Coverage of the trade frenzy this week proved that hockey journalism has been forever changed for the better (despite the occasional exceptions) thanks to the blogosphere.
When GM George McPhee gets on a conference call and explains in astonishing detail the negotiations between the Washington Capitals and goalie Cristobal Huet, those details are now provided to fans nearly verbatim. You're still not getting that level of reporting from a newspaper.
But thanks to the influence of the Web, the MSM is providing that kind of reporting through its own alternative media, like Rich Hammond's remarkable Inside the Kings blog for the Los Angeles Daily News. He has a word-by-word interview with Rob Blake's agent Pat Brisson that explains why the free-agent defenseman decided to leave the Los Angeles Kings for the San Jose Sharks yesterday, and it's one hell of a read. The money passage, in Brisson's words:
"So finally at 11 or noon, Dean [Lombardi, Kings GM] texts me and he says that it's important that we get this done but we can only get this done when I see what's happening with other things. If it's a cap (maximum) team, I would understand. But when we're talking about a (salary cap) floor team and we're talking about a player who is willing to give his experience and play in that role we're talking about, I need an answer. So, Rob called Dean. He's not a 20-year-old player. He has no problem calling the GM directly. Dean told him, 'We're not prepared to do this right now.' How do you think that makes the asset feel? When I saw (sic) 'asset,' I mean the player. So he looked at the situation and he said, 'Pat, I think it might be time to look at other offers and maybe a team that might want me for another role.'"
We forget so often during this financial insanity that for many of these players -- and certainly players with Blake's mileage -- it all comes down to a sense of being wanted; the comfort that the team you're playing for appreciates your talent and makes you a priority. It may all be boardroom, back-slapping negotiation lip-service; but for a guy like Blake, who played parts of 14 seasons with the Kings, it's all he needs to hear in order to sign on.
Which brings us to Dan Boyle, who could be joining Mr. Blake very shortly.
Boyle's agent George Bazos was given permission to speak with other teams by the Tampa Bay Lightning and told Damian Cristodero of Lightning Strikes today that San Jose is "a place he's very happy to be." So TSN reports that Boyle and defenseman Brad Lukowich to the Sharks for 23-year old defenseman Matt Carle, a first round draft pick, a prospect and a fourth-round pick is just about done.
So in the span of a week we've gone from "Lightning management" telling Bazos that it wants Boyle to stay and Boyle saying he's not going to waive his no-trade clause, to Dan Boyle being thisclose to joining the Sharks. Lord knows the threats of waivers and other sneaky managerial tricks that Bolts threatened probably convinced Boyle to drop his NTC. But in the end, perhaps it's as simple as this: New owners, new coach, and no county for $6.667 million-per-season old defensemen.
As much as Boyle wanted to stay, he wasn't going to stay where he's not wanted.
From a Tampa perspective, shedding Boyle's salary was a must after the spending spree of the summer. But he was the only stud on the blueline for this team, and his departure will create even more questions about the collection of warm bodies separating the Bolts' all-star cast at forward and their already questionable goaltending. (Kolzig? Really?)
But the return is strong: A couple of picks and Carle, who still has a world of potential that's yet to be fulfilled. (And since no Oren Koules move can be made without some oddity, what to make of the David Carle draft-day saga now?)
From a San Jose perspective, the signing of Blake is being hailed as a move that made the Sharks Stanley Cup contenders again. PJ Swenson said he's the team's first true power-play quarterback. We Bleed Teal is bowing down to a right-handed shot coming to San Jose.
Adding Boyle, the Sharks have the best defensive unit (on paper) the franchise has ever had; yes, even better than the solid group that helped San Jose to the conference finals in 2004. To be able to say that with Brian Campbell out in Chicago is a rather startling thing.
So everyone wins here (outside of maybe the Kings). Tampa cuts salary, San Jose salvages its off-season, and Blake and Boyle find a team that appreciates them.