Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More thoughts on lineup

After watching today's interview with Torts, a few more things are worth mentioning.

McDonagh, being out tonight, will get the chance to play in one of the two games against the Sens, so don't look for him to get cut tomorrow.

Ditto for Prospal and Eminger, both of whom are being kept out due to soreness (Prospal's knee, Eminger's groin), and both of whom Torts said would get the chance to play.

Lundqvist should play the full 60 tonight.

For the sake of getting down to the right people quickly, Torts would like, if possible, to make cuts tonight, but it's not entirely up to him, and he acknowledges that if someone has a particularly good game tonight, he has to be fair. From that, I'd look for any of Fedotenko, White, Valentenko, and Sauer to possibly be playing for their seasons tonight.

Tonight's lineup

So tonight is preseason game 4 of 6 (with the final 2 coming Friday and Saturday), home against the Red Wings, who beat us 5-3 on Sunday. It looks like we'll be using the following lineup:

Frolov - Christensen - Gaborik
Kennedy - Anisimov - Callahan
Fedotenko - Stepan - Avery
Boogaard - White - Prust

Del Zotto - Rozsival
Staal - Sauer
Valentenko - Gilroy


Healthy scratches: Boyle, Dubinsky, Prospal, Eminger, Girardi, McDonagh
Injured: Drury

Not a ton to glean here, but some. Trying Christensen on that top line is no surprise - he'll probably keep rotating the top line center position well into the season, though it seems like that position will be squarely between Gabby and Frolov. Todd White centering that fourth line is not a great sign for him, especially with Kennedy being given more time up on a wing. Seems like he and Fedotenko really have something to prove sooner than later, while Kennedy is doing things Torts likes.

Also, not to be a number whore (who are we kidding; I'm a goddamn number whore), but White's cap hit of $2.375 million is more restrictive than it could be. Now, the Rangers are in a pretty good place cap-wise, and if White is good enough to make the team, we can afford it without a problem. However, if we were to cut him, we'd have the cap space to do absolutely whatever we wanted - the 23 remaining most expensive salaries on the roster would still come in under the cap (assuming a Fedotenko contract would be around the same value he made last season, $1.8 million). There are plenty of configurations that include White, but I think that his age and salary mean he has to work harder to make the team than some of his alternatives.

Meanwhile, on defense, Torts gets another look at Valentenko, Gilroy, and Sauer, while McDonagh and Eminger sit. Not sure how to interpret this. Could be Torts already knows McD is making it, could be he already knows he's cutting Eminger tomorrow, could be he just didn't wanna play all 5 of them and only have room for one of our 4 regulars to play a game. I wish I could see how these guys are playing. I gotta believe that Eminger, who has only played once so far, in that scrub game in Jersey, is given at least one more game to prove himself here. But who knows.

Also, who knows when the next cuts will be? We have to cut 4 more players before opening night - will Torts just do that all at once, after all 3 remaining preseason games? We have no idea, so it's stupid to guess! Anyway, that sounds like a handful of people who have a big opportunity tonight - a big game could move any of them pretty close to a roster spot, a bad game could move any of them pretty close to Hartford. Exciting stuff! If you can watch, I'm jealous of you - go watch. I'll just read everyone's recaps tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


As expected, Byers, Newbury, and Williams all cleared waivers and are returning to Hartford.


So I've read what a bunch of people have been saying about Sunday's game in Detroit, and it turns out McDonagh is actually making a pretty strong case for himself. So, apologies for misleading you there: having seen nothing but his performance last Thursday, I was understandably underwhelmed.

Roster Cuts

On Friday (the morning after our first preseason game), we cut our 63-man roster (I had previously posted 61, not knowing about two forwards named Chris Chappell and Devin DiDiomete) down to 38. Largely nothing surprising here. Of our 36 forwards, we sent Chappell, DiDiomete, Garlock, McKelvie, Soryal, and Tessier to Hartford, sent Bourque, Horak, McNaught, Thomas, Werek, Wilson, and Yogan to their respective junior league teams, and put Dupont on waivers (he cleared and is back with the 'Pack). On defense, we reassigned Baldwin, Klassen, Kundratek, Niemi, Parlett, and Williams to the Wolfpack, as well as Maggio and McIlrath back to the juniors. Finally, we sent goalies Parise and Talbot back to Hartford and Stajcer back to the OHL.

None of the 25 players I just named were dressed for the game Thursday night, so there were really no surprises here.

Then, Saturday morning, as you have no doubt heard, we got the big news: Wade Redden being reassigned to the Wolfpack. He, too, has since cleared waivers, and is expected to report to Hartford on Wednesday. I know I've been telling you for weeks and weeks that this was basically a done deal, that the numbers just didn't add up any other way, but damn if it didn't feel good to see it officially.

