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Good for Canada

from the Toronto Sun,

For years, the disparity among NHL teams has been framed in financial terms. The rich -- Toronto, New York, Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas -- were profligate spenders. The poor -- Edmonton and Buffalo come to mind -- were unable to compete because of the size of their markets and the economics of the game. Stop me if you've heard this before. NEW LANDSCAPE The new CBA was supposed to be about changing all that, at least in theory. This month's free-agent spending spree, now slowing to a trickle, offered a revealing look at the new landscape and gave the first glimpse at whether the new CBA is workable. So far so good. Some little teams brandished their newfound clout. Happily, they were Canadian, where the Edmonton Oilers acquired stalwart defenceman Chris Pronger from St. Louis and signed him to an long-term deal. The Oilers got Mike Peca from the New York Islanders to boot. The Calgary Flames, meanwhile, picked off Darren McCarty from Detroit and landed Tony Amonte, liberated by Philadelphia via the one-time buy-out.

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Vinny Proposes Ten Year Deal

from Larry Brooks of the NY Post (reg. req.),

Slap Shots has learned that the franchise center, who's eligible to become the first elite 26-year-old unrestricted free agent in NHL history, has been offered a three-year, $20.5M deal by the defending Stanley Cup champions, who unaccountably allowed goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to defect to Chicago without much of a fight. We're told that Lecavalier is not only considering that offer — which is $500,000, total, more than Thornton accepted from the Bruins — but has also pitched the concept of a 10-year deal to the Lightning, who are intrigued and listening.

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New CBA Stirs Excitement Says Shanahan

from the NY Times (reg. req.),

As a member of the union's negotiating committee, Brendan Shanahan of the Detroit Red Wings helped formulate the National Hockey League's new collective bargaining agreement. That agreement has largely been viewed as an overwhelming victory for the league and its owners, an opinion that Shanahan hears even from athletes from other sports. "I think we got a great deal," Shanahan said over breakfast last Tuesday. "No. 1, I'll just start off with some of the things that were never taken away that could have been taken away, like guaranteed contracts. Thank God that never came up."

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Yashin’s Team Now

from Alan Hahn of Newsday,

Islanders put faith in Yashin by purging locker room of those who doubted enigmatic star and replacing them with teammates who can play to Alexei’s considerable strengths... It is just past 11 p.m. local time in Yaroslavl, an ancient city in north-central Russia where Alexei Yashin is working out with a team he played with during the lockout. Yashin is wide awake in his hotel room and he is talking. A lot. And would continue for about two more hours. "I'm wired," he says, apologetically. "Can't sleep." Some would say he's done enough sleeping on the ice, where as an Islander he hasn't come close to reaching the all-star level he showed earlier in his career with the Ottawa Senators, never mind the level his 10-year, $90-million contract might otherwise suggest.

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NHL/IIHF Could Get Nasty

from Sportsnet,

If the Czech Republic and Russia decide to take a 'no comply' stance on the latest Olympic participation negotiations, it could cost the European countries when it comes time to lean on the NHL for assistance. Although unlikely, the NHL could use the threat of Olympic participation to lure Russia and the Czech Republic into line with other IIHF federations. At the very least, sources tell Sportsnet the NHL could withhold funding from these two rebellious countries, and potentially refuse to release NHL players to both the Czech and Russian World Championship teams. A slight the Czech Republic must consider deeply, considering their role as defending champions.

