The publishers that comprise the
Hockey Alliance have teamed up
this Summer to provide news notes from around
the league. This week's column
focuses on the free agent market and what teams
are faced with this off-season.
Take a spin with the latest installment of the
Sabres' fans have a few more reasons to be optimistic
about the 2003- 4 season thanks to a series of trades
that brought in: Andy Delmore, Chris Drury and Steve
Begin. The playoff mandate from ownership seems a bit
more realistic with the recent reinforcements.
Delmore, while a disaster defensively, will add some
badly needed firepower to what has been one of the
NHL's weaker power plays in recent seasons. The price
was just a third round pick in 2003 and picking up
Delmore's $1 million option. Delmore is likely to be
limited to a specialist given head coach Lindy's Ruff
absolute disdain of defensively weak players.
Drury came at a steeper cost: Keith Ballard, Rhett
Warrener and possibly a contract in the neighborhood
of $4 million per season. The departure of Ballard
and Warrener, both of whom were highly thought of by
Sabres' brass, is a bit of a shock but you have to
give to get. Drury will likely be the center the
Sabres needed for Satan and Kotalik. Drury should also
help the Sabres' power play and is relatively young.
Regier succeeded in his pledge to improve the Sabres'
skill level while getting players who have the
potential to help the Sabres in years to come rather
than just one-year rentals. Sabres' fans, by and
large, are happy with the trades.
So much for a quiet summer. It hasn't taken long for
Calgary's latest general manager, Darryl Sutter, to
cut his teeth in his new position, as Sutter has been
a very busy man since taking over from Craig Button in
mid April. In earlier versions of Summer Ramblings
we've outlined the torrid pace that Sutter has
established in signing the Flame's restricted free
agents - this week we learned that he's equally as
quick when it appears a signing may be difficult.
Rumours of late have had Chris Drury and his agent
requesting a 1.5 million dollar salary bump to the 4
million mark for next season. Drury has a reputation
as a clutch scorer, and has a great playoff track
record, but at just over 20 goals, and just over 50
points, he just didn't warrant a contract in that
The result? Drury traded to the Buffalo Sabres along
with spare part Steve Begin for Steve Reinprecht, a
player Buffalo acquired from Colorado at the request
of Sutter, and hard hitting defenceman Rhett Warrener.
The move resulted in plenty of positive reaction from
the Calgary fan base as they see the move as a lateral
in terms of forwards, and a great boost to the defence
group, all while saving some money. Both Warrener and
Reinprecht need to be signed, but seeing as both hail
from the general area and have come out quickly in
support of the trade, one would think that shouldn't
be a problem.
The deal did leave the Flames somewhat thin up front
however, as the club only eight established veteran
forwards with camp roughly two months away. The
additional spots are expected to be filled by
youngsters Blair Betts, Oleg Saprykin and Chuck
Kobasew, but future moves to shore up this area
shouldn't be ruled out. With the addition of Warrener
to an already deep young defence crew, look for Sutter
to move one of Bob Boughner or Denis Gauthier for some
help on the wings.
The Blackhawks have been somewhat active in the free
agent market, but as usual, they are players in the
bottom half of the market. They signed free agent
center Scott Nichol, who played last year with
Calgary. The thing with Nichol is that he made the
least amount of money last season of any forward in
the free agent pool. The Blackhawks hope that he can
become a pest while centering the fourth line.
The Blackhawks also resigned tough guys Jason
Strudwick and minor league forward Shawn Thornton,
while Blackhawk fans wait for Blackhawks General
Manager Mike Smith to sign somebody who can play on
their top three lines, like 2001 first round draft
choice Tuomo Ruutu for instance. It could be a long
summer for Blackhawk fans, but they are used to be
Fans are excited about the free agent signing of Todd
Marchant. He will play center on the "Rick Nash
line". Many fans thought the CBJ would opt for size
on the free agent market. Instead the Jackets will
have two speedy, scoring lines. Speaking of Nash, he
continues to grow physically. He showed up at the
Jacket's' development camp weighing in at 20 pounds
above his weight at the start of last season.
