Sunday, September 2, 2012

Greed, Arrogance and Stupidity aka NHL

I don't pretend to know every issue related to the rift  between the NHL and NHLPA, but I do know this.  The league posted record revenues of 3.3 billion dollars last season, and also signed a ten year, 2 billion dollar TV contract with NBC which should help to keep the interest in the NHL growing outside of the non-traditional markets in Canada and the US, and they have cost certainty in the form of the salary cap which was the core issue of the last lockout.  In addition, HBOs 24/7 is coming off its second successful campaign, another innovative way for the league to expand its footprint, as well as the Winter Classic, a large scale event on New Year's day that also should continue to help the NHL become a more valuable entity in the years to come.  Finally, they closed the largest sponsorship deal in league history with Miller, Coors and Molson, and played to 96% percent capacity during the regular season, and according to Bettman 102% capacity during this year's playoffs.    It would seem to me that you don't need to fix what ain't broke, no?  Did the league not get healthier by leaps and bounds since you returned to play in 2005 under the current CBA?   Yes, you want to limit the term in a contract to 5 or 6 years instead of allowing teams to offer 14 year deals that basically circumvent the spirit of a cap, but two points here.....First, you were the ones who made those OFFERS, so if you cannot treat the LEAGUE as your business versus thirty individual fiefdoms that is your issue, not the players issue, and second, offering deals like the ones offered to Parise, Suter, and Weber this offseason while crying that you are paying players too much was not a stroke of genius in the court of public opinion.  I get that as owners you feel like you get to dictate how much of the pie you want, and in theory you are totally correct.  I owned, built and sold a pretty good sized business over an eight year period, and I also felt that taking the risk, having the idea, and the client contact entitled me to a lot of the pie.  I also KNEW that if I did not give enough of the pie to the people who made the business what it was on a daily basis that my benefits, though greater short term, would suffer long term.  In that vein, nobody is coming to the arena to see your mostly fat, entitled, arrogant asses.  They are coming to see the magic and the moments created by the best and most accessible professional athletes on the planet.  Without them, you don't have ANYTHING. Their skills on the ice, and their grace and dignity off of the ice is your product.  Why not TWEAK the current deal that is working right now to make the NHL relevant outside of the core markets v acting like the greedy, arrogant bastards you are proving to be?  Your statement that your NHL fans are the best and that we will be there either way, though true in some senses, was also another indicator that you are either stupid, arrogant or both.  A guy like me who has his team tattooed on his arm in a full sleeve, an addition filled with memorabilia, and 4 season tickets for work and 4 more for personal use is not likely to disappear over a lockout.  But. guess what?  I will not spend the kind of money I have been spending, my passion has slipped a bit, and my worth financially to the league will not be at the same level after the second lockout in 8 years.  I used to love baseball and have never gone to more than 2 games  in a season since their last labor stoppage. It won't hit me for hockey that hard, but it will have a negative impact on my zeal for the game.   More casual or newer fans may just decide that they will stick with the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, or college sports versus getting into this sport that cannot stay in business for long periods without work stoppages.  For years you were not as relevant in the US as NASCAR, and you want to derail the progress made over the past several years now?     So, while you try to gouge the assets that make your business, a business, you are screwing the players, the fanatical fans who helped get you to where you are today, and the workers who actually depend on these games for income for their family, while you are also  losing some of the newer fans you fought so hard to get over the past eight years.  And don't forget, this time a lot of your top talent will play in the KHL instead of sitting around waiting on you.   What if a handful of well known middle to upper tier Europeans stay?  What if 4 or 5 star players suffer significant injuries while over there?  Seems like a lot to risk when your business has never been healthier.  Social media will make the sour taste left in the mouths of fans spread MUCH faster than the last time around. kind of like a virus.   Again, I dont get why the current CBA with some tweaks to contract term, and some form of discussion relative to revenue sharing and maybe limiting entry level contracts is not a viable option.   I don't pretend to know all of the issues but it would seem to me that asking for a rollback AGAIN, while your business is growing at a record pace, while acting like the fans who create your revenues don't matter that much to you is a bad business move that will come with some significant cost.  Gary Bettman's salary of 8 milllion dollars per year being spread all over is not going to be a plus in the court of public opinion either.  Bettman and owners continue to show that the planet's best game is run by a  GARAGE LEAGUE.  Get your shit together and figure out a way to get on the ice in October.

Since writing this post originally, I found an NHL press release with the following statistics relative to revenues created through concessions and apparel sales in North America.  Consumer Products were up 15%, Jersey sales were up 25%, Lifestyle Apparel sales up 35%, Children's Apparel sales up 14%, Headwear sales were up 41%, NHL store sales were up 27%, sales were up 20%,  and Team Concessions were up 13% across the board.  Again, it is really tough to have much sympathy for the position being taken by the owners in this scenario.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Woman's Take On All Things Hockey:: The Concussion That Saved My Life

A Woman's Take On All Things Hockey:: The Concussion That Saved My Life:      If you follow me on Twitter (@princesss_sass) then I'm sure you've seen me tweet about my brain surgery. Yes, brain surgery. I had the ...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pens in on Doan? Should they be?

