With the New Jersey Devils already being the oldest team in the league (the only team whose average cracks 30), according to reports, it appears that they may be willing to go a little bit older, with a reclamation project of sorts, in signing free agent Alexei Yashin, a player who has actually been a free agent in NHL terms for the last five seasons, as he has been playing in Russia ever since he was bought out by his then-current team, the New York Islanders. Though his play was not terrible, he was accused of not trying his hardest on a perpetually mediocre squad, and because of the buyout, will actually still be receiving payment from the Islanders another next three seasons, to the sum of more than $2 million per year. With the Ottawa Senators earlier in his career, he had put up superstar numbers before leaving for Long Island due to a contract dispute. From there, his totals went nowhere but down, which led to his eventual demise. He is now 37 years old and coming off his worst Russian season since he embarked on the journey in 2007.
Since it’s now been a few days since I caused that melee on Twitter with a certain Rick Nash rumor, I thought that it was now okay to go ahead with another hockey post. I just want to say that it seemed more people actually approved of the experiment than disapproved, though there were plenty who felt the latter. It’s funny that the people I know on Twitter, whether it be through actually talking to them on a regular basis or just casually following (even those who were not aware of the nature of the plot) were not angry at all, yet all these people who just came out of the woodwork were quick to call me names and attack me. I was left with this lasting impression: the lower the IQ, the higher the overreaction. Okay, now we’re moving on, and ready to go “Around the NHL”…
Hockey fans are always waiting for dominoes to fall during times of player movement, and this year has been no different. The two biggest dominoes that have fallen this off-season so far areand who both decided on moving their talents to Minnesota. Another domino that fans have been waiting to fall for a while is in the trade market with Columbus . However, there is a another player that has only recently become very pronounced, with captain . A few months ago, it was unthinkable that Doan would even consider leaving the franchise he has called home since the beginning of his career, but it is now a very real possibility. With the Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga still unsolved, Shane Doan is thinking of looking to go to places where the grass may be greener…or that even has grass.
Has there ever been a more boring start to an NHL off-season than this one? Granted, the free-agent pool might not be as deep as it has been in years past, and is only going to keep on getting thinner due to all of these mega-deals, but still, there are enough names out there for this to have been a pretty exciting few weeks in July. It’s funny that when Ryan Suter and Zach Parise actually signed, aside from the initial, “Wow! Minnesota got both!” reaction, the excitement was limited, and people stopped talking about it within two days. Now if Parise had gone to the Rangers, Flyers, or Penguins, and Suter to the Red Wings, not only would we still be talking about it, but suicide hotline workers would be raking in overtime cash.
The waiting is finally over: the Minnesota Wild have signed both of the NHL’s highly coveted free agents, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, to mega-deals worth $98 million over 13 years. While I would argue against Suter being worth as much as Parise, I suppose it is a rather symbolic gesture that the two American players who probably took so long to sign so they knew for sure that is where the other one was going to go, would receive identical deals. This is a great day for the Minnesota Wild, which has an excellent fan base and atmosphere for hockey. This is a team that has never really succeeded, despite continuing support. They got off to a strong start last season and eventually faded away and out of playoff contention due to poor coaching. Thanks to these signings, though, they are going to be major factors in the Western Conference for many years to come. Throw Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom, and to a lesser extent, Devin Setoguchi into the mix, and you have one of the strongest teams in the west.
With fans around the NHL waiting for the likes of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to decide where they are going to be spending the next decade, give or take a few seasons, other teams are busy making smaller, depth-related moves. Just before former New York Ranger Jaromir Jagr signed with the Dallas Stars for $4.5 million, the Blueshirts added a solid bottom six forward in Taylor Pyatt, who comes over from the Phoenix Coyotes. For people worried that the Rangers would be losing fighting ability, checking, penalty killing, and hard work, all due to grinder Brandon Prust signing with the Montreal Canadiens, the Rangers made up for his loss, first with Arron Asham two days ago (and to a lesser extent, adding Micheal Haley, which will most likely end up being an AHL move) and now with Pyatt, who is a hitting machine that can kill penalties, and also put the puck in the net on occasion.
