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Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: Endless summer of puckhead discontent

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

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It's times like these that I understand why people read rumor websites.

There's just nothing going on right now in the hockey world. Like, almost literally nothing. No signings, no trades, and barely even rumblings of either.

You'll hear about a few things here and there, of course. The weekend brought us a number of signings for guys that have an outside shot of making their organization's roster in February if four left defensemen all get hurt at once, along with a couple NHL-level fourth-line guys that signed qualifying offers -- that kind of thing. Some front office deck-chair rearranging. Nothing at all exciting.

This whole "anti-climactic summer" thing started with Patrick Kane's(notes) Cup-winning goal that no one saw until it was in the net for 45 seconds. It continued straight through to the ho-hum draft that saw the top two picks go just how everyone on the planet thought it was going to no matter how much TSN and the Edmonton media wanted to massage a storyline out of the possibility that the Oilers might get both picks. It didn't stop when the biggest free agent signing on July 1 was a No. 3 defenseman in Dan Hamhuis(notes) signing with Vancouver for some absurd amount of money.

Oh yeah, it was a real free agent frenzy.

(Coming Up: The Bruins don't have cap issues?; the Thrashers' lottery chances; what Colorado knows about the next CBA talks; Jackets crave craps; Dallas sale news; calling out a Flyers writer; Ottawa as a bad sports town; chasing Stempniak; the price of Price; Bieksa to Anaheim?; a silly three-way trade that would send Bobby Ryan(notes) east; and are there any fan bases that should actually be happy now?)

A lot of people, including some NHL GMs, have said that these summer doldrums are all gonna break wide open the second Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) signs somewhere and sets a market for both every other free agent that's still out there and all the teams that haven't done much, or indeed anything, since July 1. That's when the fun will really start, we've been assured.

And maybe that's true. Maybe Alex Frolov and Lee Stempniak(notes) sign within hours of Kovalchuk finally ending this will-they-won't-they tension with the Kings that's ripped straight from the first season of every sitcom about a group of 20-somethings. Maybe Tomas Kaberle(notes) finally gets shipped off to some city for a return most Leafs fans won't find eminently disappointing two years after everyone thought he would. Maybe someone finally buys the Stars.

But probably not. If the remainder of our summer being in any way interesting hinges on the Kovalchuk contract setting the market, I don't know what people expect. If Kovalchuk, who has 338 goals in eight seasons (an average of 42.5 per year), gets, let's say six years at $8.5 million per, I don't know why anyone thinks that's going to affect the market for anyone else. Kovalchuk has no UFA comparables and probably won't for a long, long time.

As such, it's absurd that his contract would have any bearing on the market for a guy like Lee Stempniak, who has 96 goals in parts of five seasons (nearly a third of which came this past year thanks to a 29.2 shooting percentage he will literally never reproduce).

At this point I will only believe something will end what has been the most boring summer since the lockout when it happens. Honestly, we've spent a few weeks watching legitimate organizations like Detroit and San Jose bid for -- and get strung along by -- 40-year-old Mike Modano(notes) who finished last year with 30 points.

That tells you everything you need to know.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Ducks California-born prospect Brian Salcido(notes) had a disappointing year in the AHL last season, so he's going to play in the Czech Republic this year. He and the Ducks hadn't talked contract extension yet this offseason.

Atlanta Thrashers: Rick Dudley says the team has a good possibility of giving up to three rookies regular ice time this year. So Thrashers fans, you have a lottery pick to look forward to in about 11 months.

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Boston Bruins: Oh that whole "the Bruins are in cap trouble" thing you heard so much about? Yeah don't make a thing about it. Both Tim Thomas(notes) and Marc Savard(notes) will be Bruins on opening night. What kind of IDIOT would think the Bruins were in cap trouble? Don't be silly.

Buffalo Sabres: AHL tough guy Tim Conboy(notes), who at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds once got into a brawl with tiny little Nathan Gerbe, will be the enforcer in Portland this year. This has been your vitally important Buffalo Sabres news for the weekend ending July 18, 2010.

Calgary Flames: More critical news -- The Flames signed three AHL players, the most notable of which was 2004 first-round pick/bust Kris Chucko(notes). These signings were so newsworthy that there was no mention of it on several Flames websites. (And as I type that, the Fan960's Pat Steinberg reported the team also re-upped Matt Pelech(notes) on a one-year deal. Scintillating stuff.)

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes will give away free tickets to the team's exhibition with Atlanta on Oct. 1. Even at that price, a 'Canes/Thrashers game might be a bit of a rip-off.

Chicago Blackhawks: Jack Skille(notes) had to take a 50 percent paycut because of the Hawks' cap problems. I mean, uh ... what cap problems everything's fine they don't have to trade anyone what are you talking about hahaha you guys are so funny.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs are clearly gearing up for some kind of major fallout from the new CBA negotiations next September. Evidence, as pointed out by Elliotte Friedman, is that they have one player -- Paul Stastny(notes), signed for the 2011-12 season.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets are having a lot of financial problems right now (they're losing about $12 million a year) but it'd all be solved if the state of Ohio would just give the team a bunch of the tax revenue from the state's new casinos. No problem. It's a lot like that episode of the Simpsons where Marge becomes a gambling addict, except we're going to see Mike Commodore(notes) gripped in Gamblor's neon claws.