Shane Doan is the last of the high profile UFA playes that all of the contenders are trying to woo to their team.  I understand that Phoenix, Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are all very interested and depending upon whose inside information you believe, Doan is interested in all of them too.  I think the Flyers will wind up with Bobby Ryan, making them a long shot to get this deal done too, though they are a creative aggressive team, so you never know.  Let me start by stating what is probably obvious.  I do not have access to any inside informtation that any of you do not via twitter or the internet, so what I write is the OPINION of a rabid fan who does spend tons of time reading about, talking about, and watching hockey for years, but my opinion is not based in knowledge of behind the scenes information.  So to me the opinions I post have to be couched in the "this thought could change based on some unknown under the radar move Ray Shero may be working on."  I did however, call for Neal, Benn or Ericksson for Goligoski shortly before that trade was made.  I digress.  Should the Penguins invest the large dollars AND term for a player who will start this season as a 36 year old with 17 NHL campaigns under his belt?  Rumors swirl that a four year, 30M dollar deal with a 7.5M cap hit are out there for Doan, and if THAT is the case, run screaming from this move.  I have also heard this rumor refuted in other reports.   I personally went into the Doan sweepstakes thinking that if 3 years and 5M to 5.5M per year did not get Doan, the Pens should move on.  I have now adjusted my thinking that the maximum move Pittsburgh should make relative to Doan is a 4 year and 24M dollar deal with a 6M per year cap hit.  Why should the Penguins put that kind of money into a guy who scored 50 points last year, and who will be 40 years old to start the last season of this deal?  First, in today's age, 40 is not as old as it used to be given the nutritional and workout advances made over the past decade.  One only has to look at the Finnish Flash, Gary Roberts, or even Bill Guerin to realize a player could be productive late into his 30's and yes at 40 as well.  Second, though the Penguins don't want to give up the farm for a player so the future of the team continues to remain rosy, THEIR BEST WINDOW TO WIN THE CUP is the next two years, with Malkin and Letang still under contract.  IF Shero believes that adding a guy who has a Roberts/Tocchet like statistics sheet with 1198 games played, 318 goals, 470 assists and more than 1,000 penalty minutes to this team makes it a real favorite to bring home the hardware, do it now, and worry about the last two years of the deal as it comes.  Which leads to the third reason, which is seeing some of the deals made annually and contracts moved, I think Doan will be movable late in the deal if the expected return is then does not fit in with the team's roster at that point.   Fourth, he costs zero assets, so the Penguins who would have a bit more than 3M under the cap to work with could STILL deal for another physical top six winger using Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey, Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot and draft choices to try and get a mid priced winger like Chris Stewart, Rene Bourque, Devon Setoguchi or the like to complete a top nine that would rival any in the league.  Let's assume they get Doan at 6M and can move a top defensive prospect and/or draft pick and Tyler Kennedy to St. Louis for Chris Stewart at 3M and RFA next year.  Your top six is now Crosby, Stewart, Doan, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal, and you drop Dupuist to line three with Cooke and centered by Sutter.  A pretty impressive group, no?  Your top four on defense would be Orpik/Letang, Niskanen/Martin I assume with Despres and Engelland the third pairing to start.  Lovejoy, Reese, Bortuzzo, and Strait as potential 7th men, along with Morrow and Dumoulin, whom I think will get a year of seasoning in Wilkes Barre.  In this scenario, you still have 3M annual under the cap to work with, which once you pro-rate at deadline time, is still a significant amount of money with which to tweak the team for the playoff run.   If you had to move Martin to get Stewart, you could sign a UFA defenseman like Jaroslav Spacek or Scott Hannan as one-two year bridge for your young defensive studs to be NHL ready.  To me, adding a guy like Doan, who is a physical winger, a long time captain of the Phoenix Coyotes with Guerin like character, and an ability to add 50-65 points on a wing with Crosby might be something that Shero should go "out of character" to add while his best window for the silver chalice is still open.  If Doan, and the supplementary move for a Stewart or Bourque enable the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup nobldy  will care that we overpaid for an aging veteran to get that done.  Adding a physical winger who can finish as well as add leadership to this team seems to be wise, since the team has not won a playoff series since it lost its cagy veteran Billy G.   It is also not so big a deal, and such a long TERM to do real damage to the long run success for this hockey team.  Up to 6M for four years, this fan is all in on the Doan sweepstakes!  You?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rick Nash to the Rangers

While we all await the big decision in Nashville that will directly affect the Penguins by potentially adding Shea Weber to the Flyers, Glen Sather jumps in and trades for RW Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a third round pick in next year's draft and a minor league defenseman, sending centers Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, along with top defensive prospect Tim Erixson and next year's number one pick back to Columbus!  The Rangers gave up some pretty good NHL players, with Dubinsky a two time twenty goal scorer, but he struggled mightily last year, and only scored 10 goals and 34 points, though he was a plus 16 player.  He fell into Tortorella's doghouse, and was likely done as a  Ranger anyway.  Artem Anisimov is a young center with some upside, and he added 16 goals and 36 points for New York while playing to a plus 12.  Erixson is the Ranger's top defensive prospect, playing in 18 NHL games last season, adding 2 goals and 2 assists.  Sather wins, as he held firm that he would not give up Michael Del Zotto, Derek Stepan or last year's playoff phenom Chris Krieder in the Nash move.  This move bugs me for the Penguins for a couple of reasons.  First, adding the 6'4"  218  Nash to an already formidable Rangers team who won the Eastern Conference in the regular season, and went to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals is a great addition.  Nash since his second season in 2003-04 has scored 30 or more goals every year on a weak Columbus team, and scored over 40 twice.  Adding him to a top line with Brad Richards, gives the Rangers some real size and skill. He is also a captain, so he will add some leadership qualities to an already tough team that now has a top group of forwards that includes Marian Gaborik who had 41 goals and 76 points last season, Brad Richards, who had 25 goals and 66 points, Ryan Callahan who had 29 goals and 54 points, Derek Stepan who had 17 goals and 51 points, and rookie playoff phenom Chris Kreider who looked like a speedster with solid top six potential in the post season last year.  But that is not the scariest part of the Rangers to me.  The Ranger still have about 13M in cap space to play with, with contracts due to RFA defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman.  Assuming they spend 7.5M to 8M of that sign both players, they will still have 5M to 5.5M to wave at Shane Doan who visited the team this past week and came away impressed. Adding another gritty captain, with the ability to score goals to a team who plays solid defense, has a great goaltender, and an impressive group of forwards would be a tough pill to swallow!  I am hopeful that a deep run in last year's playoffs and the loss of some character guys in Dubinsky, Prust and Fedotenko has taken some toll on a team who has the potential with the addition of Doan to be a very deep and balanced offensive team to go along with a Vezina winning goaltender and solid defense.  The addition of Nash and the potential addition of Weber to Atlantic Divsion rivals surely has to impact our Pittsburgh Penguins in the coming year.  What does Shero have up his sleeve with which to counter?  We will see in the coming days.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shea Weber a Flyer?

