Kukla's Korner

Restructuring the Wings

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Detroit News,

The first step in redoing the Red Wings has taken place. But general manager Ken Holland still has plenty of work to do. The Wings surprised no one Monday by putting defenseman Derian Hatcher and forwards Darren McCarty and Ray Whitney on waivers, enabling the team to buy out those three. With the salary cap set at $39 million under the collective bargaining agreement, the buying out of the three puts the payroll at $22 million, with eight players signed. Holland now will try to sign the Wings' unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and junior players. The futures of Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios and Pavel Datsyuk, among others, are unclear. This is how the Wings stand on various issues: • In unrestricted free agency, Holland will meet with Yzerman this week and has spoken with Chelios, 43, in the last couple of days. "I told Chris we'll talk again at the end of the week," Holland said. There is a slim chance that Chelios will return, but only if he and Yzerman agreed to take substantial pay cuts to fit into the salary structure. Holland has contacted agents for defensemen Mathieu Dandenault and Mathieu Schneider. The Wings might have enough payroll flexibility to pursue some of their unrestricted free agents, as well as two or three from other teams. • In restricted free agency, it looks as if negotiations with Datsyuk are going as slowly as they did before the lockout. "It's a process," Holland said.

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The Ice Charades

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Bill Plaschke of the LA Times (reg. req.),

A sport dirtied, a season soiled, the Kings finally came clean. Officially opening the doors Monday for the first time in nearly a year, this town's perplexing little skating troupe celebrated not with confetti, but a confession. The reason they are so excited about this new salary-capped NHL labor agreement? Because they had long been operating under their own, private salary cap. The reason they think this new agreement will improve their Stanley Cup hopes? Because they had not been spending enough money to be competitive. Just as everyone thought. The Ice Charades. "Maybe in the past we have had to use marketing and cute slogans and campaigns to win people over," admitted Tim Leiweke, team president, in a televised press conference from Staples Center. "Maybe we didn't have enough of a product to be competitive, so we thought it was important to spin our assets, our sport and our organization." And now? "Going forward," Leiweke said, "things are going to change." That is, if we're not being spun again. How do we know? Everyone talks about this $39-million salary cap, but did you also realize there was a salary floor of $21 million? How do we know the Kings won't be paying closer attention to that? How do we know that they won't invent new reasons to ignore important free agents, even if that person is sitting in the middle of their locker room? What promises can they make that fans will never again be buried under an Avalanche? Suckers once, shame on them. Suckers twice, shame on us.

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Blackhawks Have a Plan, But No Home TV

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Daily Herald,

For years, they’ve been the sorry Blackhawks. On Monday, the Hawks were simply sorry as president Bill Wirtz apologized to Chicago hockey fans for missing the entire 2004-05 NHL season due to the owners’ lockout. “To the fans of Chicago, I want to apologize both for the owners and the players for the last season,” Wirtz said. The Hawks realize it’s not going to be easy winning back their fans. Certainly the best way to do it would be to put a contending and entertaining team on the ice for the first time in almost a decade. Cutting ticket prices wouldn’t hurt either, which is exactly what the Hawks plan to do for certain seats. The Hawks announced all full season-ticket holders would receive a 10 percent discount for the 2005-06 season. Additionally, a total of 2,672 seats in the 300 level of the United Center will be priced at $10.

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NHL Needs ESPN

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the St. Louis Post Dispatch via the Mercury News,

The NHL finally has settled its labor troubles, but its negotiating days are far from over. Still to be determined is where its U.S. national cable/satellite television package will end up this season. NBC has gained the over-the-air package of telecasts that ABC used to have, but the league's contract with ESPN has expired and no cable deal is in place. Now the reality is that the NHL is even more lightly regarded as a TV entity now than it was when games were being played two seasons ago. ESPN's replacement programming last spring - including trivia shows, celebrity bowling and NFL players competing in skills contests - drew a better rating than the playoffs did the previous year. Then in May, ESPN opted not to renew its contract with the NHL, which would have cost the network $60 million. But ESPN isn't ready to give up on the NHL, either. "We would like to be in business with the NHL," ESPN executive vice president for programming and production Mark Shapiro said in a telephone interview. "But it's got to be on more appropriate economic terms." Does that mean a straight revenue-sharing deal, as NBC has made with the NHL, instead of paying at least some rights fee? "Not necessarily - but not $60 million, either," Shapiro said. There have been rumblings that the cable package could end up on USA (an NBC sister network), TNT or Spike TV. But Marc Ganis, president of the sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd., said the NHL simply needs to take the best offer it can wrangle out of ESPN. "They have to go to ESPN," Ganis told the Los Angeles Times. "There really is not much of a choice here, not necessarily because of the money they'll make off the game broadcasts, but rather the promotional exposure that ESPN will offer across a broad spectrum of sports fans.''

