Kukla's Korner

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Wait Until Next Year

from the Detroit Free Press,

Here's a dilemma: You find a really nice house, and it's available to buy now. But you also know that next summer, a dreamier house may be available. Which do you buy? Free agency begins today in the NHL, and, like the other 29 teams, the Red Wings will be looking to shape a team while being fiscally responsible. There may well be 200-plus unrestricted free agents available by noon, when the deadline for clubs to qualify their own restricted free agents expires, and a list that already includes Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Scott Niedermayer and Adam Foote will further burgeon. What team wouldn't want some of those names? Well, actually, a team that might decide to hold out until next summer, when the list of unrestricted free agents could include names like Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier.

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No Rush on Signing

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

Nobody really knows what to expect when the first capped free-agent market in NHL history opens today at noon. But here's what not to expect: a rush of unrestricted upper-end talent signing for discount prices to accommodate general managers claiming and complaining they won't be able to maintain (or build) a winning team unless players are willing to take less. Lifestyle preferences will play a part in the decision making process, of course, and each individual has his own unique priorities, but it would be naive to expect people like Scott Niedermayer, Nikolai Khabibulin and Markus Naslund not to seek as close to the max $7.8M contract permitted under the CBA after losing millions last year and going forward in a capped open market — and how's that for a paradoxical concept? A new model will emerge under this restrictive CBA, and it's likely to be one that's completely antithetical to anything we've ever seen before in hockey. Some creative GM somewhere is going to recognize that a championship team can be constructed by signing two or three elite players to 20-percent-of-the-cap max contracts and then filling the rest of the roster with draft choices and inexpensive support players who will be close to a literal dime a dozen.

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Everyone May Play Today

from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun,

Will there be real fireworks or merely just a small spark? With the entry draft now in the rear-view mirror, NHL teams point their focus toward free agents starting today, as GMs roll up their sleeves and begin laying the groundwork for the opening of training camps in September. Depending on who you believe, teams are either going to come charging hard out of the starting blocks at noon today, or they're going to take a cautious approach with a $39-million (all figures US) salary cap now in place.

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Building a Team

from al Strachan of the Toronto Sun

, This is a hectic time for general managers. As Florida Panthers GM Mike Keenan said, "It's going to be like studying for the finals at university. There are going to be all-nighters and lots of coffee." By the time all the bought-out players have found new homes, the free agents have been signed and the qualifying offers have been accepted (very few will be rejected), the National Hockey League will have a whole new face. As a result, this will be a season unlike any other because the track records will be totally irrelevant. A team that has been abysmal for years suddenly could become a contender. A good example would be the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Modano Will Test Market

from the Star-Telegram (reg. req.),

The Stars, like all teams, had to prioritize which of their potential free agents was most important to re-sign. Their choice was between Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov. They signed the 35-year-old defenseman Sunday but not the 35-year-old center, and, as a result, there is a chance that Modano has played his final game for the Stars, the only franchise for which he has played. "Certainly this is a bittersweet day that he becomes an unrestricted free agent," Stars general manager Doug Armstrong said. "He wants to see what is on the other side, but hopefully he doesn't have to go there."

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Sabres Look to Canada with New TV Deal

from Buffalo Business First,

While it will be two months before the first regular-season game, the Buffalo Sabres are ratcheting up efforts to sell tickets, line up sponsors and produce more revenues. With a new collective-bargaining agreement in place between the National Hockey League and NHL Players' Association, the Sabres' marketing staff has emerged from a yearlong deep freeze. "It was tough to hold any productive discussions until we knew what the road map was going to be," said Dan DiPofi, chief operating officer. The team's marketing effort will go beyond its traditional base of Erie and Niagara counties. The franchise will be looking to make a stronger outreach into Rochester, Syracuse and southern Ontario.

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Hope for the Game

from the State News (Michigan State University

), It's the middle of the summer and the beginning of August, so it's tough to get excited about the upcoming hockey season, but why not be excited about it? After this weekend, the National Hockey League has a full schedule, rookies from not one year but two - seeing as there was no draft last summer - and the rules are going to be different. Opening night is Oct. 5 and features some good ol' fashion hockey matchups - and some crappy ones. Boston-Montreal, New York Rangers-Philadelphia, Pittsburgh-New Jersey, St. Louis-Detroit and Ottawa-Toronto - now that's what I'm talkin' about, solid hockey rivalries. What I'm not talkin' about on opening night is the San Jose and Nashville game, Columbus and Washington or Atlanta versus Florida. The league needs to make one more change and ax two of three franchises between Atlanta, Florida and Nashville. Hockey in the south is not cool and even the defending Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning should be considered, since they couldn't fill seats in the 2004 Cup Finals.

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Panthers Eye Pronger

from the Palm Beach Post,

While most of the focus in the NHL free-agent market that opens today will be on unrestricted free agents, Panthers General Manager Mike Keenan appears to be zeroing in on one of the restricted variety: defenseman Chris Pronger. Keenan traveled Sunday from Ottawa to Toronto, apparently so that he could be closer to many of the big-name agents who will broker deals when the free-agent market opens today at noon. Not coincidentally, one of those agents is Pat Morris of Newport Sports Management, who represents Pronger and always has taken a keen interest in his career. Morris did not return phone messages Sunday. Sources acknowledged Sunday that Keenan has had "discussions" with St. Louis about the 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman, though Keenan did deny one report that a possible deal could involve Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

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Pens Have $10 Million to Spend

from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

With contracts offered to every previous regular except Matt Bradley and Michal Rozsival, with Sidney Crosby and apparently Evgeni Malkin on the way once deals are completed, the Penguins and general manager Craig Patrick wade into the NHL's flooded free-agent market at noon today with cash to spend. Probably at least $10 million, if you figure into the new salary-cap mix the projected values of the two rookie centers and a certain part-owner/player, Mario Lemieux. "We have a plan in mind," Patrick said last night, when qualifying offers had to be extended to unsigned players whose rights a team wanted to retain. "Whether we can execute it ... we'll see what happens."

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NHL Back, Better Than Ever

from tvnz.co in New Zealand,

Key players have been the first to receive contracts and cream the big money but sacrifices will have to be made and old ties severed. Expect more deals and trades before the puck drops in October than a typical week on Wall Street. If players can't make the dollars they were privy to under the old free market model they'll go where they like as opposed to where the money is. The obvious consequence is that Canadian players, which make up the majority of the league, will play for the teams they idolised as youngsters. That's most likely to be the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs so we could see those teams return as the forces they once were.

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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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