Gameday/Post/Recap: UFA Day #3: Oh You Know, Just Take Your Time

True story: the biggest news of yesterday was Olli Jokinen signing a 2 year deal with the Winnipeg Jets. I thought the Flames were a mess but at least they were smart enough not to give $4.5 million dollars a year to Olli Jokinen. Wow.

So yeah, um, in other news, um, well the Flames did make one horrible decision (not counting the Wideman contract and spending their first round pick on a kid who could be a decade away from actually competing in the NHL) by giving $4 million a year to Jiri Hudler. Admittedly Hudler put up 25 goals and 25 assists this year, but he’s also spent the last several years moving back and forth between the NHL and KHL depending on who is paying more, and has never really been more than a third liner in the NHL. BOLD PREDICTION right here: Calgary will not make the playoffs. The good news about that though is that perhaps if the Penguins fail to sign Sidney Crosby’s best friend Zach Parise they can make a trade for his other best friend Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline this year… I can dream right?

The Sabres traded Derek Roy to the Stars for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. Dallas must really love trading away multiple players for the guy who isn’t the best player in the trade. I mean yes, Roy is a good player, steady 20+ goal contributor, but Steve Ott could be a steady 20-goal guy and he gives you great defensive zone play, and intimidation. Oh also, Pardy isn’t too horrible either, sort of akin to Matt Niskanen really.

If something happens, maybe I’ll check back. Big thanks to friends and twitter personalities who have checked us out in the last week.

You’re probably right Giorgio, you’re probably right.

UPDATE: Several hours ago, Bryce Salvador signed a $9.5 million deal over three years with the Devils. That breaks down to $3.16 repeating per season. I’m sort of bummed that he’s off the market, but I’m also really glad that the Pens didn’t need to dish out that much cash to a stay at home defenseman who’s 36 years old.

I can’t figure out why or how the Devils keep doing what they’re doing, and Mike Colligan, who is always on point, just dropped this speculatory bomb shell:

I’m not panicking, however, it seems ruddy impossible for the Devils to afford any of these guys (Brodeur, Hedberg, Salvador). They’ve tied up about $10 million for next year on three players with a current combined age of 115. I know they aren’t at the limit of the cap, but this is a team that despite getting to play 9 home games a year against the Rangers, Flyers, and Penguins, all of whom had over 100% capacity for home game attendance at their own arenas, and in the case of the Rangers and Penguins were the 1st and 3rd most watched teams on the road, the Devils finished 24th in home game attendance with an 87% turnout rate. The team struggled to sellout its Stanley Cup Finals games, and if you recall the start of the 2010-11 season, after the Devils had signed Kovalchuk to his enormous contract, the team couldn’t dress a full roster because they couldn’t afford payroll. It all makes so much sense, hopefully that’s exactly why it’s not true.


Recap: Draftday #2: Fundamental Changes, Admitting I Was Wrong

I guess I need to fess up and say that everything that I hoped and predicted was completely wrong on the Jordan Staal issue. Also, because of a lack of close fact checking, I have finally realized that I screwed up the contract situations for Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. As it turns out, Suter is an unrestricted free agent this; Weber will be a restricted free agent. What it ultimately comes down to though is that they are both physically intimidating defensemen with offensive upside, they both play for the same team, and they’ve both expressed the same interest to leave that team because it’s located in Nashville. What is also true, and what I correctly identified, is that the future of said defenseman was inextricably linked to one of two things: the desire to pick up the mantle left behind by Nick Lidstrom in Detroit, or if the Penguins could dump the high salaries of their underperforming defensemen. According to a major stream of tweets (which of course may or may not be true) Suter is only allowed to sign a contract with the team called Detroit or the team called Pittsburgh. I honestly don’t like to brag every time I make a random prediction that ends up coming true or is supported, at a later date, by official commentary from the “pros,” and as I said, I totally got the Staal case wrong, but the simple fact is that as I build this blog and attempt to form a core of dedicated readers I need to show that the trust you place in me is justified. I’m not an expert, I haven’t even played competitive hockey since I was in eighth grade, but as I’ve tried to demonstrate, when properly guided I can hit the mark a lot. Get more by clicking on the HyperText Markup Language link. Read the rest of this entry »

Recap: Draftday #1: What Just Happened?

Wow, this is not the way I predicted the first round to go. The picks weren’t all that surprising, but wow, just wow. Jordan Staal is gone in comes Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumolin, and number 8 overall pick Derrick Pouliot. The Penguins also drafted Olli Matta with their normal 22nd pick. Dumolin, Pouliot, and Matta are all defensemen and although that might seem like a waste, it really isn’t.

According to all the experts Dumolin is literally Brooks Orpik except younger, he even went to Boston College, just like Brooksie. Looking at the stats, the resemblance is uncanny, Dumolin is 6’4” 210 lbs. He’s a large man, he will hit people. The experts further contend that he’s even more NHL ready than Despres and other Penguins defensive prospects. That’s good news.

