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. It is normally written by Ryan Lambert; today's edition is by Greg Wyshynski, your humble editor.
It may have come and gone in the blaze of Free-Agent Frenzy glory last week, but Clarkson signed a three-year extension with the Devils worth $8 million. As a restricted free agent, Clarkson's signing obviously protected him from any attempt from another team to tender him an offer sheet; but it also allowed Lamoriello to enter the Frenzy without a variable dangling out there who could add untold dollars to his cap as negotiations dragged on. Which is exactly what's happened to several teams whose big-name RFAs remain unsigned through the weekend.
If the NHL's general managers weren't a collection of cuckolded old-boys-club cronies with an unspoken bond not to fleece each others' RFAs — or, in some cases, fraidy cats worried about retribution for having done so — we'd see some wonderfully uncomfortable moments in which offer sheets put teams in a cap conundrum.
Because we're not in the old-boys-club, and generally have the morals of a pimp attending night school to become a used car salesman, here are six players we'd gladly poach as restricted free agents.
(Coming Up: Kovalchuk Derby updates; behind the scenes with Yzerman; the Penguins' plans for Malkin and Staal; Brind'Amour's true impact on Carolina hockey; Boughner joins the Jackets; why Nystrom left the Flames; why Volchenkov could see his blocks drop; more overwhelming Bieksa love; a wager for Ted Leonsis; a terrible Sabres/Leafs trade; and why Brian Burke continues to make us cry.)
Note: We didn't include perhaps the most prominent RFA, Bobby Ryan(notes) of the Ducks, on here because there's simply no way we see Anaheim letting him slip as a RFA. And because, frankly, we're a little wary about what his numbers look like away from Corey Perry(notes) and Ryan Getzlaf(notes).
The Stars' ownership situation is in flux. It has an internal cap of $45 million and 2010-2011 payroll of $43.5 million committed thus far. That's with Nicklas Grossman(notes), Matt Niskanen(notes) and Neal still unsigned as RFAs. Grossman's looking for a raise on $1 million and Niskanen's looking for his first big contract after making $800,000; both are rather important to the Stars' blue line.
That leaves Neal, who should be the team's top left wing, scratching for the same dollars. He had 27 goals and 28 assists last season, and he'll be 23 in September. Plus, he's training with Gary Roberts(notes) this offseason. He's the sort of power forward that you can build around. General manager Joe Nieuwendyk has said he's unconcerned that someone may try and poach his standout young winger with an offer sheet. We'd do it so fast that Nieuwy wouldn't have time to grab an old Modano jersey as a crying towel.
Because Darryl Sutter manages his cap like M.C. Hammer used to manage his friends' discretionary spending, the Flames have $1,150,000 in space as of this moment, Cap Geek reports. This will improve when they make Ales Kotalik(notes) disappear, but we'd still make life difficult with an Ian White offer sheet.
Why? Why the hell not? He's 26, a versatile player who leads by example and one whose offensive game is starting to improve. Leafs fans wanted him signed before the Dion Phaneuf(notes) trade. Give him an offer sheet and watch Flames fans figure out what percentage of Jay Bouwmeester's(notes) increasingly ridiculous contract would have kept White in Calgary.
Wheeler pushed near 50 points as a rookie and then regressed (with the rest of the team) as a sophomore. He's only 24, but when it comes to an offer sheet there's a bit of Dustin Penner(notes)-ism creeping inside of him. Still, the Bruins have $2.7 million in cap space. A shrewd GM would be able to shake Wheeler loose knowing Boston's financial constraints. A slightly less shrewd GM, on the other hand, might offer two first- rounders and second-rounder for him.
The Rangers have the cap space to sign both Dan Girardi and Staal, despite Glen Sather paying Derek Boogaard(notes) $4,700 per minute of play (s/t Mirtle). Staal and the Rangers currently have a contract "chasm" between them. If you believe he's the next generation of shutdown defenseman, and we sort of do, then paying him what he wants might make Sather curmudgeonly swat him away with a "BAH, WHO NEEDS'EM!" hand motion.
This obviously comes down to whether you believe his, uh, "unique" skill set is worth its weight in occasional brainfarts and boneheadedness.
We think he's a premiere agitator who can, in the right situation, mature into a 30-point player (remember, he's only 25). The Flyers are allegedly going to deal Simon Gagne(notes) to create cap space for a veteran goalie and a couple of RFAs, Carcillo being one of them. But a hefty offer sheet might change that thinking into, "Hey, you know, maybe Riley Cote(notes) isn't such a stiff after all." Even if he is.
