By Chuck Clark.

Busy Day for the League Office

Sweet Jesus there were a lot of trades today, and since I am home sick, Ive nothing better to do than analyze and pick a winner from each deal. If I leave any deals out, it is because they weren't approved until after 4 o'clock. I will analyze every March 11th deal and some of the more significant deals leading up to the deadline.
First off the Nolan trade.
The Leafs win this one now, but this deal could even up in the future. Nolan's production has dropped off since his MVP type year in 2000, and is now prudcing what a second line winger is expected to produce. He will be a major pest in the playoffs for the leafs, and adds another tough guy to one of the toughest teams in the league. In McCauley, the leafs get a third line center at best, who clearly overachieved in the playoffs last year. The wild cards here are Boyes and the 1st round pick. Boyes is projected to be a second line center, and could be that man when Damphousse leaves. This years draft is considered a very deep one, one of the best since the Jagr draft, and that number one pick could be a future stud, or a future dud, time will tell. As for now the Leafs win the deal, but with an asterisk.
The Wesly Deal
Glen Wesly is a guy nearing the end of his career, only dont tell him that. He looks like he hasn't lost a step since coming to Carolina, and Pat Quinn also feels that way, by giving up a second round pick. Toronto is clearly trying to win now, and are auctioning off a significant part of their future. Give this one to TO.
Amonte for Lefebvre and a second and third round pick
This trade was a win/win for both teams. Amonte was a gamble of a signing, and the 'Yotes lost that gamble. Luckily for them, thye found a team willing to take on Amonte's hulking salary in Philadelphia, who may have only made this deal to rival the deal of Toronto to get Nolan(Philly and TO are currently first round opponets) Philly dealt from a position of stregnth in that they have 17 picks in this upcoming draft, and wont reall miss the second and third round picks they gave up. Lefebvre is a middle of the road prospect with decent size and his cieling is pretty much a second line forward, but more realistically a third line grinder type of guy. Amonte could rediscover his scoring touch in Philly, although I doubt it. Either way this is a good trade for both teams, the both get what they want, so advantage:Push
Gratton for Briere
I dont know why this trade even happened. Maybe the Sabres think that Briere will fit better with youngsters like Connoly and Pyatt, and their fed up with waiting for Gratton to live up to his potential. And maybe the 'Yotes want to beef up their forward lines, and think Gratton can finally live up to his potential. I think the Sabres win this deal, I believe Briere has a little more upside, is younger and cheaper, and is a good power play man.
Primeau for Bradley
I have no idea why Lombardi made this trade. Bradley is a younger cheaper and faster version of Primeau. Primeau is a good penalty killer but not much else. This was a pretty minor deal. Edge to the Penguins only for ridding themselves of a million dollar a year player with a plus minus approaching a negative 30.
Battaglia for Vrbata
I think rutherford got a steal here and is continuing to build his arsenal for the future. Vrbata has the talent to be a 30 goal scorer while Battaglia is a big power forward who could prove to be valuable in the playoffs. Im giving the edge to the 'Canes because I think Battaglia could have been had for a lot less.
Schneider for Kuznetsov,Avery,and #1 and 2 picks.
Think the Wings are goin for it now? That was an aweful lot of future to give up for one player. Dont get me wrong, adding Schneider was a huge pick up, and is porbably their second best defenseman immediately, but I think he too could be had for less. The Kings get two solid prospects, in Kuznetsov and Avery, and the picks will help to replenish the Kings minor league system. Im gonna say advantage Kings, because of how deep this draft is said to be.
Val Bure for Mike Van Ryn
Florida wins here. they've been trying to cut Bure's salary since Bure the elder was traded. Florida gets a stud of a prospect to add to their already deep with young talent blueline, and only give up a guy with 5 goals this year. The Blues probably overpaid for Bure, unless he can regain his form from 2000. Bure is a ver streaky scorer, and I think Pleau is hoping that Bure streaks at just the right time, and it might have been a gamble worth taking. For now I say advantage Florida.
Anson Carter and Ales Pisa for Dvorak and Cross
Was I the only one who did a double take when this came on ESPNews? Edmonton must really be in dire straights financially. Carter is one of the premier power forwards in the game, and Pisa looked like a promising young defenseman. And for Dvorak, who has had injury problems his whole career, and Cory Cross who brings with him the Cory Cross disease.( the disease in which any defense he goes to falters) New York still doesn't really address their need on the blueline, even though Pisa is an upgrade over Cross. New York wins huge on this deal. In the last year, the Rangers have added Pavel Bure, Alex Kovalev and Anson Carter for very,very little.
Smolinski for Gleason
Gleason is a top flight prospect and Smolinski is a legitimate number 2 center that the Senators have craved since Yashin was dealt. The Sens win this trade because I dont think they would have signed Gleason before he would have been able to enter the draft because of their tight financial situation. Smolinski provides a talented playmaking center for Havlat to play with, and takes a lot of pressure off young Jason Spezza. Gleason is a future top 4 defenseman, but I think Gleason would have been lost for nothind anyway, that is why I give the advantage to the Sens.