Side note: after Thursday night's game, I went around back to try to meet some players. Early on, we (the like 12 fans who thought this was worth it) saw Wade Redden drive out (he, um, didn't stop for autographs - the crowd for some reason was not interested). Given that he got cut Saturday, I think I saw Redden drive away from Madison Square Garden for the last time.

Yesterday morning, we made some tighter cuts. In goal, unsurprisingly, Chad Johnson (who didn't look good at all when I saw him) is back to the 'Pack. Up front, we sent down Grachev, Weise, and Zuccarello, and put Byers, Newbury, and Williams on waivers (they should clear and all six should be back in Hartford together). No huge surprises there - Zuccarello looked good sometimes but did not impress in an NHL-caliber way. Weise or Byers could have made an argument that they belong on the 4th line, but didn't really do anything to make me pissed off that they're gone.

On defense, we sent home 3 people who were in camp on tryouts: Brandon Manning, Garnet Exelby, and Alexei Semenov. This is where I get a little confused. I guess there's an argument that if you're in training camp on a tryout, you have to work even harder than if you have a contract? But based on what I saw (which was admittedly only 2 of 3 preseason games and none of camp), there's no reason McDonagh should still be around while Semenov is cut. Exelby looked decent - not great, but decent - and big - and Semenov looked all-around pretty good. McDonagh looked terrible. But I only saw him in one game, and perhaps he's done other exciting things at camp.

I was excited about Semenov and Exelby being big all over the place. But there are still big options around. I really liked what I saw from Valentenko, and I'll be excited if he makes the final cut. I'm surprised to see Mike Sauer still around, but I feel like I said that last year around this time also. I guess at the end of the day, I like that we're putting the emphasis on the kids that came from our system.

And so, we're left with a roster of 27, from which at least 4 more must be cut by opening night (October 9), a time span that includes 3 more preseason games in the next 4 days. Here's how those 27 people break down (pretend I wrote the word "probably" in all these category headings).

These 11 forwards make the team: Anisimov, Avery, Boogaard, Boyle, Callahan, Christensen, Drury, Dubinsky, Frolov, Gaborik, Prust

3 of these 5 forwards make the team: Fedotenko, Kennedy, Prospal, Stepan, White

These 4 defensemen make the team: Del Zotto, Girardi, Rozsival, Staal

3 of these 5 defensemen make the team: Eminger, Gilroy, McDonagh, Sauer, Valentenko

These 2 goalies make the team: Biron, Lundqvist

Of course, even those numbers aren't definitely accurate: we could end up with 1-4 of those 5 forwards, or with 2-5 of those 5 defensemen. These are just good guesses. My votes, which count for nothing, would be to keep Prospal, Stepan, and Kennedy, cutting White and Fedotenko, and to keep Eminger, Gilroy, and Valentenko, cutting McDonagh and Sauer. But they never ask me.


Instead of what I usually do, living in Pittsburgh, which is not see any preseason games, even on TV, this season I drove up and went to the first two live (the second with my father). It was a lot of fun.

Thoughts on forwards: I really liked what I saw from the Stepan, Frolov, and Gaborik line. Stepan looked really comfortable between them, and I would take that as a first line. Fedotenko was nothing special - he didn't do anything I liked or anything I didn't like. Dale Weise was a reasonable 4th-liner, and Dane Byers endeared himself to me by taking down Clarkson after he kept being a fuck to Avery. Zuccarello had a few cute stick-handling moments, but nothing else too special, except that seeing him stand next to Boogaard was hilarious. Callahan and Avery both looked fantastic.

Thoughts on defensemen: Girardi, Staal, and Rozsival (yes, Rozsival) all looked solid. Del Zotto looked awful (yes, he was the first star of game 2; that doesn't mean he wasn't awful). Of the new guys, Semenov and Valentenko were the most solid-looking.

I'm rushing through these thoughts partly because I have a lot of work to catch up on and partly because a bunch of roster cuts have been made (25 on Friday, and another 11 yesterday), so some of these thoughts don't matter. I'll go into those in the next post.

Goddamn it, it was good to watch hockey again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Just go read this

Happy training camp, everyone! Nothing to see here. Kevin DeLury of The New York Rangers Blog (unofficial) is doing an amazing job of covering training camp today, aggregating everyone who is there's tweets and pictures and stuff into one long, frequently-updating post. If you wanna know what's happening with the Rangers right now, just go read that all day. That's what I'm doing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Training camp by the numbers

Well, training camp starts tomorrow, and the final roster of people invited was released today (it now includes decisions made based on Traverse City, at which the Rangers went 1-2, putting them in the 5th place game, in which they destroyed the Stars' prospects like 7-2). Training camp begins tomorrow, with 61 potential Rangers invited. Over the course of the following weeks, including 6 preseason games from September 23 through October 2 (home-and-homes against the Devils, Red Wings, and Senators), we will cut people from that list of 61 until we are down to a roster of 20 to 23 players. Remember that an NHL roster must contain at least 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies, and may have up to 3 more players in total (for a maximum roster size of 23). So, we can expect something like 12-14 forwards, 6-8 defensemen, and 2 goalies to make the opening night cut on October 9.