This would be a complete jerk move by another team: Watching the Blues trade for Halak and then swooping in with a big-money offer sheet. But for a Western Conference foe that needed a goalie and had the resources, it's a fun way to put the screws to the Blues by setting their goalie budget for them. And by "fun" we mean seeing John Davidson get that Dennis Hopper look in his eyes and his mustache spasm in anger.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Saku Koivu(notes) said that Teemu Selanne(notes) continues to train every day back in Finland for a potential 18th season in the NHL. So is it about time to pencil him in for the lineup in Sochi or what?
Boston Bruins: The Bruins Blog breaks down the comparables for RFA winger Blake Wheeler, and determines: "You have to figure Wheeler falls somewhere in that $1.55 to 1.9 million range per year, on a deal that will probably last just one or two years." So he'll either be paid like Steve Montador(notes) or Johnny Boychuk(notes).
Calgary Flames: It's entirely possible that a second-grader learning addition by counting grapes between his toes is better at managing the salary cap than Darryl Sutter.
Carolina Hurricanes: One of the underappreciated aspects of Rod Brind'amour's(notes) impact on the Hurricanes franchise: The fact that he re-signed with the team in 2001 when the rest of the NHL expected him to get the heck out of dodge, which indicated that Raleigh wasn't the seventh level of hockey hell many viewed it as back then.
Chicago Blackhawks: We won't call them the Hockey Marlins because it makes Blackhawks fans super-angry (and because they start dissecting what is a playground taunt for accuracy), but The Way Things Should Be has a nice piece on the emotions for Blackhawks fans during the great purge: "We here in Chicago are not overly used to winning championships..." Truer words, sir.
Colorado Avalanche: Bidding farewell to some soon-to-be-departed Avs. Adieu, Brett Clark(notes) ... may another city enjoy how you haplessly flop on the ice attempting to block a shot while an offensive player skates around you like he's avoiding a spilled beverage.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets pulled a stunner on Sunday, coaxing highly regarded Windsor Spitfires coach Bob Boughner to sign on as assistant coach for Scott Arniel. So after snubbing him in the draft and hiring his mentor, what other new and exciting ways will the Blue Jackets come up with to kick Cam Fowler in the nuts?
Dallas Stars: Mike Heika looks at the Stars' payroll and restates the obvious: When you're handsomely paying Steve Ott(notes), why do you then need to sign Adam Burish(notes) to do basically the same thing?
Detroit Red Wings: Mike Modano(notes) and the Red Wings are playing "wait and see" as the free-agent field shakes out. Hopefully this means waiting and seeing if Detroit sobers up from getting drunk on nostalgia and realizes that Modano doesn't fit the roster and especially its budget.
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall expects to sign his contract with the Oil on Monday and said he won't be taking Kevin Lowe's No. 4 as his NHL sweater number. No for nuthin', kid, but No. 44 looks like it might be an orphan soon.
Florida Panthers: It's not just the mainstream hockey media that's completely in the tank for Dale Tallon. Christopher Higgins(notes) said the new Florida GM was a primary reason he decided to sign with the team. Well, that and the possibility that he won't be traded for a third time in two seasons.
Los Angeles Kings: Here's Matt Murray of Life in Hockeywood chronicling his experience on June 1 during the Frenzy as he waited ... and waited ... and waited for Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) (who the Kings now say doesn't want to make a deal with them).
Minnesota Wild: Eric Nystrom(notes) is now on the Wild partly because Darryl Sutter doesn't do three-year contracts: "There could be a potential lockout in three years. If I signed a two-year deal, there's going to be a lot of guys coming off contracts then. Three years was really hard to turn down."
Montreal Canadiens: Alex Auld(notes) said that the $1 million contract he signed with Montreal met his "financial expectations." In the sense that they aren't paying him in beads, bobbleheads or smoked meat, we suppose.
Nashville Predators: Really terrific story about Predators draft pick Austin Watson, his family and the sacrifices both made for the betterment of his hockey career — as in staying behind in Michigan as his family moved to Florida. Dude has eight siblings. He makes the show, and the Predators suddenly double their fan base. (Just jokes, people. The Preds literally have dozens of fans.)
New Jersey Devils: Anton Volchenkov's(notes) calling card is blocking shots like his name is Russian for "Jay McKee." But In Lou We Trust looks at the Devils' numbers in their system and wonders if the A-Train's shot-blocking totals are going to suffer in the next six years.