Derrick Pouliot has a pretty funny connection to the Penguins. He plays for the same team, in the same pairing as last year’s first round pick Joe Morrow. Some people think that the Pens actually stretched to take him at the 8th spot, but he exactly represents what the Penguins hope to satisfy on defense. Oh yeah, he’s at least matched if not exceeded Morrow’s production despite being younger. I will say that the Pens could have taken Filip Forsberg, the third best offensive prospect in the entire draft, but as I said recently, it isn’t hard for the Penguins to recruit offensive talent to Pittsburgh, the issue is in the defense, and when you have so many “prospects” needing one way contracts next year, the Pens did well to restock. Just try not to get pissed when Forsberg scores some huge goal for the Capitals against the Pens.

I’m a little more interested in Olli Maatta compared to Pouliot if I’m honest. Maata is another pretty big, physical defenseman. But that’s what he is and that’s what matters. I feel like between Letang, Niskanen, Despres, Morrow, and now Pouliot the Pens are plenty deep at puck moving defensemen, now they need to work on getting physical. It should also be noted that Maatta is the linemate of last year’s second round defensive pick Scott Harrington. Just a little food for thought.

Of course the biggest piece of the Jordan Staal trade that the Penguins got in return is Brandon Sutter. Sutter was taken with the 11th pick in the 2007 draft and is probably the quintessential Jordan Staal replacement. He’s big, he’s a two-way center man, and he can produce pretty well. His career best season saw him record 40 points, 10 shy of the mark that Jordan set last year, but it should also be considered that Sutter hasn’t played on a team that is anywhere near as good at scoring goals as the Pens. He only has one 20-goal season, but so did Pascal Dupuis until this year and Pens fans don’t seem to complain about him too much.

I am confident in saying that this was in fact an act of Ray Shero magic. It was a hockey trade in its purest sense, and although Carolina could be pretty impressive led by two Staal brothers, the fact that Shero was able to salvage anything from what was quickly becoming a train wreck is incredible. Let alone to get two important pieces that can help the franchise from day one, another stout prospect, and still have your own first round pick left over.

There’s no question in my mind that Brandon Sutter can be Jordan Staal for the Penguins. He’s considered a great locker room presence and Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke will be notable improvements on Sutter’s normal linemates, plus he’ll likely get the opportunity, like Staal in recent years, to play up with Crosby and/or Malkin. He’ll be your top penalty killing forward. Further, just like Staal he really grew into his role as a two way forward, however, there is less fear of him outgrowing the role as happened with Staal.

I’ve seen at least three times when he’s gone to that move. It’s dirty.

Make no doubt about it, I’m going to miss Jordan Staal like crazy, but this is a move that has fundamentally improved two teams and it came from a situation where the Canes almost didn’t have to do anything. The crowd reaction to the trade was entirely supportive and that was good. I think it was a declaration of support for Jordan and for Ray Shero. Dejan wrote a minor masterpiece on the issue, and I can’t say it better than him.

This would be a win as is, but that wasn’t the only big time deal to go down for the Penguins. Shortly after the first round ended Twitter and the NHL Network were blowing up again with another Penguins move. Gone too is Zbynek Michalek, back to Phoenix where he thrived for years before coming to the Pens. In return is yet another defensive prospect, Harrison Ruopp, a dude who’s supposed to be bad to the bone, an AHL level goalie (which is good), and a third round pick in the draft this year. It was a salary dump and it cleared up $4 million on the Pens NHL cap. Further, it eliminated 50% of the biggest failure of Shero’s career. I’ve heard plenty of griping about how Z wasn’t the biggest failure, not like Paul Martin, and of course I’ve written about this before, and I don’t want to say I told you so, but I did. You can challenge the decision, you can challenge Shero, but I’m stoked on this decision, and we’ll deal with that in just a few minutes.

There was talk that both Shero and Phoenix GM Don Maloney were interested in making a hockey trade with either Keith Yandle or, less ambitiously, Rosti Klesla (who I think would be a great player in Pittsburgh and thought the Pens should have targeted in the 2010 offseason, when they signed Z and Martin) that would have seen another Penguins roster player moving to Phoenix, I bet you it would have been a forward, and more than likely I bet it would have been someone akin to Chris Kunitz, especially if the target were Yandle. Would the cost have been worth it? Probably. But that’s likely why Michalek is the player who is gone right now and Martin is currently still a member of the Penguins. You can only make a trade if you have a partner and I have my doubts that Paul Martin would make up a significant part of a real hockey trade (except for maybe Malone).

That said, don’t be shocked if Martin isn’t gone by the time Free Agency opens up. So far the Pens have shaved approximately $6 million in salary. Under the current collective bargaining agreement with the cap tentatively set at $70 million, the Pens are up to $14.6 million in free space. Imagine if they dropped Martin’s $5 mil contract. Even if the new collective bargaining agreement were to “shrink” the cap so that it stayed the same or actually went down slightly, this would still afford the Pens ample room to negotiate a new contract with Sid and whole-heartedly attempt to sign Zach Parise or Ryan Suter from free agency. Maybe even both, since it is reported that Parise and Sid are great friends, and presumably the two could work together to sign mutually beneficially contracts. For this reason, the move is brilliant, the Pens right now are prepared to sign the best player in free agency, and fully address their biggest position of need, scoring wingers, and they won’t need to wait on Filip Forsberg to develop.

Draft day 2 is underway. Go Hockey.