Sunday, July 31, 2005

Zubov Heading Back to Dallas

Sergei Zubov resigned with Dallas for $12 million over three years, a day before he was to become an unrestricted free agent. Zubov will always have a special place in my heart for how well he played during the Rangers Cup run of 1994, and he has been a very solid blueliner ever since. I was thinking he would go for around $3.5 million, so the Stars did not overpay much by bringing him back for $4 mil.

Even though we will probably not be in store for too much action tomorrow, once the free agent signings really get rolling I will not be putting them in a player per post like this. If I did, the blog would just be overflowing.

Player Page for Zubov.

Thornton and Samsonov Qualified

The Bruins extended qualifying offers to Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov and eleven other players just a few hours before the deadline. Why did the Bruins give Thornton a qualifying offer when they just offered him a five year contract a few days ago?

Here's how it works. Joe Thornton did not accept the five-year deal, but the Bruins want him back. So they give him a qualifying offer. Thornton does not have to accept this, but if he tries to sign with another team, the Bruins have the right to match the offer. If they do not, they get compensation, in the form of draft picks.

What does this all mean in practical terms? It looks like Joe Thornton will be heading back to the Bruins for another year. They will not let him get away unless some team offers him $7+ million, which they won't. He will have one last year in Boston and then will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Looks Like It's OLN/Comcast

The Boston Globe is reporting that the NHL and Comcast have agreed to terms on a cable package. The OLN will be revamped into a sports network to take on ESPN.

The first piece of the puzzle to achieve all-sports legitimacy would be to acquire the NHL's national rights. Indications are that such a deal is in place and waiting to be announced this week, once the NHL finishes anointing Sidney Crosby as its savior during this weekend's draft festivities in Ottawa.


I have been against OLN from the beginning, because I don't even know what channel it is on my TV. In addition, it is in a lot less households than ESPN, TNT and Spike. But, if OLN revamps itself from just the Tour de France to a true competitor to ESPN, that will be great. I don't think ESPN is as bad as some other writers do, but it has become a competition network instead of a sports network. Eating is not a sport. Period. End of discussion.

If OLN gives the NHL top billing and shows a lot of games, that would be great. I'm not excited about this deal but I feel I might have been too quick to judge OLN. (In my defense, I did not realize Comcast would be revamping OLN into an ESPN competitor.) If Comcast does this right, it could be great for the NHL. I just hope people remember what number channel the games are on.

Thanks to HockeyCountry for the heads up. And I have to link to BoltsMag, as John originally said that Comcast was the dark horse when I was writing them off.

Five Favorite (Live) Games of All-Time

It is the day before free agency starts and also my birthday, so I thought it would be a nice time to post about the five greatest games I've attended.

5. USA v. Canada - Bell Centre - Montreal, CA - August 31, 2004: Last year I drove up from New York City to Montreal to see two World Cup games. The World Cup is such an exciting event because it is the best players in the world and it is solely devoted to our favorite sport. The game was a low scoring affair, but it was so fast. I sat on the end where Canada shot twice, resulting in lots of action because Esche was getting pounded (but looking brilliant), and finished the game with 30 saves. I wore my blue USA jersey (which I absolutely love) to the game which meant plenty of ribbing from the Canadian faithful, but that made the game even more fun. I also got to stand and watch Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie do the pre-game show outside, which was pretty cool.

4. Wild v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - February 4, 2004: Why is #4 a meaningless regular season game between the Wild and the Rangers? On February 4, Mike Richter became the third Ranger to have his number retired. The game was boring except for a sweet goal by Gaborik but the festivities were something to remember. Richter is such a classy guy and the Rangers brought back old favorites such as Adam Graves for the event. When they showed highlights of Richter and his penalty shot save against Bure in the finals, the crowd went nuts. I still have the giveaways from that night, including a mini-Richter banner.

3. Penguins v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - April 18, 1999: Gretzky's last game ever played. I don't remember much about this one, even though the two games below this were five years earlier. I do remember there being a buzz in the Garden, as everyone knew they were seeing history. As Gretzky notched his last assist ever as the greatest player to ever live, it was exciting yet sad. My biggest regret as a baseball fan is that I did not get to see Sandy Koufax pitch and it's sad that when I have kids, I am going to need to describe them what Gretzky was like and how he dominated the sport. They will never get to see him live and that was the saddest part about that game. It was a fitting end when Jagr, another amazing hockey player (and my favorite at the time) scored to end the game. Every player (on both teams) shook Gretzky's hand after Jagr's goal. You just don't see that in other sports. No one wanted to leave the arena. Gretzky just kept skating around waving, but no one could stop cheering and go home. No one wanted to make that game a memory.

2. Devils v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - May 27, 1994: Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was heart breaking and then crazy. The Rangers took the lead on a first period goal by none other than Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch. And that was it. That was the scoring. The crowd was going crazy. We all thought we were heading to the finals. And then with 7.7 seconds left, the Devils tied it. I had never heard someplace so loud get so quiet in my life. Everyone was stunned. It was a 1-0 game until 7.7 seconds left and then the Devils had to score. We hated the Devils. I remember Richter being so mad (because the puck was sort of under his pad and the Devils jammed it in from under the pad, and Richter wanted a whistle) that he skated right up to the ref and pinned him against the boards, arguing in his face. He looked like Lou Pinella he was so going nuts. Twenty minutes of overtime passed. I had never been to a double OT game before. What is incredible is that game was actually the third double OT game of the series. Not just third OT, third double OT in a seven game series. When Matteau came behind the net to slip the puck by the miniscule amount of room between Brodeur's pad and the post, the Garden went crazy. 54 years of no Stanley Cup and the Rangers were back in the Finals. I'm getting chills just writing this post. Oh, and you have to check out this small audio clip of Howie Rose announcing the last ten seconds of the game, it's the most famous radio call in Ranger history.

1. Canucks v. Rangers - Madison Square Garden - New York, NY - June 14, 1994: I was at the game when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup, so it has to go here at #1. There was an excitement in the Garden during that playoff run and that game. Something I have not seen replicated since then: When John Amarante was doing the national anthem (like he did every game), you could not hear a word. From the very beginning to the very end, fans were yelling at the top of their lungs so you could not hear a word. When I see the game on Rangers Classics, even on TV you cannot hear a word of the national anthem. It was that loud. "We Want the Cup!" was a popular chant that year. And when they finally won, people started screaming "Nineteen-Forty!" because that is what Islanders fans used to always taunt us with. It was incredible. Leetch won the Conn Smythe, which he deserved. It was, the most memorable game I have ever been too. I remember walking with my father outside after (he was with me at Game #2 on this list as well) and fans were in the streets going crazy, but in a good way. The nice part about that celebration is the NYPD reported the next day that not one single crime happened that night related to the Rangers. (The same could not be said about Vancouver.) What a night.

Anyway, I hope you had as much fun reading my top 5 as I did writing it. I'd like to dedicate this post to my father who is not with us anymore. Thank you for being a good dad and having season tickets to the Rangers and taking me to every single home playoff game in 1994 (and two road ones as well). I love the time we spent together enjoying this great sport.

Also, if any bloggers want to do a list of their own, post it on your site and I'll put a link to it. And readers, please post in the comments your favorite games of all-time that you have attended.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Price to Montreal

Habs fans are furious over this pick. Even the guys on TSN, who are trying to be nice, are calling this a bad pick. Here are Carey Price's numbers.

Columbus took who Montreal should have: Gilbert Brule. They must be excited that he fell into their laps.

Draft Info

James Mirtle has put together a great compilation of draft previews and information over at his blog. I highly suggest you check it out.

What is Rebuilding?

With the NHL draft just a few hours away, I thought I would fire off a quick post on rebuilding. As we all know, teams rebuild when they do not have the talent to make a serious run at the playoffs. They just know it's not going to happen and they build a core of inexpensive youth so that when the time comes, they can add a key player and be a competitive team. During the rebuilding process, the team's record is not supposed to matter.

