UPDATED: August 9 2005

 NEUTRAL ZONE TRAP

By Ted Dallaire.

New Teams and New Faces

Now the CBA settlement is old news. Same with the Entry Draft. Sidney Crosby is a Penguin now. Good luck to him and for the NHL. Now, teams are trying to fill themselves with players. Some are going after big names, some are just trying to bring in their youth. Those teams that are bringing in the big names...Well, they can't do it like years past which is why you
don't see teams like Toronto, Detroit, Colorado, and the NY Rangers getting big hits.

One surprise I have had so far is the lack of UFA signings by Boston. The Bruins seemed to have set themselves up to make a splash this year with the UFA by not having many committed salaries. I believe that it is partially do to the fact that the players know what the Bruins did and are shunning that team for it. My belief is that they purposely kept from signing
players to contracts so they could get a bunch of bigger name players for a cheaper cost. They were also pushing for this salary cap system so they could have a better chance at some of the names that would normally pass them up.

Another surprise so far is what the Flyers have done. They have really put themselves in the hunt for the cup this year and I would be completely surprised if they don't make it to the conference finals after what they have done this off-season. Not only did they get their top two young gun prospects signed, but they signed 4 big players too! I would consider the
signing of Derian Hatcher to be the 2nd best UFA signing they have done so far. He is a big hulking defenseman who caught hard times in Detroit with injuries which hurt his chance of remaining a Red Wing. He will fit in nicely with their style. He is also slightly under-rated with his offense. But he still won't be great in that area. They also didn't help their offense any, but still pumped their D up more with the signings of Mike Rathje and Chris Therien. If they can't score, they will pummel you for
trying to score against them.

Philly's best signing has to be Peter Forsberg who returns home to his original drafting team. He was previously the main piece of the trade that saw Eric Lindros come to the Flyers many years ago from Quebec. We all know he is dangerous offensively, but only when he is able to play. The Flyers will be banking on him playing more than he has and lasting longer. My
guess is that they will see him play about 55-65 games, but will still be productive.

I am truely happy to see that Pittsburgh has done something to bring in some cappable talent to surround Sidney Crosby with. Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar will be a great asset to this team who will be trying to bring Crosby into this league the best way they can. The league needs to see this kid play. Not only that, but play good and really shine. He will probably be on a line with Recchi and probably recently signed Ziggy Palffy. Of
course it is also possible that "Super Mario" Lemieux will also play on a line with Crosby. They already knew each other for a couple years. Mario even gave the kid a ride to the airport last year. I still think that they will sign another veteran goalie to help Fluery along this year.

The next big thing that has happened so far this off-season is the is the hiring of Wayne Gretzky to coach the Pheonix Coyotes. This will be another seriously watched performance. Can the "Great One" bring the magic he once had as a player to coaching? Only time will tell. I believe that the Coyotes will make the play-offs, but will fall out quickly. This will be the learning year for everyone there. Brett Hull might sign on for one more year after this IF everything works out right for him there in Pheonix.

Even the Chicago Blackhawks have tried to do something this year. They signed a much needed defenseman in Adrian Aucoin and also went out and got the best goalie available. Last cup winning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. He will post good numbers, but this team right now might just barely make the playoffs. Martin Lapointe will help and I believe that he will get the ice time there and will net about 20 goals this year, but will not be enough to put this team over the top.

There are still some big name players still unsigned and looking for a new home. I don't expect that this will last for much longer.

Here are the players I see as the big namers and who might sign with whom:

Centers-
Vincent Damphousse- Still has something left in him. Could he be sought by Atlanta, Nashville, or the Rangers? Don't be surprised if Boston tries for him to fill a center hole..

Ron Francis- He's a great veteran and can still contribute to this league. Not as strong as he once was, but his experience is just too much to pass by. Carolina might take another stab for him, but Columbus could use that extra help. Edmonton and Buffalo might also be interested. Boston might also be kinda desperate for a center if they can't get Vinnie.

Mark Messier- He will be lucky to find a job somewhere. Rangers are done with him. Maybe Toronto? They seemed to have been rumored for just about every player on the market of real value.

Eric Lindros- Here is an interesting player. Plagued by injuries over the last few years and not many teams will want to take a chance on him. I still don't see Toronto taking on this kind of risk. They already have an aging Belfour to contend with. More likely you will see him playing for a team like Detroit, Montreal, Florida, or even Washington.

Right Wing-
Peter Bondra- I think he might return to Ottawa. If not, look for teams like Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, and even the Islanders to look at him. I would list Boston as another interested team, but that does not need to be said. They just want players. St. Louis might also be interested in him.

Teemu Selanne- Another big name that I did not expect to be still unsigned. Buffalo might have room for him, and the Rangers could now use some extra offense. I see Washington, Anaheim, Columbus, and Chicago there for him.

Alexander Mogilny- I heard a rumor that he might retire. So, I don't really know about him. Possibly Boston again. Could compliment Alexei Zhamnov. I 'd also consider Anaheim as a possible team. He did play on a line with Sergei Fedorov in Russia.

Valeri Bure- Yeah I know, Nolan is a better player, but he's still injured and complaining somewhat. Here is an interesting player. I see him going to Detroit cheap. Another team could be Carolina or Chicago.

Adam Deadmarsh- New York Rangers all the way. He's a kind of player that they would spend the money on. Look what they did with Holik and Kasparaitis. Pittsburgh could also use him. Other interesting teams- Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, and Chicago.

Left Wing-
John LeClair- Bought out by the Flyers and underperformed last year. He is another to watch. Chicago, Detroit, Carolina, and Pittsburgh could be on his list or him on theirs.

Steve Thomas- It could be possible that he's done, but I don't see that happening. Boston could use him as well as the Islanders, Carolina, Florida, and even Jersey.

Defensemen-
Scott Stevens- I still expect that Jersey will try to resign him. But look for interest from Pittsburgh, Boston(again), and even San Jose.

Roman Hamrlik- Why hasn't the Islanders resigned this guy? They need him. Their defense is shot as it is. The other question, why is he still available? Has Boston forgotten his number? Minnesota could possibly use that kind of offense from the back. Look for even the Devils to take interest. Nashville may also look at him.

Glen Wesley- He's played so long in Carolina, it's wondered if they are tired of each other yet. Maybe he should call the Rangers or Atlanta. If worse comes to worse, Boston is still there!

Jason Woolley- He still has some gas left in him. He could be cheap and usefull to a team like Pittsburgh and Florida.

Goalies-
Curtis Joseph- Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are the best bets for his services. He still can do a great job for any team. Carolina may pick up the phone to his agent, but don't think anything will come of that. Also, if LA doesn't resign Cechmanek, he could end up here. Oh yeah, lets also not over look Edmonton.

Roman Cechmanek- Man, this guy can't get a break. LA may still take a gamble with him as he is still a good goalie. But so could Edmonton.

I am an avid hockey fan who loves to discuss hockey in all it's forms. If you wish to contact me, ask me questions, or even make a suggestion, please e-mail me at: theneurtralzonetrap@yahoo.com
I man even address mail sent to me in future columns.

Click here to go to the Archives

 The opinions expressed on this page are of the author, and in no way reflect the views of the NHL, it teams or players. All material in Neutral Zone Trap copyrighted (C) 2005 Spector's Hockey. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author or Spector's Hockey is prohibited.