeles (this one might need some double-checking, admittedly)
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $41 million
Players under contract: 9 forwards, 4 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: Brown, Kopitar, Smyth, Handzus, Doughty, Scuderi
Most Important RFA/UFAs: Frolov,
Buyer potential: Buyer

Minnesota
Current 10-11 Cap Commitment: about $32 million
Players under contract: 6 forwards, 2 D and 1 goalies
Noteworthy players: Havlat, PMB, Koivu, Burns, Schultz, Backstrom
Most Important RFA/UFAs: CLUTTERBUCK, Zidlicky
Buyer potential: Mild Buyer

(The rest on Friday!)

A salary cap Dream Team

May 23, 2009

A couple nights ago, I couldn’t sleep. So instead of doing something productive I decided to put together the best plausible team using only players with good contracts. During that process, it became obvious that rookie contracts made it way too easy. With that in mind, the team would only be allowed to consist of players on their second contract and on.

This is that imaginary roster. One other important caveat: No Detroit Red Wings. It’s obvious to me the Red Wings are going to win another damn Cup, so it also became a matter of seeing if it was possible to put a better roster together without one Winged Wheel.

Ken Holland, feel free to stare at a painting of yourself right now.

(Oh, and if you’re interested, feel free to leave your own salary cap team in the comments or an e-mail. Remember, the following are prohibited:

1. Red Wings

2. Rookies (so no Patrick Kane or Steve Mason, you cheating bastards)

Also, big contract guys like Chris Pronger are allowed but frowned upon. You don’t want to be frowned upon, do you?

OH, and I excluded guys with expiring contracts too. Not so easy now, is it. Is it?)

ANYWAY, here’s the team in pseudo “line by line” form with my third grade math at no extra charge:

First Line Offense

Daniel Alfredsson (approx $4.9 million); Ryan Getzlaf (approx $5.4 million); Zach Parise (approx $3.1 million)

Is it crazy to think that this would be the best line in the NHL?

On one hand, you have a guy who at times was unstoppable even against Nicklas Lidstrom and the San Jose Sharks in Ryan Getzlaf. He’s big, mean, has a crazy reach and sublime passing skills. Oh, and the guy already was a vital cog in the Ducks Cup run a couple years ago.

Just take a look at Ryan Getzlaf’s stats in 08-09: (91 points in 81 regular season games; 18 points in 13 playoff games)

As great as Getzlaf was, Zach Parise has the best contract in the NHL going forward. A deadly combination of pure scoring (5th in the NHL in points) and goal scoring (third in the league with 45), Parise exploded onto the scene this season. He also managed a solid run in the playoffs.

To round that jaw-dropping first line, we have Alf. Say what you want about his reputation for playoff struggles (and that incident in the SCF when he slapped a puck at Scott Niedermayer), he’s an unreal player at the sub-$5 million mark. He was the defensively responsible superstar when lining up with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, so backing up Getzlaf-Parise wouldn’t be an alien task for the talented Swede.

“Second” line

Mike Richards($5.7 million); Ales Hemsky ($4.1 million); Dustin Brown ($3.1 million)

Mike Richards (80 points) and Ales Hemsky (66 points in shortened season) are two front-line players who would make life miserable for middle pairing D while Dustin Brown would provide a menacing level of physicality (he’s been a league leader in hitting before). Richards can bring the pain AND score, making him a less despicable heir to Bobby Clarke‘s throne as a prototypical Flyers forward.

Richards is also an absolute terror on the PK. It’s too bad he’s a Flyer, really.

Third line

Ryan Kesler ($1.75 million); Steve Ott ($1.4 million); Alex Burrows ($2 million)

Kesler is a nominee for the Selke. Ott and Burrows both showed they are guys who can be more than pests this season. Once 2009 came around, Ott managed 37 points in 44 games. Burrows scored 28 goals without getting a whiff of powerplay time. If you can find a better trio of elbow grease forwards for about $5 million, then well done sir or ma’am.

