Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kevin Lowe Fired!

1) OK, he wasn't really fired. Technically he was given a promotion, but anyone with any understanding of hockey management can see that he was removed from a place where he over saw all the operations of the team to one of an advisor. More of a figure head than anything now. He was the team's GM from June 2000 until today. His biggest accomplishment was guiding the 2006 team to within 1 win of The Cup. Thereafter the wheels fell off, starting with the Pronger situation, then the Ryan Smythe trade, and finally the Penner offer sheet last summer. To be fair we feel Lowe did a good job overall. In fact many believe the Oilers are poised to return to the post season, and in no small thanks to Lowe, but apparently the new owner in Edmonton wanted a new man at the helm and in our opinion he made a good choice.

2) The Edmonton Oilers named Steve Tambellini as their new general manager. Tambellini, 50, has been part of the Vancouver Canucks hockey operations staff for the past 17 seasons and was most recently the Assistant General Manager and Vice-President of Hockey Operations. His name had long been bandied about as the successor to several of the open GM positions the past couple of years, as he is well regarded in NHL circles. As Director of Player Personnel, Tambellini helped put together the roster that won the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah and he was also a member of the management team for Team Canada's gold medal triumph at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He also served as the General Manager of Team Canada at the 2003 and 2005 IIHF World Hockey Championships, winning the gold medal in Finland in 2003 and silver in 2005. Good luck Steve!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are Captains Over Rated?

1) With the naming of Jon Towes as the Black Hawks newest/youngest ever captain the conjecture within the media started: Is Towes too young to be an NHL captain? A list of young captains were then listed ranging from the naming of Crosby and Yzerman to Vinny Lecavlier.

2) Along with the list came commentary of how each handled being named captain at a tender age. Also it was pondered if there was a backlash among veterans to having a peach faced player wearing the C. One columnist even went as far to suggest that it had a negative impact on teams attracting free agents as veteran players would shy away from playing for a team with a pimply faced captain.

3) We at Fauxrumors read these various articles with amusement. Never has an honor/assignment been so over rated! Giving a player "The C" doesn't make him a leader and a leader doesn't need "The C" to be one. Its an absolutely overblown/over rated title. The term Captain or 'A' (which by the way means Alternate NOT Assistant) is only important in terms of communicating with the officials during a game. Teams each have different/altering uses of their 'captain'. Some act as a go between the team and the coach, some are the actual team leader, but we suggest they would be viewed as such with or without the title anyway.

4) We also think its poppy-cock (old English for bullshit) that a vet player who is a UFA might think twice about signing for a team based upon who is the captain. We challenge anyone to come up with one concrete example of this ever happening in the NHL. UFA's take many factors into consideration before choosing a team: Money, location, contender status, the coach, etc. We believe no where on a UFA's list is who is wearing the C.

Monday, July 28, 2008

No-Man's Land!

1) The original meaning of No-Man's land came from WWI. It referred to the area between the trenches that the troops had built. Usually filled with mines and covered with wire fences, anyone caught in this area was in grave danger

2) With regard to the NHL, the no-man's land we're alluding to here are the teams that fail to make the playoffs, but don't fall into the bottom 5(lottery) teams. By finishing in the slots from 17th to 25th they are assured of not getting playoff revenue that many teams rely upon to turn a profit. Worse yet, they not only miss out on that cash, they also miss out on attaining the top prospects in the draft. Reducing their abilities to convince fans that they are going to be improving. Many teams use the draft(draft party) to use as a ticket drive or sorts. By attempting to excite their fans into believing that they will be chock full of top prospects/exciting young players, folks will be more likely to plop down money to see these players in action the following fall

3) It seems that annually the same teams seem to be in this predicament. Toronto and Florida have both failed to make the playoffs the past 3 seasons and have also been well above the bottom 5. Good enough to not be a lottery team, but not good enough to make the playoffs. The problem is even more acute for the panthers who have failed to make the post season an astounding 8 years strait, yet have been above the bottom 5(lottery) the past 5 seasons. The result: mediocrity.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Strange Bed-Fellows?

1) As the saying goes; Politics makes strange bed-fellows. Translation: Amazing who can become allied if an issue benefits two unlikely parties. The two unlikely allies are the NHL Players association (NHLPA) and the new KHL. It seems both have a mutual/converging interest. That is the KHL wants to pilfer as much talent it can from the NHL, and the NHLPA sees this NHL rival as an opportunity for its rank and file (players) to use this as leverage to get more money in the short term an perhaps concessions/an alternative place to play in the next round of CBA talks/lockout.

