Monday, August 07, 2006

Around the NHL

Happy Colonel By Day! Actually, I'm not sure anyone outside of Ottawa even refers to it as such, as when I've said that very phrase to someone who doesn't live here, they looked very puzzled and probably thought I was nuts. Do people not in the GOA (yes, it's called that now) even know who John By was?

Anyway, I'll call it whatever they want as long as it gets me a day off in August. And Alberta says Ontario sucks. Psssh.

I realized I've talked mostly about the Sens for the last little while, basically ignoring the happenings going on in the rest of the NHL. So on this lazy Monday I'm catching up. Where to start?

- A lot of people are hoping the Bruins will set an important precedent by walking away from what they considered to be a ridiculous award given by an arbitrator to David Tanabe. I would like to think that's the case, however, it's the Bruins. They do wacky stuff all the time and are the only team that has a history of doing this previously. As for the award, $1.25 mil is probably too much for Tanabe on that D, where he'll be a fourth d-man (the Bruins also have two very good young rearguards in Andrew Alberts & Milan Jurcina who are quite ready to step up, I believe), but if you're a team in need of a solid defenceman, that price, or around it, isn't bad. And if no team bites on Tanabe, he apparently has what it takes for another industry.

- I commented on it over at Bflo Blog, but it's worth saying here: I give Mike Noronen a lot of credit for deciding to ply his trades in Russia this coming season rather than riding the pine as Roberto Luongo's back-up for the Canucks. About a month ago, after Luongo was traded for, a frustrated Noronen expressed disappointment, noting that this probably means he won't see much playing time (a safe assumption). At the time, I remember thinking that it was time Noronen came to the realization the rest of the NHL seemingly had and recognize that he's seen as a back-up goalie. Unfair as that might be considering the lack of opportunity he was given in Vancouver after being traded, it's the reality.

But he manned up and has decided he'd rather play and hone his craft in Russia instead of serving as the second string 'tender for, I assume, more money in Vancouver. That kind of decision took balls.

- On a related note, the TSN article that broke the Noronen news noted he's a year away from UFA status, which apparently played a part in his decision. Someone with a superior knowledge of the new CBA, answer me this: do seasons played in leagues outside the NHL count towards a players years for UFA status? I assumed not but maybe I'm wrong.

- Pavel Vorobiev says the NHL and specifically the Blackhawks are biased against Russians. Americans don't like Russians. Imagine that. If I were to think of teams that had those kind of prejudices against Russians, the Hawks wouldn't be one of the ones I'd think of. Of course, stupid claims about the Sens having a bias against French Canadians have been presented by people of similar intellect before, so such allegations are not new in the hockey world.

- The trade that saw Kyle Calder swapped for Michael Handszus is cool because it's something you never see anymore in this salary cap age: an actual hockey trade. While I'm sure Calder's arbitration award played a part in the Hawks shopping him, the reality is, it's a deal that benefits both clubs and addresses a need they each have. Calder brings a talented, top-six forward to a winger short Flyers line-up. Handszus is a big body who can play both ends of the ice and never takes a shift off, which the Hawks have lacked for as long as I can remember.

- Speaking of the Flyers, what the fuck is taking Bob Clarke so long in signing Simon Gagne? Gagne apparently wants $5 mil, and based on the salaries given out this summer, I'd say he's worth it. I've seen some Flyers fans talk down Gagne by arguing that his stats aren't an accurate reflection of his value as a player because he played with Peter Forsberg, who could probably make me look like Rocket Richard, for most of the season. Obviously it helped Gagne to play with one of the best players in the world, but I also think Forsberg benefitted from having a red hot sniper bury all those chances. Gagne has grown into one of the most offensively dangerous players in the NHL and the Flyers would be foolish not to lock him up long term. But hey, it's Bobby Clarke. He's sort of nuts sometimes.

- I'd love to congratulate Paul Kukla on getting the blogging gig over at, but I haven't gotten over my jealousy yet. All I get are offers to moderate the Sens section of some tools message board, continually.

- I have no idea what the truth is this Rick Tocchet gambling story, but I'm working under two assumptions:
1) Many many more people knew about this than are letting on
2) Someone, whether it be a player or not, gambled on hockey in this ring.
Those may seem like unfair assumptions, but nonetheless, I have them. When this story broke, the word was Coyotes GM Michael Barnett knew and placed bets with Tocchet. Has this been revealed as false? Why is it never mentioned? And if it's true, you want me to believe Barnett and Janet Gretzky knew and were involved, but Wayne Gretzky wasn't? His best friend/business partner and wife knew but he didn't? C'mon.

Perhaps I'm jumping to conclusions though, because, after all, the word of a dirty cop should be very tainted as far as the truth. And one who turns over on other people so easily. Pretty despicable if you ask me.

And is anyone else bothered by the eagerness of the authorities and the D.A. to speak to the media about this? It sorta kinda really reeks of a publicity attempt and their 15 minutes of fame. The day they announced a deal with the dirty cop they were all over the press talking to anyone who would liten about the case. Very tacky.

- The best player still without a contract for this coming season: Mike Leclerc, assuming he can stay healthy.

