Archive for July, 2012
The Nashville Predators have done what most in the hockey world didn’t think was possible.
They’ve stood up to the big bad Philadelphia Flyers in matching the offer sheet they signed Shea Weber to – a 14-year deal worth $110 million. Incredibly, the defenceman is owed $27 million over the next year and $68 in bonuses in the first six years of the deal.
I don’t know how you can commit that much money to a player who basically decided he didn’t want to play for the Preds in signing the offer sheet with Philly. And talk about awkward when Weber has to face his teammates at training camp this September.
But what else could the Predators do? Let the pocked-deep Flyers bully them around in signing their captain to a lucrative deal?
But in today’s NHL, with the salary cap in place, even a small-market team like Nashville can compete with teams such as the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and in this case, the Flyers.
Weber and the Predators now have at least 12 months to patch things up – whether they will admit to needing patching is beside the point – as Weber can’t be traded now until a full year after the deal is signed.
HOWSON FLEECED AGAIN: Colombus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson couldn’t get a deal done for Rick Nash at the NHL trade deadline. I thought, at the time, that he shouldn’t rush a deal and wait until the summer – to get a better return for his team then. Well then became now, and the Jackets sure dropped their asking price, getting Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in 2013. Anisimov never lived up to his potential in New York, where he wasn’t even utilized as a Top 6 forward. As for Dubinsky, he’s a gritty forward who did a bit of everything for the Rangers, but he wasn’t a big impact player either. The Rangers will be Presidents Trophy contenders, so that draft pick will likely be in the high 20’s. Erixon was a first-round draft pick (not even by New York) back in 2009 for Calgary. So, Howson basically gets two third-liners and two prospects for a 40-goal man in Nash. And just like that, the top team in the Eastern Conference last regular season, just addressed their biggest weakness: scoring goals. Jeff Carter was dealt by Howson a few months ago and went on to win a Stanley Cup in Los Angeles. Now, the Nash deal certainly makes the Rangers one of the favourites going into next season.
QUIRKY STAT DU JOUR: Nash (Columbus), Kari Lehtonen (Atlanta) and Jay Bouwmeester (Florida) were the first three players selected in the 2002 NHL Draft. Between the three players, they have a combined zero playoff wins. That will surely change for Nash next spring. Nash played in four playoff games for Columbus in 2009 (all losses) and Lehtonen was 0-2 in goal for Atlanta in 2007. Bouwmeester has never played in an NHL playoff game.
BIG EASY DOES IT: Finally a veteran wins a Major. Ernie Els stopped a recent streak of nine first-time major winners in claiming his second Claret Jug trophy last weekend at The Open. The Big Easy is such a classy pro and at the age of 42, he proved he can still beat the best in the world. Els is one of the few big name players in golf that continues to make a stop in Canada at our national championship. The 2012 RBC Canadian Open is being held this week in Hamilton and Els will be in the field.
TIGER VS. JACK: Tiger Woods finished tied for third at The Open last weekend and I was curious as to how he stacks up with the great Jack Nicklaus, in terms of Top 3’s in Majors. Nicklaus of course leads Woods 18-14 for overall major titles. In looking closer at the numbers, I couldn’t believe how many Majors Nicklaus just came up short in. Tiger has 6 second-place and 3 third-place finishes, while Jack had 19 second-place and 8 third-place finishes in Majors. Based on these numbers, Woods has made the most of the tournaments where he is in contention. But something has to be said for the amount of Majors that Nicklaus contended in, even if he has more second-place finishes than wins. Jack, for the record, won his last Major at the 1986 Masters (46). Tiger, 36, hasn’t won one since 2008.
ITCHING FOR A TITLE: Ichiro Suzuki in Yankees pinstripes just doesn’t look right to me. But good for the 38-year-old veteran, who will finally get a shot at winning the World Series with New York. Suzuki, who is a career .322 hitter in the majors, was dealt to the Yankees on Tuesday, after 11½ seasons in Seattle. Ichiro’s only playoff appearance was in 2001 when the Mariners lost to none other than the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
STATE OF SHOCK: If any good comes out of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, it’s that no other team will ever look the other way when it comes to its player being taken advantage of. The NCAA made sure of that, slapping the powerhouse college with unprecedented fines and penalties this week. The $60-million fine hurts, but not as much as having 14 years of accomplishments erased from the record books. Oh, and a four-year ban from playoffs is also a kick in the stomach. Sandusky, a former member of the great Joe Paterno’s coaching staff, sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years.