But is there room for serious rebuilding in the NHL anymore? And should there be? And if a team rebuilds, what definition of rebuilding should they use?

I think the philosophy that a team should not spend a lot of money, just stock tons of youth and hope they don't embarrass themselves is something no team needs to do under this CBA. Why? Because a rookie is now making $450,000 and Sandis Ozolinsh, a quality player, just signed for a little over $2 million. Because when this is all said and done, when this crazy offseason is over, quality players will be had for an inexpensive price tag. And for a team that has the financial resources to spend $30 million, is it really too much to say, "We want to build a young core of inexpensive youth so that when we can make a serious run for the Cup we are in great position, but let's have a solid four, five or six players, veterans that can win and put the puck in the net." If you have a young core that is not much on their own, but surround them with a few veterans making a couple million bucks a piece (and maybe one guy making $4 million) then you are putting yourself in a position to win, while still giving half the team a chance to learn and grow at the NHL level.

I am a New York Ranger fan and the talk around town is throwing away this season, and I believe that is completely unacceptable. The Rangers can spend money and with so many FA's on the market, why not get a couple very good players to complement Jagr, add a veteran D-man for not too much money and let the youth grow. At the worst, the young guys learn something and get better. At the best, everything clicks and they make a serious run at a playoff spot.

Today, the New York Daily News is reporting that Naslund and Forsberg both want to come to Broadway. Now, you can talk about rebuilding all you want, bus assuming these guys don't ask for a ridiculous amount of money, can you really say no to that kind of talent? Of course not.

Some say that next year's free agent class is so good that teams need to be in a good cap position then, and that means not signing big players. I agree, there are going to be some excellent free agents out there. But there are some great FA's this year too, and there is a ton of depth on the free agent market. Also, teams can front load a contract. If they want to sign a player for $3 million a year over two years, they can pay him $5 million this year and $1 million next year. If the team isn't going to spend the cap this year, it leaves them an extra $2 million in cap room for next season.

This is relevant for a lot of teams. Rebuilding is good. Young core is good. Throwing away the season should not be an option in this new NHL.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Nolan, Holik and Ozolinsh

Things continue to heat up between Owen Nolan and the Maple Leafs. The Leafs have actually decided not to buy him out. They believe his injury is not hockey related and therefore owe him nothing.

As far as the Leafs are concerned, the knee injury that led to Nolan's surgery earlier this week was not a hockey-related one and so the option Nolan had for another season on his contract is void. They believe, and they reportedly have the backing of the NHL, that Nolan has no right to exercise the option for $5.6 million (all figures U.S.) in 2005-06. According to several sources, the Leafs believe they are off the hook for the contract and are prepared to allow Nolan to become an unrestricted free agent Monday without buying him out for the two-thirds of this season's salary.


I'm sure Nolan and the NHLPA will have something to say about that.

In other news, Bobby Holik was bought out by the Rangers today, as everyone predicted.

Sandis Ozolinsh is heading back to the Ducks, with GM Brian Burke giving the defenseman a two year deal. It's reported he signed for a little over $2 million a season. That is a good deal for both parties involved. If he stays healthy, the Ducks paid a reasonable amount for a perennial all-star. On the other hand, Ozolinsh got some decent change considering he is coming off an injury plagued season.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Eastern Conference Notes

I planned on getting a story from every team in the NHL tonight and putting it up in a giant post, but it's getting late here on the east and I'm tired. So here is a recap of what's going on in the Eastern Conference, and I will try to get to the Western Conference tomorrow afternoon.

Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers declined the option on Shawn McEachern.

Boston Bruins: The big question is, “What is going to happen with Joe Thornton?” The Bruins offered him a five year, $25 million contract and he has stated that he is unhappy with this. The conventional wisdom seems to be Joe will sign a one year qualifying offer with the Bruins and swing for the fences next year. I still don’t believe he will be able to get over $6 million on the open market next year. That is a ton of money in the new salary cap environment.

Buffalo Sabres: Miroslav Satan, a restricted free agent, will not be signed by the team for next season.

Carolina Hurricanes: Nothing is going on. Seriously.

Florida Panthers: It looks like the Panthers are going to go after some major free agents, as they plan spending $30 million this season. Big D-man Mathieu Biron was placed on waivers and will be bought out.

Montreal Canadiens: Jose Theodore was given a $4.6 million qualifying offer to stay in Montreal. He will not command that kind of money on the open market. The Habs were required to offer him that much and while it is a bit overpaying for Theodore’s skills, he has been very solid in net.

New Jersey Devils: Patrick Elias, Jeff Friesen and Scott Gomez were given qualifying offers. Devils fans think Friesen will excel without the red line. Elias is injured and will not ready in November, at the absolute earliest. He had this to say, “With my health issue, Lou [Lamoriello, Devils GM] could've waited," Elias told the Star-Ledger. "Lou didn't have to do that at all. I appreciate it.”

New York Islanders: The Isles have said they want to spend in the mid $30 million range, but their team looks to be very similar to the 2003-2004 team, and that is not a good thing. The Isles need to bring in a couple quick FA’s up front to be more competitive.

New York Rangers: The Rangers signed Michigan goaltender Al Montoya and he will probably split time in the AHL with Ranger prospect Henrik Lundqvist.

Ottawa Senators: It was originally reported that Dominik Hasek’s option was picked up for $2.28 million, but it is actually $1.52 million. That is a great deal for the Sens. Also, Hasek is due some major bonuses if the Senators win the Cup, but those bonuses will not count against the cap. These kind of bonuses (and not counting against the Cap) will not be possible in the future, but things have to be grandfathered in with the new CBA.

Philadelphia Flyers: Mike Modano has said he would be open to going to Philadelphia, since he loved playing under Ken Hitchcock. The Flyers have depth down the middle but no one is going to turn down Modano for the right price. He is a competitor, a solid center with one bad year last season, and did very well under Hitchcock.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens have sold over 3,500 season ticket plans in the past week. I wonder who caused that?

Tampa Bay Lightning: Goalie prospect Gerald Coleman was signed to a three year deal.

Toronto Maple Leafs: It seemed Brian Leetch wanted to stay in Toronto, but now it looks like he will be heading out and possibly back to New York.

Washington Capitals: Time was running out for the Caps to sign 2003 first rounder Eric Fehr. So they signed him today to a three year deal.

Who is Jack Johnson?

One of my favorite players of all-time is long time Ranger and great American defenseman Brian Leetch. While a different type of player, Jack Johnson hopes to replicate Leetch's success in the NHL. There has not been much talk about Johnson, which is why I'm glad to see Scott Burnside's piece on ESPN today on the young D-man.

But within the great shadow cast by the Canadian phenom, there are players whose NHL futures are every bit as rosy as Crosby's. One of them is American defenseman Jack Johnson, who has been a close friend of Crosby's since the two were young high schoolers in Minnesota and who has been visiting Crosby in his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, leading up to the draft.

Do the two of them get recognized when they're at the local Tim Hortons coffee shop?

Johnson laughs.

"Everywhere we go, stopping in at Tim's to get a coffee, someone's always stopping him to ask for his autograph," he said. "I'm just the guy next to him."

Check it out if you want to learn more about the young man who should go #2 overall on Saturday.

26 Hours of Buyouts To Go

Buyouts will end at 5PM EST tomorrow and we have barely seen any players given a big check and sent on their way. There are two reasons for this. As I previously mentioned, there is no need for teams to give other teams an advantage by knowing what other unrestricted free agents will be on the market. Buying out someone at the last possible second does no harm to the team getting rid of the player. Also, there just will not be many buyouts. Most GM's and owners feel that buying out a player is a waste of money.

But as a sign to everyone that there will be more buyouts, the Rangers have not even bought out Bobby Holik yet, a transaction that is a near certainty. So I do think we will see at least a little activity tomorrow.