Fourth Line

Craig Conroy($1 million); Tyler Kennedy ($700,000+); Toby Petersen (.5 million)

One thing this team might lack is “experience.” As overrated as that might be, getting a popular veteran forward like Conroy seems like it would make a lot of sense. Plus, if this theoretical team faces an imaginary injury, Conroy’s shown that he can slide into those higher spots in the roster without missing a beat.

Kennedy is a very, very nice fourth-line player. He frequently makes the right moves and occasionally helps dominate a cycling game with Jordan Staal during the playoffs. He’s not a star, but he’s a guy who can make things happen for a great price.

Petersen is a plugger who will show the willingness to kill penalties. Maybe.

Defense

Marc Edouard Vlasic($3.1 million); Shea Weber ($4.5 million)
Robyn Regehr ($4 million); Stephane Robidas ($1.5 million)
Kyle Quincey ($.5 million); Andrew Ference ($1.4 million)

Total cost of defense (rounded up): $15.1 million

With all that was spent on offense, there still was a pretty good defense that came about. Vlasic is a smart, solid defenseman for a bargain price. Weber has a booming shot, a nice mean streak and a high ceiling. Regehr can be the Scott Stevens of the group, hurting people on a regular basis. Robidas is a nice budget D to put in your top-4. Quality offensive defensemen tend to be expensive, but Kyle Quincey can be a solid guy for a cheap price. Andrew Ference is another solid, inexpensive puck moving defenseman.

Maybe the group lacks an obvious leader but it is versatile, mean and affordable.

Goaltending

Cam Ward($2.67 million); Alex Auld ($1 million)

Auld is there because he’s a solid backup. Nothing more, nothing less.

Cam Ward has a great bargain of a contract. He’s won a Cup, he’s having a great run in the playoffs this year and generally has shown an ability to handle the workload of a No. 1 goalie. You cannot ask much more for a sub-$3 million goalie.

***

So, there’s the best team I could put together under those restrictions. It came in under $54 million, giving a couple million for wiggle room with healthy scratches and such.

Now, it’s your turn. Which players would you put on your salary cap All-Star team?

Undoubtedly the greatest hypothetical radio show in the history of man and ape

April 1, 2009

So, I’m reading “The Ticket: Full Disclosure,” a great little book about the great Dallas sports radio station, and I come across a stunning passage:

“Through all the uncertainty, however, Sturm was ecstatic. He could have shared a studio with a monkey and seven midgets and still been incredibly happy.”

What – what – what? And still been incredibly happy? This absurd notion made me consider a hypothetical show called “James, a monkey and seven midgets.” (clever title, eh?)

Ratings would be huge. Laughs would be even bigger. Not only would this show resurrect radio, but somehow, also add new life to the newspaper industry. There would be hard hitting “short guy on the wall” journalism, thoughtful critiques of the film “George of the Jungle” and people slipping on banana peels. Howard Stern would beg us to stop broadcasting. Oprah Winfrey would request that we change our time slot, as competing with midgets exposes her inner meanness. Hugh Downs would speak on our behalf at a Lifetime Achievement presentation and then pass away. His last words: “Finally. Peace.”

The only tense moment: when poo gets flung. The monkey would express his disgust at my display, accusing me of discriminating his species based on “unfair, (blanking) stereotypes.” What would then ensue would be a stare down intense enough to be on the cover of a Wrestlemania DVD. And right before I’d get my face ripped off hypothetically, the seven midgets would begin to dance. They would dance their midget dance while my simian friend and I make amends. And it would be good.

But, for the most part, I cannot really fathom the idea that I wouldn’t enjoy running a radio show with a monkey and a bunch of midgets. Everyone’s different, I guess.

Dance partners: Boston (plus a quick note)

February 18, 2009

Before delving into this fun little diversion, a quick announcement: the individual posts for the All-Decade team will sprout up starting tomorrow. So far, there are three contributors, plus myself and two possible late additions. Send me an e-mail if you’re a blogger and want to send your picks (OK … OK … if you only comment but happen to harness a hidden mine of snark gold, then maybe we’ll make an exception). Please do not get huffy if your e-mail doesn’t make it.