2) This came to light recently when the NHLPA objected to the International Ice Hockey Federation(IIHF) attempt to ban certain players because they left to play in the KHL. Said the NHLPA:

  • Yesterday's announcement by the IIHF that they have suspended certain Players from international competition has no basis in fact or law, and constitutes a violation of the rights of these Players. The affected Players are being unfairly singled out in a dispute between the NHL and the KHL

3) At first brush we at FAUXRUMORS found it interesting that an NHL players' union is sticking up for players that have signed elsewhere and broken contracts. However, the apparent reasoning for this is very logical. They simply want to encourage movement between leagues as a way of increasing a healthy rivalry/demand of players and thus the amount of cash available to those players. Interesting nonetheless to see the NHLPA in essence align with the KHL?

4) The next question, is this a good idea? We whole heartily believe it is! Supporting the KHL (in this instance) is exactly what the NHLPA should do.

  • It increases the choices of the union membership. More choices/jobs are always the goal of any association/union

  • It could very well increase wages. Not in the NHL in the short term, given the salary cap, but down the road, though, increased competition. Competition for labor is something that tends to drive up wages and as such something a union will always endorse.

  • The NHLPA's reason for existing in the first place is to legally represent the interests of the players involved who are currently members. What happens next is up to the players, the IIHF the NHL and KHL and the union wants to stay relevant in all these manoeuvrings. Always keeping the best interests of the players first and foremost. Good job Mr. Kelly!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mats Playing Cat and Mouse with NHL

1) The biggest remaining question these days in the news starved hockey media world is where will Mats Sundin end up playing? This immense amount of interest is in part due to the fact that Mats played in the hockey media mecca, Toronto the past 14 years and they have invested all their time in trying to find out where he will go. (They are bored/trying to sell papers) The other is that he's the best remaining free agent available. Since almost every other blog has weighed in on this issue, we figured it was time we at FAUXRUMORS had our say.

2) There have been multiple (thus far false) reports that he has agreed to go here or there.

  • The going rumour de-jour in June was he was going to play in NY to take Jagr's place. Sure JJ left town, but the Rangers chose (wisely) to pass on paying oodles of money for an aging vet, and instead build around youth and pay a lot less for another aging Swede (Naslund).

  • Later we were told that Montreal had the upper hand. That Bob Gainey was set to trade for his rights before the draft, and grab the big guy only to hear later that Mats was still undecided on where he'd like to go so asked that teams not trade for his rights.

  • Some, especially among the Toronto media delegation believed that he would return to Toronto after all, but as we noted last month that possibility is very remote being that we were told that bridges have been burned back to Toronto.

  • Then we hear a totally fabricated story that he was in negotiations for a contract to play in the KHL. The Russian team DID contact Mats agent, yes, but they were quickly rebuffed. The phone call we're told lasted about 30 seconds. At no time has Sundin considered playing there.

  • Most recently we were told that Mats had already signed to play in Vancouver only to back track to say that a decision won't be forthcoming for another 2 weeks.

3) Some are saying further still that Sundin is set to retire. Can't imagine Mats will retire yet. Most players start to feel the itch about a month or so before the season starts (see Favre) Certainly Sundin doesn't need the money, but unless he has a family issue, what else does he plan to do for the next couple of years? Overall, it would seem that Vancouver would be a the logical fit: Why?

  • Mats is on record saying he likes playing in Canada. He's played his entire career north of the border, so its his apparent comfort zone, so its unlikely he'll leave to move south at this late date in his career

  • They are offering (supposedly) a nice 2 year 20 mil deal? Again, Mats isn't starving for cash, but one last nice pay day would be hard to turn away from

  • Mats appears to not care if he wins (he won't in Vancouver). We have argued with several other bloggers that IF Mats really wanted to win a Stanley Cup, he would have waived his NTC last spring and move to a contender and not stay in Toronto where it was unlikely they'd make the playoffs, and almost impossible they'd win the Cup

  • The Olympics are in Vancouver next year so would be nice to play for the reigning gold medal Sweden in Vancouver in 2010 in front of home fans.