Hrdina and Leroux for Abid, Lefebvre and Focht.
Hrdina was one of the very few homegrown Penguins that panned out as a prospect. He as always been slowed by his reluctance to shoot, and that might have been what got him traded. Well that MIGHT have been what got him traded if the Penguins financial problems didn't play the most important part in every move Patrick makes. This was a clear salary dump, the pens got two second tier prospects in Lefebvre and Abid. I dont know a lot about Dan Focht except that he is cheap. Chalk this one up to the Coyotes, especially now that Hrdina might be the most talented player on his team, and might shake that reluctance to shoot, and could really flourish now that he will be a go to guy. As I said earlier, Lefebvre is realistically a third line forward, with some size. Abid is a wild card. At times he has shown a lot of promise, and other times, little enough promise to be a healthy scratch.
Steve Thomas for 5th round pick
Anaheim picked up a solid role player who can still chip in with a goal here and there. These kinds of players are very important to playoff teams. The Blackhawks get a 5th round pick to cut some salary. A win for bothteams. I give the edge to the Ducks, because Thomas could prove invaluable in the playoffs.
Niinimaa, 2nd and 4th picks, for Torres and Isbister
This trade isnt as tilted in NY's favor as much as some people think in my opinion. Isbister and Torres could really shine in Edmonton. The ice is the fastest in the league, and could really help those two players. Niinima is a top four defensman, but not really. He has 28 points which is what a team should expect from its top d-man. But he makes a lot of bonehead plays, and takes some stupid penalties that often hurt his team. If it wasnt for the picks, which Edmonton probably develops as well as any other team, this would be a steal for Edmonton, giving up a declining exspensive d-man for 2 solid prospects. I say this trade is a push.
Bergevin for Holzinger
Good trade for both teams. Bergie provides some stability to a young defense. Holzinger provides a fast third line center who has some scoring talent. Holzinger will be a penalty killer when healthy for the Pens, probably next year, and will be an upgrade over Wayne Primeau. Bergevin is a playoffs tested d-man who is a great guy in the locker room and will help the Bolts defense. A good trade for both team and both players. Advntage Bolts, because they add a solid d-man for nothing off their current roster.
Ian Moran for 4th round pick
Good trade for the Pens here. Moran is a better player when on a winning team. He didnt fit into the Pens system or lack thereof. The Pens won't be a worse team without Moran,(Although this week in Pens Hockey might need a new host since its current host got traded)and get a 4th round pick for him. The Bruins add a versatlie swingman who can play forward or defense. The Pens win this trade because Moran is not worth a 4th round pick.
Housley and Gilmour for Future considerations.
Two salary dumps, one winner. The Leafs pick up a warrior in Gilmour and another power play point man in HOusley, though he may prove to be a cancer in the locker room.
Niedermayer for Commodore and Damphousse
Rob Niedermayer has been a career underachiever, and is now nothing more than a checking third line center with some speed. Its players like these (Last year, McCauley and Green) who often become playoff heros and I think thats what the ducks are hoping for in Niedermayer. They give up once promising Commodore and "prospectish" Damphousse in the salary dump, er I mean trade. Advantage: Ducks
Osgood for Papineau
I was suprised that the Blues took on Ozzie's salary. They could have had him for nothing last year. Now they give a top tier prospect in Papineau for him. If I was Larry Pleau, I would have gone after someone else, like Johan Hedberg, or Felix Potvin. I dont think that Osgood is much of an improvement over Johnson or Brathwaite, and Potvin or Hedberg could have been had for less than the talented Papineau. Advantage Isles.
Berezin for 4th rounder.
Sergei Berezin had a resurrection of sorts this year, scoring 18 goals for the fading Hawks. This is a inor gamble by George McPhee. If it pays off, Berezin can be a go to winger for Lang, if it doesnt, Berezin will e one of the more dangerous 4th liners in the playoffs. The Hawks dump some more salary and pick up a fourth rounder, which is a bonus because they didn't have any intention of re-signing Berezin anyway. A win for Caps, because the payoff could be great.
Dan McGillis for a second round pick.
Think O'Connel is desperate to fill the void left by Mclaren? A second round pick for Dan McGillis seems a bit much. All facets of his game are average at best, but this time of the year, GM's are willing to pay a premium for D-men. I think San Jose wins this one by a nose, If O'Connel was willing to give up a second round pick for a d-man, he probably could have gotten Zhitnik.
Shean Donovan for Johansson and Dupont
I have no clue why Calgary made this trade. They arent in the playoffs, they are in rebuilding mode. Donovan and Johansson are almost the same player, where donovan lacks in size, Johansson lacks in speed. The wild-card here is Dupont, who is an undersized offensive d-man, who has the talent to quarterback a powerplay. Advantage Pens, but only because they got the only player with upside in the deal.
Brad May for conditional second or third rounder.
I dont see why all the fuss about Brad May. He has never done anything special. For the Canucks to give up a second rounder for him shows how much Burke thinks the need toughness. I think Phoenix wins this trade hands down. Unless May becomes an unlikely playoff hero, I dont see a whole lot of positive in him, nothing more than a pest with some speed. Another one for the Yotes.