I'm excited for Monday, when we will start to see teams fill out their rosters by signing restricted and unrestricted free agents. Where will Naslund, Forsberg, Kariya, Demitra, Kovy, Niedermayer go?

Until then, there just isn't as much news as I had hoped for. There are a few signings here, a few contract offers there, but nothing major or sustained. And no, I don't consider Goodenow stepping down as big of a deal as everyone else. The leadership of the NHLPA will matter in four years. Until then, I just want to see hockey.

NHL Going Back to Four Divisions?

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the NHL is considering a return to four divisions, and teams would have to play teams within the division for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"When I first brought it up to [Commissioner Gary Bettman] he assured me it would be addressed after the collective bargaining agreement was done," the Hawks' senior vice president said at a Monday news conference announcing broad league and team changes.

A league spokesman declined comment on any potential changes to the playoff format, but word around the league is the change could happen as early as next season.


I just don't know enough about this yet to have an opinion on the matter. My biggest question is this: Would it leave any room in the schedule to play teams from the other conference? Also, this schedule would be unbalanced because two divisions would have eight teams and two divisions seven teams. How will that affect scheduling?

Thanks to Kukla's Korner (with a K) for the link.

Also, make sure to check out Off Wing's excellent Rink Notes post from yesterday. And Bob McKenzie points out how the Flyers took a hard-line stance with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, saving some serious money, setting a precedent and putting themselves in great cap position.

And did anyone else notice in the schedule that the Wings-Hawks play each other three games in a row? That's just weird.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blues Qualify Pronger

TSN is reporting that the St. Louis Blues have given a qualifying offer to Chris Pronger. Now, Pronger is an excellent player that every team should want. But the Blues simply do not have any room for this. There is no way they can be competitive with Pronger, Tkachuk and Weight. They have also publicly stated that they will only spend around $30 million.

Now, this does not mean Pronger is going to the Blues. But it does mean that they have the right to match any offer he is given.

Here is an excellent post by Jes Golbez on the future of the Blues.

Jagr Must Play in NHL. Bruins Make Offers

Yesterday I posted that Ranger winger Jaromir Jagr told the papers he was torn between staying in Russia and returning to the NHL. It looks like he will not have any choice in the matter.

However, under the terms of the transfer agreement between the NHL and International Ice Hockey Federation that governs the movement of players, Jagr simply cannot play for any pro team other than the Rangers for the duration of his contract, which runs through the 2007-08 season.

Now us Ranger fans need to hope that Jagr does not get cranky because he has to return to New York.

In other news, the Bruins made offers today to Thornton, Gonchar, Samsonov, Axelsson and Lapointe. Thornton was offered a five year deal. Now, I believe Joe is a first line center on any team in the league and the Bruins need him back. But despite his just turning 26, I think a team locking themselves into a five year deal right off the bat with this new CBA is foolish. Having said that, Thornton through his prime will help the club tremendously.

Furthur Reading: Player Pages for Thornton, Gonchar, Samsonov, Axelsson, Lapointe, and Jagr

Update (10:52PM) - TSN is reporting that the offer for Joe Thornton is "around" $25 million for five years. Thornton is not happy with the offer, though I don't think it's that bad. $5 million is a lot of money, it allows the Bruins to get other good players, and very few players can and should command $6+ million. If Joe went to the Rangers next year, they would probably pay him that kind of money.

Bill Wirtz and The Chicago Blackhawks

Now that the NHL has resolved the lockout and changed the rules, Gary Bettman and the owners in the league must deal with the biggest problem left in hockey: Bill Wirtz. Wirtz is the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, an original 6 franchise that should be in danger of being relocated. Wirtz will never let them leave Chicago, but he does not care about the fans and is killing the sport of hockey in one of the biggest markets in the United States.

How would you like it if you could not see half of your team's games on television? If every time your team was at home, you had to listen on the radio, go to a bar, or get NHL Center Ice and hope that the other team's broadcast was on that night? That is a reality for fans in Chicago. Bill Wirtz does not care about the fans and believes (or says he believes) that by putting the team on TV, fans will have less incentive to come down to the arena. Well, it looks like Bill's line of reasoning is incorrect. The Hawks were 27th in home attendance last season, averaging only 13,253 fans a game.

This great franchise that has retired the numbers of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito is dying because of Bill Wirtz. It's hard to watch them on television, no one is coming down to the stadium, and with the Bulls being good again, the Hawks are just not part of the Chicago mind set anymore during the winter months. I read hockey forums and on them, the Blackhawks section is probably the most quiet out of any section. The Hawks fans that love the team are loyal, but Wirtz has just alienated too many people.

Hawks fans hate Wirtz with a passion, and they have every reason too. Gary Bettman and the other owners need to do something to force the Blackhawks onto television for every game this season. The NHL is back, and if they want to make money again and bring back fans, they need to revive the great sports market of Chicago.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lunch Time Roundup

The St. Louis Blues will not be buying out any players this off season. Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk were buyout candidates because they will be making $13.5 million between the two of them. They now have 13 players signed for $24.1 million, which does not include Pronger. With the Blues saying they will only be spending around $30 million, Pronger will have to go. I don't see how the Blues can repeat their success from last year.

The Washington Capitals will not spend more than $25 million this year. They are going to have a rough year, though in fairness to the Caps, they still have a little money to get a good free agent or two. But is that enough to solve their problems? I don't think so. If the Caps spent $30-$32 million, they could ice a very good team. But with less than $25 million and a lot of money tied up in Kolzig, it's not going to happen for them this year.

It looks like Scott Niedermayer will test the free agent market and expects to receive close to the max salary of $7.8 million. He has expressed a willingness to play in Vancouver. I don't think the Canucks have the cap room to afford him, but he is an excellent player. If a team has the room they should go after Niedermayer, they should. He is the best D-man in the league; but in the new financial environment, I think $7.8 million is too much on one player.

Jagr Might Stay in Russia

The New York Times is reporting that Jagr is unhappy and considering staying in Russia.

`It's complicated. I want to hear the opinions of both clubs. It should be solved within three weeks,'' Jagr told the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes adding money was not the main factor in making a decision.

``My heart is pulling me toward Omsk but reason is making me lean toward (New York) ... I really liked it in both places.''

With Jagr, the Rangers need more offensive talent and someone else who can put the puck in the net. Without Jagr, the team is barren of playmakers. If he stays in Russia, expect Sather to heavily pursue a couple of big name players such as Naslund or Forsberg.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Tom Benjamin's Negativity

Tom Benjamin over at Canucks Corner is a great blogger who is very popular. This post is not to say that I don't enjoy reading his blog. But he has two negative posts today that I feel the need to respond to. The first is on the shootout.

You are Oilers coach Craig Mactavish, tied playing in Philadelphia with 15 minutes left in the 3rd period. A win in regulation is worth 2 points, a loss zero. A tie at the end of regulation is worth 1.5 points, because half the time you'll get 1 point, and half the time you'll get 2.

Under the previous system, you could assign a value to Tie At End Of Regulation as about 1.2 - 40% or so of OT games ended with a goal, and you could expect that to be your team's goal about half the time.

The new system makes "surviving regulation time" that much more lucrative - instead of winning the 2nd point about one in five times, now you'll win it about one in two times.

Note: This is actually quoting Matt Fenwick's blog but Tom responds to this quote and this is the most interesting part of the post.

I find two problems with this line of thinking. First, it will not be a 50-50 chance for every team to win the shootout. Some teams will be better at shootouts and their opponents will try to avoid overtime. Second, we don't know what the NHL will look like with the new rules. I think more scoring will lead to less ties and we don't know how well teams will be able to play defensively to get into OT.

Without the two line pass and (hopefully) a lot less obstruction, the trap will be harder to implement. If teams drop back too much to cover the long pass, the opposing teams will be able to gain a lot more steam through the neutral zone and can break in for a scoring chance. This is different than in the old NHL because teams will not be able to slow down fast moving players through the zone as easily. Also (and this is a very big deal) teams will not be able to make a line change after they ice the puck. So if a team is just playing for the tie and are trying to escape an attack in their zone, they can't fire the puck down and get fresh legs on the ice.