To me the most interesting thing to happen in the NHL this summer for the second year in a row was a move made by our divisional rival the Philadelphia Flyers.  If you recall, last summer the Flyers shocked the hockey world by moving their captain Mike Richards along with Jeff Carter out of Philadephia in  two different deals, getting back Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and a pick that became shutdown center Sean Couterier.  Although the end result was that Carter and Richards wound up reunited after LA acquired Carter from Columbus for Jack Johnson, AND won the Stanley Cup together, it was still a good mvoe for the Flyers who wanted to change their identity.  They did so and added a very deep and balanced forward attack with all four of the players they got in return contributing mightily to the Flyers season.   This summer GM Paul Holmgren and owner Ed Snider got bored and decided that they were going to do something not done very often, and make a huge offer to RFA and two time Norris trophy runner up Shea Weber to the tune of 110M over 14 years.  Weber is in my opinion the best all around defenseman in the league. He has size at about 6"4" and 230 lbs, he can score adding 19 goals and 49 assists while playing to a plus 21 and leading Nashville in hits and blocked shots!  The Flyers also put pressure on small market Nashville by structuring the deal in such a way that it is very front loaded with 26M due to Weber in the first year.  The move puts Nashville in a tough spot as they already lost another cornerstone player and lifelong Predator when Ryan Suter decided to join friend Zach Parise in Minnesota. GM Poile is in a bind, as losing Weber and Suter in the same year, along with fan favorite Jordin Tootoo who signed with Detroit could render the Predators an irrelevant franchise  in the short term, after many years of being in the playoff hunt.  The Flyers delivered an intelligent, but tough predicament for Nashville in that if Nashville matches the offer, Weber is a Predator for 14 years or they could trade him AFTER one full season with the team and likely net a big return.   The issue is that Nashville cannot afford to take a blow like that right now after losing Suter, but the small market team also will struggle to afford the front loaded nature of the deal given to Weber.  In return, the Flyers would have to surrender their next four first round draft choices, which will likely be VERY low picks given the quality of the Flyers team. What makes this more intersting though is the Flyers predicament.  They can afford the cash flow aspect of the Weber deal, but his 7.8M cap hit would put the Flyers at the cap limit, with several players from last year unsigned including UFA defenseman Pavel Kubina, RFA defenseman Marc Bourdon, UFA forward Blair Betts, and RFA forwards Jakub Voracek and Tom Sestito.  All are decent players, but Voracek who provided 18 goals and 49 points, as well as a big bodied presence would be a key ingredient for the Flyers to lose, since they already lost Jagr to free agency, and JVR in the trade for Luke Schenn.  Blair Betts is a quality bottom 6 player as well. To complicate matters more for the Flyers, next season Scott Hartnell is a UFA, as is Kimo Timonen, two key components to this Flyers team, and Wayne Simmonds, another big factor, is RFA.  These facts mean that there is still reason for the Flyers and Nashville to possibly work a trade, that could benefit both teams.
The Flyers issues are that Nashville can end this all by matching the offer, and that they have no cap space left to sign other key pieces of their team as the deal stands.  They would have to make other deals involving good players for picks and prospects to round out their roster, and they would lose Voracek, among others, while having no space for next year's key free agents named above.   Also, Nashville who is angered by the move, COULD match the offer, retain Weber for one year, and then either keep him or trade him for a king's ransom most likely.  From Nashville's perspective, losing Weber for 4 late first round picks would be a crushing blow to their credibility, but eating that front loaded contract would deliver a crushing blow to their bottom line.  So what do both teams do?  Well, I am hearing that they are discussing a secondary trade to benefit both teams should Nashville elect not to match the offer.  I am hearing through Hockeyy Insiderr  that the Predators are asking that the Flyers send both Brayden and Luke Schenn to Nashville in return for two of the four first round picks the Predators would get in this transacton.  Brayden Schenn scored 12 goals for the Flyers last season, but is projected to be an impact player who plays with the type of "jam" favored in Philadelphia.  His brother at 6'2" and 220 lbs is a big physical defenseman who can make life miserable for the opposition in front of the net, but who fell out of favor in Toronto and came to the Flyers in return for JVR.   Brayden Schenn is signed for two years at 3.1M and Luke Schenn is signed for four years at 3.6M.  This move would give Nashville back two young players with big time potential and NHL experience to go with two first round picks in losing Weber AND save them long term contract money AND the front loaded 26M in the first year.  The Flyers would have 6.7M in cap space to use on their other players that need to be signed.  I heard that the Flyers do not want to do this and have countered by offering forwards Matt Read and Jakub Voracek (RFA), along with defenseman Andrej Meszaros for two of the four first round picks.  Nashville GM David Poile supposedly denied this deal.  I personally would take this deal if I were Nashville if it is indeed being offered.  RW Matt Read is signed for two more years at an excellent number of 900K, and last year delivered 24 goals, 47 points and played to a plus 13.  He alone replaces all of the lost goals and most of the points lost in the Weber move.  Voracek is a big player at 6'2" and 216 lbs, and the RW delivered 18 goals and 49 assists while playing to a plus 11.  Both players play a gritty game, and combined nearly double the lost points from Weber's departure.  The issue with Voracek is that he is unsigned, and after making 2.25M last year is probably going to cost 4M or so to sign, but the Predators have the room, and would only have 5M into both players and again no front loading.  Add in the 6'2" Andrej Meszsaros on the blue line, and though he won't replace the type of player Weber was, he added 7 goals and 25 total points while playing to a plus 6, and being physical. Meszaros costs 4M per year and is signed for two more years, so Nashville who is 15M under the cap FLOOR and 30M under the cap will spend roughly 9M this year on three players v the 7.8M cap hit, but the huge bonus due to Weber would be saved.   If you are Nashville it hurts to lose a Norris caliber player who was one of the two faces of your franchise, and contributed in every way including 19 goals and 49 points, but you pick up three quality NHL players who added 49 goals and 121 points last season PLUS two first round picks in the process.  Philadelphia gets about 5M in cap relief BEFORE the roughly 4M it would take to sign Voracek and they not only get Weber but they get two first round picks back as well.  Given the situation created by the offer sheet signing, this would seem to be  win-win for both franchises, and Nashville though losing another key player, would actually improve a great deal up front, and Meszaros would be a decent start to rebuilding the blue line. This deal can do nothing to fix the hole left by Suter's departure, but if true, the three players named above and the two first round picks could position Nashville to be a better more balanced team, while the Flyers would still boast the best blue line in the NHL, a quality group of forwards and some cap space created by this trade and the LTIR relief on Pronger's deal to address the holes in the forward group.  The Predators would be left with a lot of cap space to address the hole in their blue line and some new assets to use if a trade would do that for them.  Maybe Poile would team up with the Penguins and deal Voracek to Pittsburgh for Paul Martin, giving both teams something they need?  If the above rumor is true, it will be an interesting three days for NHL fans to see what unfolds here.

