Sunday, August 21, 2005

Off-Season Winding Down

Even though there are still plenty of players that remain without contracts, the off-season is winding down. Most of the blogs (including mine) have been getting more and more quiet and it's beginning to feel like a typical off-season. I know for me, I just want to watch some hockey. My good friend and I talked last night and planned some of the games we want to go to, talked about which sports bars will have the games on (there was some debate whether ESPNZone would still show games, especially those on OLN), etc etc.

For me, some big questions still remain unanswered and they have to do with restricted free agents. Ilya Kovalchuk, Danny Heatley and Martin St. Louis still do not have contracts and September is less than two weeks away. St. Louis is the most interesting because he is coming off an MVP year in which he helped his team win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning are currently just under $32 million in salary with two players left to sign (St. Louis and Dave Andreychuk). But Bolts' management has said they will not go over $37.5 million which means St. Louis is going to have to receive less than $6 million in salary, maybe $5 million. They were put in this situation when Lecavalier took $6.875 million per year for four years. (Home team discount, yeah right.)

The Bolts also have to worry about Brad Richards, who becomes an RFA next season. He is barely 25 years old, coming off two 70+ point season and should have no trouble fetching a big salary next year. The Bolts have to lose either Richards or St. Louis to restricted free agency; I don't see how they keep both. I'm wondering when other teams are going to step up and make an offer on St. Louis. He might want to play in Tampa, and four first round picks are a lot to give up, but he's a talented player. Or, a team can trade some prospects for St. Louis' rights and then sign him. Either way, someone should do something. It puts pressure on Tampa and they could get last year's MVP.

Then comes the Atlanta situation. They are pursuing Bondra, when they still have two talents in Kovalchuk and Heatley unsigned. They have plenty of cap space, but they need to pull the trigger. Heatley just switched agents and some Russian papers are reporting Kovalchuk is reluctant to return to Atlanta unless Heatley re-signs.

The Red Wings also have not signed their two big RFA's: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. They have $7 million left to sign 4 players (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kronwall and a depth player). The big challenge for the Wings will be to sign Datsyuk and Zetterberg for less than $6 million combined. If I'm a GM with cap space, I'm offering Datsyuk $4 million per season. The Wings can't match it, and if they do, then that allowes me to go after Zetterberg.

Before I end this post, I'm going to link to a random set of hockey musings by Jes Golbez, who is turning out to be my favorite hockey blogger as of late. He responds to a comment I made about Kevin Weekes, looks at splits of two Slovak NHLers, defends his pick of the Bruins winning the East, and thinks Derian Hatcher won't be as bad as people think in the new NHL.