It’s that time of the year again! The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here at last, as we get ready for nearly two straight months of non-stop, intense hockey action! Every year I post my predictions on this blog, so the tradition continues, this time with no fancy explanations, just the pure, unadulterated picks. Just some quick thoughts, though, and that is my utmost desire to see the Philadelphia Flyers pound the Pittsburgh Penguins into oblivion. Will it happen? Well, against the boards, most definitely, but on the scoreboard, probably not. A man can dream, eh? Either way, you can expect 95% of the hockey world bringing themselves to do the unthinkable for the next seven games or so, and that is cheer on the Broadstreet Bullies. Let’s also hope the Rangers will put the clamp down on the eighth place Ottawa Senators as well. Everyone keeps saying how the Senators have given the Rangers fits and the two teams do not match up well, but let’s get one thing straight here: the Rangers are the best team in the Eastern Conference, second best in the entire league. If they can’t get out of the first round, then they don’t deserve it, plain and simple. I’m also counting on the Devils to make quick work of the Florida Panthers, even though they are three slots lower than them in the standings, but I covered that a few days ago in this article. Now it’s time for the picks!
By Guest Blogger Chris “Gootz” Hoeler
As the New York Rangers got their first home win of the season against the San Jose Sharks on Monday night, it was the first time the Rangers played even close to a full 60 minutes this season. However, the story of what happened next has the hockey world buzzing. After the game, Joe Thornton said that the Rangers were the softest team they had played on their recent road trip and that they should have beaten them.
First of all, the Sharks and Rangers had the same number of hits in the game with 26 apiece, so it is not like the Sharks really are prescribing to a crash and bang mentality. Not to mention, this is coming from a guy who did not register one hit in the game. Pot calling the kettle black, Joe?
Secondly, it was enough to win. In fact, the Rangers controlled play for most of the game outside of a shift or two where the Sharks were buzzing in the Rangers’ defensive zone. New York took it to the Sharks and got a forecheck going. They had puck possession and it led to offensive chances, which ended up in the back of the net. The hustle and work ethic of the Rangers outdid the Sharks who looked flat at the end of a road trip. So if the Rangers did in fact play “soft” as Thornton described, then his team is even softer for not being able to take advantage of this apparent attribute Joe has thrown out.
But the best response came from Rangers’ Head Coach John Tortorella, who brushed the comments away the night of the game simply because he had not confirmed himself that Joe had said that. The next morning at practice was vintage Torts, as he went after Thornton:
“Joe’s a heck of a player, but here’s a player popping off about our team, and Joe hasn’t won a goddamn thing in this league. He could go down as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything. So what he should do is just shut up.”
There is more to the quote but you get the point. All I have to say at this point is that I am glad Tortorella said this. This season has been turbulent thus far and John has been very critical of the team’s play the last few weeks. That being said, he will be the first guy to defend his team, and he did. The Rangers pride themselves on being a physical team and having a high work ethic. Thornton took shots at those and John fired right back. Having been in hockey for a few years now, I know that people who are involved with the sport are not at all afraid to speak their mind even if it can be something incendiary.
Over the last day or so, I have seen many Rangers’ fans who disagree with Tortorella’s comments and believe he should have just told Joe to look at the outcome of the game. While I would have been fine with that, I absolutely love what he has done here. Someone takes a shot at a team that won and the coach fires back to defend his players. If anything, this shows how much this coaching staff believes in the players on this team and Tortorella was not going to let anyone put a damper on the best game of the season for New York Rangers.
It is good to have conflict and drama in sports. Having characters that have a certain persona about them is what makes things even more interesting. It is unfortunate that almost every athlete nowadays is just filled with clichés and gives that safe answer everyone expects to hear. I will take fiery personalities and conflicts any day over the bland interviews athletes give now. So nice job Torts—well played and you showed how much you believe in these guys who are in Broadway Blue despite the very up and down start. It makes fans like me believe more in the players as well.
Chris Hoeler is the assistant director of player personnel for the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League. He has been a fan of the New York Rangers his entire life.
As the prospects of the New York Rangers begin their tournament in Traverse City, the veterans and hopefuls of the team begin their routine for the beginning of training camp. Among those that will be invited to a try-out this September, are three veterans, all of whom fans should be familiar with.
Alexei Semenov, who tried out for the Rangers last season, and impressed fans with his ability to keep the crease clear, ultimately decided to play in Russia for the season, as his wife was not content with the contract he was offered. Semenov really wanted to play in New York last year, and it is apparent he wants to this year as well.
In 249 NHL games, split with the Sharks, Panthers, and Oilers, Semenov has seven goals and 26 assists for 33 points. He has also amassed 249 penalty minutes. He would be the optimal choice for a seventh defenseman for the team this season, the spot he would have had last year. He defense is not the greatest, and he has virtually no offensive game, but for the right price, his toughness and six-foot, six-inch frame would be a welcome sight.
Also for defense, Garnet Exelby will be attending camp this fall. Exelby is known as one of the harder hitters in the league, who at any given time, can lay a devastating check on an opponent, and is no stranger to dropping the gloves. However, he is awful positionally, and goes out of his way to check opponents, leaving the defense vulnerable. I’m all for toughness and some spark, but not at the cost of letting goals in. I do believe that if he is Redden’s replacement, we will all be praying for Redden’s defense by mid-November. For a league-minimum salary, though, I would consider him for a seventh defenseman role, but that is all.
Lastly, the Rangers invited two-time Stanley Cup champion Ruslan Fedotenko to camp. He won the Cup with John Tortorella in Tampa Bay in 2003/04, and again two seasons ago with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is a solid third line forward who could pot 15-20 goals a season. But his invite is puzzling.
All we have heard from the Rangers is that the “kids” will get a chance, but if the Rangers sign Fedotenko, there goes the spot of another young Ranger player. I am not against his signing, just not at the expense of a spot for Evgeny Grachev or Dale Weise.
Since the Rangers are so busy giving veteran try-outs, how about another opportunity for Petr Nedved, as Marian Gaborik’s center?
Let’s start off with the Ranger-related news, and that is Glen Sather signing defenseman Dan Girardi to a four-year deal at roughly $3.3 million per season. At first glance it looks like an overpayment (personally I would have given him no more than $3.000, preferably around $2.500) but because they locked him up long-term, including his first chance at unrestricted free agency, that costs a bit more money.
Fans are now anxiously awaiting for Marc Staal to be signed, and the current figure that is being thrown about is a six-year deal at $4.5 million per. This would be a bargain for the Rangers in locking up their cornerstone defenseman long-term. If Girardi and Staal can be brought back for under $8 million, call it a successful summer.
On the western front, the San Jose Sharks today poached restricted free agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Chicago Blackhawks, by signing him to an offer-sheet of four years at a total of $14 million. This is what is wrong with free agency, and it is almost reminiscent of Kevin Lowe’s signing of Dustin Penner three years ago.
To me, this is a puzzling move. Hjalmarsson was a steady defenseman for the Blackhawks last season, and won a Stanley Cup, but is he really worth $3.5 million a season? All that for a defenseman who scored only 17 points last season? That was also only his first full year in the NHL, and he has a mere 111 games of NHL experience.
This makes the Girardi signing look even more like a bargain, because he has at least had a 28 point season, and has actually scored 10 goals in a single season, as well as 280 games of experience. He also has not missed a game in the four years he has been with the Rangers.
Meanwhile, Ilya Kovalchuk is still on the prowl, after having broken and reignited talks with the Los Angeles Kings several times. Other than them, there really is no word of any team having a heavy interest in him. Will the Devils dismantle their team to afford him? Will the Rangers swoop in and grab the star? Or Does Kovalchuk end up fleeing to the KHL?
There are a lot of questions that we will hopefully find the answer to soon. Maybe he’ll even get his own special on Versus to announce his decision. Oh no, I shouldn’t give him any ideas!
Let’s start off with the smaller piece of news this afternoon, and that is Rob Niedermayer signing with the Buffalo Sabres. Way to go guys! Looks like Niedermayer is going to be your shiny new toy this season until he runs for his life next summer after spending the year in Buffalo.
Now to free agent Evgeni Nabokov, who signed a four-year deal with SKA of the KHL today. Although I originally predicted he would end up in Washington, it really only took a few hours past noon on July 1 to realize that there was absolutely no market for him in the NHL.
At 34 years old, Nabokov has never accomplished anything in the playoffs or international play, despite his 293 regular season wins. This will all but spell the end of his NHL career; if no one wanted him now, he will not find a job when his contract runs out at 38. My question is, in the distant future, will Nabokov ever find himself on the hall-of-fame ballot?
Now to the Ranger related news we have all been waiting for.
Joe and I have been saying it for days, that Kovalchuk and the Rangers were, or should be, dancing the tango together, even with no official word or rumor from anyone. But today, Darren Dreger of TSN Tweeted, “Kovalchuk should simply declare, publicly his want to play for the New York Rangers. I bet Slats would clear the deck and make it happen.”
I would not expect the Rangers to rush things here as clearly Kovalchuk is in no rush to sign a contract any time soon. The Rangers would definitely have to lock up Staal before even thinking about throwing the checkbook at Kovalchuk. And a move like this would ultimately spell the end of Wade Redden after training camp.
Also involving Kovalchuk, which is very convenient, the Los Angeles Kings are back in talks with the superstar, who probably contacted them to get a bidding war going. I would narrow his teams down to the Kings, Rangers, or back to Russia to play in the KHL. He is not going to the Islanders, the Devils would have to dismantle the team to acquire him, and the rumored Maple Leafs would be the worst possible career choice for Kovalchuk, who has never played under the intense pressure that exists in Toronto.
Finally, we have former Ranger great Nikolai Zherdev about to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers. This is coming from at least two very solid Russian sources on Twitter, and I expect the signing to happen soon. With Simon Gagne already asked to waive his no-trade-clause, that will all but be the end of his career in Philadelphia.
Tomorrow, free agent frenzy will be upon us. Because my birthday is on July 2, that day is usually either a very happy, or very sad occasion depending on where Glen Sather spends his money.
Four years ago, just two days later, I was thrilled with the signing of Brendan Shanahan– a belated gift. But just a year later, I received a pre-birthday gift of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, something I loved at the time but soon became a nightmare. Then last season came Gaborik, which I was so-so on. Either way, there is always some kind of movement.
I will always remember this plea I made for Brian Rolston two years ago, which was when I was in my earlier stages of writing (just take a look at my projected lineup– it’s laughable!). I’ve since moved on, and although Rolston has been pretty much a bust with the Devils, I will always remember how badly I wanted him.
Below are five signings (and rejections), including re-signings, that would make me very happy on my birthday:
Bringing Back Our Own
Marc Staal: The young, cornerstone defenseman of the franchise has reportedly turned down a very fair offer of four years/$3.5 million. His agent is Bobby Orr, and no doubt he is pumping him up to the extent that he will expect a contract Sather will never give out. Last season, during the Dubinsky holdout, the beat writers took both sides, but this time, everyone is on Sather’s side, which is a rarity. The Rangers need to bring him back, but they should not have to break the bank doing so. Sather will not budge from that offer, and if Orr and Staal have any brains at all, they will accept it.
Jody Shelley and Brandon Prust: These two players epitomized exactly what the Rangers were missing for the majority of last season. The Rangers got a fearless spark-plug in Prust, and a veteran, no-nonsense fighter in Shelley. Both were excellent in their roles as fourth liners with Artem Anisimov as their center. It is clear that Tortorella likes them both, so I have no doubt they will be back in Ranger blue. Shelley is also an amazing guy in the locker room, and the Rangers need to have some personality.
On the Fence
Dan Girardi: The Rangers have also reportedly offered Dan Girardi a contract. It is too bad he is restricted, because I really would not mind seeing him walk. At the same time, he was solid down the stretch and can play sound defensively in big spots. Put it this way, I would like to see him back, but would not shed a tear if he was given an offer sheet and signed elsewhere.
Vaclav Prospal: Although I predicted the Rangers would bring back Prospal, something tells me he may not be back. He was clearly the bargain of the season last year, making only $1.1 million. But he deserves a pay raise this year, and the Rangers may want to invest their money into a different player. If he were to sign with another team, I would thank him and wish him all the best because of what he did last season, but I would not be sad to see him go.
Anders Eriksson: For a player that was considered an old, career minor league scrub when he was signed, Eriksson was one of the reasons why the Rangers played so well down the stretch last season. He stepped in for a shaky Matt Gilroy and all of a sudden the defense clicked. Was it all due to him? No, but he definitely had a calming influence on the young defensemen. I would love to see him back, but if there is a more physical option out there for a seventh defensemen, I would want them to take that.
Go Get ‘Em Slats
Martin Biron: The Rangers number one priority this off-season is getting a backup goaltender that can be relied upon to free up Lundqvist’s ever-increasing workload. Despite a horrible season last year with a horrible team, Biron has always been solid (not great, but as a backup he would not need to be great) and should Lundqvist get injured, he could easily step right in and take the starting job. He could be had real cheap, and I think it would be a mistake to not sign him.
Sheldon Souray: This would require a bit of creativity, but I think Sather, the trade maestro can get it done. I believe the Rangers are content with what Rozsival brings to the table, and given the salary he is making in his final two contract years, they will most likely keep him. However, if, and that is an enormous if, the Rangers can persuade to the Oilers to take Redden, then it would work. Souray is disgruntled with his situation and often injured, so the Oilers will deal him this summer. I would bet a million dollars if I had it. Why would the Rangers want an always-injured Souray, you ask? Because him on one leg is better and more fun to watch than Redden.
It’s Possible, But Not Likely
Ilya Kovalchuk: Who wouldn’t want a perennial 40 goal/80 point player to sign with their favorite team? Although it is technically possible for the Rangers to afford him, it is highly unlikely that they can do so unless they shed some serious salary, which is easier said than done. Kovalchuk will not cost $10 million per season on the cap that was once speculated, more like around $8.5 million. I believe he will go to Los Angeles, but if he is there for the taking, and the Rangers have the maneuverability, then by all means, I hope they sign him.
Just Say No
Johan Hedberg: Rangers fans have this thing about Hedburg that I cannot explain. After browsing through various hockey internet forums, I would say that he is the top choice among fans to be the team’s backup goalie. This could be attributed to his past success against the Blueshirts. But if Hedburg becomes a Ranger, mark my words, by December we will all be saying, “He killed the Rangers every time he played them, now he’s on the Rangers and he kills them every night.”
Anton Volchenkov: If Rangers fans think Redden and Rozsival are useless, just wait until Sather doles out $5 million+ to get a player that all he does is block shots and hit. Granted, the Rangers desperately need to get physical, but there are a lot more cheaper options out there. Hell, I would rather see Brent Henley on the Rangers defensive corps next season than Mike Komisarek clone.
As you can see, I do not project the Rangers making many moves. The one big name player they might have had interest in, Patrick Marleau, has already re-signed with the Sharks. Other than Kovalchuk, there is not a player on the market that can turn this team into a contender. The Rangers should just focus on resigning their own, and bring in one or two small contracts. There is no use wasting the money on older players, or younger reclamation projects that Sather is known for undertaking.
This afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks, fresh off a Stanley Cup victory, made the first of what we consider to be many trades this summer. The Hawks are completely strapped for cash, with ten players up for free agency, including star goaltender Anti Niemi, and only $1.234 million in cap space, before this trade was made.
The Blackhawks sent playoff hero Dustin Byguglien, along with veteran defenseman Brent Sopel, enforcer Ben Eager, and prospect Akim Aliu to the Atlanta Thrashers for first and second round picks (that Atlanta acquired in the Kovalchuk trade) along with Marty Reasoner and Jeremy Morin.
For the Thrashers, this was a tremendous trade by GM Don Waddell, who capitalized on the Blackhawks need to shed salary. As for Chicago, it is unfortunate, but a necessary evil that the franchise had to deal with.
Byfuglien had become a fan favorite for his physical play and nose for the net, as well as when he scored five goals in a five game series against the San Jose Sharks in these playoffs. Sopel, on the other hand, has been a class act wherever he went, and will be marching in Chicago’s annual gay pride parade.
Sopel went out of his way there to promote equality within the city, and no doubt this trade will come as a shock to him.
The Blackhawks were able to free up close to $5 million with this deal, but still need more space to bring back the likes of Antti Niemi, at least three more forwards, and two defensemen.
There have been rumors of Patrick Sharp being on the way out, and before last season, Brent Seabrook’s name was thrown around. As of right now, though, Seabrook will be going nowhere, and Sharp will be the most likely to go.
One of Kris Versteeg or Dave Bolland could also be on the way out, as they each made around $3 million, compared to Sharp making almost $4 million.
I do believe the Blackhawks defense will stay in tact, and I’m sure management is kicking themselves for the $7 million handed out to Brian Campbell annually, as he has not been nearly as good as Keith and Seabrook down the stretch.
With a busy few days already behind us, and the draft approaching on Friday, the Hawks will not go into free agency without making at least one more trade. You can be sure of that.
The center on the free agent market this summer that will be number one priority for teams lacking depth up the middle will be Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks. Marleau, who has struggled pretty badly in 07/08 has since bounced back with two impressive seasons, recording 71 and 83 points, respectively.
Because of this renaissance, Marleau will be a hot commodity in the coming weeks, and the New York Rangers will most likely find their interest peeked at the free agent’s availability. However, his salary was $6.3 million last season, this coming after a career high 44 goals. Marleau will be set to make $7 million or higher, depending on the desperation of the bidder.
The Rangers will not be able to afford his salary, what with Chris Drury making $7 million to score fifty points, and the Rangers having impending RFA’s Dan Girardi and Marc Staal to sign. And even if the Rangers were to free up space, such as by miraculously getting rid of Wade Redden, I still would not want him.
As good as he has been, Marleau seems just like the player the Rangers would sign. At 31 and coming off his best season ever, he is past his prime, or at least on the cusp of passing it. He is going to command big bucks as mentioned earlier, but also a long term deal.
I do not see Marleau eclipsing the 44 goals and 83 points he scored this season, even if he would be playing alongside Marian Gaborik.
Fact is, if the Rangers do sign him and put him on the top line, even if he and Gaborik score 100 points each, where will other offense come from? Signing Marleau will only allow that one signing, with no space available to bring in secondary scoring.
However, with Marc Savard now available in Boston, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Rangers have a cheaper option that they can target.
The Bruins already have a slew of centers, including newly acquired Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and the soon-to-be-drafted Tyler Seguin. The Bruins will have no room for Savard and can use the cap space.
Should the Rangers bring in Savard, they would have a highly skilled center locked up for the next seven years (I know, it seems daunting) but the cap hit is a very manageable $4.007 million. Savard is only one year older than Marleau, and has put up 63 or more assists in four out of the last five seasons. He failed to reach that last season due to injury, where he only played 41 games, but still managed to put up 23 assists.
Savard also has experience playing in New York, albeit very brief. He was drafted by the Rangers in 1995 and played two seasons with the team from 1997 to 1999. In 98 games he scored 10 goals and 41 assists for 51 points. He was then shipped out by Neil Smith for Jan Hlavac.
But what would it take to get Savard?
Boston will most likely ask for Dubinsky and a draft pick, because remember, they need to clear up salary and could also use Dubinsky as a bottom six, checking forward, something he would be on the Rangers if it was not for such a severe lack of skill.
If the Bruins are desperate enough, than perhaps Dubinsky and a second round pick will be enough. I really cannot see any other moves that would work between the two teams that would be cap friendly. Obviously, the Rangers would love to shed Rozsival or Brashear in a deal, but to be realistic, that is just not going to happen.
Should Savard get traded, I expect we will see something on draft day, but it is just a hunch.
As a side note, Jonathon Ragus from Ranger Nation and MVP Gotham just posted this Facebook status: “Stupidity is a terrible thing. Ranger fans who think they should sign Evgeni Nabokov to be Henrik Lundqvist’s backup, I have one question for you– What the [expletive deleted] are you smoking? Sipping the stupid juice today?
I thought that was hilarious. I know Rangers fans aren’t that dumb, so for the sake of everyone’s IQ, I pray that July 1 will get here sooner rather than later.
Today the National Hockey League and their fans witnessed a myriad of action, including a major trade, signing, hall-of-fame inductions, and a retirement of a marquee, veteran defenseman. Last week, TSN’s Bob Mackenzie said this coming week leading up to the draft would be busy, and boy was he right!
Early in the day the Bruins and Panthers swapped cornerstones when Florida traded center Nathan Horton for defenseman Dennis Wideman. This is a very even trade as the Bruins can use the offensive help, and the Panthers have always been in search of defense.
Then the NHL released all team schedules for the 2010/11 season, something that has been expected for the last few days. The Rangers will open up the season in Buffalo on October 9 and play one more road game against the Islanders before heading home for a Friday opening night against the Maple Leafs.
A few hours after that, it was then announced that the Montreal Canadiens re-signed center Tomas Plekanec to a six year/$30 million deal. He may be valuable to Canadiens fans but I still think he is just a flash-in-the-pan and I thank them for making it so the Rangers would not seek to acquire him.
The Hockey Hall of Fame also announced their inductions for 2010, including two women, for the first time in the Hall’s history. Cammi Granato and Angela James will lead the way followed by the long-awaited induction of superstar Dino Ciccarelli.In the builder category, Jimmy Devellano and Darryl Seaman will be headed there.
For Dino, it is about time and the long delay was most likely because of problems he had with reporters and his personal life during his playing career. Although that should never be a factor, it was glaringly obvious that a player with more than 600 goals would have to wait eleven years.
The most recent piece of news, though, it actually kind of sad. Long-time Cup winning defenseman Scott Niedermayer will be hanging them up, as he announced his retirement today, following that of Rob Blake from the other day.
I do not remember a day in the off-season not Draft Day or July 1 that was as busy as this for the sport of hockey. We still have tonight left, and it will be interesting to see if any other moves are made. But for now, that’s my wrap-up.
Enjoy the rest of your evening.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter for the latest hockey related news and updates.
The most exciting part of the off-season is less than two weeks away. On July 1st, all the buildup of where free agents such as Ilya Kovalchuk , Patrick Marleau, and Anton Volchenkov will be realized. This year features a decent market for forwards and defense, but what is really being overlooked is the goaltending market.
I don’t think I can remember a time where there were so many capable goalies available, as this year we have five goalies who were number ones this season as well as a slew of backups. With a bad economy and teams not wanting to spend as much money as they used to, it will be interesting to see who goes where, because there are way more goalies than spots available.
Over the next week, I will give my predictions, breaking them down by position. I figured to start this year moving from the crease on out. Joe and I will also be on the air sometime next week, most likely before the draft. We will be bringing back Around the NHL, which we have not broadcasted from since the last off-season. If you remember, Joe and I hosted a show on Youcastr called Rangers Radio, from July 2008 to April 2009. That would end when the station went out of business.
1. Evgeni Nabokov to the Washington Capitals
“Birds of a feather flock together” is the old saying, and with Washington’s two main catalysts, in Ovechkin and Semin, both being Russian, it would make sense that if Nabokov does not re-sign in San Jose, that he would join his countrymen in Washington. The Capitals had a glorious season last year, but were eliminated from the playoffs by the eighth seed Montreal Canadiens. Since Olaf Kolzig left, this team has desperately needed a number one goalie.
Jose Theodore has been nothing short of a disaster, and Semyon Varlamov is just not ready, despite his record. Nabokov has been known in San Jose and in the Olympics as a player who is not a big game goalie. This is true, and is the reason why he most likely will not be back with the Sharks. But the Capitals will be willing to take that risk, as they have much more at stake.
Unlike San Jose, the bulk of their stars are in their prime, not on the cusp or past it. The Capitals will sign Nabokov to a five-year deal, that will carry them through the primes of Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green.
2. Marty Turco to the Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have not had a good number one goalie since Ron Hextall. Since then, we have seen Vanbiesbrouck, Cechmanek, Boucher #1, Esche, Niittymaki, Boucher #2, and most recently, Ray Emery. Out of all of those, the one who would carry them the farthest, would be Michael Leighton, a 29-year old minor leaguer.
It would make sense to think that Leighton would re-sign with the Flyers, but the recent trend of free agency has shown career minor leaguers become starters, win games down the stretch, then bolt during the summer for another team, and a boatload of cash. We saw it last summer with Scott Clemmensen of the Devils, and we are going to see in here with Leighton.
The obvious choice for the Flyers to be goalie, would be Marty Turco, a goalie who had fallen out of favor in Dallas after two average seasons. But prior to 2008, Turco was a model of consistency, and is desperately in need of a change of scenery.
The Flyers could be the optimal team for him to be attracted to, as they can boast of one of the hardest hitting defenses in the league, that only got stronger when they acquired the rights to Dan Hamhuis yesterday from Nashville.
I can easily see a two-year deal for the 34-year old Turco.
3. Jose Theodore and Vesa Toskala to Europe
Perhaps there is only one goalie in the league that could have the best offense in front of him since the 1980′s Oilers, go 30-7-7, and still find a way to blow it. That will go to Jose Theodore, who undoubtedly will not return to the Washington Capitals next season after an embarrassing first round exit that was shared between him and Varlamov.
The fact is, teams have not been spending a lot of money on goalies, compared to what they spend on offense and defense. Turco and Nabokov are the only two goalies who will make out well this summer, and with teams looking for cheap, older veterans or young rookies to be their backup, Theodore has no place left in the NHL.
The same can be said for Vesa Toskala who has been brutal since he left San Jose in 2007 and has earned the nickname “ToskaLOL” on the internet forum circuit. It can be attributed to the shoddy defense of the Maple Leafs, but it has taken its toll mentally on him. I do not see there being any team willing to take on Toskala, when any kid in their farm system can come up and play the same way, if not better.
Both of these goalies will head to Europe, most likely Russia, and get paid like kings all while being number one goaltenders. They will each look for one year deals over there, and will hope to return to the NHL next season after a solid year overseas.
4. Chris Mason to the Atlanta Thrashers
When the Blues acquired Jaroslav Halak from the Canadiens the other day, that all but spelled the end for their number one goaltender Chris Mason. The last two seasons have witnessed excellent play from Mason, despite a young and inexperienced team in front of him.
He will be looking for a starting job, and as of right now, there is only team left with a gaping hole at starter. The Thrashers make sense, as do the Sharks if Nabokov bolts for Washington as I predict he will. The two backups for both these teams are Thomas Greiss for San Jose, and Ondrej Pavelec (RFA) for Atlanta. I think the Sharks will look to go younger and give Greiss the starting job, but the Thrashers will look for stability.
A goalie tandem of Mason and Pavelec going 50/30 for the season could work out well. Atlanta’s defense will also be much better this season, and such a young corp could be attractive to Mason.
5. Martin Biron to the New York Rangers
Joe and I have been saying this since last season, that the Rangers would have an interest in Biron. Henrik Lundqvist needs a backup who can play twenty games and also push him to play better during the middle of the season, when Lundqvist usually tends to slump.
Biron has been a starter in the past and could be a reliable backup that the Rangers would trust over Chad Johnson or Alex Auld. The Rangers would give him a one year deal so Johnson could get an extra year in the minors to be ready for next season.
6. Dan Ellis to re-sign with Nashville
7. Michael Leighton to Dallas
8. Ray Emery to Edmonton, or back to Europe
9. Patrick Lalime to Montreal
10. Johan Hedburg to New Jersey
11. Alex Auld to San Jose