Congratulations MAF

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pens and the remaining UFA's

We are about two weeks past the frenzy that marked the beginning of free agency, and the Penguins did not connect with Plan A by signing Zach Parise or Ryan Suter with cap space created by the Staal and Michalek trades.. In the process, some big tough blue liners like Bryan Allen and Jason Garrison went to other teams, and after that Matt Carle signed with Tampa leaving the closet pretty bare for Pittsburgh relative to top two pairing defensemen. As it currently stands, the top 5 blue liners for Pittsburgh are Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, and Deryk Engelland. This leaves two NHL positions open on the blue line with Simon Despres, Dylan Reese, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo top candidates to fill out the remaining spots, with Joe Morrow as a potential long shot to leap from major junior hockey to the NHL or Ben Lovejoy hanging in as a depth guy. I am going to say that Pittsburgh feels that Despres is ready to not only make the leap to the NHL, but may be ready to play top two pairing minutes, and they also think that Bortuzzo and Strait are both ready to play bottom pairing minutes and if they don't make the big club, the Penguins will lose them on waivers as they did with Nick Johnson last season. As I review the above referenced list, very few players really intrigue me as solid additions to the Penguins other than Spacek, whose size, experience and shot might make him a valuable veteran for the right price. Short of Spacek, or a trade that moves some combination of prospects above or Pouliot, Dumoulin, Maatta, Harrington or draft picks, I think the Penguins should give the young guys a shot. The Penguins should keep a close eye on the Shea Weber situation, as the depth of top prospects on the blue line could make Pittsburgh a good dance partner if Nashville feels like they could lose Weber.  I am sure they may have an interest in some of the high end blue line talent Pittsburgh has stockpiled.   As it is, Pittsburgh would need to find a way to move a couple young blue liners just to not lose them on waivers. It might be good to save the cap space, take a look at what we have early int he season, and make a deal if necessary later in the year, if the right chance presents itself. We have a ton of young players on the blue line, let them play unless an impact trade is available or Spacek can be had for a good number.

The forward position creates a different problem for Pittsburgh as there is no organizational depth of NHL ready impact players up front to draw from.  Dustin Jeffrey or Eric Tangradi could be given a shot now, and Beau Bennett next year, but a Stanley Cup contender with the likes of Malkin and Crosby at center would like to have a little more finish on the top six if possible.   Of the remaining available players I like Winnik if he can be had for a good number to add size and grit to the bottom six, but only at a good number, and he does not address the top six issue.   If Pittsburgh could get Doan for two to three years and a decent number, his size, leadership and scoring punch could have the same positive impact on the Penguins as the Guerin deal did for them.  A 20 goal plus guy with experience, character and drive would look on the Penguins and kill two birds with one stone.  He would add the veteran presence and the top six winger with one move.  My concern there is the good chance that he stays in Phoenix or goes to Vancouver v coming east, and the Penguins miss one of a couple of other opportunities to improve their team.  An intriguing chance exists that the Penguins and Alex Semin agree on a one or two year deal to give the enigmatic center the chance to remake his reputation as a soft coach killing player. I am a life long hater of Semin, BUT at the right price and term, it would be tempting to experiment with old softy. One or two years at 5M or so, especially one year would be tempting. He is a true sniper with better on ice statistics from a two way perspective than most know, but I still worry that after being a big regular season point machine that he will do his usual post season disappearing act. An intriguing high risk but but potential high reward move.  Three and four years ago Semin scored 84 and 79 points with 40 and 34 goals respectively.  The past two years his totals fell 30 points to 54 points with 21 and 28 goals resepectively.  He has also been a plus player in all of those seasons.  He suffered a miserable post season this year, and his Crosby commentary may not make him a popular player here, but man, a motivated Semin on our top two lines surely could give Pittsburgh an additional high end weapon for opposing teams to deal with.   Andrei Kostitsyn is the only other forward I like as a possible top six winger for Pittsburgh, but again if the price is right. The Penguins may be better served to use some of their top end blue line prospects and/or draft picks to go after a possible trade. One I mentioned is the Chris Stewart move, sending some high end defensive prospect and a mid round pick or something to get him.   I would love the idea of Bobby Ryan better than most, but Pittsburgh would have to acquire a solid center w ith some of their young defense to send as part of any deal, AND send either Despres or Morrow to Anaheim, and likely a top draft pick to be in the mix for Ryan. A steep price, and complicated, but not impossible. Ryan is signed for 5.1M for three years, and paired with Crosby and Duper, he would likely be a tough, physical 40 goal per year man for Pittsburgh. Our top two lines would be the best in the league as well.  Think of Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Ryan as 5 of your top 6 and try not to drool.  If nothing major comes up, Pittsburgh should save cap space and look at next year's UFA market as a golden opportunity to improve their team.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kind of funny

Okay, maybe not that funny, but amusing enough to share.....also, folks, calm down on the Parise anger.  Yes, he had to have an idea of what and who might pursue  him, but mullling over mega million dollar deals with different locales and term is not something to take lightly.   I have lost some interest now in following it as it hits its third day, but I have no anger. I also have no concerns that the Penguins are missing out on opportunity to improve their team the longer they wait.  The UFA market is a joke and the amount of money and term being tossed around is potentially damaging for a team, so I believe RS is not panicking due to his Plan B being centered around moving parts like Kennedy, Martin, or one of about one thousand blue chip D prospects to tweak his lineup in the top six and or blue should the Parise watch end poorly for Pittsburgh.  There were very few deals signed that made me think "we should have done that."   I really liked Bryan Allen and Jason Garrison for Pittsburgh's blue line, and the Pens might have missed not jumping on Allen, but Garrison as much as I like him got 6 years in term and 4.6M per to go to his hometown Vancouver Canucks,. Gaustad got 4 years at 13M, Hudler 4 years at 16M, Wideman 5 years at 26.25M, PA Parenteau 4 years at 16M, and aging stars Ray Whitney got 2 years at 9M and Jagr 4.55M per year.  YIKES!  If we can sign a role player or lower level veteran defenseman for reasonable cash, then fine, but expect RS to use his defensive prospect depth and Martin to address upgrades for the Penguins should they miss out on Parise Watch.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Penguins Day One of Free Agency



