Summer is a time for fun in the hockey world. But sometimes that fun can be a little dark. One of my favorite THN issues every year comes before the trade deadline, when we often take a player likely on the move and photoshop him into another team’s uniform based on his possible destination. For instance, we once had Mats Sundin in a Vancouver sweater – the team he would eventually leave the Leafs for, albeit not at the deadline.
With that in mind, I dare you to peruse the five photoshops here, which can only be characterized as wrong.
Above, we see what would happen if Boston’s Milan Lucic had a change of heart and joined Montreal, where he could celebrate goals with current enemy Alexei Emelin. With a special thanks to Andre Valle of the The Hockey News art team (who did all the hard work), here are more of the worst offenders we came up with.
It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically, but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. This week, we look at Steve Mason’s current and former teams.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Gone – Nick Schultz, Jack Skille, Derek MacKenzie, Matt Frattin, Blake Comeau, Nikita Nikitin, R.J. Umberger
Incoming – Brian Gibbons, Jerry D’Amigo, Scott Hartnell, Simon Hjalmarsson
Ready for full-time – Hjalmarsson is a Blues draft pick (39th overall in 2007) who not only remained in Europe but also took only sideways or backwards steps in his development. That is, until St. Louis let him go. Then he started to flourish. Hjalmarsson finished this past season with 57 points in 55 games, good for fourth in Swedish League scoring. Still only 25, he’s both NHL-ready and has room to improve. I liken his situation to that of Carl Soderberg in Boston from a year ago, though Hjalmarsson may not have quite the upside offensively. Read more
When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.
I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.
So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.
So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more
Another month, another rash of Evander Kane trade speculation. The 22-year-old winger’s recent comments during a radio interview once again raised questions over his future with the Winnipeg Jets.
“Well, I think I’m a Winnipeg Jet now,” Kane told Vancouver’s The Team 1020, acknowledging the trade rumors dogging him since arriving in Winnipeg three years ago. He added “we’ll see what happens” and he’ll carry on “as if I’m a Winnipeg Jet.”
Despite having four years at an annual cap hit of $5.25 million remaining on his contract, Kane appears doubtful he’ll remain with the club for the duration. It’s the second time in as many months he’s raised eyebrows over his status with the team. Prior to last month’s NHL draft, the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe reported Kane favorited a tweet by a Flyers fan calling upon his team to acquire the young winger.
Having been thwarted in his efforts to land a top-four, right-handed defenseman via free agency, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland will, according to Ansar Khan of mlive.com, continue to explore trade options.
Khan considers Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green a viable candidate following their recent blueline additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. CSNWashington’s Chuck Gormley speculates the Capitals could draw upon their blueline depth as trade bait for depth at center, with Green topping his list of possible trade candidate. The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt believes Green (who will be eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer) might make a good trade-deadline chip, but Capitals management intends to keep him for the upcoming season. 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
Philadelphia Flyers star Claude Giroux was released by Ottawa Police Wednesday morning after he was arrested for allegedly grabbing an officer’s butt on Canada Day.
The incident reportedly occurred at The Great Canadian Cabin, an Ottawa bar, around 9:00 p.m. Read more
The Chicago Blackhawks addressed their need for an affordable second-line center by signing Brad Richards to a one-year, $2-million contract. The signing, however, means they’ll have to shed salary before the season opens in October.
CSNChicago’s Tracey Myers reports the Richards signing (as well as Peter Regin’s one-year, $650,000 contract) pushes the Blackhawks above the $69-million cap by more than $2 million. Under CBA rules a team can spend up to 10 percent over the cap ceiling during the off-season but must become cap compliant when the season opens.
GM Stan Bowman told Myers they had some ideas how to address the issue, believing it will “play itself out over the summer as we prepare for training camp.” Read more