1. TORTORELLA CHARGES FLAMES DRESSING ROOM
Every NHL team has its best-and-worst-case scenarios laid out before each season begins, but there’s no way the Vancouver Canucks could have envisioned the nightmare that was to unfold. The franchise stumbled and bumbled on and off the ice and fell from third in the Western Conference in 2012-13 to 12th in 2013-14. And it’s hard to say which mistake was worst.
If you go back to the summer of 2013, the trading of goalie Cory Schneider certainly qualifies as a contender. After years of grooming Schneider to be Vancouver’s starting goalie for the next decade or more, then-GM Mike Gillis shocked the hockey world when he shipped the 28-year-old to New Jersey for the ninth-overall pick in last year’s draft. Schneider and veteran Roberto Luongo, who had nearly been dealt at the 2012-13 trade deadline, were dumbfounded by the move. But that was only the beginning of the madness. Read more
Drafted 15th overall in 1991 – right after Pat Peake – Alex Kovalev became a prolific, if somewhat mercurial, NHL scorer. He had the size and the skill to take over NHL games, but at times he also left you expecting more. Kovalev retired from professional hockey this week after spending the 2013-14 season playing in Switzerland.
His last NHL season was with the Florida Panthers in 2012-13 and he finishes his career with 430 goals and 1,029 points in 1,316 games. He reached the 30-goal mark three times and set a career-high of 44 goals in 2000-01 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2002-03, Kovalev was one of the best players available on the trade market and he fetched the beleaguered Penguins Rico Fata, Mikael Samuelsson, Joel Bouchard and a few million dollars. Kind of underwhelming, wouldn’t you say?
He may not be beloved like Jaromir Jagr and Kovalev is certainly not a Hall of Famer, but he still brought us moments we’ll never forget. Here are five of them: Read more
When Mikhail Grabovski signed a four-year deal with the New York Islanders that will pay him $5 million a season, he pretty much hit the jackpot. Not the Vincent Lecavalier jackpot, mind you, but the windfall was still mind-boggling.
That’s because Grabovski is one of 28 players who are being paid not to play hockey for the teams that originally signed them under the leagues’ compliance buyout system. You know the one. It’s the buyouts that essentially have given teams a mulligan on bad contracts that were signed before the last collective bargaining agreement. It’s also the one the NHL Players’ Association seemed dead-set against having part of the new system, although when you see the money that teams threw around, you’d have to wonder why. Read more
All right, so now that (almost) all the dust has cleared in Free Agent Frenzy 2014, here are some thoughts on Day 1 of a crazy off-season:
MOTOWN NO TOWN FOR FREE AGENTS Let me get this straight. Dan Boyle took less money and term to sign with the New York Rangers than he could have received from the Detroit Red Wings. What is this, Opposite Day?
After pretty much ruling the NHL for the past two decades, the Detroit Red Wings have fallen on hard times indeed. Remember the days when free agency would open and the Red Wings would basically open for business, basically telling whichever veterans stars they wanted that playing for the Red Wings was a privilege? The Red Wings never begged and they never got turned down. Read more
While the focus in recent days was upon potential trades leading up to the draft, a number of NHL teams are using the free agent interview period to reach out to potential unrestricted free agents.
Interest in Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is growing. The 28-year-old could become the best player available in the upcoming UFA market if the Avalanche fail to re-sign him before July 1. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun claims up to 15 teams have contacted Stastny’s agent.
LeBrun claims the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks are among “the long list of teams” that reached out to the Stastny camp. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues have also expressed interest. Read more
The New York Rangers freed up over $6.67 million in annual cap space by using their remaining compliance buyout on center Brad Richards, who now becomes an unrestricted free agent. Rather than use the savings to pursue unrestricted free agents, Larry Brooks of the New York Post anticipates the money will be sunk into re-signing as many of their key free agents as possible.
One of them is defenseman Anton Stralman, who Brooks reports could receive a three- or four-year offer from the Blueshirts worth $4-million annually. The question is, will that be enough to keep Stralman from testing the upcoming UFA market? Read more
The NHL schedule has been released and the number-crunchers have already put in some great work in breaking it down. As always, there are fun match-ups to kick off the season, such as Los Angeles hosting San Jose and Montreal visiting Toronto. But which teams will really be grinding through 82 games and which ones get more of a cozier ride?
With the opening of free agency on July 1 closing in, we would like to turn your attention to today’s buyout of Brad Richards by the New York Rangers.
If you’ll recall, Richards headlined the unrestricted free agent class of 2011. He was coming off a solid run over parts of four seasons with the Dallas Stars, peaking at 91 points in 2009-10. In the summer of 2011, he was coming off a season in which he scored 77 points in 72 games.
So the New York Rangers went all in with an offer, as they’re apt to do. Toronto GM Brian Burke took a lot of guff that day for visiting troops in Afghanistan rather than being in New York to meet with Richards and make a pitch. But the Rangers were favored all along and they paid a hefty price for him. Read more