Today was an odd day as a fan of the Penguins, especially with all of the hoopla surrounding the anticipation of the Penguins being in on Parise and Suter.  As I said, I liked the idea of some more mid range signings, particularly on defense.  I would have been thrilled to trade for Bobby Ryan using Anaheim's lack of defense, along with Martin, Despres and other picks or prospects while signing Jason Garrison or Bryan Allen to add size and grit to the Penguins.  With Anaheim signing Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen while losing Brookbank, they still seem light on quality NHL defensemen, and therefore possbily open to moveable Penguins assets in return for Ryan.  The Penguins are out of the mix for both Allen who signed with Florida for 3 years at 9.5M and Jason Garrison who signed with  Vancouver for six years at 27.5M killing my dreams there.  They did however sign Matt Niskanen for two years at an average of 2.3M per year, adding some stability to the blue line, but to me, they need some more size and toughness on the backend.  Some other " Plan B" free agent defensemen such as Greg Zanon and Filip Kuba are off the market as well.   Zanon is a solid shot blocker, and Kuba a big body who can play the point on the power play.  I am disppointed that we did not make any of those moves on defense, frankly.  I like Bryce Salvador amongst the remaining UFA defensemen for what I think the Penguins need, but there has been no word on Pittsburgh making an offer for Salvador.  The Penguins are supposed to be on a short list of teams that are still in the running for Parise, and given the ridiculous overpayment occurring for mid range players, the Penguins may be more likely to trade some younger assets to get the help they need as a team.  In other news, the Penguins lost Arron Asham to the Rangers, and bascially filled his role by signing tough guy Tanner Glass from Winnipeg.  Glass is not the fighter Asham is, but probably a better player.  He was one of the key penalty killers for Winnipeg last season, and one of their hit leaders, placing in the top 10 of the NHL with 246 hits while skating on their third line.  He should be a solid addition to the 4th line of Pittsburgh.  I hear that two teams have offers in to Steve Sullivan, but he is still looking at Pittsburgh as an option, though no offer has been made to date.  Ray Whitney signed a two year deal with Dallas, removing  him from the list of potential targets, and Doan is looking to give Phoenix until July 8th to make a final decision which will effectively remove him from Pittsburgh's list of possibles.  The strangest move to me was signing Steve McIntyre for two more years, along with other AHL players and home town kid Dylan Reese from Upper St. Clair.  Paul Martin is supposedly part of the group of players who is looking to convince Zach Parise to become a Penguin, which leads me to believe that the Penguins are thinking HARD about NOT moving Martin's salary to address other weaknesses.  There is a rumor that Nashville, a team that Martin cannot turn down from his No Movement Clause is very interested, but it seems as if the Parise effort might be tied to Martin's future, and if Parise IS a Penguin, Martin is going nowhere.   I have heard a rumor from a friend who seems to know that Dallas and Pittsburgh are talking trades and Steve Ott, a rugged forward, and Mark Fistric a RFA defenseman who is 6'2" and 233 lbs are mentioned as people of interest for Pittsburgh, while Martin, Kennedy and prospects have been of interest to Dallas.  There are also a couple of bottom six forwards still out there as UFA in Taylor Pyatt at 6'4" and 228 lbs and Daniel Winnik at 6'2" and 210 lbs who might make sense for Pittsburgh as well.  Finally, rumors have it that both Suter and Parise have more than one offer of more than 100M dollars over 10-13 years, and Pittsburgh has not been ruled out in either camp.  For Parise Pittsburgh is among three favorites, and for Suter, they have not been eliminated, but are not considered a favorite either.  I trust in Shero, so I draw no conclusions yet, but Pittsburgh needs to address that blue line in the coming days, as well as add to their top 6 upfront.  I remain hopeful that they will do that tomorrow and in coming days, as the thin market could make guys Paul Martin very valuable as trade bait, especically if Parise is not a Penguins.  In addition to the above referenced Bobby Ryan move the Hockey Writers astutely talk about RW Chris Steward of St. Louis, a 6'2" 24 year old who had scored 28 goals in each of his prior two seasons before being a victim of "fit" under Ken Hitchcock for whom he only scored 15 goals and 15 assists.  He is signed for one more year at 3M, and then is only RFA.  He could flourish being back in an uptempo system like Bylsma's, and he is a big tough player to boot.  Ironicallly, as THW mentioned, the Blues are looking for a veteran defenseman with strong puck moving skills ala Paul Martin.  If the Pens could make that swap, it would add some size, grit, goal scoring, and a guy who is not afraid to drop the mitts to protect his linemates.  I like it!