I think with the new rules teams will need to have a good offense to hold a lead. According to JD, the NHL is actually serious this time about cracking down obstruction and without the clutch and grab, big pads and being able to change after an icing, the only way to keep a team out of your zone will be to put pressure on them.

I would like to add that Matt writes this after talking about the increased incentive to get into OT:

As I noted, I don't like to be a complainer, so I have a proposed solution.

The NHL has decided that they don't care if every game is worth the same number of points (e.g. 2). So instead of making OT/SO games 3-point games, make them 1-point games.

This is a new and interesting twist on things, and it's not one that I agree with, but thinking outside of the box is always good. I am still in the camp that if you play 60 minutes of hockey and are tied, you deserve a point. I think a 3 points for a regulation victory, 2 points for an OT/shootout victory, 1 point for an OT/shootout loss is a good system and one the NHL will consider in the future. The NHL has made a ton of changes: we should give it a year to see how it all plays out. I might be wrong and Tom/Matt might be right, but with so many changes, we can give it a little time.

I said Tom made two negative posts and I spent all this time on shootouts and overtime. The second post is about restricted free agents and compensation. Here is what Tom writes:

I never thought draft picks were worth anywhere near what conventional wisdom says they were worth under the old CBA, and I don't think they are worth squat in Gary Bettman's hockey league. I am certainly willing to spend all my draft picks on restricted free agents.

Would someone explain the draft hype around Sidney Crosby? In three years, he can be had for a whack of money and four first round picks. The Penguins got Sidney Crosby for three years. Then they get the right to match the salary any other team is prepared to pay him for four years. Then he is an unrestricted free agent. Pittsburgh won the lottery. Big fricking deal.

It's a good thing most fans claim they cheer for the laundry because that's about all we can expect to see staying constant from year to year. Why don't they just let the general managers draft a roster every year? Call it the Gary Bettman Rotissiere Hockey league.


Well it is a big deal. Draft picks might not be the holy grail but they are still important. If a team does not develop young players that can contribute, they will end up like my New York Rangers. (Note: The Rangers actually have a pretty good system, but in recent years they used too many bought players and not enough of a home-grown core. That is going to change now.)

First, regarding the Penguins, they will match anything a team offers Crosby, even if it drives their payroll up a million dollars more than they would like. Second, players can sign deals with clubs and not let other teams bid on their services. (Some players do want to stay where they are)

Third, in a salary cap environment, teams cannot just offer huge contracts to RFA's for the fun of it. If the team matches that offer, then great, you hamstrung your opponent just a little bit. But if they don't, you get stuck footing the bill and making your team worse. You overpaid for a star meaning you have less to spend on the rest of the team AND you lose several draft picks. Draft picks build a farm system and a young core of players. Teams can go after some RFA's but they might end up where they barely have any picks left and/or they inflated the market value for players, making their team worse in the long haul. In a salary cap environment, not overspending on a RFA is even more important, not less important.

I wasn't even going to respond to the shootout post, but when Tom said that drafting Crosby is no big deal, I had to write something. Note: I want to remind my readers that Tom and Matt have good blogs that I enjoy reading, but Tom seems very negative about the new NHL. Hockey is back after a whole year off and people are complaining already, before they even get a chance to see how it will all play out. I truly believe things are looking better than ever for the NHL.

And please, leave a comment if you agree/disagree. I love to hear the other side of an argument.

Schedule Wednesday at Noon

From the NHL's website:
The 2005-2006 NHL Schedule will be released exclusively on NHL.com at Noon ET, Wednesday July 27. Check back then!

Guess what I previously reported (from the Hockey News) was incorrect.

Coyotes Round Up: Savage Gone, Pang In

Brian Savage has been bought out by the Coyotes. Last year he had 32 points in 74 games and a -8.

Darren Pang is leaving ESPN to do color commentary for the Coyotes.

The Coyotes will not be hosting the All-Star game this year because of the Olympics, but they are looking to secure the '09 game.

Burke: Expect Few Buyouts

Most people including myself have been looking at buyouts in terms of the salary cap. But there is something we have not looked at close enough: cash. That is why Ducks GM Brian Burke says:

"That is not a prudent use of our season-ticket holders' money," Ducks general manager Brian Burke said. "From talking to other managers, I think you will only see a handful of buyouts (league-wide)."

That came one paragraph after this:
Even with the across- the-board, 24 percent reduction in existing contracts mandated by the new CBA, the Mighty Ducks are on the hook to pay center Sergei Fedorov $6.08 million, goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere $3.99 million, right wing Petr Sykora $3.116 million, and center Steve Rucchin and defenseman Keith Carney more than $2 million apiece in 2005-06. None should expect to be bought out.

That would be a lot of money for the Ducks to spend to free up cap space. I continue to think there will be a number of buyouts, but probably less than I originally predicted. The free agency period will still be very exciting.

Source: San Jose Mercury News (Registration Required, which is annoying. There isn't anything else good in that article anyway.)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bringing Crosby Expectations Back to Earth

James Mirtle has a good post over at his blog about keeping our expectations realistic for Sidney Crosby.

At 5-foot-11, Crosby's not going to overpower any of the defensemen in the NHL. Granted, his speed, athleticism and the physical power of his lower body will do wonders as a rookie, but keep in mind that he's not Eric Lindros, a behemoth who can push his way into scoring position.

I'm hyped about this kid too but James is right; if we start expecting 100 point seasons at 18, we are only setting ourselves up to be disappointed.

Silence, Rumors and Scarlett Johansson

So the buyout period began on Saturday and we've had one measly piece of news: Tony Amonte and John LeClair were bought out by the Flyers. It's almost 5PM here on the east coast and I am assuming there will be no more news today. So teams will have only five days to do all these buyouts. Where is all the activity?

Waiting for Monday morning, at the earliest. A couple of teams have scheduled press conferences for early this week and they will probably make their announcements then. I think teams don't want to jump the gun. Most teams probably already know who they are going to buy out; and the earlier they announce it, the more time it gives their competitors to analyze what they want to do. Waiting until 4:50 on Friday is fine for some of these GM's: it doesn't make a difference to them when everyone finds out about their buyouts, as long as they know what their cap situation is looking like.

Since it has been so quiet this weekend, rumors are floating about. One second, Joe Thornton's agent is looking for him to get out of Boston, the next it looks like Joe will be getting a big paycheck and staying. Then there is the rumor that Belfour is leaving Toronto and signing with the Canucks. I would not put any weight into any of these rumors. In fact, I hate reporting rumors, but I just wanted to point out what silence leads to. I can't wait for actual deals to happen.

I've seen three movies over the past two weekends: Wedding Crashers, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Island. All good in their own right. Wedding Crashers was hilarious, Charlie was weird but pretty good, and The Island had a disappointing ending but was a very entertaining movie. And Scarlett Johansson is nice on the eyes.

If you have seen anything interesting in a newspaper, on a blog, etc, please send it my way: worldcusa (at) aol (dot) com. I'm especially looking for team specific articles/posts.

What Will Your Team Do For You?

The Los Angeles Times has an article in today's paper about what teams are doing for fans to lure them back. A lot of teams will be offering some sort of price cut and/or ticket promotion to get people back to the arena. This is a smart move by the owners. Hockey is a great sport to watch live and with the new rule changes, I think fans will be very impressed with the on ice product. But they need a reason to get to the rink, and cheaper tickets is a big one. Plus, getting fans in the arena still yields a lot of money from overpriced concessions.

Columbus, Minnesota, Vancouver, Calgary and the Islanders are among the other teams that have already announced cuts in season-ticket prices, although none of those approach the 24% rollback in player salaries. Phoenix, however, will give each season-ticket holder two tickets for the price of one.