4) Clearly we aren't underestimating the worth of having Sundin added to a roster, but it also should NOT be over estimated either. He would NOT be the difference maker in Vancouver where they are more than one piece away from winning a Cup. He could propel them back into the post season, but we don't see a Cup in the Canuck's future with or without Mats. Montreal could be another story. There he would potentially fit well with their mix of veterans and youngsters, who with Sundin could return to Cup contention in 09. What we do NOT want to see is a LONG drawn out soap opera that goes into the season like a Peter Forsberg or to a lesser extent Teemu Salenne. Shit or get off the pot Mats, we don't want to have to be reading about your potential destinations in September and beyond!

Monday, July 21, 2008

End Of The Rookie Salary Cap?

1) The NHL instituted the idea/concept of limiting the salaries of entry level players in the mid 90's when several big time players (Eric Lindros) came into the league demanding huge sums of money before they even had played one NHL game. The rule set forth that players under 24 who are playing in the league for the first time would have their salary limited in their first 3 seasons to a set maximum plus set allowable bonuses not to exceed an annually set level. The cap was worked into the 1994 CBA as a way for owners to have a level of cost certainty for rookie contracts. However, players, agents and owners initially circumvented it by using lucrative signing bonuses and performance incentives to supplement rookies' maximum base salaries. In the most recent CBA these loopholes were largely abolished.

2) With the new league wide salary cap restricting team payrolls GM's used the rookie cap to infuse talent at relative low cap cost. Even when these entry level deals expired in years past players had only a few areas of leverage as they were still RFA after the 3 years were up. They could use arbitration, or the threat of an offer sheet. Even today (despite the ramblings of Brian Burke), an offer sheet is still a rarity, and something you'd unlikely see for anyone other than the top tier stars. As Vancouver found out the hard way, trying to poach another team's RFA can come back to bite you! Therefore we believe we won't see many offer sheets thrown around in the future. The recent Radulov situation illustrates where it might become plausible for additional young talent to go back to Europe to play if they are offered salaries beyond what they normally would be paid in their early 20's and not yet established themselves.

3) So why would the NHL then abandon a rookie cap if its working for them so well? Firstly, we don't believe it will in the short term, but if things progress they may have no choice. Their problem is the KHL and European super leagues. Without a player transfer agreement, and with the Eurpoe, especially the new KHL trying to poach as much young talent as they can, they will surely try to lure the players with big paydays. Well beyond what the NHL would compensate them for their first 3 years. For instance next summer John Tavares and Magnus Pääjärvi will probably be drafted in Montreal first and second. If soon after KHL teams made both ridiculous offers and they accepted them to play in Russia for a quicker big pay day it could be the tipping point for others to decide to do the same.

4) Now realistically we doubt Tavares would do such a thing. If he wanted, he probably could have signed on to play there already, but we would not be shocked to see increasing numbers of young Russian and other European born players staying closer to home where they can get the big money much sooner. You might even see several N.A. born players who are not happy with who drafted them use the KHL as leverage to force a trade, again ala Eric Lindros to Quebec in 1992. (Eric was traded to Philadelphia, in exchange for players such as Mike Ricci, Peter Forsberg and Ron Hextall, along with $15 million). As a result the NHL might have little choice but to either seriously alter or abolish entirely the concept of the rookie cap.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Burke's Secret Destination?

1) We usually are not ones to listen to the Toronto media. In fact we usually read what they say and believe that the exact opposite is the likely reality of a situation. However with regard to the Brian Burke to Toronto rumours we believe that 'where there is smoke there is fire' argument may have merit.

2) Just too many coincidences are occurring to ignore. To refresh the memories/educate the folks who may not recall:

  • Brian Burke is the current GM of the Anaheim Ducks. He successfully orchestrated the team to a cup win in 2007.

  • His current contract with the Ducks has one year remaining and has yet to sign an extension that the ownership supposedly offered him this past spring.

  • The Maple Leafs fired their GM, John Ferguson Jr, (JFJ) this past winter. It was widely rumoured that Burke was in line for the position.

  • When Burke was 'unavailable', or so we were told, the Leafs hired Cliff Fletcher to be the 'interim' GM until a permanent individual could be hired in the off season.

  • Burke states that he will live up to his contract (one more year) then decide what he will do from there.

  • Toronto announces that Fletcher will stay on as GM through the 2008-09 season.

