Ah, the time between end of the playoffs and the start of free agency. It's the time of year when NHL general managers can feel free to get extraordinarily ridiculous without being pelted with rotten fruit.
It was right around this time last year, you'll remember, that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded out of Philadelphia, that Robyn Regehr was dealt with picks to Buffalo for alarmingly little, Christian Ehrhoff's rights traded hands twice in two days then Buffalo gave him $40 million, Florida gave Chicago a huge hand in taking Brian Campbell's contract, and so forth.
And fortunately, GMs league-wide seem intent on living up to that standard again this year, though with a good deal more subtlety. There is still, of course, the raving head of the group and this time it's Scott Howson, as if that should surprise you. Details have been filtering out over the last few days about exactly what Howson wants in return for Rick Nash and his contract, which costs $7.8 million against the cap for the next six seasons (and more than that in real life, because the deal is actually back-loaded).
And oh boy, is it ever insane.
Howson wants — and this is apparently a true fact — two good roster players (i.e. presumably not salary dumps) and two high-quality prospects. Speculation is that the Rangers are the front-runners, as they were at the trade deadline, the only other time of year when GMs get anywhere close to this nutty. You'll recall that, at the time, Nash was available for a presumptive asking price of Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Kreider, either Derek Stepan or Carl Hagelin, and either Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh. And with as many as five or six other teams in the running for Nash, which is far more than the number seen at the trade deadline, Howson might just find someone unwise enough to meet his demands.
See, teams have money in the offseason they might not have in February, and always seem more than willing to burn it on the first thing that comes on the market and is perceived as half-decent (see also: Richards, Brad). Plus, the salary cap keeps going up, up, up, and, if Peter Chiarelli is to be believed, labor talks might not go as bumpily as many experts project.
These guys know more than we do, or at least one assumes so; and as a result, they might have reason to deal for sizable contracts, no matter how big-money. Perhaps they believe that Nash's might even look like a decent deal depending on what Zach Parise and Ryan Suter pull on July 1.
But if a madman can ask for and potentially receive the moon from a handful of teams, what does that mean for the rest?
(Coming Up: The Los Angeles Kings' missing Stanley Cup puck; Sidney Crosby's throwaway years; Luongo to the Leafs; looking back at Nicklas Lidstrom; NHL Draft picks on the move; Bruins hanging onto David Krejci; Jay Bouwmeester watch; Sam Gagner's future; Pierre-Marc Bouchard update; the end of Evander Kane in Winnipeg?; and a trade proposal that would get the Oilers the top two picks.)
Depending on when Nash gets dealt, such as prior to or at the draft, that might further whet appetites for other sizable deals that have been rumored, and as Arthur Staple points out, the Rangers also have an interest in taking a run at Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Shea Weber and Tobias Enstrom.
Pie-in-the-sky ideas, maybe, but if even one of those guys is actually available on more than a speculative, tire-kicking basis, it's reasonable to assume that those who lose out on Nash will be similarly hungry for someone other big name's services. And the GMs controlling those assets, emboldened by the war chest Howson might wrangle, would likely jack up their own asking prices.
None of this, by the way, is at all reasonable. The prices are too high, those willing to pay them too eager. But it does show that GMs are willing to get deals done, come what may, which is certainly an interesting way to go about things.
But at the same time, not everyone is eager to make moves. Look at David Poile, clinging hopelessly to the hope that Ryan Suter might somehow choose to remain in Nashville. A guy this determined to get to July 1 without even considering his old team's offers first isn't especially rare, but it feels very much like Suter is singularly determined to get outta there in a hurry in ways that others, like Ilya Kovalchuk before he signed his big deal with New Jersey, have not been.
The hockey world assumes it a fait accompli that Suter goes to Detroit or some similarly non-Nashville destination, and so to see Poile say he hasn't really considered trading his negotiating rights is a little jarring. Again, he knows far more than we do about the situation, but at the same time, it looks like he's being obstinate in the face of an absolute certainty: He's going to get nothing for a franchise defenseman because he has no leverage.
It could all be a show to appease Weber and convince him to stay, I guess.
It's baffling, frankly, that he'd retain either Suter's or Alex Radulov's rights, especially given his stated lack of interest in bringing the Russian forward back, and that he's freely traded the rights to other pending unrestricted free agents like Dan Hamhuis and Scott Hartnell.
It's tough to guess at what, exactly, makes a group of guys who are usually so cautious in dealing with their organizations' assets want to spend them so freely this time of year. Perhaps they get stir crazy during the playoffs; or maybe they want to make a splash to, as Dale Tallon said last year in acquiring Campbell, "legitimize" their teams as free agent destinations.
But at least it's entertaining.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Sheldon Brookbank and the Ducks remain at loggerheads when it comes to a new deal for the defenseman's services. "July 1 is approaching quickly," his agent told the Orange County Register, and which must have Bob Murray shaking in his shoes.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins seem unlikely to deal center David Krejci despite the fact that he is the highest-paid forward on the team. He had 62 points last year but largely scored in bunches, was bad in the playoffs, and had was eighth on the team in Corsi relative to quality of competition. Oh right, it's probably to do with his stock being low despite his 23-goal season behind a sky-high shooting percentage.