Wow, that is a nice deal the Coyotes got going on.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

LeClair and Amonte Gone

The first buyouts are here, with the Philadelphia Flyers buying out the contracts of John LeClair and Tony Amonte. This clears a whopping $11.1 million from the Flyers payroll for next season.

Amonte will be 35 in August. In 2003-2004, he had 20 goals and 33 assists in 80 games. LeClair put up similar numbers, with 23 goals and 32 assists, for a total of 55 points, in 75 games. LeClair just turned 36.

This seems to be the only move the Flyers could make. With so many free agents out there, it is a waste to spend $11 million on two players who are past their prime and put up less than 60 points apiece last season.

Nolan Won't Count Against Cap

There had been talk that Toronto was going to be in big trouble because Owen Nolan finally wanted surgery on his knee and therefore could not be bought out, meaning the Leafs would have a major contract eating their cap space. The Toronto Star is reporting that the NHL will not make Nolan's contract count against the cap.

The NHL has assured the Maple Leafs that if they lose a grievance over their attempts to buy Owen Nolan out of his contract, it will not count against the salary cap for this season.

But that doesn't mean the dispute is over, and there are about 8 million reasons in U.S. funds why that is the case.

Nolan, who injured his right knee 15 months ago, will almost certainly be bought out for $3.8 million — two-thirds of the $5.6 million he was scheduled to make next season — as early as today. But Nolan says he's owed $11.8 million because he's remained hurt since the original injury.
My first reaction is this: If Nolan was hurt for the past year, why did he wait to have surgery until July?

Schedule Details

I previously reported that the schedule for the 2005-2006 season will be released on Tuesday, but now new information is emerging. Lindsey over at In The Crease posts details on the new schedule:

Each club will play eight games against each of its four division rivals (32 total).

Each club will play four games against each of the 10 non-division clubs in its conference (40 total).

Each club will play 10 inter-conference games, hosting one game each against all five clubs from a designated division and traveling for one game each against all five clubs from a different division. For the 2005-06 season, Northeast Division clubs will host the Pacific Division and visit the Northwest; Atlantic Division clubs will host the Northwest and visit the Central; and Southeast Division clubs will host the Central and visit the Pacific. Division vs. division assignments will rotate annually.
The format came out a few days ago but this is the first I have heard about which divisions will be playing each other and where. I thought fans would like to know that (hence the bold).

As for the new format, I have mixed feelings. For the Rangers, games against the Islanders and the Devils are always the most exciting, Every team has (or should have) division rivals that fans want to come see play. In this format, teams still play opponents from other divisions in the conference four times, so Colorado and Detroit can still have their rivalry. Even though it has diminished, the Rangers and Bruins could have important games again if the Rangers get good.

The bad part is that fans will not even see their team on TV playing five teams from the other conference. One out of every three years, the Flames, Oilers and Canucks will not play the Sens, Leafs and Habs ... at all. I'm not Canadian so I don't know how people north of the border feel, but I think that probably outweighs the fact that you will get to play the Canadian rivals in your division a couple more times per year.

Friday, July 22, 2005

7 Hours Until Buyouts Begin

The talk of the day of course is Crosby going to the Pens, but there is a lot of other stuff going on. Tomorrow, July 23, is when buyouts begin. Teams will have until 5PM EST on July 29 to buyout a player on their team. Buying out a player costs two-thirds of his current contract. If a player is bought out, they cannot rejoin that team for a full season, even through a trade. The reason there will be such a rush in the next six days is that if a player is bought out after 5PM next Friday, that payment will count against the team's cap.

Free-agency begins on August 1. That will be a crazy, yet very exciting time for us hockey fans. The composition of a lot of teams is going to change dramatically. Some teams will be looking for a few key pieces, while others have to almost start from scratch.

I'm going to try and keep the blog updated with the latest news, information and analysis during this hectic time around the NHL. I will be linking to plenty of other blogs out there as there are some great hockey bloggers on the net. I also will be looking for the analysis of team specific bloggers. If there is a big signing or buyout with a team, I will try to link to knowledgeable writers/bloggers who cover that team day in and day out.

Though I'm sure most of you can easily find the order of the draft, here is a link for your convenience.

Crosby, Rules, Etc

As you all know by know, Sidney Crosby is heading to the Penguins. I hope the ownership there brings in talent to make them a contender. They have less than $6 million in payroll right now tied up in seven players. (Not including Marc-Andre Fleury) If they could spend another $28-30 million to round out the roster, that would be great. The Penguins are going to make a lot of money from just picking Crosby and I hope they spend it wisely and put together a solid roster. A couple more stars besides Lemieux, Recchi and Crosby would be nice. Of course, they also have Marc-Andre Fleury. Hopefully he is ready to be the franchise goalie that everyone expected.

The rule changes look really good. Shootout is not my favorite but it eliminates ties and brings a lot of excitement. Tag up offsides is something I always liked. Goalie equipment reduction is a welcome change. And as I mentioned below, JD says the league is very serious this time about obstruction. I hope that is the case.

I am a Ranger fan and am of course disappointed that with 3 balls in the bucket, we could only muster a #16 pick. But tomorrow I will wake up energized that hockey is back; this should be a great season for our favorite sport.

And again, congrats to the Penguins. At least with the new scheduling format, he will be coming to the Garden four times this season.

Live-Blogging Today's Events

Stop by and post your thoughts on the press conference and draft lottery as I live-blog the press conference and the draft lottery.

1:56PM - Just over an hour to go until the press conference starts. I'm finishing up my work for the day and then getting ready to watch/blog. The thought of Bettman saying "And the #1 overall pick in the NHL goes to the ... New York Rangers popped into my head for a second. And this huge smile came upon me. And then I thought to myself, "Nah, it's not possible." I'm so nervous. Is he really the future of the NHL?

2:19PM - Jack Johnson seems to be the consensus #2 pick, according to TSN.

2:30PM - Someone on TSN (I don't know who, I had the audio on in the background) just said that he does not want Crosby going to Columbus because he is sick of losing Canadian stars to American outposts. Now I know TSN is appealing to a Canadian audience, but that is just a dumb statement. Crosby going to Columbus or Atlanta could be very good. Columbus has a great young core and averages over 17,000 fans a night. But I don't want to get into arguing Columbus over another city. I just thought that was a ridiculous statement, that somehow Americans don't deserve stars.

2:40PM - On TSN they just mentioned Owen Nolan's injury. I glanced at this earlier but forgot to post. Nolan will probably be having surgery on his knee and will declare this a hockey related injury. Therefore, he cannot be bought out by the Leafs. If the Leafs buy him out anyway, the PA will file a grievance and then there could be even more trouble for the Leafs. The Toronto Star has a good rundown on the matter. This looks like it will be a major problem for the Leafs.

3:00PM - It's time.

3:02PM - The NHL logo I posted below is definitely the logo for the league; it is being used as the background at the hotel where Sam Rosen and Stan Fishler were doing analysis.

3:06PM - JD says "trust him on this one": they are actually going to crack down on obstruction this time and that there will be a lot of penalties early on in 2005 if players don't get it through their heads.

3:10PM - Gary is on. I'm very curious about rule changes.

3:12PM - All 30 teams will be playing on opening night, October 5th. There will be a shootout. No word yet if teams will still get a point for getting into OT. I hope so.

3:16PM - I will post my thoughts later on the rule changes. Briefly, I like the elimination of the two-line pass, the reduction of goalie pads and bringing back tag up offsides.

3:23PM - The one point for a overtime loss is staying in. That makes me very happy. It would have been wrong to have a team play through regulation and overtime, lose in a shootout and not get a single point.

3:41PM - Format for the shootout will be three shooters per team and I'm assuming (since it was not clarified) that if there is no winner after three shooters then there will be a sudden death shootout. And of course, there will be no shootouts in the playoffs.

3:48PM - Press conference is over. Now, where will Crosby go?