The curse of the "C" continues. Ray Whitney joins
Lyle Oldelien as Blue Jacket Captains who are no
longer with the franchise. The CBJ and Whitney could
not come to terms on the length of a new contract.
What's really strange is that nobody seems to be
lamenting Whitney's departure. It's kind of wierd
considering he was a "character guy" and the team's
leading scorer last year. Perhaps fans still remember
some of his defensive lapses.
As expected, the Red Wings' soap opera of an
off-season was made official Tuesday morning in a
conference call featuring Dominik Hasek confirming his
desire to return to the NHL and be Detroit's No. 1
netminder. The move sets in motion what is almost
certain to be the departure of former No. 1 goaltender
Curtis Joseph after just one year and two years at $16
million remaining on his contract.
Joseph will likely be the centerpiece in the Red
Wings' attempt to land a replacement for center Sergei
Fedorov, who's agent said last week that his client
will not return to the club. Despite those remarks, a
good number of locals and even people in the
organization -- including owner Mike Ilitch -- is
still holding out hope that Fedorov can be persuaded
to return. Ilitch has said in the last week that he
would like to personally speak to Fedorov regarding
Rumored returns for Joseph, ranging from the practical
to impractical, include Eric Lindros of the New York
Rangers, Martin Lapointe or Sergei Samsonov of the
Boston Bruins, Doug Weight of the St. Louis Blues, or
Michael Peca of the New York Islanders.
All attention in Rangerland revolved around the
surprise suicide of Roman Lyashenko this week. The 24
year old centerman apparently hung himself in a
Turkish hotel while on vacation with his mother and
sister, and has caught the whole organization and
their fans completely off guard. Lyashenko was a
restricted free agent this summer and had spoken about
the possibility of moving back to Europe if a one-way
contract could not be worked out having been unable to
cement a place in the veteran loaded Ranger roster.
In other news, the Rangers continue to be linked with
Curtis Joseph and of course Sergei Fedorov. Neither
big name player seems destined to come to New York in
the near future, despite the almost constant reports.
Joseph for his part seem to put paid to Ranger rumors
when he suggested he would only go to a city that
matched several criteria, including some that would
affect his family.
The dog days of summer are upon us, and while
2002-2003 is gone, it won't soon be forgotten. With
free-agency season upon us, the Senators have quietly,
unexcitedly, gone about their business. The most
notable transactions have been the signing of Bryan
Smolinski to a multi-year deal, of Shane Hnidy to a
one-year contract, and the exercise of Shaun Van
Allen's option for 2003-2004. Magnus Arvedson became
an unrestricted free agent on July 1st as he wasn't
signed by the Senators before the deadline. Notable
free agents Wade Redden and Martin Havlat were both
tendered qualifying offers and will likely get inked
to new deals before too long.
Don't expect the Senators to get too involved in the
free agent market this summer as they're focused on
keeping the core of the team intact for another run at
Lord Stanley's Cup. They came together and bonded as a
team, finally ridding themselves of the stigma of not
being able to perform when it really counted, and
coming oh so close to the Stanley Cup finals, losing a
heart-breaking seventh game in the conference finals
to the eventual champion New Jersey Devils. The old
saying goes: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and
that appears to be the path the Ottawa Senators are
taking leading into next season.
The Sharks get to see their recent draft picks in
action as the team is conducting a four-day prospects
camp in San Jose. Top rated prospect Brad Boyes makes
his first appearance in San Jose since being acquired
in the Owen Nolan deal last season. Boyes is looking
to crack the Sharks roster this season. First round
picks Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier will also
attend the camp.
The youngsters chances of making San Jose's roster
increased with the departure of Teemu Selanne last
week. Reports from Florida also indicate that Adam
Graves is being wooed by the Panthers. San Jose will
kick off their preseason on September 19th in Anaheim.
San Jose is slated to play nine preseason games,
which includes three at HP Pavilion.