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The Other Prospects

from Hockey's Future, Players who just missed Hockey's Future's Top 50 NHL prospects list for Fall 2005:

The Best of the Rest Marek Schwarz, G, St. Louis Blues Heading into the 2004 draft last summer, Schwarz was generally regarded as the top goaltender available. A surprising draft day slide saw the Czech netminder drop all the way to St. Louis at the 17th selection, making him the third player taken at his position. This year, Schwarz made the decision to play against WHL juniors in Vancouver as opposed to against professionals at home. Surprisingly, Schwarz struggled most of the year in the new setting, posting very pedestrian numbers, including a save percentage of .900. The highlight of his season was definitely the WJC, where he was named the top goaltender of the tournament. There is little doubt about Schwarz’s talent and pure athleticism, but he remains quite raw and is still several years away from the NHL. Ryan Whitney, D, Pittsburgh Penguins The first four selections in the 2002 draft, Rick Nash, Kari Lehtonen, Jay Bouwmeester and Joni Pitkanen, have all been talked about as potential franchise players. But the player taken fifth overall has had little recognition. While Whitney’s three-year college career was inconsistent and perhaps underwhelming, the talented blueliner had a strong rookie campaign in the AHL this past season. He tallied 41 points in 80 games, and unlike many prospects in their first year out of college, Whitney did not seem to tire at the end of the year or in the playoffs, where the Boston University graduate notched nine points in 11 games. Whitney is blessed with great size and impressive offensive potential, but has to improve his decision-making. Igor Grigorenko, RW, Detroit Red Wings The Detroit Red Wings have proven themselves to be very capable of finding good young players from the draft, despite not having had a top 20 pick since 1991. In 2001, they did not make a selection until No. 62, at which point they grabbed Igor Grigorenko, an undersized sniper from Russia. After a spectacular 2002-03 season, when Grigorenko starred both at home and at the WJC, he was in a very serious car accident, and lost the bulk of the 2003-04 season. He struggled early this year with his regular club team Lada Togliatti, tallying only one assist in 11 games. A transfer to Salavat Yulayev allowed Grigorenko to blossom, with 18 points in 30 games. Grigorenko is a dynamic offensive player, with great hockey sense and a willingness to go into dangerous areas of the ice.

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Will the Senators Trade Redden

from the Ottawa Sun,

You'd never want to do it. In the old days, you probably never would. But if you're the Senators, it seems you really have no choice. The new NHL is forcing you into a tough decision. It's making you trade a star player. And if you're the Senators, you have to realize that player is Wade Redden. As it stands, you have too many players who are either in or are falling into the $5 million per season range. You have to make sure you lock up your best, Marian Hossa. You also have to sign Zdeno Chara to a long-term deal before he can test the unrestricted free agent market next summer. In Chara, you have a commodity no one else does -- a talented 6-foot-9, 260-pounder who may be the toughest defenceman to play against. He can't be allowed to escape.

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Bruins O’Connell- “Favorites for the Stanley Cup”

from the Boston Herald,

"I think this team, with the way it's set up with the rule changes, we have to be considered favorites for the Stanley Cup, and I think the players should feel the same way," general manager Mike O'Connell said. While some of the heavy lifting might be completed for O'Connell, he still has pretty important work to do.

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Chris Gratton to Florida

via Sportsnet,

The Florida Panthers continue to play an active role in the free agent free-for-all, this time the Florida club signed veteran forward Chris Gratton. Gratton, who was picked third overall by Tampa Bay back in 1993, split time with Phoenix and Colorado in 2003/04, scoring 13 goals and adding 19 assists. Sportsnet has also learned Gratton's contract is for one-year, and valued at $900,000.

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Going After RFA Players

from Spector and Fox Sports,

Under the new CBA it may become easier for a team to pluck away another club's top RFA players. With all teams now under a salary cap, there are some presently attempting to re-sign their respective RFA players but have limited cap space available with which to do so. One example of this is the Detroit Red Wings, who are at present in negotiations with young RFA forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Under the old CBA, they wouldn't have to worry about rival clubs attempting to poach these two away with offers sheets because they weren't limited by a salary cap and could easily match any offer. But under this new CBA, Wings GM Ken Holland has little wiggle room available to re-sign Datsyuk and Zetterberg, which is causing negotiations between those players and Holland to drag. Don't expect there to be a "gentleman's agreement" between the team owners not to raid each other's rosters with offer sheets. At some point there is bound to be a team willing to take the chance to not only test the new CBA's limits but also the payroll limits of a rival club.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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