Kukla's Korner Hockey
From the AP via Post-Bulletin,
Heading into today’s first round of the NHL Draft, the Minnesota Wild are still picking gravel out of their teeth after being bulldozed by Anaheim in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With two of the best defensemen in the game and a group of big, skilled forwards that relentlessly stormed the net, the Ducks rolled past Minnesota in five games and only lost four more en route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
With that in mind, the Wild will be looking to emulate Anaheim’s blueprint for success. After qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2003, the Wild own six picks in this year’s draft, including the 19th selection in the first round.
From Jim Kelley at Sportsnet,
Lang is 36, and that’s likely the beginning of the end for him as a top-tier center in the NHL, but he likely can still be an effective power-play performer and second-line set-up man who would qualify for our list of five of the better bargains available in the free-agent pool come July 1.
He has good hands, scores in bunches, plays extremely well with the man advantage and knows how to get open ice for himself or find teammates who have it.
He’s also likely to accept a price cut from his just-completed salary of $3,800,000.
Which makes him a bargain and the center on our Free-Agent Bargain team.
more… (*including Zubrus, O’Donnell and more “specials”)
From Tony Gallagher at The Province,
With the salary cap expected to be just a nudge over $50 million US this season, virtually all the clubs will have more money to spend than many had expected; the league’s efforts to keep the cap around $48 million evidently meeting with ice from the NHLPA in whose best interests it is to have it rise as high as possible. Given the stagnant growth in revenue in the game of late, it’s likely to mean escrow payments in the 7 to 9 per cent range when all is said and done next year, but that is just something the players will have to live with given they themselves handed the league that hammer.
more… (*with a listing of “deals likely to happen”)
From Tim Wharnsby at Globe & Mail,
The Leafs were close to acquiring capable goalie Vesa Toskala from the San Jose Sharks this morning.
The deal will likely cost the Leafs their first-round selection (13th overall), but is conditional on whether the Leafs can sign Toskala to an extension. There could be another player moving from the Sharks for more Toronto draft picks.
Toskala, 30, will enter the final year of his contract that will pay him $1.375-million (all figures U.S.). The Finnish product made a career-high 38 appearances in 2006-07, enjoyed a 26-10- record, 2.35 goals against average and .908 save percentage.
Update 12:40pm EDT… Deal Confirmed
Again from the Globe,
The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired capable goalie Vesa Toskala from the San Jose Sharks.
The deal, which includes forward Mark Bell going to Toronto, has cost the Leafs their first-round selection (13th overall), second and fourth-round picks.
From the AP via Orlando Sentinel,
Kyle Turris and Patrick Kane, expected to be two of the top picks in the NHL draft, skated around the ice on Thursday afternoon, trying to sidestep a collision with any of the 25 mites and pigtailed power forwards joining them at a hockey clinic.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the baby-faced Turris and Kane were about the same size and skill level as the 10-year-old kids who were flopping and teetering around them. Now they’re about to step onto the big stage and carry the hopes of a franchise.
Updated 4:03pm EDT:
More on Kane via USCHO,
If Scotty Bowman gave you career advice, would you take it?
The winningest coach in NHL history told one young man from Buffalo, N.Y., to play college hockey, but Patrick Kane — favored to be the top pick in the opening round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft — had other plans. With Boston University and the University of Michigan vying for the future pro star, Kane chose a third option.
From Susan Bickelhaupt at the Boston Globe,
Two years ago, the year after the NHL lockout, Versus reached an agreement with the NHL to start airing games twice a week, including the conference playoffs and the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals.
Tonight, Versus will air the NHL draft for the second year in a row. After a pregame show at 6:30, the network will have live coverage (7-10) from Columbus, Ohio.
“I think the first year there was a lot of criticism for a network that was known for more outdoors than anything else,” said Versus president Gavin Harvey. “And I think the NHL made a bold move to put this on the network, but they understood what we were, and they understood what we and [owner] Comcast wanted to do with the network. And I know that hockey fans were a little confused that first year, thinking we’re glad we got hockey back, but it’s on that other network . . . there was a lot of controversy.
“But we know, and not just from anecdotal evidence, that hockey fans are great, and they found us, and they bookmarked us. And that’s the power of the NHL.
more… (*requires registration)
From Ed Moran at Philly news
“We had some inquiries,” said general manager Paul Holmgren. “But we’re really in no rush to move back in the draft. The guys we want to pick with the second pick are all a notch above the other guys in the draft and we want to stick with it.”
According to Holmgren, there have been a lot of calls but most teams have just been offering other picks.
“One team called and tried to get creative - a couple of guys and that pick, or a couple of guys and this pick - but there was nothing that made sense to us.”
While it would make sense for the Flyers to trade the second pick for an established player, it wouldn’t make sense to move down any farther than the fifth- or sixth-ranked player. The draft just isn’t that deep this year.
From Ted Kulfan at Detroit News,
Beyond the draft, the Wings are trying to assess the free-agent market. Teams can sign unrestricted free agents beginning July 1.
In the meantime, the Wings continue to negotiate with their players, who are eligible to become free agents.
Holland expects to be busy talking with the agents for defensemen Mathieu Schneider and Danny Markov, goaltender Dominik Hasek and forward Todd Bertuzzi.
Holland and Hasek’s agent, Ritch Winter, are expected to work out a one-year contract long before July 1—possibly even this weekend.
It gets a bit dicey with the other free agents.
From Damien Cox at the Toronto Star,
In an ideal hockey world in which people were fairly recognized for their diligence and hard work, this would be Dave Morrison’s day.
In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Morrison is the chief scout of the Maple Leafs, hardly a position that has been repeatedly crowned with glory over four decades of generally mediocre Leaf drafting, but a notable posting all the same.
Somewhere around, oh, 9 p.m. tonight, after 12 other teams have hemmed and hawed and thanked the city of Columbus for its Ohio hospitality and congratulated the Anaheim Ducks on winning the Stanley Cup, Morrison will call out a name of some young man who will immediately be deemed the newest next great hope.
For a fleeting moment, Morrison and that young man will matter. But only for a fleeting moment.
From Tim Wharnsby at the Globe & Mail,
The National Hockey League general managers who sit on their thumbs in the next day or so may wind up as the big off-season losers.
With the Stanley Cup having been won by the Anaheim Ducks only 16 days ago, there is a race going on among the 30 general managers to improve their teams. There was so much chatter and gossip buzzing around that the usual debate on which young talent would be drafted when and where took a back seat on the eve of the 2007 NHL entry draft.
“We’re in a hurry, aren’t we?” one general manager said. “I got in here late [Wednesday] afternoon and there already was a tremendous buzz, and I think we all expect a lot of movement here.”
continued… (*looks at the swirl of rumors yesterday)
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