Summer Ramblings
The Dog Days of Summer

By: Hockey Alliance Publishers
July 11th, 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...


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 stratosphere.

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 disappointed.


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 his decision.

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.

NY Rangers

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.

San Jose

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.

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