JULY 1D Francis BouillonMontrealNashvilleRead story ››
JULY 1D Bryan AllenFloridaCarolinaRead story ››
JULY 1F Trevor SmithPittsburghLightningRead story ››
JULY 1F John ScottBuffaloNY RangersRead story ››
JULY 1RW Brad StaubitzAnaheimMontrealRead story ››
JULY 1D Sami SaloTampa BayVancouverRead story ››
JULY 1F Brian McGrattanNashvilleNashville
JULY 1F Paul GaustadNashvilleNashvilleRead story ››
JULY 1G Chris MasonNashvilleWinnipegRead story ››
JULY 1D Jason GarrisonVancouverFloridaRead story ››
JULY 1D Sheldon SourayAnaheimDallasRead story ››
JULY 1F Warren PetersPittsburghMinnesotaRead story ››
JULY 1G Cedric DesjardinsMontrealColoradoRead story ››
JULY 1F Michael BlundenMontrealMontrealRead story ››
JULY 1D Aaron RomeDallasVancouverRead story ››
JULY 1W Jordin TootooDetroitNashvilleRead story ››
JULY 1F Brandon PrustMontrealNY RangersRead story ››
JULY 1C Jay McClementTorontoColoradoRead story ››
JULY 1D Mike KostkaTorontoTampa BayRead story ››
JULY 1F Mikael SamuelssonDetroitFloridaRead story ››
JULY 1D Scott FordSt. LouisNashvilleRead story ››
JULY 1D Taylor ChorneySt. LouisSt. LouisRead story ››
JULY 1G Mike McKennaSt. LouisOttawaRead story ››
JULY 1D Greg ZanonColoradoMinnesotaRead story ››
JULY 1F Matt FrattinTorontoTorontoRead story ››
JULY 1F Ryan HamiltonTorontoTorontoRead story ››
JULY 1G Jussi RynnasTorontoTorontoRead story ››
JULY 1D Dylan ReesePittsburghNY IslandersRead story ››
JULY 1D Adrian AucoinColumbusPhoenixRead story ››
JULY 1F P.A. ParenteauColoradoNY IslandersRead story ››
JULY 1F Alexei PonikarovkyWinnipegNew JerseyRead story ››
JULY 1F George ParrosFloridaAnaheimRead story ››
JULY 1F Micheal HaleyNY RangersNY IslandersRead story ››
JULY 1F Darcy HordichukEdmontonEdmontonRead story ››
JULY 1D Sheldon BrookbankChicagoAnaheimRead story ››
JULY 1F Dustin PennerLos AngelesLos AngelesRead story ››
JULY 1D Matt CarknerNY IslandersOttawaRead story ››
JULY 1G Chad JohnsonPhoenixNY RangersRead story ››
JULY 1F Arron AshamNY RangersPittsburghRead story ››
JULY 1F Guillaume LatendresseOttawaMinnesotaRead story ››
JULY 1F David MossPhoenixCalgaryRead story ››
JULY 1D Filip KubaFloridaOttawaRead story ››
JULY 1F Tanner GlassPittsburghWinnipegRead story ››
JULY 1F Riley HolzapfelPittsburghWinnipegRead story ››
JULY 1G Jeff ZatkoffPittsburghLos AngelesRead story ››
JULY 1F Chris KellyBostonBostonRead story ››
JULY 1G Tuukka RaskBostonBostonRead story ››
JULY 1G Curtis McElhinneyColumbusPhoenixRead story ››
JULY 1F Adam BurishSan JoseDallasRead story ››
JULY 1F Brad BoyesNY IslandersBuffaloRead story ››
JULY 1F Steve MacIntyrePittsburghPittsburghRead story ››
JULY 1F Ray WhitneyDallasPhoenixRead story ››
JULY 1F Torrey MitchellMinnesotaSan JoseRead story ››
JULY 1F Colby ArmstrongMontrealTorontoRead story ››
JULY 1F Brett SutterCarolinaCarolinaRead story ››
JULY 1F Zenon KonopkaMinnesotaOttawaRead story ››
JULY 1G Jonas GustavssonDetroitTorontoRead story ››
JULY 1G Michael LeightonPhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaRead story ››
JULY 1D Mike LundinOttawaMinnesotaRead story ››
JULY 1D Joe CorvoCarolinaBostonRead story ››
JULY 1G Justin PetersCarolinaCarolinaRead story ››
JULY 1F John MitchellColoradoNY RangersRead story ››
JULY 1D Stu BickellNY RangersNY RangersRead story ››
JULY 1F Benoit PouliotTampa BayBostonRead story ››
JULY 1G Yann DanisEdmontonEdmontonRead story

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Malkin fishing pics from Twitter

Have to love the Pensblog Parise fish photoshop!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Other Free Agents Pittsburgh should look at

With free agency looming, and the Penguins having cap space with the movement of Michalek and Staal, along with the ability to move Martin, Pens fans are giddy with the prospects of Pittsburgh being able to get either Ryan Suter or Zach Parise.  Some even think that getting both of them is possible!  Personally, I think both are long shots financially and potentially cap strappers for Pittsburgh.  Suter prefers the western conference, but is a better fit in terms of a real need for Pittsburgh, and Parise will likely command more than 7M dollars.  I have already discussed my preference for the Penguins trading for Bobby Ryan if they can do it with Martin, Kennedy, and some combination of one of their A rated defensive prospects or picks.  He makes them bigger, tougher, and more dangerous, while saving 2-3M per year in cap space over Parise.  If not, there are some more reasonably priced wingers that will upgrade their situation on the wing.  Defense however is their issue, and the Penguins needed to get bigger and tougher on the back end in my opinion, and may need a veteran if they move Martin to help make the transition to their young core of defensemen.  There is another big time name in Alexander Semin who is available as part of the big three names, but I dont think he fits the direction that Pittsburgh is taking.  I prefer some lesser known names for Pittsburgh.

From three big-time names, to a bit more obscure offering. Florida’s Jason Garrison is going to get some serious money in the next week.  I like Garrison due to his size at 6'2" and 218 pounds, and his tough game.  Undrafted out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he signed with Florida after a 14-point campaign in his last year at school. He spent a year and a half in the AHL before Florida called him up full time in 2010-11. In 2012, along with the rest of Florida’s re-tooling, Garrison took off. He can set the table with a nice pass (which he did frequently to Brian Campbell on the power play) or clear it with a booming shot (which he did frequently from Brian Campbell). He pounded home 16 goals and 33 points this season (only Weber and Erik Karlsson had more goals) while being a plus-6.
The kicker is…he’s a defensive defenseman. He’s a rather physical, shot-blocking defensive defenseman that routinely played against the best competition Florida had to face nightly. Garrison paired with Mike Weaver on the Panthers top PK unit and then paired with Campbell on the top power play unit much of the season.  He scored 16 goals last year, and 9 on said power play!  The defense-first d-man might have a hard time approaching 20 goals again, but with his shot, anything is possible. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Garrison to command at least $4 million per year on the open market given how narrow the marketplace is right now for quality defensemen.  If you add his experience playing with elite players in his pairing (Campbell) and his shot blocking (124), hitting (127), TOI which was 23:41, Garrison looks like the guy I would go after.   He would look very good  as a replacement for Paul Martin, and can be had most likely for around what we pay for Martin or a little less.  He is also still young at 27.  I love the idea of a "thumper" on the back end, particularly one who can join the rush and score too.  My personal choice for the Penguins.

