Summer Ramblings
A Look Around the League

By: Hockey Alliance Publishers
June 16th, 2003

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 Summer Ramblings...


The Sabres' 2003 off-season is thankfully much quieter than last year's off-season. The new ownership has made a number of moves to stabilize the franchise: Regier and Ruff are staying, affiliation with Rochester renewed and reworked, signing Derek Roy and Chris Thorburn, setting a payroll budget of $30 million and attempting to convince fans of a renewed commitment to winning via marketing and bold playoff statements.

The Sabres are in a holding pattern until the draft. Rumors have flown for weeks the Sabres will be looking to wheel and deal on draft day. The Sabres have said they'll trade the #5 pick overall for the right deal. Look for them to nab Tomas Vanek with that pick, however, as it's not likely any trade will return a player of the caliber Vanek could potentially become. Writer Jim Kelley stated yesterday on WNSA that he believes the Sabres will make a few trades on draft weekend, Kelley generally has fairly solid sources especially where the Sabres are concerned (Kelley used to be the Sabres' beat writer for the Buffalo News). Other than that it's pretty quiet in Buffalo.


It's that high hopes time in Calgary again with the Stanley Cup Finals coming to a close and another down trodden season finally put to rest. Today the club can actually say they are tied for first place in the National Hockey League - you have to stretch things when you can. With just a handful of days until the NHL Entry draft fans and media in Calgary are trying to crack the Flame's new general manager for an indication of which way he is leaning on draft day. His predecessor, Craig Button, was more of a talker, and usually by this time it was pretty easy to nail down which player he has his sites set on. Not the case with Sutter.

Sutter has indicated that moving up would be an option, but that he doubts it to be a possibility since almost half of the NHL's clubs are looking to do the same. He did rule out trading the pick out right, and will likely pick in his 9th position. Look for one of the big three defencemen in the draft (Coburn, Suter, or Phaneuf) to be sporting Flame silks. The Flames made a little more progress on the restricted free agent front signing blueline anchor Robyn Regehr to an impressive five year deal that will lock up the hulking defender until his 28th birthday. It's the longest contract in Flame's history. Other minor signings included two Alberta boys in Blair Betts and Andrew Ferrence. Earlier the Flames locked up wingers Chris Clark and Shean Donovan, bringing their crossed off list up to five.

The Flames will be looking to nail down three other key players at least before the summer drags on too far, including; Chris Drury, Stephane Yelle, and Toni Lydman.


Since the last report, the Blackhawks signed a couple of players. The Blackhawks signed 2001 first round pick Pavol Vorobiev to a three year contract and signed minor league winger Quintin Laing to a two way deal. The Blackhawks also announced that their prospects will remain in Norfolk for the 2003-2004 season.

Blackhawk Center Tyler Arnason was honored by the NHL on Thursday Night, as he was one of six players named to the NHL All Rookie Team. Arnason was previously honored by the NHL as its rookie of the month for the months of October and December.


The next few weeks will prove to be a busy one for the Detroit Red Wings. After coming away with three trophy winners for the NHL Awards last Thursday, the Red Wings most daunting task will be to re-sign critical free agents -- some of which had new light shed on them when the league met for festivities last week.

Sergei Fedorov's agent, Pat Brisson, has made public some aspects of his negotiations with Detroit GM Ken Holland concerning his client's contract demands. According to Brisson, Fedorov would like the 5-year, $50 million contract offered during the regular season placed back on the table as a "starting point." Term has always been the issue with Fedorov, who is reportedly seeking six years in a deal. A five-year deal could lay the groundwork for an option for a sixth year. Money doesn't appear to be a concern -- $10 million per season, the Wings' opening offer, has been seen as aggressive by Detroit by other league observers, though Fedorov will likely try to push it to $11 million.

Although there was concern over Masterton winner Steve Yzerman's one-year contract, focus on that has dissapated over the last week after public statements from both sides saying the situation was blown out of porportion. Neogiations with RW Darren McCarty are moving slowly since his camp sent three counter-proposals to Holland following the organization's 3-year, $6 million offer.


Hockey season's over, but Minnesota fans are still celebrating as Jacques Lemaire took home the Jack Adams trophy Thursday as the best coach in the NHL, while the Houston Aeros, Minnesota's top afiliate, took home the AHL's Calder Cup.

Most eyes are on the draft now, but speculation has already begun that Phil Housley, a Minnesota native who still lives in the state, may sign with the Wild for about $1.5 million and end his career in Minnesota. With Cliff Ronning unlikely to return, Housley would become the point man on the Wild's power play.

New York Islanders

Mike Milbury's reign of terror continues here on Long Island as the most successful coach since Al Arbour was let go in 1994 was fired on June 3rd. Peter Laviolette and his assistant coaches were let go and Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) coach Steve Stirling was hired to replace him. Not only did Laviolette lead the Islanders to the post season in both years he coached the team, he was also only the second coach in team history to leave with a winning record. If you're counting, that's five coaches in nine years for Milbury... seven including interim coaches.

Congratulations to Pat LaFontaine who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday along with Grant Fuhr, Mike Illitch and Brian Kilrea. LaFontaine is tied for fifth on the Islanders all-time goal list and sixth on the all-time point list. He finished his career with 468 goals and 1,013 points in 865 games.

San Jose

Sharks team President Greg Jamison, GM Doug Wilson, Head Coach Ron Wilson and center Mike Ricci met with about 300 season ticket holders in an attempt to allow the team's most valuable customers to vent over last season's implosion in a "town hall" meeting at HP Pavilion. Fans were given an opportunity to ask questions about the direction of the team and what the Sharks plan on doing to avoid another 2002-03 disaster.

Doug Wilson implied that he would be pursuing a top six forward and a seasoned defenseman to help bolster the Sharks chances in 2003-04. No indication if that top six forward means re-signing Teemu Selanne, who passed on an option for next season. Veteran centerman Vincent Damphousse did elect to execute his option for the upcoming season, which will pay him roughly $4 million.

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