PIPER’S POINT: I’m having a blast putting together video blogs for the Cornwall River Kings. If you haven’t seen them yet, scroll down a bit more to view them. I’ve had the opportunity, thanks to the River Kings, to interview head coach Al Wagar, GM Wayne Veary and Mitch Gagne, director of hockey operations. I’ve also had the chance to chat with several players, including Jeff Legue and the outgoing Steve Simoes. A big thank you to producer Keith Papineau, the man behind the camera, who does a great job putting together the videos.
The latest River Kings video blog will be up shortly; you won’t want to miss interviews with Cornwall native Jeff Legue and forward Pierre-Luc Faubert, who recently came to terms with the team.
I also had a chat with Mitch Gagne, director of hockey operations with the River Kings.
In the meantime, here are the lastest players who have come to terms with the club:
Mathieu Curadeau: The 27-year-old centre was fifth in scoring for the Windsor Wild last season with 44 points in 39 games. The veteran has had pro stops in the IHL, CHL, ECHL and AHL as well as the LNAH.
Pierre-Luc Faubert: The 26-year-old forward makes his return to the LNAH after a year in the ECHL. Faubert had 44 points in 72 games with the Chicago Express last season. In 2010-11, the feisty Faubert suited up for Trois-Rivieres and scored 31 points in 37 games. He was acquired by the River Kings this summer via trade.
Dannick Lessard: Veteran enforcer who once played for the Laval Chiefs. Lessard, who turns 33 next week, played for the Windsor Wild last season, compiling 273 penalty minutes in 48 games. Lessard is approaching 500 career fights.
Mario Joly: Big defenceman (6’4″, 245lbs) who spent four seasons with the Hull Olympiques in the QMJHL as a junior, averaging 298 penalty minutes per season. The soon-to-be 31-year old will chip in offensivly on the blueline as well. Joly had 28 points in 44 games last year with the Windsor Wild. He also compiled 149 penalty minutes.
Nick Romano: The 28-year-old from Montreal spent six seasons in Italy and one year in France before joining Windsor last year. He scored 10 points in 15 games with the Wild. His ability to block shots and finish his checks made him an important player in last year’s run to the league final.
You can now view the team’s website, which is in transition from the Windsor Wild to the Cornwall River Kings. Click here: http://riverkings.lnah.com/
Cornwall River Kings general manager Wayne Veary has been busy over the last few days, coming to terms with six players.
In other news, the second episode of our series of video blogs has been shot and it will feature player interviews from this week’s scrimmage at the Benson Centre – stay tuned for the link.
Meanwhile, here’s a closer look at the first River Kings to sign on the dotted line:
SASHA POKULOK: The 6-foot-5 Pokulok was the first overall pick at the LNAH draft last month. The 26-year-old defenceman from Vaudreuil-Dorion was selected 14th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He won a gold medal with Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Vancouver. Pokulok played last season in Austria and has also had pro stops in Germany, the AHL and the ECHL.
STEVE SIMOES: The 33-year-old from Brossard is entering his fifth season in the league and is sure to be a crowd favourite at the Civic Complex. Simoes was acquired in a trade this off-season and will bring energy and leadership to the first-year River Kings. He’s had pro stops in England and also played five seasons in the Central Hockey League.
NICOLAS CORBEIL: Talented centre who was a third-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2001. The 29-year-old, who spent last season with the Akwesasne Warriors in the Federal Hockey League, has also played three seasons in the LNAH. IN 2010-11, he scored 26 goals and added 29 assists in 40 games for Thetford-Mines. He has had pro stops in the AHL, ECHL, UHL and also played overseas in Italy.
RYAN SULLIVAN: The native of Cardinal, Ontario is a former standout defenceman for the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the CCHL. At 6-foot-4, the 24-year-old, who won three championships with Pembroke, will add plenty of size to the River Kings blueline. Sullivan was selected by Cornwall in the eighth round of the LNAH draft last month.
MAXIME DAIGNEAULT: The 28-year-old goaltender was a second-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals in the 2002 NHL draft. Daigneault is a big goaltender (6-foot-3) who was 7-4-1 last season for the Windsor Wild. He was a standout with the Val d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL and has spent the last three seasons with the River Kings organization. Daigneault has also played in the AHL and ECHL.
NICOLAS SIGOUIN: Sigouin, 22, is a young defenceman who graduated from the QMJHL in 2009. He had stops in Drummondville, Acadie-Bathurst and Baie-Comeau. Last season, he suited up in 17 games for the Windsor Wild. Sigouin, who is from Lachute, and adds more size to the blueline at 6-foot-1.
