Puck Daddy - NHL

We've already pledged our devotion to the ownership of Oren Koules, Len Barrie and OK Hockey as they boldly take the Tampa Bay Lightning where no buttoned-up old codger in a Board of Governors meeting has ever gone before. If the team doesn't yet have an official 2008-09 slogan, we're willing to license out "Embrace the Wackiness."

Still, if you could imagine the most bat-poop crazy idea involving the Lightning within the context of their recent history, what would it be? No, even nuttier than naming Marc Denis the starting goalie coming into camp this fall; how about adding a big-ticket offensive player with a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract to a team that just escaped from salary cap hell?

Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times seized on a quote from Koules at yesterday's introductory press conference that seemed to indicate that the Brad Richards piggy bank could be cracked open again:

Here was the defining quote of the day from Koules: "I think we'll surprise people. Of the top five or six free agents, there's only one we won't be going after, and that's because he's a puck-rushing defenseman, and we think we have the best at that. So, outside of that, we're going to be staggeringly active. We will  not let Steve Stamkos out there by himself."

When was the last time you heard talk like that from any Lightning owner? How about never.

So who is out there that makes sense? The home run would be Marian Hossa, whose 29 goals and 66 points last season makes him, in his mind, worth about $7.5-million. (Imagine then what Lecavalier is going to get when his long-term deal is announced?) Hossa is not a guy who can carry a team. He is a complimentary player, which actually would be perfect for the Lightning.

So the ultimate poster children for why a top-heavy salary structure is doomed to fail in the NHL might make a run at perhaps the most expensive player on the open market? Didn't Koules make, you know, low budget horror movies?

Ah, but the point is that he makes movies. He's a hustler, a pro, a marketing visionary who turned a movie about Wesley from "The Princess Bride" sawing off his own tootsies into a worldwide franchise.

He sat there yesterday claiming that every top free agent save for Brian Campbell would be in play; true or false, it was enough razzle-dazzle to get the local beat writer's brain buzzing and his laptop humming. And that's why we're thrilled to have Oren Koules in the NHL. Well, that and his bed head hair.

Cristodero lists free agents like Brian Rolston, Radim Vrbata, Ryan Malone, Markus Naslund and Cory Stillman as cheaper alternatives on the open market. Naslund and Stamkos could be quite awesome, like when Mogilny played with Scotty Gomez in Jersey. Malone would do the dirty work for the rookie.

But none of them would be as shocking as Hossa. And with the guy who squeezed five sequels out of "Saw" and cast Charlie Sheen in a family-hour sitcom helping to manage the checkbook, shock would be the expectation.

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