(E-mail: jamestobrien@hotmail.com)

***

The playoffs are reaching the “can almost smell it” level of close-ness now. Here’s a fun new running feature, then: Best Dance Partners. It’s better than it sounds (so stash that White Man’s Underbite in your closet of shame along with your Snuggie, Creed CDs and mistress). Basically, the feature boils down to the three teams that would make the most entertaining matchups for the NHL team in question.

This week’s installment is the Boston Bruins:

1. Montreal Canadiens (the fifth seed with 66 points, but tied with four other Eastern teams so this isn’t as improbable as it sounds)

Last year’s Montreal – Boston seven-game series brought enough intensity to start a Montreal riot (as Rocket Richard shook his head in shame from Hockey Mount Olympus).
Interestingly enough, this hypothetical series would be quite the role reversal (Boston and Montreal switching no. 1 and no. 8 seeds along with traditional favorite-underdog positions). Plus, the Bruins’ breakout season would crash head-on with what currently is a free-falling centennial edition of the Habs.

Oh yeah, also, both teams can bring plenty of speed, depth and a traditional hatred marinated in decades of bad blood to yet another playoff series. Surely, the journey to shake that Montreal monkey off the Bruins’ back would cause blood pressures to rise in both Original Six markets.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (currently in 10th place, would need considerable good fortune to make it to the playoffs)
NBC would rank this potential series WAY ahead of a series with Montreal. But a Pens-B’s match brings a lot to the table for more than just casual hockey fans.

It would really allow the Boston Bruins “brand” to grow as bigger audiences would finally get to see the best team in the Eastern Conference take on Pittsburgh, the team with the highest hype-per-win-capita in the NHL. Either that, or the Bruins would be upset by the Penguins leading Gary Bettman, Versus and NBC to jump for joy (while wishing the Penguins knocked off a Canadian team instead of the big market Bruins).

The more likely Bruins-crush-Pens scenario is oddly similar to that time Andre the Giant “put over” Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. If, you know, Andre the Giant really sucked that year.

3. Buffalo (currently the seventh seed with 66 points)

Buffalo vs. Boston would be a battle between a small market obsessed enough with hockey to produce huge local ratings and a huge market with other sports on the brain. Even though the Bruins aren’t a perpetual Goliath like Detroit, Buffalo’s underdog factor would be pretty appealing in this one.
Plus, the hockey would probably be very good and Buffalo brings some similar strengths (deep scoring, good goaltending) so the series could even generate a few nail biters.

One bland pairing that would make fans yawn and TV execs drool

Boston vs. New York Rangers

Are we the only people with a slight urge to see the Rangers miss the playoffs? They’re such a mess of a roster, with four HORRIBLE contracts (Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Wade Redden and Michal Rosival) and a limp lifelessness to their recent play.

Sure, they are two big markets. Sure, the networks would probably show Boston Red Sox/Yankees montages. And, sure, Sean Avery would bring lowbrow attention to the series (predicted Avery quip, spoken in typical monotone: “Zdeno Chara is a tall glass of ugly.”)

But what’s in it for, you know … hockey fans? Not as much as those three other matches, to be sure.

Tavares Watch 2: Ottawa

February 2, 2009
Editor’s Note: The timing was excellent to start working on this post since Craig Hartsburg was fired, but it’s actually something that was in the “drafts” section since January 13. Oddly enough, work was being done on this during the morning hours … shortly before the Senators coach would be fired. Anyway, just thought it was worth mentioning how sometimes things fall into place every now and then …

In my “Predictions that Will Make Me Look Stupid” post, Ottawa was my pick to win the Northeast division. The only accurate prediction that came true was me looking stupid. (And let’s be honest, that prediction has at least a coin flip’s chance of being accurate every day)

It’s been a really, really, really bad season for the Senators. People will be fired. Players are crying in their oatmeal. Just all around bad times.