Another name of interest to me for Pittsburgh is Carolina UFA Bryan Allen who is a 6'5" 226 pound defenseman who is a solid 31 year old veteran.  His game is not flashy, but he made 2.9 M last year, and would add a tough steady veteran presence to the Pittsburgh blue line.  He was one of the leaders for the Hurricanes last season.  He only added one goal and 13 assists, but played a tough stay at home game with physicality.  In the tough Atlantic Division, Allen would look in Vegas Gold and Black!

Hal Gill is another player who adds a veteran presence and size to a back end that may go younger with the Bortuzzo,Strait, Despres, and Morrow kids pushing for time on the big team.  Gill, at 6'7" and 241 pounds adds size, grit and a steady influence to stay at home for Pittsburgh.  He may look very good on a third pairing, and should come in at around the 2M mark again.  His downside is skating, and age at 37, but he looked good as a shot blocking physical player for Nashville, and he was a big part of the 2009 Stanley Cup run.

Mark Eaton is also a UFA and has ties to Shero at Nashville and also played a solid role in the Stanley Cup run of 2009.  Easton will add no real offense, but he is a steady player with good size at 6'2" and 212 pounds at the age of 35.  He will likely be at 2M or so again this year as well.  If Pittsburgh is looking for a reliable veteran presence without killing the cap, Eaton is not a bad way to go.  I am a big fan of the Penguins adding Jason Garrison or Bryan Allen should they feel that Suter is not in play or not in play for the right money.

As far as wingers go, I highly prefer Bobby Ryan due to size, production, skill and cost.  If he is not available by trade, and Parise will not take a discount to compete for the Cup with Crosby, the Penguins have some other decent options for a lot less money.  Remember, offense was not an issue, grit and defense were.  The first intriguing option is Shane Doan, the 6'1" 223 pounder from Phoenix who might be interested in taking a shot at the Cup.  Phoenix went deep this year, but there are a lot of questions surrounding the team's future.  Doan made 4.55 M last year, and might be willing to take a shot at a Cup run for a 4M or so deal.  He adds leadership, grit, and 20-25 goals to a strong lineup.

Ray Whitney is another winger who has been tied to Pittsburgh for a long time.  Another Coyote, who is now 40 years old had 24 goals and 77 points last season, and may have another year like that in him.  He played for 3M last season, and a Cup run at his age might look attractive.  I think he signs with Phoenix again though.

PA Parenteau of the Islanders is an intriguing option too.  Parenteau has had 18 goals/67 points and 20 goals/53 points in his past two seasons.  He played for a bad Islanders team and only cost 1.25M per year.  He would be an upgrade to the top line, and at 6'0" and 195 pounds he has decent size.  He will be due a raise, but would still fill a solid top six role at a reasonable price.  Allan Walsh his agent has a good relationship with Pittsburgh and he is a solid playmaker, used to playing with quality players like Moulson and Tavares.

Jiri Hudler of the Wings is an intriguing player for Pittsburgh too.  Last year, the 5'10" and 190 lb center had 25 goals and 25 assists for the Wings and played to a plus 10.  He is a competitive, combative forward who has obviously played in many big time situations as a member of the Wings.  At 28 years old, and coming off a 3M per year deal with Detroit, Hudler could be worth a look dependent upon how things unfold.

I have no idea what Pittsburgh will do, and they also have interest in players who are bigger and tougher on the bottom 6 such as Travis Moen who is 6'2" and 215 pounds.  I favor the Penguins adding depth, size and toughness to the team, and like the idea of clearing more cap space by moving Martin, and adding Garrison or Allen as the key defensive acquisition, and either Ryan, or one of above wingers as the key addition to the top six.  I think the Penguins can then add a gritty bottom six forward with size, attitude and a defensive mind set to help Pittsburgh make the deep run to the Cup again.  Remember, with the 1980 Olympic team Herb Brooks proved that winners are not always the biggest collection of the best stars, but often the group that meshes as a team, where roles are defined and followed.  It it is time to let some of the young blue liners come up, but adding some size with Garrison would look great.  Adding Doan or Whitney and Parenteau up front, and a big grinder for the third or fourth line at the expenses of Martin would add to the top goaltending tandem and star power to make a better team than overpaying for more stars will.

Some other interesting free agents include the following for Pittsburgh.  Filip Kuba of Ottawa is an interesting Plan B or C kind of guy.  He is 6'4" and 226 pounds and at 35 years old would be a decent option as a transition player for a year or two for Pittsburgh.  Daniel Winnik at 6'2" an d 210 pounds is an interesting option for a size upgrade on the fourth line of Pittsburgh

Jordan Staal Trade

I am a huge fan of Jordan Staal's.  He was one of my favorite players on the Penguins, a rare combination of size and skill, who was just beginning to get comfortable with the offensive capabilities he possessed.  I had really never imagined a scenario in which the Penguins did not have Staal on the PK, or available to replace Malkin or Crosby if injured.  June 22nd, 2012 changed all of that when Ray Shero was forced to trade Staal when the young cetner iceman turned down a 60 million dollar contract extension over 10 years.  He was headed to the last year of his 4M per year deal, and Shero had two choices.  Hope that Staal's obvious need to get out from under the shadow cast by Malkin and Crosby would not be a distraction, and hope that the three center model would win him another Stanley Cup before Staal, a valuable asset walked away for nothing via free agency.  Lack of a Cup that only one of 30 teams will win would make that a big gamble, and one that Shero decided not to take when he pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Staal to Carolina to unite with his brother Eric in return for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the 8th overall pick in the draft which became Derrick Pouliot.  A lot of my friends texted me and asked if Staal was worth more than that, and did the Penguins make a mistake with this deal.  My emphatic answer despite my feelings about Staal, was NO, the Penguins did not make a mistake.  I will give you a summary of why they did not, and then I will tell you more about each player the Pens got back for back up.  First off, we all know about Staal.  Second overall pick in the 2006 draft, youngest player to score on a penalty shot, youngest to record a hat trick, most short handed goals by a rookie (7), momentum turning goal in 2009 SCF, and 25 goals and 50 point in just 62 games last season.  As I said, Staal is a horse who would be the second line center in  just about any other situation, with definite first line skills on some teams.