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Cap Reality

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Kevin Allen of USA TODAY,

The reality of the new $39 million salary cap hit home for the previously free-spending Detroit Red Wings on Monday when they were forced to put Derian Hatcher, Ray Whitney and Darren McCarty on waivers in preparation for buying out their contracts. The buyouts will cut the Red Wings' payroll by $9.2 million. After the 24% wage reduction, Detroit is now just above $25 million, although it must re-sign restricted free agents Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jason Williams, plus unrestricted Steve Yzerman. "These were very difficult decisions to make, but based on the new rules we had to clear some cap space," said Detroit general manager Ken Holland. The presumption is the Red Wings, who sell out their arena for the entire season, will bring their payroll to about $37.5 million to give themselves room in case they have to make a move at the trade deadline. When the NHL last played in 2003-04, the Red Wings were pushing $80 million in payroll.

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Latest Rumors

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

With the National Hockey League back in business, the rumor mill is churning furiously as the Aug. 1 deadline for unrestricted free agency approaches. Checl out what Spector of Fox Sports has to say.

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LA Kings Cut Season Tickets by 5%

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Ticket prices for Los Angeles Kings season tickets holders have been reduced by five percent for the upcoming 2005-06 season and individual game ticket pricing will remain unchanged from the 2003-04 season, it was announced today by Kings President Tim Leiweke. update 6:35pm, Avs cut prices too.

In apologizing for its labor sins, the NHL has promised to be prettier and more fun, but today the Colorado Avalanche sent its fans a make-up bouquet scented with a 20 percent slash in ticket prices this season. The rollback - which also includes a 10 percent reduction in the cost of single-game tickets - marks one of the most lavish price cuts in the NHL where this week a bevy of clubs are dangling fresh ticket deals to soothe and sway angry fans.

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Goodbye to Mac

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Probably directed more to the Wings fans, but a nice article on Darren McCarty. from the AP via Mlive,

Darren McCarty, whose hard-working, physical style of play made him a favorite in Hockeytown, on Monday took one step closer to leaving Detroit. The 33-year-old forward was waived by the Red Wings along with Derian Hatcher and Ray Whitney. If the trio go unclaimed as expected, the Red Wings have the option of buying out their contracts and making them unrestricted free agents. In other words, the 11-season relationship between McCarty and the Wings has effectively ended. "It's obviously disappointing because this is the only place I ever played," McCarty said during an interview on WDFN-AM in Detroit. "I'll always be a Red Wing at heart, and it'll always be home. What can you say? I'll try to take a positive out of it."

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Yashin Staying with Isles

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the AP via TSN,

Islanders general manager Mike Milbury knows the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement will only help his team so much. The rest is up to him and the players he puts on the ice. "We always felt we could compete, but there was a feeling of frustration," Milbury said Monday. "We'll have a better chance, but we still have to make the right decisions." Payrolls no longer are an issue when it comes to hockey. Gone are the days where big-market clubs could load up their rosters with all-stars no matter the cost. The limit is $39 million US per team, whether you play in a sparkling new arena or the seen-its-better-days Nassau Coliseum. "Let's face facts. We need our top guys to perform," Milbury said. That starts with Alexei Yashin, who was slated to earn $10 million this season before a 24 per cent rollback cut his salary to $7.6 million - tied for second highest in the NHL.

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A “Great’Comparison

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Phil Coffey of NHL.com,

Perhaps like no other segment of society, sports lends itself to comparisons. Is this team as good as that? What about this player as opposed to that? Is he a better coach than that guy? So it's almost logical -- although highly unfair -- that Sidney Crosby has drawn the almost inevitable comparisons to the NHL's greatest scorers, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. But after putting up the numbers Crosby did with Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, well there was really no chance that wasn't going to happen. "He is a wonderful player," retired coach Scotty Bowman told reporters after watching Crosby practice during the Memorial Cup tournament. "I think he deserves everything people say about him." In the hockey world, when Bowman talks, people listen, so Bowman's next comments added a layer of cement to Crosby's formidable reputation.

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