Perhaps such a fall from grace was inevitable. The Senators just kept losing vital supporting cast members. Over the last few off-seasons they’ve watched Martin Havlat, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Ray Bug Eating Emery go to other teams in the NHL and Russia. What’s left behind is a wasteland of bad goaltending, thin defense and one line’s worth of stars.

The Senators have a Chara-sized hole they may never fill.
Looking ahead to the off-season, the Senators have one forward, one D and one goaltending spot that’s not accounted for with a cap number slightly above $44 million.

Having the opportunity to draft John Tavares would open the Senators up to some interesting questions.

Would Tavares give the Senators inexpensive yet quality depth on offense, allowing them to throw big money at the closest thing to a legitimate franchise goaltender and/or defenseman?

-OR-

With Tavares falling in their laps, would the Senators begin a purge by trading Jason Spezza like many an Internet rumors column has suggested?

Do the Senators deserve Tavares?

It’s hard to say. Looking at the lower ranking teams in the NHL, the New York Islanders seem to be one of the most deserving. Their fans have suffered heavily since the glory days of Trottier and Bossy. Plus Tavares would help promote the drive to a new arena.

Considering the blundering mess in Tampa Bay, Ottawa certainly isn’t the least worthy team in the Tavares sweepstakes. Overall, it would be great for the league to have as many competitive Canadian teams as possible.

And if the Senators didn’t move one of their expensive star players, just imagine a powerplay of Heatley-Spezza-Tavares with Alf and some incredibly lucky offensive D playing the point. That would just be ridiculous.

Which goalie should they target?

Investing in a goalie should be like getting an HDtv: make sure it’s the one. At least for the next 3-5 years. Let’s see if these goalies would be the right fit in Ottawa:

Nikolai Khabibulin

Absolutely a high-risk, high-reward goaltender. Hopefully, his ridiculous current salary ($6.75 million) will come down a couple million at least. From a highest ceiling standpoint, the one-time Cup winner probably takes the cake. But how much can you trust him when he only seems to reach his potential in contract years?

Niklas Backstrom

With any Wild goalie, it’s a question of nature versus nurture. That being said, previous (and soon to be UFA) Wild goaltenders Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson could never lock down the top job quite as convincingly as Backstrom. Unfortunately for everyone outside of St. Paul, that might mean that the Wild will pay to keep him.

If not he has to be one of the top three targets for any team looking for a starter.

Manny Fernandez

Speaking of Fernandez, it’s likely that Boston will choose to hang on to Tim Thomas but let him go for cap reasons. Just like almost everyone in Boston, Fernandez is putting up some impressive numbers this season. He is 14-3-1 with a 2.07 GAA and a 92.8 save percentage.

The two hounding issues with Fernandez are consistency and health. He’s never really earned an unquestioned no. 1 role. His career high in games started is only 56 games. As a team that’s been burned frequently by inconsistent goaltending, signing Fernandez would most likely allow history to repeat itself.

Martin Biron

Is Martin Biron the answer in net for the Flyers? It’s hard to tell. If he becomes a free agent, he could be a decent option for the Senators. The idea is so bland and uninspiring that it’s crucial to just move on.

Dwayne Roloson

A lot like Biron, but probably a bigger risk/reward. Would not make much sense.

****

So as you can see, there are a few ways the Ottawa Senators could go about improving its team. Could they end up with that Chara-sized Swedish prospect Victor Hedman instead of Tavares? It certainly would be interesting to see the team who lost the big Z end up with the next “big” thing (from a more literal standpoint).


Honestly, things are bad right now but it wouldn’t be shocking if the Senators bounced back next season (or the one after). Even taking into account his turnover-heavy ways, consider me in the Pro-Spezza camp. Dan Heatley might have a dark past, but he’s moved on to become one of the true snipers of the NHL.

The one big name big contract guy they might want to consider moving is Daniel Alfredsson. Alf is a good player despite that ugly Scott Niedermayer incident from the SCF, but he’s old and expensive. He could probably yield a really nice prospect/draft pick package and allow the Senators some fiscal relief.