So, what did we get back in return for this dynamic player?  As noted above, Brandon Sutter was the centerpiece of the deal that Shero had to have in order to make this happen.  What about this Sutter guy?  Well folks, Brandon Sutter is not chopped liver.  Sutter has played three full NHL seasons, and in those seasons he has put up 21, 14, and 17 goals.  Not Staal's numbers, but not bad at all for a third line center on an average to poor team.  Last year Staal had 50 points in 62 games and Sutter had 32 points in 82 games.  Staal is a superior offensive player at this point in his career.  But think about this when you consider Sutter as his replacement as the third line center for Pittsburgh.  First, he is enough of a leader that he wore the A as assistant captain for the Hurricanes at the ripe old age of 21.  He was also the 11th overall pick in the draft the year he came out.  He is a big player also at 6'3" tall and 185 pounds.  Sutter was a better defensive player than Staal, with the Canes giving up less than 2 goals per 60 minutes of Sutter ice team at even strength, while Pittsburgh gave up 2.83 goals in the same time frame.  Another complicated formula that rated 221 forwards over the past three years on goals against every 20 minutes, and several other factors rated Sutter the 7th best forward of 221 with 2000+ minutes of even strength ice time over the past three years.  SEVENTH of 221.  Staal was ranked 91st in the same poll.  Also, Sutter led the Hurricanes in blocked shots last season with 85, while Adams led Pittsburgh with 45, and Staal had 23 blocked shots.  Sutter had three times the blocked shots than Staal.  Geno led the Penguins in takeaways at 53, while Sutter had nine more than Geno with 61 takeaways.  Sutter was the man the Hurricanes relied on to take big defensive zone draws, with him winning 654 faceoffs or 50.5%, while Staal won about the same at 51%.
As I chewed on the above information, and weighed the postion Shero was in, I marvel at the fact that we got Brandon Sutter as the centerpiece of a deal coming back.  Hey, Staal is the better player, and surely he is better offensively, but Sutter may be the better FIT.  Staal was miscast as a third line center, and would have to play out of position at wing to be in the top six, while Sutter is the perfect complement to Malkin and Crosby.  Sutter also ranked higher in general defense, blocked shots and takeaways than Staal.  Sutter also has not seen the ceiling to his development at the ripe old age of 22 either.  And there are a few more things to consider also.  Sutter will save Pittsburgh about 2M in cap space this year as opposed to Staal and 4-5M next season based on Staal's anticipated contract.  That money along with the other two assets that came back in this trade will go towards Pittsburgh filling other gaps on the team.  Sutter is then only an RFA v UFA, so Pittsburgh will remain in control of keeping Sutter for the long term.  Head to head Carolina got the better player, but Pittsburgh got a better fit at a lower cap hit, AND two other valuable assets in Brian Dumoulin and Derrick Pouliot.  Here is a little bit about those two players.

Brian Dumoulin is a 6'4" and 210 pound two way defenseman drafted in the 2nd round of last year's draft, 51st overall.    He won  the 2009-2010 NCAA championship at Boston College and last year won Best Defenseman in Hockey East, East First Team All-Star, Frozen Four Tournament Team, NCAA First Team All-American.  He was a plus 90 during his Boston College career.  NHL scouts have said, "he's a huge asset to their organization," "he is one of the best college defensement in the country," he is a complete 2 way defenseman with great poise with the puck, strong skating ability, and he's really progressed rapidly due to great coaching."  Finally, some scouts compare the type of game he plays to that of Gary Suter, and many think he will be NHL ready after one season in Wilkes Barre Scranton, in other words for the 2013-14 season.  Dumoulin is a big time player, who has played in big time competition and won.  He is also a very big player.

Derrick Pouliot is a 5'11" and 185 pound offensive defenseman who played for the Portland Winterhawks this past season, and was the 8th pick of this year's draft.  NHL Central Scouting had him ranked as the 12th best North American skater, as did Red Line Report.  The Hockey News had him as the 13th best prospect in this draft.  Pouliot who played on Portland with Penguins prospect Scott Harrington, was a big part of the offensive point production on the blue line for Portland who went to the Finals.  NHL scouts say that "he is an effective puck handler who can carry the puck up the ice."  Further they say that "he is an 18 year old who has a crisp pass and a deceptively powerful shot from the point."  He is also known as a great skater who draws the opponent to him, and is projected to be a top four defenseman with lots of power play potential in this league.  His game is compared to Brian Campbell of the NHL.
In short, if you factor in the fact that Staal's decision to turn down 60M made it obvious Pittsburgh was going to lose him one way or ther other,  with the quality of player Sutter is, the extra cap space, and the value of Domoulin and Pouliot as part of a young defensive corps in a couple of years, or as key pieces in additional trades, Shero made lemonade out of the lemons dealt to him this past June.  Hey, I already noted that I  was and remain a big fan of Staal and his game.  I also generally subscribe to the adage that the team who gets the best player in the trade wins the trade.  The more I chew on this trade, the better I feel about it.  Staal IS better than Sutter overall as a player, BUT Sutter may be better defensively (which the Pens needed most), and he saves a lot of cap space that can be put toward replacing that missing offense or adding more defense.   In addition, Sutter played with Nodl and Dwyer last season, so the combination of third pairings he will see and the upgrade in wingers assuming it is Kennedy and Cooke, you can feel good about Sutter's chances to break 20 goals.  If that is the third line next year, you will pay the ENTIRE LINE what Staal TURNED DOWN to be a Penguins.  Also, you have to factor in the meaning of Pouliot and Dumoulin to this team.  The Penguins now have SEVEN former first or second round picks in their stockpile of young defensemen!   I think their presence opens up options for Shero to move some of that DEEP stockpile of young defensemen to bring back another key asset for Pittsburgh i.e. Goligoski for Neal/Niskanen and Whitney for Kunitz/Tangradi.  I will miss Jordan Staal, but I think Sutter and the other people who join the Pens due to cap space and asset trading will make me feel a lot better before all of the dust settles!