Well all in all, I believe that the Leafs helped themselves the most, and the Flyers, Stars and Wings arent far behind as far as The Stanley Cup this season goes. I believe that the Kings helped themselves out a lot, by getting maximum returns on Schneider and Smolinski. The losers of the day are the Avs, Devils, Lightning, Preds, and Wild. The Avs gave up way too much for Battaglia, and they didnt get another winger to play with Sakic. The Devils imporved theyre depth, but for their third line down, where many expected them to make a deal for Selanne. The Bolts got only D-man Bergevin, who is simply not enough to take them to the next level. The Preds are fighting for the last playoff spot with the Oilers, but did nothing to improve their team today. The Wild are falling further in the standings everyday. I expected them to add a veteran who can chip in with a goal here and there, but the too did nothing. Well it was an exciting Deadline day, hope your team improved.


What The Penguins should do at the Deadline.

Well the playoffs are a pipe dream for the Pens, and so might be their future. They are now 8 points out with 18 games to go, and Boston with a game in hand. Craig Patrick needs to shed some payroll, and I have a few players in mind that he needs to rid himself of.

Wayne Primeau: Makes about a million a year. Primeau has never fit into Pittsburgh's style of play, with his specialty being defense and speed, one would think, Hey great penalty killer, and that he is, it's his 5 on 5 play that is a little lacking. He would be a great pick up for a team like the Avs, who have one of the worst PK's in the league, and wouldn't cost them more than a mid round pick. Another town I could see him go to is Minnesota, who I think is the perfect team for his game, they're a team predicated on defense, hard work and speed, Primeau best attributes.

Marc Bergevin: Signed in the offseason to be a veteran leader on an otherwise young defense, and was supposed to play as the 7th d-man, coming in when someone went down. Well, he has played in all but one Penguins games this year. He is probably the pens second best d-man (if that tells you anything about the pens defense). Every team will be looking for a veteran playoff tested d-man at the deadline, from Detroit all the way down to Tampa Bay. He too can be had for a mid to late round draft pick.

Ville Nieminen: Not a player I'd like to see go because I think he was ready to turn the corner registering his first three game point streak of his career, but the Kehoe promptly benched him. I don't think it was fair to expect Nieminen to put up the same numbers offensively as he did in Colorado, because there he played on the second line with Chris Drury. Here he has played with the likes of Primeau, Donovan, Manderville, and McKenna. Not exactly offensive juggernauts in my book. He still is a decent affordable penalty killer with some speed and grit. Anyone think John Muckler might be calling Craig Patrick soon?

Marty Straka: I love the little guy, and would hate to see him go, this is one of those trades that will happen, regardless of who doesn't want it to happen. Marty's a popular guy in the Burgh, and in the locker room. He is a great leader and possesses a hard slap shot, and breakaway speed. He is also a great stickhandler and has the talent to make things happens as opposed to waiting for things to happen. Teams around the league will line up to get this guy, he could be the second line center that Ottawa has been forever looking for. He could be the guy in Washington to jumpstart Robert Lang and the hot/cold wonder Jagr. Or he could go to Colorado to be Joe Sakic's new linemate. Or maybe to Nashville, where he could give David Legwand his first scoring winger since juniors (Trust me Nashville will do all it can to make the playoffs, considering how close they are, and with that refund promise they made to fans about making the playoffs.) Or to Boston where the are free falling right out of the playoff picture, and could use a roster shake up to boost the club. Maybe even New Jersey where they'll need to replace Joe Nieuwendyk (sp?) after this year, and have the prospects the pens are looking for. There is no end to the possibilities to where Straka is going to wind up.