4:09PM - Everytime I don't see the Ranger logo I go nuts. And he's not going to Florida or New Jersey which is great news.

4:14PM - There you go, it's not rigged. Rangers get #16.

4:26PM - Congrats Pens.

New NHL Logo


There was talk a while back that the NHL would be changing their logo. This is now on the front page of NHL.com. Is this the new logo for the NHL? Do you like it? (Click for full size)

Two Shanahan Quotes

Every morning I browse some of the papers from Canada and the U.S., seeing if there is something new and different to post on the blog. (By the way, if you come across an article or a blog post that you think I should put on here, please send it my way. I love feedback.) Well, the Toronto Star has an article this morning that is a pretty standard piece, but there are two Brendan Shanahan quotes that I really like.

"Did we ever go into this thing thinking we were going to like the deal?" said Detroit Red Wings veteran Brendan Shanahan, who took on a prominent role in the talks in the final months. "(After the previous lockout) in 1995, we thought we got killed on the deal, but by 1998, that deal was looking great. So I hope it's the same thing this time around."
That is a very good point that a lot of people have not mentioned. The players all think they lost out huge with this CBA. I disagree. Of course they lost a lot of money; they were vastly overpaid. They used to make 75% of league revenues and that is off the charts. The NFL brings in a ton of money and their players do not get nearly that percentage.

What is important with the new CBA is linkage. Right now, the salary cap is at $39 million. But if hockey revenues get back to $2 billion (which I think they can with a few years of Crosby, rule changes and great hockey), then the cap is going to go up to $43.5 million. That is a very nice figure.

The players are upset because they all got their salaries reduced by 24%. We might think that someone making $2.5 million dollars or $4 million dollars should never be upset with their salary, but anyone losing 24% of their salary is going to take time to come around. But in the long run, I think this new CBA will be great for the league, and not so bad for the players. And check out this second quote below:
"In hockey we've always been a modest group where we don't want to wear microphones, we don't want to let cameras in the dressing rooms, we don't want fans and the media to see us in the highest of our high emotions and the lowest of our low emotions," Shanahan said.

"But that's exactly when they want to see us, not 15 minutes after the game is over and we've already gone into a back room and broken some chairs. They want to see us break the chairs."
For some reason, I just found that last part quite funny. 8:41AM here on the east coast. The countdown begins. Don't forget, I'll be live blogging the press conference and lottery later and would love to have people dropping comments in that thread with your thoughts on the day's happenings.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Schedule on Tuesday

The Hockey News buries the news that the NHL will be releasing the schedule for the 2005-2006 season on Tuesday, with a "tentative start-up date" of October 5th.

I heard the press conference today was not very interesting, though some are surprised that Bob Goodenow is staying on as head of the PA. Personally, I find the business of sports and the business of hockey to be fascinating, but I really do not care what happens to Bob Goodenow. Even though I think that a lot of what happened is a result of his stubbornness, I still do not care if he goes or stays.

What I'm excited for is tomorrow. Just a reminder, press conference at 3, followed by the lottery results at 4. We will be finding out about rule changes as well, most likely followed by other information. You can catch it on TSN, a local network, or NHL.com. I will be live blogging the press conference, the draft lottery and the MSG roundtable discussion. I haven't been this excited in a long time. I don't even want to put the words Rangers and Crosby together in the same sentence because I feel I will jinx it. There is all this talk of a fix or that it will be good for him to come to NY; meanwhile us Ranger fans are just as nervous as any other team. Everybody wants to keep their expectations realistic.

If he goes to the Devils, I will flip. I would rather he go to Long Island than the Devils, and this is coming from a hardcore Ranger fan.

Oh, and there will be an accounting firm verifying the lottery procedures tomorrow. So can people stop talking about it being fixed.

Edit: I don't think Goodenow staying or going is that important but I'm in the minority, so if you are interested, here is an article on subject from TSN.

More Networks for Lottery

I already reported that MSG (NY) and Altitude (COL) are showing Friday's press conference and draft lottery. The NHL has now announced that Comcast Sports for Chicago, Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic will also have coverage of tomorrow's events.

Don't forget, if you live in a region of the U.S. that won't have it on TV, you can go to NHL.com and watch the streaming video. ESPNews is not worth it, they are only showing the first two picks live. I want to hear all the picks, find out about rule changes, etc.

TSN.CA Streaming Today's Press Conference

Tsn.ca will be streaming today's press conference to announce the results of the NHLPA vote. At 4PM, Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow will join together to "discuss the results" of today's vote. I won't be able to watch and am not disappointed. I don't see foresee anything interesting happening today. Get ready for tomorrow folks, that is when all the excitement begins.

Injuries and the Cap

I previously wrote that teams would not spend up to $39 million because if a player went down with an injury and someone had to be called up, they would be put over the cap. Details have emerged that this is not the case. The Toronto star puts it best.

There's also the sense that players who replace those on injured reserve will not have their salaries count against the cap unless they make more than the player they are replacing. So if Sundin breaks his leg just before the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs will likely be able to trade for an impending unrestricted free agent of equal salary to replace him in the lineup.
This is great news for the players because teams will be able to spend more money. Check out that article in its entirety; it is a good piece on how this deal could turn out to be better than the one they rejected in February.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

American Networks Picking Up Lottery

Some local American networks, channels that show hockey games for their respective markets, will be airing the press conference and lottery on Friday. "Nomorekids" over at the HFBoards was watching the Mets game on MSG tonight and said they announced that MSG would be showing the press conference at 3, the lottery at 4 and a roundtable discussion after with JD, Sam and some other people.

Then comes the news from the Avs that Altitude (their local hockey channel) will be airing the events as well. Let's hope that stations around the country follow suit.

Less than 44 hours until we find out where Crosby is heading. Wow, I am excited for things to get rolling.

Edit: ESPNews will be airing the live announcement of the top two picks. Give me a break. They run the same half hour segment over and over again throughout the day. The least they could do is give the NHL twenty minutes to show all the results. Hopefully your local network will be picking it up, or you can tune into NHL.com for the full results. I like ESPN but this is a joke.

Ovechkin Will Play in NHL

There had been some rumors that Alexander Ovechkin, the first overall pick and property of the Washington Capitals, would stay in Russia and get more money. Well, that can all be put to rest. TSN is currently fronting the news that Ovechkin has gotten out of his contract to play in Russia next season and intends to play for the Capitals.

The question now is, will Ovechkin be an impact player in his first year? They have only four players currently signed, so they have money to get some help, but they have nearly $5 million tied up in Kolzig. But if they buyout Kolzig, then they are basically starting a team from scratch, with Ovechkin as the centerpiece. Washington could be a team to watch out for if they buyout Kolzig and go out and just sign, sign, sign with all the FA's on the market. If they decide to be cheap, and fall $6 million+ short of the cap, then I don't think Ovechkin will have a Calder type year. He's not that good ... yet.

Additional Info: Ovechkin's Hockey's Future Page

NHL.com To Stream Crosby Announcement

NHL.com posted today that they will be streaming the draft lottery on Friday at 4PM EST. This indicates to me that one of the ESPN's will not be picking up the press conference. I'm glad NHL.com stepped up on this, but there is a bigger issue here. The NHL needs to revamp their website and take a page from Major League Baseball. MLB.com is easily the best sports website out there and they do a great job with video, audio, gameday, etc. If the NHL wants to succeed, they need to embrace the internet like baseball did.

Just look at the difference. NHL.com, MLB.com

Interesting CBA Details

A few articles from Canadian papers are providing interesting details on the new CBA.