It might be time for some changes and the rebuilding process might take longer. For that reason, they must at least consider trading their two-way star of a captain.

In these dark times, there’s at least a faint light at the end of the tunnel for the Senators.

Tavares watch: Islanders could rebuild in a hurry (1 of 2)

January 8, 2009
Not very long ago, I uttered something like this to a buddy of mine: “Man, I hope Tavares doesn’t end up in a hellhole like Long Island.”

However, while researching my Mike Milbury = Matt Millen post, it was hard to ignore Garth Snow’s NHL draft wizardy. Doing the math is a little tricky so here’s a visual aid from Isles info.com’s Islanders’ GM history:

06/20/08: NYI trade 2008 Entry Draft first round pick(fifth overall – D Luke Schenn) to TOR for first round pick in 2008 (seventh overall), TOR’s 3rd round pick in 2008 (68th overall) and TOR’s 2nd round pick in 2009.

06/20/08: NYI trade TOR’s 1st round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft (seventh overall – C Colin Wilson, previously acquired) to NSH for FLA’s 1st round pick in 2008 (ninth overall – C Josh Bailey, previously acquired) and FLA’s 2nd round pick in 2008 (40th overall – D Aaron Ness, previously acquired).

06/21/08: NYI acquire CHI’s third round pick (72nd overall – D Jyri Niemi)and fourth round pick (102nd overall – W David Ullstrom) in 2008 for TOR’s
third round pick in 2008 (68th overall – D Shawn Lalonde, previously acquired).

Impressive. Snow basically moved the Islanders first round pick for Florida’s first and second round picks, Chicago’s third and fourth round picks in 2008 plus Toronto’s 2009 2nd-rounder. As good as Luke Schenn and Colin Wilson could end up, that’s a hell of a leap in the rebuilding process.

Tavares + big name free agent could really accelerate the Islanders rebuilding process (and Tavares + huge cap space could help the Islanders land that big free agent).

So that alone gives the Islanders a light at the end of the tunnel, but now let’s get hypothetical:

Semi-plausible moves that could reignite the Islanders

Step 1: Winning the Tavares lottery

Obviously this is the portion that’s dedicated exclusively to random chance. The Isles are the worst team in the NHL right now and will likely finish with the most lottery balls at the end of the season, but that in no way guarantees that they’ll get the #1 pick.

Getting the second pick wouldn’t be horrible since the only spot locked up long term is #1 goalie thanks to Rick Dipietro‘s life sentence long-term deal. But as tall and talented as that Swede might be, the Islanders need a shot in the arm only Tavares can provide. Badly.

What better way to help the Islanders sell the idea of a new arena than to add the most hyped Canadian since Sidney Crosby?

(Quick aside for those hockey’s futures nuts out there: what is a reasonable estimate for a healthy first season for Tavares? Could his production be Crosby-like, Patrick Kane-like or more like Joe Thornton‘s rough rookie year?)

Step 2: Trade for Kovalchuk or throw the bank at Marian Hossa

Personally, I think Kovalchuk would be a better bet because his talents are “sexier.” Hossa’s a fantastic player, but you get the feeling that Kovalchuk would dazzle New Yorkers deeply. A rare victory for sizzle over steak.

If Atlanta decides to deal Kovalchuk, the Islanders have picks and prospects to spare

With Doug Weight ($4.5 mil), Bill Guerin ($4.3 mil), Mike Comrie ($4 mil) and Mike Sillinger ($2.2 mil) coming off the books this summer, the Islanders could transform their roster from washed-up, overpaid veterans to whatever image the “new” Islanders would seek.

($17 million from four players for non-math majors)

If NHLSCAP figures are correct, their overall cap would be right under $31 million with 8 forwards, 7 defensemen and 1 goaltender under contract (not counting minor leaguers … although you can argue many of their starters belong in the AHL).