Thats already about 7 million shaved from next years payroll.

Now if the pens can find any takers for Ian Moran, Hans Jonsson, and Jaime Pushor, and let players like Shean Donovan, Steve Mckenna, Kent Manderville, and Randy Robitaille play out their contracts, the Pens would be set, getting rid of all the dead weight being carried, and letting the youngsters come up and shine. The pens have one of the deepest minor league systems as far as talent goes. With Milan Kraft, Michael Sivek, Kris Beech, Konstantin Koltsov, Shane Endicott, Colby Armstrong, Toby Petersen, Tom Koustopolous, Eric Meloche, Matt Murley, Brooks Orpik, Ross Lupaschuk, and Ryan Whitney. Add those players to the players who will be here, or at least in the organization formerly known as the Penguins like, Aleksey Morozov, Tomas Surovy, Rico Fata, Jan Hrdina, Richard Lintner, Michal Rozsival, Dick Tarnstrom, Josef Melichar and Sebastien Caron. I'd say that the Pens might play a boring game in the future, but it will be a successful one, as long as Glenn Patrick(WBS Baby Pens coach) can instill a defense first system in his youngsters. If he can, and even if only 1/2 of those prospects pan out, this could be the best team in hockey in 3 years. And if Patrick can refrain from signing his annual off-season free agent busts, (Wilson:800k, Leroux:600k, Vujtek:800k, Daigle:700k) this team could be heading in the right direction. The future for Penguins hockey is bleak, but not so bleak for the city who inherits them.



Well Pens fans, its over. Not only the season, nor the now pipe dreams of a playoff run, but the franchise, the magic of Mario. It's all Pittsburgh history now. If not next year than in 2005, when I believe the "strike" will end, after several small market teams are given the death blow after a legnthy,costly work-stoppage.

This would have been an even trade (talent wise) if Kovalev's name was left off the the transaction proposal. Gary Bettman probably soiled his pants when he read the deal waiting for his approval. I myself, was floored by the return the league's most dangerous right winger netted.

There is no positive to this deal. The only prospect is Fata, the other three are far too old to be considered such,at 25 a player is no longer a prospect, but a finished project. Yeah sure, the Penguins got money. But Im not gonna be a fan long enough to wait for them to put it to use. God knows that Craig "Santa Claus" Patrick won't be signing any NHL talent this offseason, other than the usual two mediocre or less d-men he picks up on waivers. Craig Patrick spit in my face yesterday and insulted my intelligence when he said, we believe this makes us a playoff team. Really Craig? Can I have some of what your smoking, cause that must be some good weed. The Hurricanes got more for Sami Kappanen (6 goals) than we did for Kovalev(27).

Yes, the Pens are a dead team. Imagine how good they would be if you added, Ron Tugnutt, Bob Boughner, Darius Kasparaitis, Ron Francis, Robert Lang, Jaromir Jagr, and now Alexei Kovalev to their roster. It's just ridiculous. I for one will not watch a single game for the rest of the season. I honestly HOPE the Penguins move or are folded. At least every October I won't be given the false hope that this is the year, this is the year that the Pens will hold onto their now annual star free agent. But then again, maybe next year will be the year, how could it not be, Mario won't sign with anyone else, so who does that leave as far as stars go? Hey maybe by then, one of those "hot prospects" in the Jagr deal will turn it up enough to be a star, but don't worry Pens fans, well lose him too.

I just want to know why Craig, why have you been the Mike Milbury of the league since you traded for Kovalev? You've tarnished your name and the name of those who share your name of Craig or Patrick. I hate you. I hope Kovalev torches the Penguins on Friday, and sticks it right up yours, Mario's and Kevin Sawyers ass. You guys dont deserve fans anymore. Who is gonna draw fans when Mario retires? Jan Hrdina? Please, I dont want to see him now. Morozov? Well when he plays again, but even he isn't worth seeing. I never thought that we would trade Jagr. When you have the best player in the world, you dont trade him, and especially not for prospects. I got over that deal, I didnt think you would do it again Craig. I am suprised you couldnt hear Glen Sather laughing when he was negotiating with you.

I'm sorry everyone, I am rambling, I wish i could have 5 minutes alone with Patrick, the scrawney bastard.