The starting training camp roster of 61 is comprised of 34 forwards, 21 defensemen, and 6 goalies. Since just listing them is boring and not terribly helpful, I've broken them down a little further, into four categories: players I expect to make the team, players I think are on the bubble, players that probably aren't making the team but that we should have at least heard of, and the other guys. Of course this is all subjective, but it should give you a good idea of who to look out for, as cuts start to be made. All of this is subject to change based on how they actually perform at camp: this is not meant to convey any sort of expertise. It's just a convenient way to list people in order of approximately how much we should be paying attention to them. Right, enough disclaimer.

34 Forwards (12-14 will make final cut)
The Core (12): Anisimov, Avery, Boogaard, Boyle, Callahan, Christensen, Drury, Dubinsky, Frolov, Gaborik, Prospal, Prust
The Bubble (6): Fedotenko, Grachev, Kennedy, Stepan, White, Zuccarello
The Guys We Should Have Heard Of (8): Bourque, Byers, Dupont, Horak, Soryal, Weise, Werek, Yogan
The Other Guys (8): Ryan Garlock, Chris McKelvie, Randy McNaught, Kris Newbury, Kelsey Tessier, Christian Thomas, Jeremy Williams, Jason Wilson

21 Defensemen (6-8 will make final cut)
The Core (4): Del Zotto, Girardi, Rozsival, Staal
The Bubble (5): Eminger, Exelby, Gilroy, McDonagh, Semenov
The The Guys We Should Have Heard Of (7): Klassen, Kundratek, McIlrath, Niemi, Redden, Sauer, Valentenko
The Other Guys (5): Lee Baldwin, Dan Maggio, Brandon Manning, Blake Parlett, Nigel Williams

6 Goalies (2 will make final cut)
The Core (2): Biron, Lundqvist
The Guys We Should Have Heard Of (3): Johnson, Parise, Stajcer
The Other Guy (1): Cam Talbot

Again, this is just a bullshit classification I threw out there. The only thing I'd put money on is that I know who our two roster goalies are. Of note, some people are talking about Weise, Kundratek, and Niemi having shots at the squad as well, while others are talking about Avery's and Boyle's jobs being in danger, and some people even still think Redden might be on the roster on opening night. It's all up in the air.

Regardless, there are your 61 guys who show up to camp tomorrow. No more than 23 of them will still be around 22 days later, when the regular season (finally, fucking finally) begins. Here we go...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Staal Salary Breakdown

OK, I swear that when I decided to start importing this blog as Facebook notes yesterday, I really didn't plan to post four times today (I don't usually post four times in a day, you see). But Staal's contract breakdown was made public, and I figured you'd be interested. The five year deal is for: $3.1m/$3.675m/$3.775m/$3.885m/$5.45m, for an average cap hit of $3.975 million. I like everything about this. Nothing special in terms of an NMC or an NTC.

Let's talk about cap, baby

Okay, now we can talk about where we are with the cap. The answer is: pretty good. Staal came in under what people expected, and with that done and Redden on his way out, we have a little breathing room. Which is good, because we also have a lot of question marks, from Todd White to Derek Stepan without even getting to defense. I'm going to retire the theoretical Wade Redden argument at this point: we'd have to make so many moves to squeeze him in that his only hope for staying on the team is to somehow outplay Rozsival into the minors. I know it's not official yet, but I'm done considering Redden as a legitimate possibility. If he comes out playing like Nicklas Lidstrom, then we'll talk.

Moving on, I've said before that I think there are 12 forwards we can comfortably expect on the roster (Gaborik, Drury, Frolov, Callahan, Prospal, Avery, Dubinsky, Boogaard, Christensen, Anisimov, Prust, Boyle), and their total cap hit comes to $30,434,167. I'm backing down from certainty on defensemen, whether it be named Gilroy or Eminger, but I think it's safe to say that Rozsival, Staal, Girardi, and Del Zotto will make the cut (totaling $13,387,500). The goalie situation remains clear: Lundqvist and Biron for a total hit of $7.75 million. This brings us to $51,571,667 for 12 forwards, 4 defensemen, and 2 goalies.

With a salary cap of $59.4 million, we are left with $7,828,333 of space. With this, we need to sign at least 2 defensemen and can then sign up to 3 more skaters. The defensemen we're considering would include Gilroy ($1.75m), McDonagh ($1.3m), Eminger ($1.125m), Semenov (UFA), and Exelby (UFA). I envision us ending up with Eminger, one of Gilroy or McDonagh, and one of Semenov or Exelby.

