Red and Black Hockey
On Thursday, there was a Hurricanes player signing after all. Defenseman Jay Harrison, who would have become an UFA on July 1, agreed to a two-year deal which will pay him $650k in 2011-12 and $750k in 2012-13. Last season was the final year of a two-year minimum-wage contract. The minimum NHL salary for the 2011-12 season will rise from $500k to $525k.
This is presumably a one-way deal, although the official report doesn’t specify.
I was really hoping that this would get done, as Harrison was a much improved player and seems to be a really great guy in the room. I will expect the Canes to also sign defenseman and RFA-to-be Derek Joslin some time fairly soon.
If a trade is made to get rid of Joni Pitkanen’s rights, I would expect that to happen late next week, or possibly at the draft next weekend.
On Sunday, Canes fans were told that a player signing was imminent. We hoped that it would be Jussi Jokinen or Erik Cole. Of the seven UFAs, those are the two who are generally regarded by Caniacs as the most important. Today, we’re being told that they aren’t even close with any of the UFAs. With the free agent market opening in two weeks, the Hurricanes have decided to shop the rights to those players instead of letting them walk away.
I can’t even begin to guess who the trading partner or the player coming in this direction might be, Paul Branecky of Hurricanes.com says that a trade is close to completion. One that would have “a power-play quarterback who can play among the top four defensemen – an immediate Pitkanen substitute - ” coming to Raleigh. The Canes are looking to deal one of their two second round draft picks or even a prospect to make a deal happen.
Jim Rutherford says ““We’re exchanging ideas, and something could happen any time.”
In a press conference scheduled for noon (eastern time) today, the Hurricanes will officially announce a restructuring of the hockey department. The main change is that Rod Brind’Amour will join the bench, essentially stepping into the assistant coach position that Ron Francis held for the last couple of seasons. He will also be the “director of forwards development” or something like that. Francis will go back upstairs and focus on the Assistant GM duties. If there’s anything beyond that, it’ll be news to me.
The “news to me” part is that Dave Lewis has joined the coaching staff to handle the defensemen. He’s got loads of coaching experience from being an assistant and then a head coach for the Red Wings, then a head coach for the Bruins. This should be a very nice addition to the staff.
While the Hurricanes aren’t doing anything this spring, May 28 is a huge day in the history of the Carolina Hurricanes. Two of the biggest moments in franchise history have taken place on this date. One in 2002 and the other in 2006. Both occurred during Eastern Conference Finals play. One of them was a “where were you when…” moment and the other was one that some Hurricanes fans might not even be able to pin down as a pivotal moment.
The key players in these franchise-defining moments are Martin Gélinas and Cam Ward.
Last week, rumors circulated that 23-year old Oskar Osala of the Hurricanes had signed a deal to play with HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk “Petrochemists” of the KHL. He vehemently denied the rumors, saying that he had gotten some calls but hadn’t signed anywhere. He gave all sorts of indications that he wanted to come back to play for the Checkers next season, but I saw some red flags. He tweeted about wanting to get rid of a lot of “extra” clothes, and that seemed to me like the actions of a person who’s about to leave the country.
Today, the announcement came that he had, in fact, signed with the Petrochemists. The rumors were true.
The native of Vassa, Finland was one of the most promising players in the Hurricanes system. He had just five (3/2) points in the playoffs, but 42 (13/29) points in 59 regular season AHL games. He played in one NHL game for the Canes in 2009-10, with no scoring points.
Osala tweeted today “I’m excited to move on, but hope to be back one day”. I think Jim Rutherford learned a lesson (although it took getting burned twice to learn the lesson) from the Anton Babchuk situation. Obviously, the Babchuk situation was different because he bailed for the KHL while still under contract, but it’s still walking away.
The Globe and Mail is reporting that there is an agreement in principal, and an official announcement will be made on Tuesday “confirming the sale and transfer of the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and the MTS Centre arena, which would become the NHL team’s new home”.
Other news sources are saying that nothing is final and that even if there is an agreement in principal, there are still formalities to tend to before any move takes place. This, though, seems like one of those situations where the writing is all over the walls.
When this becomes final, one of many questions is what will happen to the Southeast division. The team name and colors are also big questions, and there is certainly a lot of speculation and rumor about that.
On Tuesday night the Binghamton Senators handed the Charlotte Checkers a thorough 7-1 beating and have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series for the Eastern Conference Championship in the Calder Cup playoffs. The BSens have two chances to close out the series on their own home ice. None of the three games so far has even been close.
Zack Smith led the way for the BSens, netting a hat trick. Bobby Sanguinetti scored the only goal of the game (in fact the only goal since game one) for the Checkers.
Today, a guy named Dmitry Chesnokov, who is a contributor to the Puck Daddy blog, tweeted that Hurricanes prospect Oskar Osala has signed with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk “Petrochemists” of the KHL. He went on to say that the official announcement will be made once the Calder Cup playoffs are over (although he wrote “AHL season”). He was, evidently, getting his information from a Finnish rumor site.
We were surprised to see this, then relieved when Oskar himself contradicted the tweet. The flat denial could be a deflection so the Checkers can concentrate on their task at hand. They’re down 2 games to none in a best-of-seven series with the Binghamton Sentators. After losing games one and two at home, they have the task of having to win at least two of the three straight road games.
It might be an effort at diplomacy, but I believe Oskar when he says (tweets):
Once again: I haven’t signed with anyone for next season. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from around Europe lately but haven’t made any decision about next season yet. For the record this is the third team I’m rumored to go to this spring!
Today, Chip Alexander (twitter: ice_chip), who covers the Hurricanes for the Raleigh News & Observer, unleashed a flurry of tweets regarding the Hurricanes off-season plans. Especially regarding the pending free agents. A couple of them are a bit surprising. Most of them are worth comment.
Sunday was a very good day for four of the Carolina Hurricanes players. Oskar Osala (currently with the Checkers), Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkänen, and especially Tuomo Ruutu. Today, the Finns demolished the hated Swedes 6-1 in the gold medal game of the IIHF World Championship game in Slovakia. While the others had to resourcefully find a way to watch the game, Ruutu was on the ice, winning the gold.
Osala tweeted that he had to scramble to find a webcast of the game thru a Swedish website since it wasn’t broadcast on teevee at all in North America. Versus had been showing the USA games and some of the other marquee games, including both semi-final games. However, they went with the Indoor Lacrosse League’s championship game between the Toronto Somethingorothers and the Washington Whatchamacallits. Even in Canada, TSN did the same thing. Meh. We’ll get it on tape delay Monday night, but it’s just not the same. This isn’t 1980 anymore.
The Swedes thought they were going to take a 1-0 lead into the second intermission, but Finland tied it with just seven seconds to go in the middle period. Then, Suomi exploded for five unanswered goals, including two sets of two quick ones to dominate the game. It was the first IIHF gold for Finland since 1995.
About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.