The summer of 2014 is months away, but that’s not preventing speculation over Brad Richards’ future with the New York Rangers.
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun and Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal recently suggested Richards could receive a compliance buyout in June, freeing up cap space for the Rangers to re-sign free agents like Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.
Richards – the Rangers’ leading scorer with 23 points in 31 games – is in the third year of his nine-year, $60-million contract, so his $6.7-million annual cap hit takes a huge chunk out of the Blueshirts’ payroll.
The Rangers have more than $39 million invested in just nine players next season. Even with the salary cap projected to be above $70 million, they will be pressed for space to re-sign key players and still have enough to pursue top free agent talent in July.
In fantasy hockey, 30 games mean little. A team that’s last can still win the league, while the team leading could fall to the basement. All it takes is several players getting hot and others getting cold over the second half.
Often these players are on the same NHL team and their hot streak is the result of the team picking it up. Or did the team pick things up as a result of the players getting hot?
Regardless of the chicken vs. the egg stance, these things do happen and pools are sometimes won and lost as a result.
I’ll put on my psychic’s hat, or headdress, or whatever it is that psychics wear, and bring you my six teams that will either turn it around or dial it down.
On The Rise
This is my favorite team to stock up on in the second half, particularly because Eric Staal is money in the bank for a second-half surge. I once traded a red-hot young player with upside (I won’t get into names, but it rhymes with Brerrick Dassard) as the key part of the package for a stumbling Staal in early December and pretty much won the league thanks to that move. Twice I’ve acquired Staal in December and both times it paid off.
Staal’s surge in 2011-12 was 45 in the second half after just 25 in the first. The domino effect saw Jiri Tlusty also come on strong. Interestingly enough, Jordan Staal also had a hot second half while with the Penguins that year, tallying 29 points in the last 29 games. The Hurricanes are doing OK in terms of wins and losses this season, but they’re not scoring goals. My theory is that though the wins may not improve any, the offense should.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera, who has eight points in his past seven games, is another player to target.
Sometimes men have a little trouble remembering things. Anniversaries and birthdays, for example, have a history of being bumped in the male brain for things such as which weekend the Super Bowl is being played on and how many paychecks have to be sacrificed in order to obtain that new set of golf clubs.
Mike Sillinger, who suited up for an NHL-record 12 teams, could be forgiven if some of the finer details of his family life have been lost in a haze of boxes and moving vans. But if Sillinger ever is asked to recall where each of his three sons was born, he’s got a visual reminder to rely on: the NHL jersey he was wearing at the time.
“One was born in Vancouver, so we have the Vancouver jersey in his room,” Sillinger said. “My other boy was born in Regina, but I played in Florida at the time, so he picked the Panthers along with my Team Canada (1991 world junior) jersey because he wears 16 (one of his dad’s old numbers) when he plays.
“And my other boy was born in Columbus, so he’s got the Columbus one in his room.”
In the same week NHL icon Wayne Gretzky was back in the news, the man who famously – or if you’re from Edmonton, infamously – traded him to Los Angeles also was making headlines.
Former Oilers owner Peter Pocklington avoided imprisonment Friday when he posted a $100,000 appearance bond to a California judge who granted him bail.
About a third of the way through 2013-14 and we’re starting to get a fix on what we have when it comes to this year’s rookie crop. Poolies around the world draft unproven youngsters late in hopes they scoop a nice sleeper, to varying degrees of success. In keeper leagues things are easier, as you can often afford to wait several years on a rookie, but one-year leagues need the help here and now.
Let’s take a look at the 15 best from a fantasy perspective (sorry, Morgan Rielly and Seth Jones fans) so far.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
Although in a three-way tie for second in scoring among rookies, MacKinnon will be tops in the end if he stays healthy. He’s getting his points regardless of linemates and other than a five-game slump in late October he has been steady. His ice time has been great and he should pick up the pace to finish in the 60s for points.
2. Torey Krug, Boston
Tied with MacKinnon among rookie scorers, Krug has been a savior for fantasy owners. Defensemen are so hard to acquire once the season starts, so drafting Krug late or even getting him off the wire is a fantasy coup. He’s on pace for 48 points and frankly I don’t see him deviating from that, making it one of the best seasons for a rookie defenseman in years.
Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is the hot topic in the NHL rumor mill. The news he was a healthy scratch from Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators prompted speculation a trade was close, though the Panthers claimed it was a product of recent poor play.
Despite a recent report from the sun-sentinel.com denying the Panthers were trying to move Kulikov, TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported the 23-year-old is being aggressively shopped.
McKenzie claimed GM Dale Tallon hopes to stoke a bidding war for Kulikov, though the blueliner’s slow development and the possibility of him heading to the Kontinental League as a restricted free agent could hurt his trade value.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported the Toronto Maple Leafs could reignite trade talks with the Panthers about Kulikov. Friedman claimed the two clubs came close to a deal last season, but one of them backed out. The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox claimed the Leafs have had interest in Kulikov for some time, but are wary of his RFA status and the threat of the KHL.
The Oilers turned to Ilya Bryzgalov last month to stabilize their goaltending, but now that the Russian goalie is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion, they’ll have to continue their improved play with the same tandem (Devan Dubnyk and the newly-recalled Jason LaBarbera) who struggled out of the gate. And if that doesn’t happen, GM Craig MacTavish has got to pull the trigger on a trade so that the remainder of Edmonton’s season doesn’t turn out to be as ugly as its beginning.
Bryzgalov has performed well in four regular-season games with the Oilers, posting a .939 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average. But the uncertainty of his head injury underscores how important it is for the rest of Edmonton’s players to positively assert themselves quickly in his absence. They have to show they played a role in their relative turnaround of late and that it wasn’t all about Bryzgalov.
If Bryzgalov is gone all year, the Oilers are essentially back to square one and can’t wait until season’s end to arrive at the conclusion square one is incapable of carrying the load. They need to make that judgment long before the mercy of mid-April arrives. There’s no more time for MacTavish to waste. He can’t keep turning to quick fixes, which I think we all can admit is what Bryzgalov’s signing was. There’s no more “sooner or later” about this group. There’s been way too much “later” and not enough “sooner”.
Ilya Bryzgalov has a well-earned reputation for being unique, so it’s not a shock to see him sporting No. 80 on the back of his Oilers jersey.
He isn’t, however, the first netminder to wear the unorthodox digits. That honor goes to Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kevin Weekes, who donned 80 for the Rangers, Islanders, Hurricanes and Lightning. Apparently, Weekes chose 80 because it’s the number that most closely resembles “00”, which the league no longer allows players to wear.
As for Bryzgalov, he went with the high numeral because it’s the year he was born and he had success with it one season in the Russia when he posted eight shutouts.
For much of the NHL’s formative years and the Original Six era, when there were no regular backups, goalies almost exclusively wore No. 1. The NHL mandated in 1950-51 that teams have an emergency goaltender in attendance, then in 1965-66 made it compulsory for clubs to dress two stoppers each night. Terry Sawchuk, who began sharing the crease with Toronto’s Johnny Bower that year, went with 24, then soon after made the switch to 30. Others around the league followed the star’s trend.