Who the Hell do Some Players Think They Are?

What is the deal with all these players demanding so much money for average output?

Players like Sergei Fedorov, Bobby Holik, Tony Amonte, Kyle Mclaren and Teemu Selanne come to mind. They are all making elite player money, and are not yielding elite performances. Take Bobby Holik, I understand he has been hurt, but he clearly is not worth 9 million a season, maybe, MAYBE 2.5 to 3 million, but no more than that. I mean this is a guy, who in a 13 year career, has never scored 70 points. Still he makes over $100k a game? Thats insane. I know he is a good defensive player, but no better at defense than Curtis Brown or Jere Lehtinen, and Lehtinen has more points, is younger, and costs about 1/5 as much as Holik, not to mention he doesnt pull a, well, a Holik every other game by taking a stupid, senseless penalty.

And then there is Fedorov, a man who spurned an offer that would have payed him 8 million a year. This is a player who hasnt scored 70 points since 1995. So he wants more than 8 million a year, for what a second line center can be expected to produce? I understand he puts people in seats, and he too can play defense, but 8 million a year? Get Real.

Now Amonte, you spurn your hometown team, to accept about a million more a year from a conference rival. You turn down 5 million a year, yet youve never scored 50 goals in a season, never came close to leading a team to a cup, and watched your goal production slide ever year since 98. One year is an aberration, 5 years is a trend.

And Kyle Mclaren, who the hell do you think you are? Your a top 4 defenseman. There are probably 40 defenseman in the NHL that I would pick over you, and that is contracts aside. You have never scored ten goals in a season, nevr scored 30 points, and have been hurt for 25 games in 6 out of 8 seasons. What makes you think that you are worth nearly 4 million a year? How could your agent even ask for that kind of money with a straight face?

Now Selanne. You were once great, a genuine goal scorer. Now your an overpaid Finn. Lousy in your own end, and a second line winger at best at the other end. And you were looking for a long term deal worth 7 million a season? Do you know how many people it yould take at $50 a seat to pay for your salary in a year? About 140,000 people. Thats about 3,500 people per game (41 home games) to come see just you. I wouldnt pay $50 to come see you play. I wish Dean Lombardi made my payroll, maybe I could get a million a year to do what I was able to do 10 years ago.

How do you guys pick up your paychecks feeling guilt free? All the while digging an even deeper grave for the game you supposedly love. I know if I became incompetent at my job, I would change jobs or take a paycut. But then again, I have a conscience.


A Season Full of Suprises

Well hockey fans, we're at the quarter point of the season, and three things are certain, Dallas is great, New York is awful, and the season has been full of suprises. Here are my top suprises (in no order) so far.

The success of the cellar dwellars.
Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh all either finished or spent significant time in the cellar of their division last year. This year, they are currently at, or spent most of the season at the top of their division. The success doesn't end there. Columbus, Anaheim and Florida are all playing at or very near .500 hockey and are all fighting for playoff spots. And on the flip side....

The fall of the once mighty.

Phoenix, San Jose, Chicago, and Toronto were all play-off teams last year. Toronto even made it to the Conference finals. Now all four are playing below .500 hockey and all are currently out of the play-offs.

New faces on the "Stars of the Night" page.

Marian Gaborik- Already with 15 goals, well on his way to a 50 goal campaigne and looking like a bonafide future super star.
Martin St. Louis-One of the biggest reasons for Tampa's turnaround. Season is even more special when considering he broke his leg last season.

Olli Jokinen- Already surpassed his career best for points in a season. This guy was available in the waiver draft! Finally living up to the expectations the kings had for him when drafting him third overall, and the Islanders expectations when trading ziggy Palffy for him.

Dick Tarnstrom- Craig Patrick did it again. Another excellent waiver pick up. Dick Tarnstrom leads the league in points for d-men. Who would have thought at the season's quarter point, that Dick Tarnstrom would have more points than Jaromir Jagr. Bet MIke MIlbury wishes he still wore an Isles sweater.

Honorable mention-
Eric Boguniecki
Tom Poti

Free Agent Busts

Bobby Holik- At the seasons quarter point, the rangers will have paid Holik 2.2 million dollars for 1 goal, 1 assist and a minus 4
Darius Kasparaitis- signed to help anchor the Blueshirts defense, a parking cone could do better than Kasper's minus 11. Yeah the Rangers no how to spend their money

Tony Amonte- Although he is leading the team in scoring, Im sure Mike Barnett envisioned more than six goals at this point in the season.

Theo Fleury- Signed to replace Amonte, he only has 6 less goals than him right now. Still time to catch up considering he hasn't played a game yet this year.

Adam Oates- Has'nt played much this year, but when he has, he hasn't played well. Adam is on pace for 20 assists this season, to go along with no goals. He'll be making just under 4 million dollars this season.

The B's Keep on Keepin On

The Bruins despite the losses of, Jason Allison, Anson Carter, Bill Guerin, Byron Dafoe, and Kyle Mclaren over the past two seasons, have managed to maintain a strong hold on the Eastern Conference's top spot. Even though kep players such as Sergei Samsonov, Jozef Stumple, and John Grahame have missed time this year. Their hot start can be attributed to their captain's hot start Joe Thornton, who is currently tied for second in the league in points with Alexei Kovalev. Also Glen Murray has kept up last season output much to my supirse, and when Samsonov went down, Knuble jumped in and the B's didn't miss a beat. Nick Boynton has also been a pleasent suprise and might be ready to take the torch from Ray Bourque as the next Bruins D-man Superstar.


Well kiddies, the season has finally kicked off, and my 4 month wait for the return of hockey in Pittsburgh did not pay off in the season opener against the leafs. By midway through the game, I was reduced to heckling the Maple Leaf fans in front of me, first for their accent (which I actually think is one of the beeter accents out there) and second for paying the Penguins to see the Maple Leafs play. I felt I had to do something to recoup my lost 130 dollars for the tickets somehow. On to other NHL happenings.

Theo Fleury is back in rehab again. I hate to say it but, suprise suprise. Truly one of the games more gifted and entertaining players, has hit near rock bottom. It seems as if nothing can help this man beat his addiction. I honestly do hope he can pull it together, with the alleged rule changes, he could really thrive.

The Pens did not sign Alexei Kovalev. I can guarantee you one thing. If he is traded, and the Pens do not get one established offensive producer, instead going with a bag of prospects, then hockey will end in Pittsburgh, not even Mario can reverse the effects of losing Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Darius Kasparaitis, Ron Tugnutt and Robert Lang for essentially Ville Nieminen. (The only player from the Kasparatis and Jagr deals playing for the Penguins)

The Sharks have still not signed Goalie Phenom Nabokov. I wonder how far back the Sharks will have to fall in the NHL's toughest division before the realize the Kiprusoff will not cut it. I can't believe that Sharks' holdout Brad Stuart and Sens' holdout Karel Rachunek are holding out. Neither has been more than an average defenseman for their respective clubs. Both of which have deep enough blue lines that they won't even be missed. At least with Nabokov, a holdout is understandable. He has been amongst the top goalies for two years.

I think this is the year for so far underachieving Vincent Lecavalier. I think the Lightning finally have a enough talent to put together a team capable of going to the playoffs, and Vinny will lead them.

My Predictions as far as awards go.

Hart Trophy- Mario Lemieux, Darkhorse: Jagr
Art Ross-Mario Lemieux, Darkhorse: Jagr
Rocket Richard-Pavel Bure, Darkhorse: Kovalev
Selke-Jere Lehtinen, Darkhorse: Curtis Brown
Norris-Lidstrom, Darkhorse: Bryan McCabe, or Ed Jovanovski
Calder: I had Spezza picked, but he was sent down. Rick Nash just looks to good to be denied.



Less than a week hockey fans! I'm getting the chills thinking about walking into the Mellon Arena next Thursday, to watch Mario and co. face the Leafs. I can't wait to here the sound of 220 lbs of meat slam into the boards at 20 m.p.h., or to here the sound of a Kovalev wrist shot clang off the iron. I just can't wait. Well here are the 5 best offseasons. There was a tie for fifth.

5.New Jersery. The Devils stole two impact players from the Ducks. Friesen and Tverdovsky are loaded with speed, they are both 26, have 7 and 8 years NHL experience respectively, and best of all for New Jersey, neither has hit their prime yet. With Tverdovsky,Rafalski,and NIedermayer, the Devils have the most lethal defense. If the play on different pairings, it will be like the Devils have 4 forwards on the ice at all times. And with the league supposedly coming down on obstruction, offense may rule again in New Jersey.

5.Philadelphia. The Flyers dealt froma a position of stregnth at goalie, and got a second line center in return, in the Boucher-Handzus trade. They didnt panic and try to sign all kinds of free agents. They also added former Adams winner, Ken Hitchcock. They did lose Oates for nothing, but I have a feeling that move will fall under the addition by subtraction category, as Oates was less than stellar in his Philly tenure. The loss of Richardson could hurt, but St. Jacque should fill in nicely.

4. Columbus. The jackets added Scott Lachance, and Luke Richardson. 4th or 5th defensemen on good teams, but in Columbus, they will be 2nd and 3rd defensemen. After shaving Ron tugnutt's 2.5 million salary off the payroll, the Jackets proved they are committed to being competitive bny not pocketing the extra flow, and using it on Andrew Cassels, who will center a very solid first line in between Sanderson and Whitney. They also moved up to draft future superstar Rick Nash.

3.Atlanta. The Thrashers added Slava Kozlov, Shawn McEachern, Richard Smehlik, and Uwe Krupp, and lost only Brian Pothier off last season's roster. They also signed goalie of the now Milan Hnilicka after a brief holdout, and drafted future stud Kari Lehtonen.

2. The Coyotes. Quietly the 'Yotes have put together a very good offseason. They suprised everyone by adding Amonte in free agency. They added a goalie of the future in Brian Boucher, and they signed their goalie of the present with the Sean Burke signing.

1. The Stars. Well, Dallas has a nickname that really fits, because their roster is full of them..Stars that is. They added Superstar Bill Guerin, Phillipe Boucher, Scott Young, Ulf Dahlen, and Ron Tugnutt. That is a whole first line, and half of a 2nd defensive pairing. Between Guerin,Young, and Dahlen, the stars pretty ,uch added a guaranteed 70 goals to their total from last year. This team is so deep that, Jason Arnott and Jere Lehtinen will play on the third line! They also got rid of Belfour (addition by subtraction).

Honerable mention
Rangers. Not the whole offseason, just the signing of Richter for less than market value.
Detroit. Made sure not to lose out on CuJo sweepstakes. Also in the process of signing McCarty long term.
Tampa Bay. Sacrificed future(4th and 32nd overall picks) for present.(Fedotenko and Lukowich)


It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Ah, fall is nearly upon us, everyday, there are less and less birds chirping in the morning, the leaves are turning more brown with each passing day.... It can only mean one thing. Hockey is nearly back!!! Can you feel it? That burning itch to just go out and play the fastest (and in my mind, the only) sport? October ninth fans, October ninth. I'm gonna start my column off with the worst 5 offseasons.

Number 5 (for the worst)
The Canucks letting go of Scott Lachance and Andrew Cassels. I know that Lachance wasn't as good as his numbers may show, but it doesn't mean he wasnt worth the money. Ed Jovanovski brought out the best in LaChance. Scottie might not be a special defenseman, but he is at least average, and EVERY team can use another average defenseman, especially come May. Andrew Cassels may never duplicate the success he had with the Whalers. But he is a legitimate #2 center, and for just a shade over 2 million per, I am willing to bet Briank Burke will be regretting letting Cassels go, especially if the Naslund/Bertuzzi/Morrison slump. BUrke furthered his bonehead offseason by not replacing either with a proven NHLer

The Rangers entire offseason.
God I hope there is a salary cap/luxury tax after the next CBA. Read my prior columns to know how I feel about the Ranger's offseason. Although they did make one good move.

The Penguins lose Robert Lang for nothing. I will not believe that the Penguins were not offered a worthy trade for Robert Lang last season. I know whatever they were offered will be better than 2nd or 3rd round pick they get for UFA compensation.

#2The Signing of Ed Belfour instead of signing CuJo during the season
Eddie is so far past his prime that he can not be considered among the elite goalies in the league anymore. No one had as bad of a contract year as Belfour had, normally when players are in a contract year, they step it up. The Leafs should have taken last years sub par (and that's an understatement) as a hint to go with a cheaper Mike Richter. Richter played for an aweful defense last year, and still had a pretty good season. Belfour played for a pretty damn good defense, and played like he didn't care. Hopefully for the leafs, Trevor Kidd can rebound to his 2000 performance, because Belfour might struggle to put up even last year's number under a worse defense.

#1 Boston might have had the worst offseason in NHL history. They lost arguably the best power forward in the game. Then they lost their goalie, now theyve lost Kyle Mclaren. I cannot believe how the B's run their hockey team. It isn't like they arent selling out game after game, and they cant afford these players they keep losing. They are just so stubborn, and they let their ego get the better of them. Case in point, Marty Lapointe signed a 4 year 20 million dollar deal. Lapointe is at best an average second liner. Which in the scheme of things makes him little better than an average player. Bill Guerin is a bonafide Super Star, yes consisten 40 goal scorers are superstars in the NHL today. If I was a Boston fan, I would boycott until Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov and NIck Boynton are signed long term.
Ill rate the top 5 offseasons sometime this week.