3) It doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce the possibilities here. That Burke will finish up another season in southern California. Allow Fletcher to do the dirty work of unloading the bloated contracts that JFJ signed, and begin the rebuild. Then after next season the Leafs can hire Burke to come on and finish the process of rebuilding the troubled Toronto franchise like he did with Anaheim.

4) This is not to say that this is written in stone. In fact we were at first dubious of this. We are told repeatedly that Burke is one of the brightest minds in the game today. (He'll tell you himself if you ask) Despite his gruff/abrasive style, he is very well liked and regarded in NHL circles.(Outside of Edmonton) However, IF Burke is that smart, why in hell would he want to come to the ever-dysfunctional franchise/media circus in Toronto? Is it all an ego trip? Who could ask for a better situation that what he has now? He lives/works in Southern California. He's already won, so the pressure is minimal. He's making very good money. Why turn this away for a chance to be in the middle ring of the media circus that is Toronto?

5) Our sources tell us: "Yes, it IS about Burke's ego here. He wants to be the one to do something no one has done in over 40 years". That is, bring a Cup back to Canada's biggest city. A feat that would guarantee Burke hockey immortality. A place in hockey lore forever more! If this is true we would then have to lower our regard for the man. After all, to pull your family out of an ideal circumstance, back to the cold winters, into a high stress environment, and especially into the microscope they will be under, would be a poor decision in our opinion. Stay tuned. The wheels appear to be moving in this direction.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

To Russia With Love?

1) Many are asking themselves, "Is the new Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) a real threat to the NHL? Many including our friend over at The puckstopshere think it is. We will attempt to wade through the hype both real and trumped up and the realities of this fledgling rival to the NHL's prowess on the world stage.

2) So what IS the KHL? Well its really not a new hockey league. Its merely an ambitious expansion of the existing Russian elite league. A few Russian oil barons/entrepreneurs got together and decided to rename/expand the league and give it a new flashy name to try to compete with the NHL and other European elite leagues for talent.

3) Firstly, what are some of the advantages that the new KHL have over the NHL?

  • Tax free income- This is a huge incentive. Imagine adding an additional 30%(or more) on top of your salary? Taxes have kept/dissuaded players from playing in Canada, especially Quebec in the past, so its no surprise that this could be a nice incentive for players to earn nice pay and avoid the tax man

  • Shorter season- The KHL is slated to have 56 games in its initial season. Significantly shorter than the 82 game marathon the NHL currently employs. The long season then potentially long playoffs takes its toll physically on players. To be able to cut their season by a 1/3 or more and make good money at the same time is a nice bonus

  • Russians and some Euros might feel less home sick playing at home. This is certainly a huge factor for Russian born players. Imagine leaving your home at age 18 to work where you know little of the language and culture. In stead you are given a chance to stay home where your family and friends are, and still make about the same money? The KHL is trying to use Russian nationalism to try to lure players to stay and play in 'Mother Russia'

  • Big Russian oil money: This is the underlying engine that is driving the Russian economy these days. When the price of oil collapsed in the late 80's the USSR died with it. The surge in oil has fueled the economy and more importantly lined the pockets of a few elite 'businessmen/corrupt politicians/Russian mob bosses, etc. These are the folks who by and large own the teams that make up the KHL. Its their diversion/past time from their other 'activities'.

4) Possible disadvantages:

  • Hard to attract top flight North American-born talent to play abroad. Few players in their primes will willingly leave the comfort of home to play where English is not spoken, and the creature comforts we take for granted are not wide spread. If Eric Lindros thought Quebec city wasn't a place to live,work and raise a family, how many top North American born NHL players will want to go to obscure/smaller Russian cities to live and work?

  • Huge amount of travel. If you thought going from LA to NY was brutal (2,800 miles), try going from Amur Khabarovsk to Dinamo Riga (4,500 miles!) The other KHL teams are also spread far apart so to be 'on a long road trip' may have a new meaning in Russia.

  • Piss-poor facilities: Some of these arenas we're told are in very poor shape. Ice conditions are worse than a typical hot day in MSG (not good). NHL players who are accustomed to the best of the best will be in for a rude awakening when they have to practice in facilities where they are sharing a bathroom with the general public. LOL

  • Russia is still a 3rd world country. (See above) The many creature comforts even those of us working class people take for granted are hard to come by in Russia of 2008. There isn't a Home Depot/Circuit City/ Target, etc on every corner like we see here in the US. These guys may have money, but being rich in a poor country has its distinct disadvantages.