  • Players who currently have contracts will have their salaries averaged if they have multiple years left on their contract.
  • European born players will have two years to sign after they are drafted, which is the same as North American players. It used to be where a team could hold a European player's rights as long as they wanted.
  • If a restricted free agent (RFA) does not re-sign with his team by December 1st, he cannot play in the NHL this season.
  • New contracts will not have performance bonuses built in that are paid by the team. Instead, the NHL will be paying bonuses for the Hart Trophy, Vezina, etc.
  • These bonuses will not count against each team's cap, but they will be factored into the 54 % of all revenues go to players.
  • No workarounds to the $39 million salary cap. A team cannot say to a player (this is the example the article gave) "Buy a house and we will pay you back for it."
Sources: Toronto Star, Toronto Star (Article 2), The Globe and Mail. And thanks to RangerBoy at the HFBoards for the heads up. There is a lot of good stuff here.

Where Should Crosby Land?

We will know on Friday where Sidney Crosby will be playing hockey, but there has also been a lot of talk on where he should end up to benefit the NHL. On his blog, Jes Golbez lists the best and worst markets in the U.S. and Canada in terms of bringing the NHL fans, exposure and money.

He lists the three best U.S. markets as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The worst U.S. markets as Florida, Carolina and phoenix. The best Canadian market for Crosby would be Montreal, and the worst, Ottawa.

This is a pretty standard list and nothing to call the press over, but I wanted to comment on something he wrote in his post.

You'll notice I said New York, and not necessarily the Ranger$. Although only an outsider would ever put the Islanders and Rangers together, I believe Crosby's impact as an Islander would still be felt throughout the NHL. If Crosby was leading a new Islanders' dynasty, you can bet the NY media would jump right on that bandwagon. If Crosby were to end up on the Isles, it might just speed up the process of getting out of the death trap that is the Nassau Memorial Coliseum.

Obviously, Crosby would better serve the NHL as a Ranger, rather than an Islander...but having him in the New York market, period, would be a great marketing boon for the NHL.
I am a die hard Ranger fan and I would rather Crosby land anywhere in the league rather than on Long Island. But Jes is right. Hockey doesn't just do well when the Rangers are winning; the Islanders have a big impact too. When the Rangers won in '94, the played Long Island in the first round of the playoffs and it generated huge interest. An Islander dynasty led by Crosby (with hopefully a new stadium for them) would still be good for the league.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

TSN To Air Lottery Results

TSN will air a special half-hour program on Friday at 4PM EST with the lottery results. No word yet if ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNews will pick up any press conference that is held announcing the results, but I imagine ESPNews at the very least will cut in with something.

Here's a little reminder, courtesy of TSN, of the number of balls for each team.

Four teams (Buffalo, Columbus, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh) have three balls in the lottery. Ten teams (Anaheim, Atlanta, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, Phoenix) have two balls in the drum. The remaining 16 teams (Boston, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, New Jersy, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington) have one.

ESPN, TNT or Spike?

Mediaweek is reporting that four companies are in talks with the NHL for the right to broadcast games on cable. The companies are ESPN, Time Warner (TNT), Viacom (Spike TV) and Comcast. Comcast is a bad choice. Comcast is not in many homes and the NHL would end up being on OLN (Outdoor Life Network).

There are positives and negatives to each of the three other companies. First, Spike TV may feel like a marginal network, but it's not. It reaches over 86 million U.S. households they would heavily promote the NHL. Spike would push games hard and really give them the gala treatment. Also, bringing in the ESPN hockey guys to do the games would not be a problem; Darren Pang has already stated he is treating this like he is a "free agent" and will go where he can do games. Spike is also in Canada, so that would not be a problem. Some people have noted that Spike does not have HD capability, but I rather a network that actually wants the NHL rather than HD. HD might be the wave of the future, but it is currently not in many living rooms.

ESPN is the status quo. While the NHL might get buried on ESPN, Bristol is still the leading sports broadcaster in the world. Everyone gets ESPN, including people on other continents. And yes, ESPN had HD channels.

Then there is TNT. TNT could use something else to show besides Law & Order. (I don't care if L&O gets better ratings than the NHL, can people still watch the same episode seven times? Eventually TNT is going to run out of episodes to show.) TNT has also done a great job with the NBA. There is one problem though. How would they handle programming when the NHL is in the second and third rounds of the playoffs and the NBA is just starting? This needs to be clarified before they are awarded the rights.

For me, Spike, ESPN and TNT all would be fine choices. ESPN is the safe bet, that will probably end up in mediocre ratings. Spike is riskier but could do great things for the NHL. And TNT is a solid choice, as long as the playoff situation is cleared up. One thing is for sure, it cannot go to Comcast. That would be a disaster.

Thanks to "Invader Zim" at the HFBoards for the heads up.

Edit: I made a mistake and said that Turner as in Ted Turner owns TNT. It's Time Warner, and I was confused by the Turner in TNT. I fixed the problem with my story. Thanks to Boltsmag for linking to my story and for pointing out the mistake.

No Buyout Workaround

Many teams will be buying out the contracts of their high priced players who are not worth so much money in the new economic environment of the NHL. They have a limited amount of time to do this, and players will not be able to resign with their former teams once they are bought out. This means there will be no restructuring of contracts. You either play for the team you have a contract with at your current salary level (with the 24% rollback of course) or you get bought out and sign somewhere else.

People have suggested on the Hockey's Future forums a possible workaround to this. Why don't teams buyout players, have those players sign with another team, and then just get those players back in a trade? Teams could agree on the deal before anyone is bought out and GM's could work together to get around the CBA. Well, this will not be allowed. Once a player is bought out by a team, they will have to wait a full season before returning to that team, even through a trade or the waiver wire.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Board of Governors' Meeting Moved to Friday

Below I reported that the meeting was scheduled for Thursday, though their was a rumor it might be pushed to Friday. That rumor has now been confirmed by TSN and the Canadian Press (the AP for Canada).

Board of Governors' Meeting

NHL owners are set to meet Thursday in New York at the Board of Governors' meeting. On their agenda is voting on the new CBA, considering rule changes and holding the draft lottery. There are a lot of rumors flying around about new rules (shootout, no two-line pass, etc) but I am going to wait to comment on them until their is an official announcement. I will say this though: I hope they do not get rid of the overtime loss. I think that was an excellent addition to the game.

The AP is reporting the possibility that the meeting might be pushed back to Friday.

Edit: The meeting has been moved to Friday. Here is my post with the news. And the link from TSN.

Lalime Heading Back to St. Louis

Patrick Lalime is heading back to St. Louis, with the Blues exercising their team option. I think his salary is going to be $2.432 million for the 2005-2006 season. Last season his save percentage was down, but Lalime has a career 2.39 GAA (though it was behind a very good Senators team). This is a good move for the Blues.

Source: Yahoo

Wiggle Room

There is an important feature of the salary cap next season. The $39 million figure represents the maximum a team can spend in a year on player salaries. It does not represent the maximum a team may spend at one time. So, a team could have salaries totaling $36 million for the first 41 games, then add $6 million in salary to bring them up to $42 million. But, since they would only be paying for half of the new $6 million (only playing half the games for the new team) then they would have actually only spent $39 million. It's a great way for teams to add a big name for the playoff hunt.

However, this also ensures that no team will spend up to $39 million. If a team has a payroll at exactly $39 million and someone gets injured, a player will have to be called up from the minor leagues. That player will be making the league minimum $450,000. But the team will still have to pay the injured player. So unless they get rid of salary before the end of the season, this would put them over the $39 million total spent on salaries in a season. I expect smart team who want to max out to spend around $37 million, giving them wiggle room for injuries and an acquisition for the playoffs.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

2003-2004 in Review

We have all been talking so much about the CBA, Crosby and the business of hockey, it's easy to forget that in 2 1/2 months, we will finally see the puck drop. With so much time off and the rosters certain to look vastly different, I thought it would be fun and important to have some posts over the next few days recalling the 2003-2004 season, and thinking about how those numbers will translate with a year off.