In that dream scenario, Tavares would probably have a Stamkos-like cap hit. Let’s say $4 million to be safe. Let’s also assume that the cap goes down to , say, $55 million when factoring in the deadbeat economy.

The Islanders could throw a “horse head in the bed” offer at Marian Hossa or easily absorb the last year of Kovalchuk’s contract. Hell, if you really want to dream big imagine the Islanders somehow landing Kovalchuk – Hossa – Tavares or Kovalchuk – Gaborik – Tavares or something of that nature. Crazier things have happened.

[Note: decided to break this gigantic post up into two parts.]

Hypothetical hope for the Islanders part II

January 8, 2009
The Sedins bringing their cycling circus act to Coney Island? Could be worse …

Even if the Islanders lose the Tavares lottery, their $20 million-plus cap space and their rapidly improving stable of prospects puts them in a great position to rebuild. How about we rank some of the guys who would best fit the Islanders?

1. Kovalchuk – This is only based on heavy trade rumors. Honestly, the Thrashers shouldn’t trade him (the reason, beyond his bodacious skills, will be revealed sooen enough).

2. Hossa – The common thread of wisdom for Hossa is that he’s the hockey version of a smoking hot bridesmaid. Even if he’s not the type of player who can carry a team on his back, Hossa is the most talented free agent and may go into Show Me the Money mode after taking a one-year Cup run contract.

3/4. The Sedin twins – Why break up the Sedin twins when they are so effective together? The Islanders might be a really nice destination for the efficient dopplegangers. Even if they sign matching $6 million contracts the Islanders could still improve the team around them.

5. Jay Bouwmeester – He’s not flashy (except in video games) but he’s the kind of player who can be a cornerstone. With the big minutes he plays and well rounded game he brings the table, he could be a nice fit for the Islanders.

But they’d probably need to add an offensive stud because Bouwmeester isn’t really a ticket seller.

6. Johan Franzen – The Mule is here and Henrik Zetterberg is not for a simple reason. It’s almost unthinkable that Detroit would allow Zetterberg to walk. Not when they very well might lose Hossa. Not when Franzen, despite his undeniable goal scoring skills, cannot stay on the ice.

Franzen could be a good fit in Long Island if he could stay relatively healthy. Hell, a Franzen + Sedins line would be a hell of a consolation prize if bigger things fall through.

Keep dreaming.

7. Marian Gaborik – Honestly, it feels like the team who signs Gaborik is like a newlywed couple who unwittingly adopts that creepy little girl from “The Ring.” But let’s face it, the Islanders are one of those teams that might need to pay up big just for the PR boost.

Even though it’s a thrill to watch Gabby on a breakaway, his signing would be a Shakespearian tragedy for a team that’s had plenty of helpings of bad luck.

8. Alex Kovalev – There’s a buyer beware to Kovalev. Either his drive does not match his blinding talent or his talent is better suited for stunning Youtube videos. Whatever way you slice it, Kovalev’s not the guy you want with that Ayn Rand-ian weight of the world on his shoulders.

Still, if the Islanders try a quantity over quality approach Kovalev could be an asset.

9. Brian Gionta – It’s hard to say if a guy like Gionta would flounder outside of NJ or if he would flourish without the spoused shackles of the NJ system. Judging from the lackluster post-NJ careers of guys like Scott Gomez, expectations should be “less than or equal to.” Then again, adding Gionta certainly would add a little spice to the Devils – Islanders rivalry (whatever you may think of that rivalry).

10. Erik Cole – Call me an Erik Cole apologist, but I’ve been a fan since the Hurricanes Cup year. Then again, he’s clearly never been the same after that dirty Brooks Orpik hit that almost ended his career. Would he take a pay cut or just stay at $4 million? At a lower price Cole could be quite the pickup but at $4 million you better take him to a damn thorough doctor.

***

Tavares-less suggestion: Go hard for Hossa or Kovalchuk or even Zetterberg. If that doesn’t work, settle for the Sedins and a low risk, high reward guy like un-listed, under the radar Michael Cammalleri.