  • Teams owned by crooks/mafia/corrupt politicians: Sure that sounds like the NHL, but in reality there is no comparison to the rampant corruption over in the old Soviet Union. Many players who went over there to play during the last Bettman lockout got stiffed millions of dollars. With many judges in the back pockets of these oil barons/Russian mafia, etc owners these players have no recourse to recoup that cash, so folks going over there to get rich better keep their eyes on their wallets and ask for the cash up front!

5) So how does the KHL stack up so far? Well many made a big deal over the signing of former Ranger Jaromir Jagr to Avangard Omsk. While it made a nice headline it hardly signals a trend that has the NHL shaking in their boots. So who else is going over there?
  • • G Ray Emery, Ottawa Senators to Atlant Mytishchi (KHL)• F Josef Vasicek, Islanders to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) • )• F Stefan Ruzicka, Philadelphia Flyers to Spartak Moscow (KHL) • F Marcel Hossa, Phoenix Coyotes to Dinamo Riga (KHL) • G Wade Dubielewicz, Islanders to Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)• F Martin Straka, Rangers to HCL Plzen (CZE) • D Jon Klemm, Los Angeles Kings to Straubing Tigers (DEL)
  • If your a follower of the NHL you probably won't miss any of the folks not named Jagr. As for JJ, sure he could still be considered a top NHL player, but he's not the same dominating force he was even 2-3 years ago. He will be missed, but even Jagr will admit it was his plan all along to 'retire from the NHL' with a deal in Europe. While we won't sugar coat his loss to the NHL, we believe his departure will NOT cause an avalanche of younger players to leave to play in Russia either

6) What might cause the KHL to become a true NHL rival?

  • If the NHL salary cap begins to contract. Not expecting this any time soon. In fact it'll probably continue is drift higher at least for the next 2 years, up to nearly 60-65 million. However if: a) the US economy truly goes into recession(it hasn't as of this date) b) the CN dollar shrinks to its early 90 levels c) Oil stays or goes even higher then its conceivable that the NHL won't increase its income, and it could deflate causing the subsequent cap to go down. Thus making the KHL more attractive to high end talent

  • If there is any new work stoppage in the NHL. This clearly could happen in 4 years when this CBA expires. We won't go into the details, but we at FAUXRUMORS are on record predicting another work stoppage as owners attempt to end guaranteed contracts. This could flood the KHL with players fleeing the NHL for work. You could even see substantial North American born/trained players go to Europe/Russia to continue their careers as the NHL is locked out yet again.

7) How can the KHL can start to attract top players in their primes? We believe that our above negative factors will continue to seriously dissuade top/impact players from defecting to the KHL. (The Radulov situation still is unresolved as of this printing) However if the previous 2 'causes' occur then we could finally see a shift of significant talent resources to Europe/Russia and at that time, and that time only would we pronounce the KHL as a true rival league. Until then, they are mere annoyance and a refuge for the lesser/older player.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nolan Tossed Off Island!

1) In yet another bizzaro-world move by the kings of Bizzaro moves, the NY Islanders today fired their head coach Ted Nolan. For those of you who have not been keeping track with the Islanders head coach's trials and tribulations we invite you to read our blog post where we ask if Ted is being blackballed. We additionally invite our readers to to look at the post we did just 2 short months ago where we predicted this very occurrence.

2) We did however believe that the Isles would at least retain Nolan into the season then fire him; using him as the teams scape goat. It seems that Ted was not allowing the team to play him for the fool. The honest Nolan would tell reporters exactly how he felt and this irritated maverick(euphemism for rich nut job) owner Charles Wang. Wang thought Nolan owed him big time for resurrecting his career. Feeling that without the Isles, Nolan would still be in the QMJHL or worse yet, back on the reservation coaching kids. Nolan would be a stand up guy and tell reporters or anyone who would listen how he felt about the direction the team was taking.(Diplomatically of course). He must have known what Wang/Snow had in store for him and refused to play along. (Also we do NOT believe this move was racially based or related to Ted's past issues). In a choice between wang and Nolan we'd choose Nolan. Wang in the past has been shown to be bush-league!

3) However the very proud Nolan feels he has earned every penny he has made from the Isles and owed them nothing but living up to his part of his 3 year contract.(We agree!) The writing was on the wall that Nolan would soon be gone when the Isles traded his good friend Chris Simon for almost nothing at the trade deadline. We're told Nolan called Snow and angrily told him that he was pissed that they isles didn't consult with him first. Things got worse from there and even former Isles PR man Chris Botta recently weighed in on the Snow-Nolan issue on his blog.