Southeast Division Will Be Much Improved This Season

The Eastern Conference's Southeast Division has been the worst division in hockey since the latest realignment. Not more than two teams have ever competed for a playoff spot since it's formation. (And 3 out 5 lotter picks came from Southeast teams. It could be a different story this year.
The Atlanta Thrasher might be the most improved team this year, as far as points in the standings go. They had the worst record last year, so it shouldn't be hard to improve upon. The additions of wingers Slava Kozlov and Shawn McEachern will add a second line to the Trashers offense. Pair that withe the improving Dany Heatly and a full year of soon-to-be superstar Kovalchuk, it givces the Thrashers a decent 1-2 punch as far as scoring goes.
Goaltending wasn't reall a problem last year. Hnilicka did have a GAA above 3, but he also faced about 35 shots a night. With additions of Smehlik and Krupp, Atlanta has an average defensive core in Tamer, Kaberle, Sutton, and Tremblay.
This might not mean much, but the Thrashers might be able to put up 80 points in the standings next year. Which is a 26 point increase.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will also improve upon last year, maybe even enough to sneak in the back door of the playoffs, coupled with a few key injuries to division rival players. The Bolts could have as many as 8 20-goal scorers. Lecavalier, Richards,Andreychuk,St.Loius,Modin,Willis,Porspal, and now Fedotenko. Youngsters like Alexeev,Olvested and Clymer are all capable of putting together 15-20 goals barring injuries.
The Defense is there with Kubina, Neckar, Cullimore, Pratt, Sarich and now Lukowich. And for about 65 of to 82 games, Khabibulin will be in net, and will provide as good of goaltending as anyone in the league. The Lightning could really break out this year, and in the wild,wild,east, anything goes.
Even the formers Penguins stars...I meant Capitals will improve. Although Lang and Jagr never really played together in the Burgh, i doubt they will have any problems hitting it off in Washington. Lang provides someone for Jagr to pass to, Jagr doesnt need an assist man to be efective, he can get the puck himslef. He needs a scoring threat, that is why Oates and Jagr didn't work out. Factor in that Konowalchuk, Johannson, and Halpern will be there all year. Zubrus could break out and if they can sign free agent Dahlen back, this team can turn itself back into a cup contendor.

Thanks to everyone who reads this, e-mail me with any comments, or gripes. chaz_311@yahoo.com


The financial state of the fastest game on earth is getting worse and worse by the free agent signing. Something needs to be done, before too many teams go the way of Whalers. Players salaries are becoming more and more outrageous. Before last seasons free-agent sweepstakes, there were 6 players making 7 million a year or more. Now there are about 20. Something needs to be done.
I believe the first step, is to obviously design a salary cap. Take the league average salary right now. Then if anyone goes over, the punishment should be, how ever much they are overspending, they have to give to the NHL. (The league could use this money to aid in the building of new arenas for clubs like Pittsburgh.)
And on top of it, they should be charged draft picks. Of course the salary cap will go up a little every year, the way football's does. As for the teams over the "cap" right now, they should be given until the end of the season, to either re-negotiate, or release their players. The buyout on the players' contracts would not count against the team, unless the player is released and then re-signed by the same team.

Also, the free-agent age should be reduced to 25 or 26. right now, with players waiting until they are 30 or 31 to become free agents, it leaves so little marquee players, that the players own the leverage. Its a seller's market. Low supply(good players) mixed with high demand (every NHL team) causes inflation. If 25 year olds are alowed to become free agents, the demand will stay the same, but the supply will increase. Which give the NHL teams more options, and it will drive free agent prices down. If these two things happen, I believe the players' salaries as a whole will come down dramatically.
One little foot-note. I believe the recent signing of Tony Amonte to the 'Yotes, along with the aquisition of Boucher, opens the door for Sean Burke to get dealt, although it may be difficult to net much return, consiodering the limited market that Byron Dafoe has. Maybe a deal to the Hawks, for Mark Bell or Kyle Calder. I also believe that the Coyotes may trade Teppo Numinen. Probably to a team like the Avs, who are loaded with young inexspensive prospects, like Vrbata, Nederost, Willsie, HInote and even Tanguay is a possibility. Thanks to everyone who reads this, e-mail me with any comments, or gripes. chaz_311@yahoo.com

 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 Along the Boards copyrighted (C) 2002 Spector's Hockey. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author or Spector's Hockey is prohibited.