It’s Christmas in July once again! While we have to admit that this summer’s free agency pool is not exactly laden with the biggest of names, it still includes a player set to become the most sought after and highest paid free agent of all-time, Zach Parise. This summer also holds the fate of his teammate and winningest goaltender in history, Martin Brodeur. Will he retire or stick around for another season? For the sake of the New Jersey Devils, he better come back for one more since their backup is also an aging free agent and there is no can’t-miss prospect in their system.
Anyway, Joe Aiello and I sat down for the fourth straight year to render our predictions, and you can take a look at our track record below which is still, I might add, better than Eklund over at Hockeybuzz. Mayhaps we should start our own rumor mill mega site and charge a bundle—given the stupidity of people and their quest to always be in the know, we could make out pretty well. This year, Joe and I welcomed a good friend of ours to join us for this monumental task, Chris “Gootz” Hoeler, who you all know from his “On the Rink with Gootz” column here on FNYTSF and his work with the FHL’s Danbury Whalers as their assistant director of player personnel.
Well, this is what we were all waiting for: the series of the year. While fans of the New York Rangers rooted wholeheartedly for the Florida Panthers, and, dare I say it, Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds, the New Jersey Devils’ fans cheered on the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals with a passion. All the ill-wishing was for naught, however, as it is only by destiny and the fate ordained to us by the Hockey Gods (with a little consideration for league economics; did you hear that sound at about 10:15 Saturday night? That was the thud of NBC Sports Corporation executives jumping up and down) that these are the two teams which will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, the prelude to the Stanley Cup. These two teams met there once before, when the Rangers defeated them in seven games back in 1994, thanks to a double-overtime winner by Stephane Matteau, but that moment is long gone now, except for the Devils that hold onto the final shred: the only player still currently playing that was on either team, Martin Brodeur. That was his first full season, and now many think this one will be his last—either way, you can be sure that the Rangers would love nothing more than to see Brodeur’s career begin and end with a Conference Finals loss at their hands, while Brodeur will do everything in his power to have the last laugh this time.
These past few days have just been up and down with rumors, most revolving around Columbus Blue Jackets’ superstar winger Rick Nash, with nobody seeming to know anything at all about what is really transpiring. But before all of that, we had a couple of big deals, the first being Jeff Carter dealt to Los Angeles by Columbus so he could be re-united with former drinking buddy, err…I mean, teammate from Philadelphia, Mike Richards. The return on the trade was defenseman Jack Johnson and a first round pick. With that, I would say both teams made out rather well. The Blue Jackets get some much-needed offense from the blue line, though Johnson’s defense is anything but solid (I guess you can say he’ll fit right in, then?) as he currently sits at a -12 on the season, and a -90 overall for his career. That’s scary to think about, considering the offense he has put up. Carter, meanwhile, will help a stagnant Kings’ offense, as he will personally be revitalized by playing with a big market team in a city full of night life. You can expect him and Richards to be the bash-brothers they were with the Flyers.
With the NHL Trade Deadline less than three weeks away, the excitement and speculation is already underway, as we await yet another frenzy of trades and seeing who goes where. There are plenty of names on the block, which only adds to the suspense. I am not going to bother making predictions this year, just suggestions and observations for the New York Rangers, based on what their needs are. For a first place team, they have plenty of dead weight that they could afford to lose, and plenty of places to plug a player here and there. If they want to stay in first place and actually advance past the first round this season, the Rangers are going to have to be active. This does not mean a complete overhaul by any means (since when has Sather ever done that anyway, except for the 2004 fire-sale?) but rather a series of non-blockbusters (I hesitate to use the phrase “small deals”) that will sure up the team’s flimsy offense. Below are some options, as well as some other things we must consider: