31 July 2010

Is Marty Turco The Philadelphia Flyers New Starting Goaltender?

Photo Courtesy of: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Rumors surfaced yesterday that the Chicago Blackhawks had reached a verbal agreement with former Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco, contingent upon the outcome of current 'Hawks netminder Antti Niemi's arbitration case.

Turco's alleged contract was for one year at $1.5 million, if Chicago opted to trade or let Niemi walk after his hearing.

Several sources, including NHL.com, reported this afternoon that Niemi was awarded $2.75 million by the arbitrator, giving the Blackhawks 48 hours to accept the offer or send the Finnish native packing.

What does this all mean?

27 July 2010

The Guys You Love To Hate: The NHL's Top 5 Agitators

 Photo Courtesy of: Harry How/Getty Images

Inspired by TSN's top ten agitators of all-time, here are the five best players at getting under your skin in the NHL right now.

5. Matt Cooke, LW -- Pittsburgh Penguins (859 PIM's in 738 games)

At 5'11" and 205 lbs, Cooke is one of the smaller pests in the league. Despite his small stature, the Cookie Monster (as he's known in Pittsburgh) is one tough guy to play against.

While Cooke has been a trash-talker since his days in Vancouver, it wasn't until he knocked Boston Bruins center Marc Savard unconscious that his over-the-edge physical style of play saw NHL headlines.

The hit went unpenalized and Cooke was not suspended even though it was clear that he stuck out his elbow, catching Savard's head and sending him off the ice on a stretcher. Here's the hit:

26 July 2010

Back in Black (And Orange): Fresh Start For The Flyers in 2010-2011

Photo Courtesy of: Bruce Bennet, Getty Images

When Blackhawks phenom Patrick Kane beat Philly netminder Michael Leighton from an unholy angle to capture Chicago's first Cup in nearly five decades, it was a tough pill for Flyers fans to swallow.

Disbelief quickly transformed into anger and disappointment.

Each day that passed was increasingly painful, and what would have otherwise been a fantastic season felt more like a gigantic failure for ending the way it did.

I couldn't help but self-masochistically watch the Cup parade through the Windy City, along with innumerable advertisements on NHL.com and ESPN for Blackhawks 2010 Champion gear.

It felt like it would last a lifetime; nothing could take away the fact that the Flyers were that close to glory and collapsed at the very last second.

But at last, thoughts of last season are finally beginning to fade and now it's time to look forward.

The offseason is a time for wounds to heal for players and fans alike, as well as to regain the strength and confidence required to compete for the greatest trophy in sports.

With that, let's take a look at your 2010-2011 Philadelphia Flyers.

The greatest change for the orange and black has already received plenty of analysis--the Simon Gagne trade.

In short, the absence of Gagne in the Flyers lineup makes room for Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, and Ville Leino to take their game to the next level and become high-impact players for Philly.

23 July 2010

The Top 3 Arbitration Hearings To Watch This Summer

Photo Courtesy of NHLSourcesSay
3. Mason Raymond – LW , Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are already over the cap by more than $1 million and already sufficiently deep at left wing.
After scoring only 23 points in his first full season with Vancouver in 2008-2009, Raymond enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2010 where he doubled his point production, finishing with 25 goals and 28 assists.
Despite greatly improving over the past year, Raymond simply doesn’t fit into Vancouver’s plans for the future.
The Canucks have a consistent 80+ point LW in Daniel Sedin and a gritty goal-scorer on the same wing in Alexandre Burrows, which would drop Raymond to the third line.
Sedin is under contract for four more years, and Burrows is set to make just $2 million for the next three years, a cheap price for a guy who has only missed one game through the past four seasons.
Moreover, Burrows has tallied 52 more points and 376 more PIM’s than Raymond over the last three years, as well as finishing a plus-68 over that time period.
TSN reported a couple weeks ago that Raymond could be awarded $3 million per season, while rumors surfaced recently from HendricksHockey.net that he is looking for as much as $3.5-4 million/year.
Even if those numbers are a bit high, there’s no question that the Canucks would rather let him walk and hang on to the cheaper and stronger option in Burrows, especially considering their current cap and roster situation.

22 July 2010

Powe Signs One-Year Deal With Flyers, Trouble Brewing in Philly

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Hapeman

With the Gagne trade still fresh in the minds of Philadelphia Flyers fans, the re-signing of Princeton graduate Darroll Powe flew greatly under the radar last night.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Powe's new deal is a worth $725,000, an increase from only $532,500 last year.

Powe laced up his skates for 63 games last season, tallying 15 points and racking up 54 PIM's for the orange and black.

As is often the case, with good news comes bad news as well.

Sarah Baicker of CSN Philly spoke with forward Blair Betts yesterday, who informed her that he is four months away from returning from off-season shoulder surgery.

Betts was a staple on the Flyers penalty killing unit in 2009-2010, in addition to a great face-off man.

While Philadelphia will miss Betts's shot-blocking prowess and contagious work ethic, his absence will allow Darroll Powe--a natural centerman--to shift over from left wing back to his preferred position in the middle.

Powe's one-year deal makes him one of nine Philadelphia Flyers currently on the roster eligible to become restricted or unrestricted free agents next summer.

21 July 2010

Enough Is Enough: League Takes A Stand, Denies Kovalchuk's New Contract

 NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Around 10 PM last night, while New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was tucking Ilya Kovalchuk into bed, Canadian news sources TSN and RDS reported that the NHL had rejected the Russian superstar’s new 17-year deal.
The reason? According to the league’s official statement released this morning, the contract circumvents the salary cap and the CBA.
Well no kidding Mr. Bettman, an illiterate monkey could have told me that. (See: Arnold Schwarzenegger)
All joking aside, the fact that the commissioner and his cronies finally decided to challenge this type of contract is a major development.
However, analysts do not believe that the NHL will retroactively void the contracts of players like Chris Pronger, Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo, etc.
Many hockey writers have condemned those players and their respective teams for agreeing to similar front-loaded deals, but only ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun pointed out that none of those athletes are signed until age 44, which is clearly where Kovy and the Devils crossed the line this time.
General managers having been pushing their luck up until now, and the Kovalchuk deal finally forced the league to hand down more than a slap on the wrist for dodging the salary cap.
Is it too little too late? We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that the current CBA doesn’t expire for another two years, and the last time it was renegotiated resulted in the 2004-2005 NHL lockout.

20 July 2010

Room For Improvement: Getting To Know The Salary Cap

                                                                                          Al Bello/Getty Images
Ilya Kovalchuk’s new 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils has sparked more talk in the NHL than just free agent signings and trades.
This monstrous deal, along with several other recent signings, has reignited the fierce debate over the league’s salary cap and collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The experts have all had their say, now it’s time for fans to weigh in on one of the NHL’s biggest issues.
Let’s start by examining Mr. Kovalchuk’s long-term agreement with the Devils, which peaks at $11.5 million/year from 2012-2017, before dropping to $550K for the last five years of the contract.
After all is said and done, the Russian sniper’s cap hit is only $6 million/year. If Kovalchuk retires early—you know, before he turns 44—then the Devils will have to pay the remainder of the money but it will not count against the cap.
This type of front-loaded contract has received a lot of criticism from the media, as well as NHL investigations, over the past year. (See Chris Pronger and Marian Hossa)
Basically, the Devils could’ve signed Kovalchuk for 25 years and it wouldn’t have mattered, as long as the league approved the deal. It’s a loophole in the CBA that allows teams to lower the cap hit of elite players without holding them responsible for the ethical implications of these kinds of deals.
In today’s press conference at the Prudential Center in Newark, Kovalchuk declared that he sees himself still playing in the NHL at 44 years of age. That, as you should very well already know, is a complete hoax.
There’s no doubt that he will retire before the contract ends, and per the current NHL regulations, the Devils will see no repercussions for their unethical deal.
Why unethical?
Think of this way: is it still wrong to break the rules when you know you won’t get caught?
Just because there’s a loopholes, it does not give teams the right to take advantage of the system.

19 July 2010

Going, Going, Gagne: Playoff Hero Shipped to Tampa Bay

Gagne celebrating his OT-winner against Boston last May. Photo: Matt Slocum, AP

It all happened so fast.
After more than two weeks of deliberation, Ilya Kovalchuk finally re-signed with the New Jersey Devils this morning via the team’s official Twitter.
Cue anticipated domino effect.
Within hours, sources were reporting that Flyers GM Paul Holmgren had traded Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shortly after the rumor was confirmed, the exact terms of the deal were revealed as well:
The Flyers needed to clear cap space, but this felt very rushed. There’s no question that half of the NHL was interested in Gagne’s services, so why not wait for a better offer?
Bringing back a top-six forward would nullify the cap relief created by trading Gagne; that’s not what I’m suggesting the Flyers should have done. I’m simply talking about acquiring prospects or a veteran winger for the 3rd line.
Several Flyers analysts, including CSN Philly’s Sarah Baicker, believe that Walker might be sent to the Phantoms to avoid his cap hit this season. If that’s the case, then Gagne was essentially traded for a 4th rounder in the 2011 draft.
That plain hurts.