[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
6. Guys on the receiving end of compliance buyouts
This was a time we knew was coming, a week of death that would potentially see a number of waiver transactions for the purposes of a buyout reach into the double digits. As of Wednesday morning, that number got up to four, with Dallas' Aaron Rome, Buffalo's Ville Leino, Vancouver's David Booth and Detroit's Jordin Tootoo all facing the axe.
The only one that comes as any sort of real surprise is Rome's buyout, because he was only due $1.5 million against the cap next season, and the team is nowhere near the ceiling. Sure money's tight in Dallas, because it always is, but this is a concern and not, say, Sergei Gonchar's $5.5 million in real money? Maybe they don't want to cut the check, but at this point why bother?
The other three make sense. You're going to want to get out from under that Leino contract, because it was a disaster the moment it was signed. The David Booth situation in Vancouver just seemed untenable. Tootoo is the poster boy for not giving guys like him a lot of years.
More are coming. The conventional wisdom is that a lot of the guys who are going to face the axe are going to have to wait until the end of the week to officially learn their fates, because their teams want to try to trade them first, instead of paying them to do nothing, cap hit or no. By the time you read this, more guys are likely to have hit the waiver wire.
Hopefully teams will learn from these awful contracts they awarded undeserving players and out of which they now have to buy their way. But you and I both know that's never going to happen.
5. No-trade cities
One of the things you're hearing a lot about these days, with Jason Spezza and Ryan Kesler in particular, is how guys have a list of a certain number of teams to which they will not be traded. What's always funny about that is how often the reported teams on those lists are also the ones most often cited as being potential destinations.
“Jason Spezza doesn't want to go to a Canadian team?” Well heck didn't the Calgary Flames just make a big ol' offer for him? (Their GM says no they didn't, by the way.) “Jason Spezza sure would look good as the No. 2 on Long Island behind John Tavares.” Yeah he doesn't want to go there either. “The Predators are the perfect fit for Jason Spezza.” Hmm, he doesn't see it that way.
Where Kesler and Spezza in particular are involved, here's a list of teams that would benefit from adding them: Every team. It's really, really hard to find good possession-driving centers who can run the pivot on your top line in a pinch or else serve as very good No. 2 guys. Their value is extremely high, so yeah of course they'd look good on any team you can think of. The Bruins could use them, the Blues could use them, the Kings could use them, the Blackhawks could use them (the Blackhawks especially, right?). We know.
But that's why having a no-trade clause is so valuable in this league, and that's why players like Spezza and Kesler want them. They can control their destinations, to a certain extent. Can't blame either of 'em for using that power, even if it does blow up your HFBoards trade proposal.
4. The Avs' ability to keep good players
Speaking of center depth, the Colorado Avalanche are currently blessed with a lot of it, with the ability to plug in Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly down the middle of the ice on any given night (not that they do it, but they could). However, that might not be the case for very much longer.
Stastny is a free agent and, given the overall quality of this year's crop, he's likely to get a lot of money and a lot of years. Various reports have stated that it's his preference to stay with Colorado — and boy if that isn't a common refrain around late June for every free agent — but it would come with a heavy price tag. One that the budget-based Avs, who seem loath to spend to the cap, only might meet.
Meanwhile, and perhaps in a plan to save themselves a little bit of money, the Avs are taking O'Reilly to arbitration, meaning that they could cut his actual salary by nearly a million dollars a season for as long as the next two years. O'Reilly made $6.5 million in actual money last season — and put up 28-36-64 in doing so — and it's likely that an arbitrator would reduce that number, but in doing so, the Avs are playing a dangerous game.
Even if they cut that money to the minimum $5.525 million, he's still that much closer to unrestricted free agency. Unlike most guys, O'Reilly, who's a dominant puck possession player (50.3 percent score-close corsi on a team with an overall rating of 47.4 percent) could become a UFA at just 25. That's means more money coming to him in the open market, because teams will be lined up for miles to get a 25-year-old 25-goal guy under contract for the full seven years.
And it seems it's a matter of the money at hand: If they sign Stastny, they're essentially choosing him over O'Reilly even though the numbers suggest he's not quite as good (he is still, however, very good). If they don't sign Stastny, they still risk losing O'Reilly to free agency in two seasons, for nothing.
That's a tough situation to be in.
3. Teams that need a defenseman
Another name that popped up in the annual churn of potential transactions ahead of the free agency period is Brian Campbell, who may or may not want out of Florida.
He's a little bit on the expensive side at $7.14 million per season. He's a little bit on the old side at 35. But he's also a little bit on the dominant and could help make a contender into a Cup winner side, because he's awesome. A quick look at the stats doesn't tell you much; seven goals and 37 points isn't great or anything. Probably not worth $7.14 million.
But a quick look at his usage chart in comparison with other world-class defensemen, and a different picture emerges. He compares pretty favorably with a lot of them, and got first-pairing minutes against the toughest matchups his teams had available, with Tom Gilbert as his partner. If he really does want out, there should be — but probably won't — a number of interested buyers.
Chief among them, you'd think, would be the Ducks, because defense was a problem for them this year and they think they're close enough to being competitive. He and Cam Fowler could do some serious damage. The Rangers might want to kick the tires too. All they need is the will to take the plunge on a player who got a bad rap because a GM once gave him too much money for too many years.
Brian Campbell is a difference-maker, plain and simple.
2. Teams that want a bargain
Similarly, with respect to the David Booth situation, that's a guy who still seems to have a decent amount of tread left on the tires.
He's going to get a compliance buyout and for that reason he looks like damaged goods, but smart teams will probably still see the value he can provide. The boxcar stats don't look so hot, of course, with only 19 points in 66 games this past season. He's hampered by injuries, and therefore not worth the $4.25 million he was going to pull this coming year.
But the possession numbers (a plus-1 percent corsi relative, for instance) say he can still be a positive contributor. He reminds one a lot of Mason Raymond, who was also allowed to walk out of Vancouver and signed a $1 million deal with the Maple Leafs, for whom he put up 45 points and positive relative possession numbers.
Nashville has said they would be willing to part with the No. 11 overall pick in this year's draft in exchange for a top-six forward, and they might not even have to spend that. They might be able to pick Booth up off the scrap heap for basically nothing.
1. The Kings
They won the Cup so I think that counts.
(Not ranked this week: Getting rid of a great.
Bad news the other day, as the San Jose Sharks decided not to bring color man Drew Remenda back for a 14th season in the booth, which is really a shame. He and Randy Hahn comprised probably the best two-man local broadcast team in the entire league, and to see it broken up for any reason, let alone something as nebulous as going in a “different direction” is very disappointing.
He was a former assistant coach who became an analyst, but was never overbearing or over-serious in his analysis, and unlike most local broadcast guys he wasn't a gigantic homer. No word yet on who's going to replace him, but you can bet the new guy isn't going to be as good.)