Calgary Flames: Speaking of guys teams would like to unload, how 'bout Jay Bouwmeester? The Flames would love to dump that contract.
Carolina Hurricanes: In early December, the Hurricanes had just 20 points from 29 games, then picked up 62 in the final 53. Not great, no. But a pace for 95 points on the season, so not as dismally bad, either. Ron Francis says that back half of the season is a source of encouragement for next season.
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp just bought a $2.95 million, brand new mansion in Chicago so, combined with his no movement clause, it seems unlikely that he's going anywhere in the next several seasons.
Colorado Avalanche: The Caps will take the Bruins' second-round pick, which they got from Colorado in the Semyon Varlamov trade, this year rather than next. The Avs have just one pick in the first two rounds, that being No. 40. Wouldn't be shocked to see them acquire more.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Scott Howson isn't completely against the idea of trading the No. 2 pick, especially if it only has them moving down a few spots.
Dallas Stars: Speaking of moving around in the draft, might Dallas be poised to move up from No. 13? Currently, they pick three times in the first two rounds, possibly making one of those second-rounders expendable.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Here's a really good interview of Nick Lidstrom in which he reveals that he definitely made mistakes in his career. Well, one. And it was in like 1993. But y'know.
Edmonton Oilers: Sam Gagner is an RFA this summer and that's pretty interesting, especially given that both Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall will reach the same status next summer. Have to assume that the contract considerations for the latter two players (a lot of money!) will factor heavily into what Gagner gets this year.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers already have one of, if not the best, prospect pools in the league and, having now completed their draft preparations, will try to add to it this week. They're picking 23rd overall, though, so they're not in as strong a position to improve as they might have grown accustomed to.
Los Angeles Kings: Buried in this story about the Kings having three lucky pennies embedded in the ice is this shocking revelation: Much like the Blackhawks before them, the Kings' Cup-winning puck has gone missing.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild are really hoping Pierre-Marc Bouchard can get back and healthy for the start of the season in this, the final year of his contract. He missed the entire second half with post-concussion issues but was on pace for a 40-plus-point campaign. He's had a tough go of things, and has never come close to replicating the three straight years of 57 or more points that earned him his current deal.
isn't interested in trading PK Subban because unlike that last GM, this new one isn't a total idiot. Michel Therrien, you say? Yeah, that's a good point.
Nashville Predators: Okay so this Ryan Suter issue isn't going to resolve itself, but here's something that should come as no surprise -- If NHL teams aren't willing to jump on Alex Radulov on July 1, he's going back to the KHL. Hey, didn't a team just pay a boatload of money for only the right to negotiate with him? Hmm, wonder if he'd go there.
New Jersey Devils: Regardless of what happens in free agency — and the Devils have 11 guys with expiring contracts — prepare for a whole year of people saying, "no one thought they'd be any good last season either and look what happened."
New York Islanders: Thinking the USHL might take a European or QMJHL player in the first round this year? As BD Gallof points out: Not likely.
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson would really like to sign a contract soon, because that gold house and rocket car he had his heart set on aren't going to buy themselves.
Philadelphia Flyers: I was reading this article and Scott Hartnell referred to someone as a "young kid" and I was like, "Weird, he's talking about Claude Giroux." And then I remembered Claude Giroux is only 22 24 and now I'm scared at what he's going to do to the NHL for the next decade and a half.
Phoenix Coyotes: Move over, Goldwater Institute. The Arizona Free Enterprise Club is trying to push the latest arena deal to even more insane levels: By putting it to a public vote. I'll put the popcorn in the microwave.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby at $9 million a season on a deal so long he'll have "throwaway years" at the end of it. How you feelin' about that? Good? You better, because that's the only way this plays out.
San Jose Sharks: Antti Niemi isn't the reason the Sharks were bad last season. Yeah, no kidding. Their offense was 13th in the league last season, and their defense was eighth. Think about it.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues gave Chris Stewart $3 million despite his having scored just 15 last season because they think he can turn it around. Another shocking revelation: Hockey is played on ice.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts are putting pretty much all their faith in Anders Lindback next season, even though he was maybe the eighth-best backup in the league the last two seasons. So basically I hope Steven Stamkos is ready to score another 60 if he wants to make the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs: So, Roberto Luongo then? It's starting to look that way, especially if Los Angeles is indeed serious about keeping Jonathan Bernier as their backup for next season as well.
Vancouver Canucks: Sami Pahlsson is expected to sign with Modo in the Swedish league, meaning the Canucks are in the market for a third-line forward like you wouldn't believe.
Washington Capitals: With the completion of the Varlamov trade, the Caps have 11 picks in the draft, the most of any team. George McPhee intends to keep nearly all of them.
Winnipeg Jets: Does Evander Kane actually want to stay a Jet? Now that would be a bidding war.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "BowDangles" wants to get Edmonton the No. 2 overall pick without surrendering the No. 1. It goes about how you'd expect.
I can't hear my voice. I can't hear my voice.
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