by Patrick Hoffman on 07/27/10 at 02:28 PM ET
Recently, I was lucky enough to do an e-mail interview with Scott Laughlin of XM’s NHL Home Ice. Scott Laughlin hosts the Power Play and also used to host Hockey This Morning.
Scott was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk about NHL free-agency and the Illya Kovalchuk situation. Take it away, Scott:
PH: Which free agent signings do you like? Why?
SL: I like what Pittsburgh did in signing Paul Martin and the unheralded Zbynek Michalek. Even without Sergei Gonchar you could make the argument that they’re a much-stronger defensive team as compared to last season. Unfortunately, big bucks for the two defencemen has meant they don’t have enough left under the cap to upgrade on the wing. However, with Crosby, Malkin, and Staal they’ll find a way to score enough to win.
PH: Which free agent signings do you dislike? Why?
SL: Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils and it’s not because it’s a “cheat contract”. Although he’s one of my favourite players to watch and his skill-sets are off the charts and although he was a point-per-game player in New Jersey after being acquired, it just seemed to be the “square peg in round hole” scenario. I was shocked in the end that the Devils made that much of an effort to sign him. Maybe Lou’s marching orders, in this case, did come from Jeff Vanderbeek.
PH: Which teams do you think have gotten better during the off-season? Why?
SL: Tampa Bay and St. Louis. The Lightning by adding Yzerman, Boucher, Brisebois, Leiweke, and Gagne and the Blues by adding Jaroslav Halak in a steal of a trade with Montreal.
PH: Which teams do you think have gone backwards during the off-season? Why?
SL: Philadelphia for the pickups of Andrej Meszaros and his contract, for losing Gagne, and for taking a “Flyer” on an enigmatic talent like Nikolai Zherdev.
PH: What do you think of this whole Illya Kovalchuk saga?
SL: As mentioned previously, I was surprised that New Jersey went so hard after a guy that didn’t seem to fit into the Devils’ “team-oriented system” down the stretch. Having said that, as much as their contract with Kovalchuk seems to skirt the salary cap, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it as far as CBA terms go, or in comparison to Luongo’s deal with Vancouver or Hossa’s deal with Chicago.
PH: Will Kovalchuk still end up being a New Jersey Devil? Why or why not?
SL: Kovalchuk will end up being a New Jersey Devil. However, this really sets the stage for more intense CBA negotiations in the next year or two as the league will certainly make sure that these types of deals don’t happen down the road. There will be no more 17-year contracts and no deals that’ll be heavily front-loaded with so little charged to the teams on the back-end.
PH: Any other words here for Kukla’s Korner readers?
SL: As the great wrestling announcer Jim Ross liked to say, “Business is about to pick up”. I really believe that the dog-days came early this off-season, but August will deliver more in the way of hockey news with the likes of Kovalchuk and Tomas Kaberle about to jump into the headlines even more. Then comes September and the opening of training camps across the league. It should be fun!
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.