- Who will be the next team to take a shot at Alexandre Daigle? It looked like he found a home in Minnesota under Jacques Lemaire, but his star burnt out quickly last season there and he finished the year in the AHL. His old habits of not trying very hard emerged and he was sent packing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Well that was fast

About four hours ago, we learned the Russians would not be signing the transfer agreement, meaning, for us anyway, no Alexei Kaigodorov. I wonder what the Sens course of action would be.

Seems like they had a Plan B ready, as they've inked journeyman forward Dean McAmmond to a one-year contract. No terms have been released, but it's probably a safe assumption the salary is close to what they would've paid Kaigodorov (700K).

It this good enough? Does McAmmond fill the second-line center hole? I'm not sure.

McAmmond's 33 and brings a ton of experience, which is good, but his stats paint the picture of a guy on the decline. He registered 37 points on an awful St. Louis team last season, but was also a -25, second worst on the team, ahead of only blueliner Steve Poapst. McAmmond did log second-line center minutes (averaged 16 per game) with the Blues, but I'm not sure I couldn't have been on the second line of that team.

Also somewhat alarming is the fact that despite his pedigree in the league, McAmmond is pretty inexperienced when it matters most, the playoffs. He's played over 700 regular season games, but only 19 post-season ones. A lot of that was because he's been on some really bad teams, however, if we're going to add a seasoned vet, don't we want one who's put some time in in May and June?

McAmmond is versatile in that he can play either the middle or the left side (where the team isn't especially strong), but I have to assume center is where they'll pencil him in for the time being. Unfortunately, adding him doesn't cure our little faceoff problem, as McAmmond over 50% in that category in four years.

All of that said, he's still got great speed and, if paired with one of our own fast skaters, could be a dangerous weapon. He's not known to be a finisher (only scored more than 20 goals once), but again, with the right player who has that ability (Alfie?), might be very useful.

All bets were off when the Russians wouldn't budge, and I guess this was the best Muckler and company could do. However, feels a lot like we've replaced Bryan Smolinski with a guy not much better, if at all.

Of course, I say all of having seen, at most, a dozen games he's played the last two seasons. People who pay closer attention to the Blues and Flames, feel free to chime in and tell me if my assetment is inaccurate.

UPDATE: Ottawa also signed Rockland native Serge Payer to a one-year deal. Payer's no stranger to the organization, having spent the 2003-04 year in Bingo with the Baby Sens, and he played 71 games for the lowly Panthers last season. Probably a depth move.

Bad news: the Russians AREN'T coming

Russia will not join the IIHF-NHL hockey agreement that regulates transfers between European clubs and the American league, the head of the Russian Hockey Federation (RHF) said Wednesday.

"At the talks with the IIHF [International Ice Hockey Federation] and the NHL [National Hockey League]... we failed to take into full account the interests of Russian clubs, which have players that interest the NHL," Vladislav Tretyak, who was elected the head of the RHF in April, said.

"The RHF therefore decided it was impossible for Russia to join this transfer agreement."

What this means for our beloved Senators is that the gaping hole at center on the second line we assumed would be filled by Russian phenom Alexei Kaigodorov will now have fall onto someone else's shoulders.

It is possible Kaigodorov, who still has a valid contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Elite League, will come over anyway. The Sens could try and negotiate a deal with the club on their own, but considering the 23-year-old is one of their best players, it'll cost a pretty penny. Or he could go the legal battle route ala Alexander Semin and the Washington Capitals last season. Either one is a big headache though.

In all likelyhood, Kai isn't coming over this season though, which has to disappoint the club. Just yesterday, GM John Muckler was on The Team 1200's afternoon show and said the Russian was now the club's #1 priority as far as offseason moves. Previously, Mucks talked about how Kaigodorov could center Daniel Alfredsson, which says a lot about how the brass perceive him.

So what will the Sens do?

In theory, it's possible they promote someone already inside the system. I had Mike Fisher penciled as the third line center and Chris Kelly as the fourth, but they could move up a line. Antoine Vermette, who I had on the third line left wing, can play center with ease, so that's a possibility.

But none of these are the best case scenario.

What about those players still available on the open market. If Kaigodorov is not coming over, his $700,000 or so can be spent elsewhere. Who's left?

Jason Allison, Yanic Perreault, Greg Johnson, and Jan Hrdina are the most noteworthy names. See the problem?

Allison can produce points, but the rest of his game is such a nightmare that would not be wise. Perreault might be a good pick-up but I'm not convinced he's a true second line center at this point in his career. I am convinced neither Johnson or Hrdina are, nor were they ever.

This is when the trade talks heat up, I imagine. I talked last week about the fact the Sens are rich in defencemen and so it makes sense, now that we know the hole won't be filled by the skilled Russian, to explore plugging one weakness by dealing a a strength.

Anton Volchenkov is either fifth or sixth on the depth chart from where I sit, which is sort of problematic when you realize he makes $1.25 mil. Yet, the Russian bruiser is still highly regarded around the league. Every trade rumor the Sens were a part of involved his name. We've since learned he and Vermette were who the St. Louis Blues wanted for Doug Weight back in January.

He's a valuable asset, and could likely bring back something of value. Throw his $1.25 mil salary and the $700K we alotted for Kai, and you got $2 million to play with.

Should be interesting.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Way too friggin' hot

It's currently 48 degrees C with the humidity here in Ottawa, so I hope you'll understand if I don't have it in me to discuss hockey today. Even with the A/C blasting, I'm melting with each passing minute.

Where's Al Gore when you need him?

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