4) So where do both parties go from here?

  • The Isles are now without a coach. Many chastised the Kings for waiting until June to fire Crawford and then name a new coach. The Isles felt they had to out do the Kings in idiocy by waiting 3 full months to decide to replace Nolan. Why the wait? Only Wang and Snow know for sure and they will only be spinning drivel blaming Nolan that he wasn't going to be on board with the new youth movement, etc. We have a feeling Nolan would be 'on board' if he was given assurances of being with the team beyond this season (a contract extension was a must!) Given that his tenure was, well tenuous, we can't blame Nolan for fearing that his next/last season with the Isles would be a bottom finish and thus wasn't keen on having such an inexperienced lineup to work with.

  • Meanwhile we don't believe the hype of these 'kids'. Other than Okposo none impress us as being a future star player in the league. We saw a bottom 5 finish this season for the Isles, and this move only cements this viewpoint. They rid themselves of one of their better assets in Nolan. The team will probably hire a very desperate/loyal AHL coach that they will sell to the fans as the perfect candidate to 'coach the kids'. Or hire former super star Brian Trottier in a clear PR move to save face. Who could boo a living legend like Trotts?

  • For Nolan its definitely too late to find work as a head coach, but he may find work as a teams' asst if he chooses, or wait until the inevitable first firing and wait for the phone to ring. If another team/GM is smart they will have Nolan's number on speed dial. Nolan is a legit/good NHL coach who deserved/deserves better. The Isles do not!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Less Is More?

1) This is apparently the case with regard to games played for a team's starting/#1 goalie. When we were discussing possible topics to discuss during the doldrums of the summer, a few of us at The FAUXRUMORS Group, LLC. got into a discussion about the merits of playing your top goalie as much as has become almost a regular occurrence these days. We discussed for instance if the Devils would have done better if Brodeur would have been rested more often?

2) In fact, with the origination of the salary cap, teams are more and more carrying only 1 top quality goalie for a good salary and a very cheap back up to save cap space. Seldom do we see a split between 2 goalies like we saw regularly 25 years ago. Nowadays, playing 65-70 or more games by the top goalie is common place, but is it a good strategy to employ?

3) Our discussion was prompted by the Red Wings recent Cup run with Chris Osgood. He wasn't really a true/prototype #1 goalie that many teams possess. In fact he wasn't even the #1 going into the post season. We figured it would be interesting to see if this was the exception or not. What we found surprised us. With the exception of Martin Brodeur (earlier in his career) it seems that teams have success (win the Cup) when they have a goalie that plays under 60 games. We went back the past 5 years to see if this premise held.

  • 2007-2008: Western Conference champs goalie (Osgood) 43 games/ East(Fleury) 35 games played

  • 2006-2007: Western Conference champs goalie (Giguere) 56 games/ East (Emery) 58 games played

  • 2005-2006: Western Conference champs goalie (Roloson) 43 games/ East (Ward) 28 games played

  • 2004-2005: Bettman Lockout.

  • 2003-2004: Western Conference champs goalie (Kiprusoff) 39 games/ East (Khabibulin)55 games played

4) The next question is do teams take this bit of information and try to alter their teams' future strategy? We are already on record stating that the Devils made a mistake playing Brodeur so much the last 2 seasons as he has looked 'tired' and not nearly as sharp from playing so much. (77 and 78 games respectively) However teams like New Jersey and Vancouver, etc are in a catch 22 situation. They rely so heavily on their goalie to carry them, that playing him less could result in missing the post season entirely. Eventually we believe teams will begin to re-think their strategy in this regard and possibly have to set aside more resources to retain more than one quality goalie. Allowing them to rest their #1 so he is ready to face the immense 2 month long pressure cooker that is the Stanley Cup playoffs

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ray Bolts To Russia

1) For those who may have missed it, former Ottawa Senator goalie, ray Emery will NOT be playing hockey in the NHL, or anywhere in North America in 2008-09. According to Canadian media reports Ray Emery's NHL career is taking a detour — through Russia, where he'll collect his paycheque in rubles. The goaltender, whose contract was bought out by the Senators last month, has agreed to a one-year deal which could pay him in excess of $2 million plus bonuses next season with Atlant Mytishchi of the newly-formed Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.

