Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Bill Simmons at ESPN Page 2,
4:21: As we wait for Chicago’s pick, one TSN announcer confidently decides, “This is a crucial time for the Blackhawks,” and another adds, “This is a big pick, this is a big pick.” They both have kickin’ Canadian accents. How have I been missing the NHL draft all these years? I feel like someone introduced me to Patron tequila all over again.
4:22: Here’s a cool wrinkle for the first round: Before every pick, each GM walks up to the stage flanked by four cronies, then stands in front of the podium and announces his pick. Imagine if the NBA did this and we could see the likes of Elgin Baylor and Kevin McHale announcing their own picks? Can we make this happen?
Anyway, Chicago GM Dale Tallon is “proud” to introduce tiny Patrick Kane as his No. 1 pick. This kid looks like an altar boy. I’m not kidding—he actually looks like an altar boy. I hope his tremendous upside potential involves puberty.
from the Philly News,
Even after using $10.5 million in cap space against this year with the moves he made last week to land Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell from the Nashville Predators, Holmgren said Saturday the Flyers still have enough money to spend in the bidding for the top three centers available: Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, and Daniel Briere.
“We have room to do things,” he said. “And we have room to be creative. We’ll see what happens starting July 1.”...
Beyond what they have to spend, the Flyers will be looking to reduce salary either through contract buyouts or trades. One player being speculated about is 23-year-old defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
Holmgren said that interest in Pitkanen was minimal despite reports to the contrary.
“There has been very little talk about him in the last few days,” Holmgren said. “There’s been more speculation about him by [agent] Larry Kelly and the media. Lots of teams ask about our players, but I’m not sure [Pitkanen] is the one they ask the most about.”
from the Tampa Bay Tribune,
But the real work is going to come in improving the goaltending. The same questions that surrounded the team at the end of the season remain today. And, really, is there anyway to really improve the position right now? Can you look at the free-agent crop that has names such as Brian Boucher, Mathieu Garon, Ed Belfour, Kevin Weekes, Robert Esche or Curtis Joseph?
About the only name that could be enticing is Dominik Hasek, assuming he doesn’t re-sign with Detroit before free agency begins Sunday.
The goaltending has to be better for this team to be better. It could come from within, as Holmqvist showed signs last season, or Denis could bounce back and show the consistency the team needs. And Ramo is a highly touted, but unproven, 21-year-old.
Either way, there is no easy solution to turning the team into a legitimate contender this season.
from the Record,
Stevens and his longtime Rangers’ rival, Mark Messier, are expected to headline one of the best induction classes in the Hall’s hallowed history.
They’ll likely be joined by former Calgary and St. Louis defenseman Al MacInnis and ex-Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto center Ron Francis.
“It’s a big thing,” Stevens admitted. “I don’t really think of a lot of things, but you think about the Stanley Cup and after that I maybe thought of the Hall of Fame, thinking that would be really neat. That would be some accomplishment to be recognized with other great players.”
added 10:15am, Legends of Hockey has a different spin on the class for this year…
Too many deserving members and only 4 positions. My money is on Messier, Stevens, Larionov, and Bure. Francis probably should get the nod over Bure, but somehow I see the Hall making a bit of a political move here.
from the Vancouver Province,
The Canucks have 14 players under contract for $40.095 million. Regardless of how high the cap ceiling rises—$48-50 million is a safe bet—landing a top-six forward to spark a 23rd-ranked offence and adding a defenceman will be done through trades. Or, perhaps a cautious foray into free agency.
“We’re going to explore all of our options including free agency in the first couple of weeks of July,” said Nonis. “But those players [free agents] just don’t grow on trees and there are a lot of teams looking to add players.
“It’s going to depend on the price and the term you have to sign certain players, but I’ll expect we’ll find a player or two to fill some holes. But when and where, I don’t know.”
from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun,
Because of his age, Emery might be the only attractive restricted free agent out there. Should Emery be offered a contract worth less than $4.5 million per season, all it would cost the team making the offer is a first-, second- and third-round draft pick in 2008.
If you think that’s a high price to pay, think again.
That’s pretty much what the Toronto Maple Leafs gave the San Jose Sharks to get goalie Vesa Toskala before the first round of the draft on Friday at Nationwide Arena.
Conversations between agents and teams for restricted free agents can begin today, but no offer sheets can be tendered until July 1. There are plenty of teams—including St. Louis, Boston, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay—looking for goaltending help.
But moving into the backyard of the Leafs and Sabres is another can of worms entirely, one that could put the legality of the territorial rights veto to the test.
Consider Gary Bettman’s plight: At the end of the day, no matter what the outcome, one or more of his constituents are going to be mighty, mighty unhappy, and the lawyers are already sharpening their pencils.
Makes sense for him to chip away at Balsillie’s character, to try to stall a deal by procedural means, to encourage him to walk away or, at very least, to prevent a vote, and a veto, at all costs.
A rock and a hard place, indeed.
Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail breaks it all down for us…
from the Arizona Republic,
Everybody plays a role on draft day, from General Manager Don Maloney to coach Wayne Gretzky to bird-dog scouts.
Maloney, recently hired after 10 years as assistant general manager with the New York Rangers, was clear about the significance of scouting reports as he prepared for his first Phoenix draft.
“Quite frankly, I’m not the most-important guy in this organization right now,” he said. “It’s Keith Gretzky. He’s the most-important guy because he and his staff are running the draft.
“He’s on the cusp, one of the best young evaluators out there right now. That’s not me. It’s people in the scouting community. It’s a very ruthless community. If somebody is not very good, they’ll weave you out and spit you out.”
from Pierre Lebrun of the CP via the Hockey News,
Big decisions lie ahead this week as the start of the July 1 free agency looms. The flood gates open at noon ET next Sunday.
“I expect the first two or three days in July to be pretty wild,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland.
No one will feel the heat more than Sabres GM Darcy Regier. He’s got two of the most sought-after players who are pending unrestricted free agents in Drury and Briere.
“It’s different, I can tell you that,” Regier said of having two of the top free agents in the NHL. “I haven’t experienced this before in 10 years. We’ll see where it goes.”
from Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun,
“It’s the summer. We’re going to do something. Two deals I thought were going to happen.
“Actually three. But for whatever reason they didn’t happen,” said Lowe via cell phone prior to boarding a plane last night.
“I guess you get to a point where people expect too much and you better step back a bit.
“Miracles aren’t going to happen.
“This draft is evidenced by very few trades. It can be a place where guys get together and trades could get done. But any of the deals we were involved with involved picks for next year, not this year.
“We had one team saying they were going to do it for sure but ...
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