Dallas Stars: That report that a Calgary businessman is going to buy the Stars? It might not be that far off from the truth eventually, it's just that it is for right now.

Detroit Red Wings: Well you can't accuse prospect Mitchell Callahan of lacking for hubris. Comparing himself to Bob Probert despite a grand total of zero pro games under his belt. Oh and he weighs 175 pounds. Good luck with that.

Edmonton Oilers: How did Steve Smith get a job as an Oilers' assistant? He texted Kevin Lowe. Really, that was it.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers offered the new nWo -- Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James -- quite the deal. Any time they want to go to the BankAtlantic Center (the Panthers' home rink, which they own and operate), they'll get four floor seats, four club room passes and VIP parking. Because they couldn't afford to go to those things otherwise.

Los Angeles Kings: Quit your fretting, hockey world. With the signings of Rich Clune, Corey Elkins(notes) and Trevor Lewis(notes), the Kings have locked up all their restricted free agents. Peace in our lifetimes.

Minnesota Wild: Michael Russo with a whole mess of updates from the last day of the Wild's development camp, which appears to have featured every Minnesotan hockey player alive as invitees.

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Montreal Canadiens: One agent says the reasonable expected cost for Carey Price(notes) is somewhere between $2.3 and $2.5 million short-term. (Link is in French.)

Nashville Predators: The Preds are trying to round out their center depth with Jamie Lundmark(notes). Good luck with that.

New Jersey Devils: In Lou We Trust has a compelling look at the feasibility of the Devils using rookies to fill out roster spots as opposed to veteran free agents. I'd imagine only a couple of their AHL guys are ready for a bigger role with the organization.

New York Islanders: There is a specific reason the Islanders haven't signed Doug Weight(notes) yet. And, shockingly, it's not because he's 58.

New York Rangers: The Rangers almost signed Pavol Demitra(notes) before he went to the KHL, but their offer was complex and bonus-based because the team was struggling to get a good cap number for him. And somewhere Derek Boogaard(notes) is sleeping on a pile of money.

Ottawa Senators: The Silver Seven asks if Ottawa is a bad sports town. And my answer is that despite the Senators being the only top-flight sports team in the city, I couldn't find a story more compelling than this one to put here, so: yes.

Philadelphia Flyers: Philadelphia Inquirer writer Sam Carchidi, you've been called out on the dance floor to the tune of about 1,700 words. To be honest I think it's because you don't fawn all over Mike Richards(notes). Who says this summer hasn't given us enough to talk about?

Phoenix Coyotes: This article about Ray Whitney(notes) mentions that Wojtek Wolski(notes) is moving to center, in such a way that it sounds as though this was old news everyone knew about.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Great article about the value of development camps in a salary cap world. Go read it.

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks are reportedly looking at acquiring a defenseman on the trade market, and Fear the Fin thinks Marc Staal(notes) would be a good target. "He's a better player than Hjalmarsson," they wrote, "he's a better player than Tomas Kaberle, he's a better player than Willie Mitchell(notes), and he's a better player than Kevin Bieksa(notes)." Might wanna slow down saying Staal's better than Kaberle. That's insane talk.

St. Louis Blues: St. Louis fans are wondering if their team can bring back Lee Stempniak. The question is: why would they want that?

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning hired an assistant GM named Julien BriseBois. He used to be GM of the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, and will also continue hold that position for Tampa's AHL team. Oh and the Lightning still have Tom Kurvers as an assistant GM. So that'll be fun.

Toronto Maple Leafs: You know it's summer when Leafs HQ writes over 2,000 words about Bill Sweatt. And if you're not a Leafs fan, but you're just wondering, there's no reason for you to know who Bill Sweatt is.

Vancouver Canucks: Kevin Bieksa will get traded. The Ducks are one of the teams targeting him.

Washington Capitals: The Capitals had a fanfest on the last day of development camp, and 3,000 people showed up. No word on how many left when they realized Alex Ovechkin(notes) wasn't there.

Gold Star Award

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Hockey fans.

Honest question: Has any fanbase felt like their team's had a good summer so far? Pittsburgh maybe? Anyway, you're all saints for still liking this sport after the first half of July.

Minus of the Weekend

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Boredom. There is absolutely nothing happening.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "PlayMaker" would love it if Bobby Ryan came to his Boston Bruins. And the only way it'll work is if they get into an ever-popular three-way trade and get the salary cap repealed.

To BOS: Ryan

To CAL: Savard

To ANA: Regehr, Wheeler, 2011 Toronto 1st

This kid should be head of the NHLPA.

Signoff

It's a mainstay of the magician's toolkit, like how clowns always have a rag soaked in ether.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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