2) As FR2 postulated last week, the Senators did Ray a HUGE favour by buying him out of his contract. Not only will Ray receive approximately a half million dollars from his former team the next 4 years for doing nothing, he will now make an additional 2 million tax free playing in Russia, plus whatever bonuses they gave him. No matter the bonus situation, Emery will receive MORE this season than if he had stayed in the NHL with Ottawa.

3) While some pundits have opined that this is a mistake by Emery to go over to Europe to play next season, we at FAUXRUMORS respectfully disagree. By bypassing the NHL he will be out of the glare of the camera eye for a year. Ray needs some time away to help heal the wounds (real and media generated) from last season. If he has a good season playing in the now well regarded KHL he will undoubtedly be a wanted man come July 2009. Time heals all wounds is what they say, and in NHL parlance, memories are short. If Ray has a good season all they will see is a 27 year old goalie not yet in his prime who might help a team get to the next level. Either way, he won't be hurting for cash any time soon. The 2 mil+bonuses plus the 1/3 of 2.5 the Sens will paying him the next few years should keep Ray's wardrobe up to date

Monday, July 7, 2008

As the Dust Settles.....

1) We at FAUXRUMORS were tempted to chime in the last few days with a post concerning how we feel teams fared this free agent signing season. Certainly in some circles even today 7 days into the fray its too early to make any firm conclusions, but we feel enough of the big names have been signed, and the bigger deals have already been consummated to make some conclusions about who in fact bettered themselves, and who are now weaker than they were at the end of the 2007-08 season.

2) First, the teams we feel clearly improved their chances going into the 2008-09 season compared to where they were at season's end. The winners:

  • Chicago- The rebuild/transformation of the Blackhawks will be one of the bigger stories this next season in our opinion. Only a year removed from the black death that was the William Wirtz ownership, the team now can be looked upon as one of the more exciting teams to keep an eye on. A familiar refrain we expect to hear is they will be 'the Capitals of this season'. The addition of big time offensive defenseman Brian Campbell to go with their impressive array of young guns will make their PP a deadly weapon. Adding dependable Huet and hopefully for them the trade of underachieving goalie Khabibulin will mean the Hawks will reemerge back from the dead, and possibly back to the post season. They will need to jettison Nikolai to avoid a divided club house. They probably won't get much in return, and at his salary their are probably few who can take him, but despite this we feel the folks in Chicago will enjoy a renaissance of hockey the Windy City hasn't seen in over a decade!

  • Tampa Bay- They started the off-season by extending the contract of super star Vinny Lecavlier. Removing the silly Montreal rumors (they won't end there ofcourse). Next ownership/Jay Feaster went out and got pro-active and signed Ryan Malone, Vaclav Prospal, and Gary Roberts, before any were even on the market. Then to cement these moves the added Radim Vrbata, David Koci and Adam Hall, to round out their forwards and goalie Olaf Kolzig to add some veteran leadership/depth to the thin goalie position. We especially like the addition of Koci who give the Bolts a true heavy weight enforcer to help deter those taking liberties with its offensive stars. We still are not sold on their defense/goaltending as being Cup calibre, but Add these moves to the drafting of Stamkos, the folks of the Florida Bay area should be excited to see hockey return this fall!

  • Pittsburgh- Their biggest moves were to get their own people resigned. Getting Malkin and Fleury signed long term to relatively reasonable cap-friendly deals it allowed Ray Shero to make other moves to bolster his team going into next season. In addition to those deals, Shero went out and got/retained Pascal Dupuis, Mark Eaton, Eric Godard, Brooks Orpik, Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Matt Cooke. We feel the additions of the former Islanders Satan and Fedotenko along with Cooke will give the pens a nice veteran feel they may have been missing. Godard will bring toughness (at a lesser cap cost) in the absence of the departed Laraque. The key, as it always is, can Fleury give them the type of goaltending he provided in the post season, over the long haul? Sabourin is highly touted, but can't be expected to carry the load like Conklin did last season when Fleury went down. Still, we believe the Pens should be right there again next season!