It’s been a busy week in the NHL; here are my thoughts on the Free Agent Frenzy!
HABS ADD GRIT: Marc Bergevin has to be pleased with his first July 1 as a general manager. The Habs signed veterans Colby Armstrong, Brandon Prust and former Canadiens d-man Francis Bouillon. Armstrong and Bouillon are good pickups at $1 million and $1.5 million, respectively. If Montreal’s top-end players work as hard as these character players, the Habs will certainly be in much better shape next season. The Canadiens also re-signed Ryan White and Travis Moen last week, ensuring that the Bell Centre will be rocking once again.
PRICE GOES CHA-CHING: Carey Price hit it big with a 6-year $39 million contract with the Habs. Price will be a $6.5 million cap hit for the Habs. Some say this is too much for the 24-year-old, but it’s under the $7.0 million Pekka Rinne is getting in Nashville. And you can’t argue that Price is Montreal’s best player. Without him they would have finished 30th in the NHL last year instead of 28th! Price will be an unrestricted free agent at 30.
YAPPY DIVISION: The NHL’s Northeast Division just got a bit tougher and a lot yappier. Prust (Montreal) and Steve Ott (Buffalo) give the division two more agitators that can play the game. They will fit in well in the Northeast with the likes of Chris Neil (Ottawa), Patrick Kaleta (Buffalo) and every single Boston Bruin.
FOLIGNO JUMPS TO COLUMBUS: I’m not sure why the Ottawa Senators were in such a rush to deal Nick Foligno. The Sens, who were rumoured to be moving him for quite some time, sent the 24-year-old winger to Columbus for d-man Marc Methot. Foligno is a decent-sized, rugged winger who has some offensive upside as well. The fact that he has only one year left on his contract might have been a factor. Foligno, who will earn $1.55 million next season, becomes a restricted free agent next July. Meanwhile, the Sens get an Ottawa native in Methot, who is a steady d-man with a cap hit of $3 million per season. The move was necessary after Filip Kuba signed with the Florida Panthers.
CANUCKS LAND GARRISON: One of the biggest jaw-dropping contracts was the Jason Garrison deal. The Vancouver Canucks signed the defenceman to a 6-year $27.6 million deal. The 4-year pro, who was never drafted, will make more in his first year in Vancouver than he did in all four of his pro seasons combined. Garrison had a breakout 33-point season with the Florida Panthers and you’d think those numbers would only improve with the high-scoring Canucks.
MAJOR DEAL FOR SHELDON: For a guy who two seasons ago spent the year in the minors, Sheldon Souray sure hit the jack pot with the Anaheim Ducks. Souray, 35, inked a 3-year $11 million deal. Souray is a tough d-man with a blast of a shot, but he is injury prone and rarely plays a full season.
SAME JERSEY FOR BRODEUR: After all the talk, Martin Brodeur decided to stay in New Jersey. Brodeur hired agent Pat Brisson and did test the free-agent waters, but in the end he signed on for two more years with the Devils ($9 million). I can’t help but wonder what kind of commission Brisson will make for his one week of work. Even if it’s only 4%, he’s looking at $360,000.
WHITNEY CASHES IN: Speaking of 40-year-olds, Ray Whitney opted for the Dallas Stars and a 2-year $9 million deal. Last season, Whitney had one of his best offensive seasons, scoring 77 points with the Phoenix Coyotes. I figured he’d retire after having also reached the 1,000-point plateau last year as well. But more and more veterans are sticking around for that extra pay day, it seems.
TOUGH WEEK FOR SHANNY: A week after not being chosen for the Hockey Hall of Fame, Brendan Shanahan was overruled by commissioner Gary Bettman. Shanahan may “drop the puck” on NHL suspensions, but Bettman decided to shorten the 25-game suspension that was handed to Raffi Torres in the playoffs to 21 games. Torres had appealed the decision but this is a rare move by Bettman. Torres, who blindsided Marian Hossa, served 13 games in the playoffs and now has eight games remaining.
PIPER’S POINT: Alexander Radulov is reportedly gone back to the KHL, and hopefully we never have to hear of him again. In Russia, he’s a superstar who will make more than $9 million per season. Here, he’s a selfish prima donna who isn’t worth half that money. Maybe I’m just bitter because I just picked him up a month ago in a keeper fantasy pool, in hopes that he’d signed with the New York Rangers. Ah well, you win some and you lose some.
Follow me on Twitter: @piperspoints