New York Islanders: Presenting "Ilya Kovalchuk: 10 Reasons not to do 10 Years at $10 Million." Eagerly awaiting Charles Wang's rebuttal, "15 Reasons To Do 15-Year Contracts and Bite Me."
New York Rangers: Wisconsin senior defenseman Ryan McDonagh is expected to join college teammate Derek Stepan in signing with the Rangers this week, and Goon's World thinks he can make the team out of training camp. The Rangers are building a nice corps of young defensemen that Glen Sather can eventually make cry in restricted free agent negotiations with his penny pinching.
Ottawa Senators: Andrew Sztein believes that Sergei Gonchar(notes) can help "fellow countryman" Alexei Kovalev become a better player this season for the Sens. Or, at the very least, they can compare notes on what it was like to play with Kris Beech(notes).
Philadelphia Flyers: (Crappy translation) OMG, the Flyers are totally in on Kovalchuk! (Better translation) OMG, the Flyers are so totally not in on Kovalchuk! (In fact, the original report was a fabrication!)
Phoenix Coyotes: There's just something reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's story on Admirals captain Nolan Yonkman(notes) signing with the Coyotes and seeing the first comment as: "GOOD RIDDENANCE!" If Nolan Yonkman inspires that level of intense reaction, what does, say, Jamie Heward(notes) inspire? Violent marches?
Pittsburgh Penguins: Mark Madden doesn't see finding scoring help for Sid or Geno as a priority. "A wing for Crosby or Malkin would be a luxury. The Penguins finished fifth in the NHL with 257 goals last season. Scoring isn't a problem. Malkin and Jordan Staal(notes) will play together, with one moving to wing. Eric Tangradi(notes) will get a shot with Crosby sooner, not later. Problem (hopefully) solved." Dear God, they really are doing the Staal-or-Geno-on-wing thing.
San Jose Sharks: Mr. Plank wonders if the San Jose Sharks can poach one of the Canucks' defensemen, like several teams are also attempting to do. We continue to marvel as the diverse perceptions of Kevin Bieksa(notes) within and outside the Vancouver city limits.
St. Louis Blues: Did you know Erik Johnson(notes) can't be tendered an offer sheet from another team as a restricted free agent because he missed the 2009-10 season due to injury? So on top of that freak accident, the demonic golf cart also cost him bargaining leverage ... wow.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Really interesting look at Steve Yzerman's approach to his new GM gig and to the NHL draft from the Detroit Free Press. From Stevie Y: "One simple piece of advice I've been given from Day 1 is, make sure you return your phone calls."
Vancouver Canucks: Oh, good, the Vancouver media is setting reasonable expectations for the Canucks again: "Barring a cholera epidemic or the team chef slowly poisoning the roster, their results in divisional play should be darn good. Winning the conference, a franchise first, is possible."
Washington Capitals: On Frozen Blog has thrown down the glove and challenged Caps owner Ted Leonsis — "If Mr. Leonsis is right, and his team needs merely another season's experience to break through to elite status in the league (as judged by getting in done in the glory season), if his Charmin-soft team advances to the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, I'll write a check for $500 to his charity of choice." If OFB wins ... eh, a trip to Hawaii is a start.
Gold Star Award
If you haven't read it, Bruce Arthur's tremendous piece on Brian Burke keeping his late son Brendan's legacy alive earns your tears:
On Sunday Brian Burke and his second wife Jennifer and his sister Meghan and her husband Phil, along with some friends, all marched with PFLAG - Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization that provides support for parents and their gay children. Burke wore a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey with 'Brendan' written on the back and the number 88, the year Brendan was born. He will do it again next year, too.
NOT. A. JERSEY. FOUL.
Minus of the Weekend
Sweden's three-year gold medal streak at the Inline World Championship hockey tournament ended on home ice ... er, home synthetic playing surface when the Czech Republic upset Sweden in the semifinals, 4-3. Sweden earned bronze; the U.S. won gold; none of it brings us any closer to the resurrection of the Orlando Rollergators.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User 'Soft Tings' believes this one's a winner for Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs fans:
C Derek Roy(notes)- 3 Years ($4,000,000)
RW Patrick Kaleta(notes)- (RFA)
D Tomas Kaberle(notes)- 1 Year ($4,250,000) + Extension
C Mikhail Grabovski(notes)- 3 years ($2,900,000)
Oh, and it was perfect, in the sense that it pissed off Sabres fans and Leafs fans universally for different reasons.
Let the Wookie win.