  • Detroit- The rich get richer? This certainly applies in the case of the reigning champion, Red wings. They added the free agent cream of the crop in Marion Hossa. Not only did they add him, but got him at a big discount of 7.4 million, and only to one season. It looks like Marion wants to sip champagne next spring, not watch others do it. They also got another former Penguin, Ty Conklin to augment their goal tending with Osgood. The two are well regarded, but combined only will cost the Wings a cap hit of 2.4 million! (Compared with Chicago's 12.3) They also retained the services of defenders Brad Stuart and Andreas Lilja who both seemed to come into their own this season in Mo-town. All in all we would have to say the Wings of 2008-09, baring injury/Cup hangovers should be every bit as good as this past year's squad!

3) Next, the teams, in our opinion, who have decreased their chances going into the 2008-09 season compared to where they were at season's end. The losers:

  • Montreal- The Habs were relatively quiet on the signing front. The added tough guy Georges Laraque to address the team toughness issue highlighted in the Flyer series, but the lost defensemen/PP specialist Mark Streit. Gainey did resign star forward Andrei Kostitsyn to a multi year deal removing him from offer sheet eligibility. Still Habs fans must be wondering about their team's strategy. They will be relying heavily on another season from a 36 year old Alex Kovalev, 35 year old Hamrlik, and 34 year old Saku Koivu along with 2nd year goalie Carey Price to get them back into the post season.

  • Toronto- The (now permanent-?) GM Cliff Fletcher tried to add by subtracting. Erasing Kyle Wellwood, Darcy Tucker, Andrew raycroft from the payroll (still trying with McCabe). However the void left by the departing captain, Matts Sundin is gaping to say the least. Jason Blake will have to seriously return to his 40 goal form if the Leafs are to have any chance at returning to the playoffs. They over paid in our opinion to acquire former Av's defensemen Jeff Finger. 4 years 3.5 million a lot to pay, but the folks in TO are used to that and losing by now. We don't see any reason to believe that will change in 08-09.

  • Rangers- They may have replaced the likes of Jagr, Avery, Straka and Shanahan with Naslund, and Zherdev, but that in our opinion leave a big leadership/toughness gap that we feel will be evident. Sure Naslund could return to his form of 5 years ago, and the enigmatic Zherdev might become a real star in Manhattan, but we don't see it. For all the hoopla about the big acquisition of Redden, many forget he wasn't even the best defender in Ottawa the past 2 years, and he hardly has played up to his salary in the process. The burden will be even more heavy on King Henrik this next season. He will need to play at a season long Vezina caliber to get the Blueshirts into the post season. Also much more will be expected from the 'kids' like Staal, Dubinsky,Callahan, Girardi, etc.

  • Colorado- Any team that has as its top goalies Andrew Raycroft and Peter Budaj can't feel confident. A year ago we felt Budaj had the potential to be a #1 goalie, but lost his starters job to the departed Theodore. Raycroft hardly inspires, as he is 4 years removed from his last good season. Kicked to the curb by the Leafs. A few weeks ago we wondered if re-signing Jose at big bucks would be worth the gamble, now that seems like it would have been the better move. One has to wonder if there was a falling out with Colorado and the former Hab? They also lost Finger to Toronto, and were forced to pay big bucks to keep Liles and Foote. The former getting a huge 4 year 4.2 mil deal. Faced with the possible losses of Sakic and Forsberg, the addition of Tucker hardly makes us confident the denizens of Denver wil be back in the playoffs in 08-09.

3) This is hardly a final grade on these and the other 22 non-mentioned teams, but with most teams already with their rosters set, barring a trade the bigger moves have already taken place. There are only 2 players remaining who could alter the landscape a bit. Matts Sundin and to a lesser extent Pavol Demitra. After that the list gets thin. Teams with significant additional cap space to add one(or both) (after signing their own RFA's)

  • Vancouver - 12 million
  • Phoenix- 14 million
  • Islanders 15 million
  • Nashville 10 million
  • Montreal 8 million
  • LA- 15 million
  • Columbus 10 million
  • Atlanta- 15 million

4) Of those we wouldn't expect to see much movement from NY and Phoenix, but LA and Atlanta may try to land Demitra, and its been widely rumoured that the Canucks are hot after Sundin. With the loss of Naslund the Canucks will need to add some offense else they will be on our 'losers' list.

Editors note: We now are in what we call at FAUXRUMORS the no mans land of hockey news. The draft and main wheeling/dealing of the UFA period is over. Some deals will certainly occur, but they will be much further and fewer between. We at FAUXRUMORS will continue to bring you hard hitting news, rumours and commentary like no blog can/does. As always, keep it hear for all the latest!

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