Points Leaders
  • Martin St. Louis (TB) - 94
  • Ilya Kovalchuk (ATL) - 87
  • Joe Sakic (COL) - 87
  • Markus Naslund (VAN) - 84
  • Marian Hossa (OTT) - 82
  • Patrik Elias (NJD) - 81
  • D. Alfredsson (OTT) - 80
  • Cory Stillman (TB) - 80
  • Robert Lang (DET) - 79
  • Brad Richards (TB) - 79
  • Alex Tanguay (COL) - 79

Kovalchuk, Naslund and Hossa should all be in the top 5 in points again this season. I think Joe Sakic is a great player and he should have a good season, but he is getting older and if Forsberg doesn't come back, opposing teams will really be able to shift their focus to shutting down the 36 year old center. I see 70 points, but not 87. St. Louis is a great player but his 2003-2004 campaign was special, and I also see him settling down with about 75 points.

I also expect big things this season from Jagr. Last season he totaled 74 points in 77 games (29 pts in 31 games in NY). Jagr is only three seasons removed from 2000-20001 in which he netted 52 goals and 69 assists in 81 games. There is no way he is getting back to that level, but he spent this year off playing overseas and led the Czech Republic to a World Championship victory, with a broken pinkie. I see no reason why he can't be in the top five to eight players in points this year.

For the record: Sakic is under contract, Hossa, Kovalchuk and St. Louis are restricted free agents, while Naslund is a UFA. The Canucks only have four players under contract for next season, with about $11.2 million tied up in use. They should bring Naslund back (if they are smart), but the rest of their team will have to be very role player oriented, as they will have $15+ million tied up in Naslund, Bertuzzi and Jovanovski alone. (This assumes Naslund gets $6 million)

And I also urge you to post your thoughts by hitting the Comments link below. You do not need to be a Blogger member to leave a comment.

The NHL and the U.S. Media

The Ottawa Sun has an article in today's paper about how negative the American media has been toward hockey this week.

The NHL needs to stop groveling for the respect of the American sports media, and it needs to do it now. In this battle of popularity, the media is the lost cause. How soon we forget that NASCAR started as a group that lacked respect from sportswriters (and practically everyone else), but through grassroots ingenuity became a force to contend with.

I was so excited on Wednesday when word began to leak out about a deal that I watched ESPNews and made sure to hear what the guys on Around the Horn and PTI had to say. What I encountered was basically what the Sun writes: negativity, negativity, negativity. "Hockey is no longer one of the four major sports." It was not that long ago when hockey was doing fine and had ratings not far from the NBA. I think the Sun does not understand the importance of ESPN on the American sports fan, but at the same time, it seems there is no hope in bringing the media back anytime soon. Get the games on the ice, have a couple years of great hockey, and things will be fine.

The "Reconstruction" of the NHL

The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran a rather lengthy article yesterday on the reconstruction of the NHL. The thinking seems to go that if the NHL wants to get back on track, they need to make it a fan friendly league and market the personalities of the game. Rule changes to offer non-hardcore fans something faster and more exciting should also help.

"I have a hunch they'll be able to get back in the groove in a couple of years," said James Chung, president of Reach Advisors, a Boston-based sports research and marketing firm. "Like other sports, they'll rebound just fine. If I were the NHL, I'd try to own being the fans' league.

Remember when the Lightning gave out free tickets a couple years ago, to bring people into the building? Some other clubs would be wise to adopt that strategy for a few bad, middle of the week matchups. The NHL is a great sport to watch; it's getting the people to watch that is the trouble.

I have an acquaintance who is a big sports fan, but was not into hockey. You know what he did say though? He loved to watch playoff hockey. Now, the NHL will never be able to fully replicate the excitement of the playoffs in the regular season, but the games are not that much different. People just think they do not want to watch regular season hockey, or they don't have the patience for it. But if the NHL can use TV and some cheap tickets to get people attached to a local team, plus the shootout rule, I truly think the NHL will be back. And Crosby not going to Buffalo would help too.

The Number Two Pick

Bob McKenzie over at TSN has a piece up that all hockey fans should read because it answers an often overlooked question: Who will be taken after Crosby? Everyone is so caught up in the Crosby hype (myself included) that we have not spent enough time looking at the rest of the draft. According to McKenzie, Jack Johnson of the USNTDP (U.S. Under-18 Development Program) is the "consensus" number two.

Johnson has committed to playing at the University of Michigan next season, but can still be drafted by a NHL team and then develop for a couple of seasons in college. According to the Hockeyscouting.ca article I've linked to below, he went out of his way to contact UMich before they could contact him, because he really wanted to go to college and play at UMich. I like that in a kid.

Further reading on Johnson: Slam Sports, HockeyScouting.ca

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Lottery Results: Thursday?

Sportsnet is reporting the Board of Governor's Meeting slated to be held next Thursday is also where the lottery for this year's draft will take place. Some people think that this means the results will be fixed and that the Rangers will get the number one pick. As a smart poster on HF Boards pointed out, the NBA holds the picking of the balls in secret as well, but announces the results on TV with those big envelopes. The NHL is not going to be rigging the lottery.

Oh, and I know I am starting off with a lot of business talk, but the next 4-6 weeks is going to be a very exciting time in the front offices of teams around the league. Getting under the cap, buying out deals, signing all of those free agents will have a huge impact on rosters. We'll talk business now, and in a couple of months there will be lots of posts about who in the Eastern Conference has the strongest goaltending, and why a certain team has the tools to make a run at a division title. I can't wait to see the puck dropped and for the season to start, but until then I think all of this business news is quite exciting.

Jaromir Jagr and the Cap

New York Rangers winger Jaromir Jagr is set to make $8.36 million with the 24% rollback of salaries. However, the max salary for the 2005-2006 season is $7.8 million. So will Jagr have to forfeit that difference between the two figures? No. Players who signed contracts under the old CBA will be grandfathered in and will receive their full salaries.

When the Rangers acquired Jagr in a trade with the Washington Capitals, the teams agreed to split Jagr's salary. So the Rangers will only pay Jagr $4.4 million this season, and therefore only $4.4 million and not $8.36 million will count against their salary cap figure. This is great news for the Rangers.

What's interesting is that even though Washington will have to pay $4 million of Jagr's salary, it will not count against them this season under the cap. It will, however, count towards that 54% figure that makes sure revenues and player costs are linked.

This New York Daily News article explains it all.

Note: Jagr is the only player with the rollback that is over the $7.8 million max salary.

Draft Age Raised

With all the details coming out about the new CBA, this bit from TSN.
The entry-level system will limit those players to $850,000 a year in salary (which it was 10 years ago) with bonuses not as easily reachable as the previous deal. The maximum possible amount in bonuses is $4.5 million although it's unrealistic for almost anyone to reach all the lofty targets. The age for draft eligibility will also be raised from 18 years to 19 years.
This won't affect the 2005 draft on July 30th, so Sidney Crosby will still be drafted. I supported the raising of the draft age in the NBA because now kids will have to go to college, to experience what this is like, and it might make them change their mind about going to the NBA at the first available opportunity. But with the NHL, this does not make any sense. First, there have only been a couple players from the United States who went straight from high school to the NHL. In Canada, this will not make kids go to college; instead they will spend a year playing junior hockey and will then be draft eligible. Second, the NHL has a good minor league system. In the NBA, players have very few choices if they opt into the draft at age 18 and then don't have the tools to hang with the big boys. In the NHL, 18 year olds can mature in the minor leagues.

The 2006 draft is going to be weak. Remember, most of the very good players taken in the first couple rounds of the NHL draft that are from Canada are young.


Welcome!

Welcome to my new blog, The NHL Is Back. A simple title for sure, but it has been so long since us hockey fans have seen the game, that it sums up our feelings nicely. I'm going to be blogging this summer about anything going on around the league, and this coverage will continue into the fall as I talk about hockey on and off the ice.

My name is Philip Pilmar and I am life-long Rangers fan. It's been painful these last few seasons, but maybe the team will finally turn it around now that they can't spend wildly. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this blog and just leave a comment if you have any suggestions so I can make it better.