This would leave us something in the 3-4 million dollar range for adding an eighth defenseman (not likely if I remember how John Tortorella works) or some extra forwards. Todd White would take a healthy $2.375 million of that, and Mats Zuccarello would take $1.75m. Under that, we can consider Derek Stepan ($820,833), Evgeny Grachev ($816,667), Tim Kennedy ($550,000), or Ruslan Fedotenko (UFA).

So we find ourselves in a position with which we're not terribly familiar: we can actually pick our roster based on how people perform at our training camp. Go fucking figure! We've got a core of people we can assume are making the cut, and thanks to a totally reasonable (and a good million or more lower than many people expected) contract for Staal and the assumed departure of Wade "Estar Dando Bye Bye" Redden, we have the money left to see who plays well at camp and give out roster spots based on that.

Oh my god, are we going to have a roster I'm actually excited about this season?


And at a reasonable price, too! We've signed Staal for a nice, long five years, at $3.975 million per year. Hell yes to that! Good length, good price, and in time for training camp. Glory, glory.

Funny additions to training camp

So, I haven't posted a training camp roster yet, for three reasons in equal parts: some kids from prospect camp and Traverse City have yet to be added, Staal has yet to be signed, and it's probably not all that interesting anyway. However, there are three people of note who I haven't yet told you will be at training camp. All three will be invited to tryouts at training camp, none have been given contracts.

First up: Ruslan Fedotenko. Fedotenko is a 31 year old, mediocre winger (what else is new?). Most recently, he was a member of the Cup-winning Penguins, but before that, he actually played for Torts in Tampa. He's another middle-of-his-career, middle-of-the-road, middle-line winger that we'll give a shot in training camp, and a contract if he earns one. No harm done (yet). Fedotenko is most famous in my mind for being the subject of the worst sign I've ever seen at a hockey game: I was at a Rangers game here in Pittsburgh last season and some girl had a sign that read "Fedotenko does not stenko!"


Next, we have Jordan Parise, a goalie trying to earn a spot with Hartford. Parise is notable only for being Zach's older brother. There's not much else to say there: he's 28, he's definitely not going to end up a Ranger, and he's not nearly as talented as his 26-year-old brother. I say we sign him on the contingency that he convinces Zach to come to New York. Devils can't afford him next season anyway, thanks to the most important hockey contract ever.

And finally, a name that may or may not ring some bells for you: Alexei Semenov. If not, let me help. Semenov was at training camp last season. Torts liked his not-flashy, stand-up-at-the-blue-line, stay-at-home play. In fact, the 6'6", 235 lb. veteran made the cut, and the Rangers offered him a modest one-year, $600,000 deal. Then things got weird. Sounding familiar yet? He's the one who, according to all reports, really wanted to accept the contract, until his wife said no.

Apparently he left Sather's office in tears, forced to reject a contract he, his agent, and the Rangers all approved of, but that his wife was unhappy with. The word was that she didn't want to move to New York, and she wanted him to continue playing in Russia. But you have to wonder what she thought he was doing in New York all that time, if not trying out for a hockey team. I believe Semenov then went off and signed a 2-year, $1.5 million deal with Dynamo Moscow, which he is now halfway through. And here he comes again.

Sather claims to have spoken to Semenov's agent many times, and says that if he makes the cut again, a contract has already been agreed upon and no such issues will arise. So, I guess we'll see? I'd certainly like a cheap, stay-at-home, giant veteran on our blue line somewhere, so I'm hoping that he plays in this camp as well as or better than he did last and that we can work something out. If not, I'm not so unhappy with our blue line as it is (assuming Staal and Redden get sent their appropriate ways).

Ruslan "Does-Not-Stenko" Fedotenko, Jordan "The Wrong" Parise, and Alexei "Only If My Wife Lets Me" Semenov: only 2 days until training camp begins!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An unsigned defenseman and an unlikely defense

So, rumors are finally a-buzz that Marc Staal and the Rangers should reach an agreement soon. Word is that it should be wrapped up by Friday, which is awesome, because that is when training camp starts. The main sticking point of these negotiations, so you understand, is length. Staal is currently 23 and has been on NHL contracts for 3 years so far, which means he will reach unrestricted free agency in 4 years (age 27 or 7 years of contracts, whichever comes first). Until that time, he is under restricted free agency to the Rangers. Starting next season, and for the remaining whole of that restricted free agency, Staal will be eligible for salary arbitration.

The Rangers want to lock Staal up for a number of years, into his unrestricted free agency, when salary arbitration will no longer be a factor. They and Staal both feel that arbitration would give him a huge salary boost, rightly so. So, we can probably expect Staal's salary to end up somewhat higher than those of comparable players (people point at Bobby Ryan for being in a similar offseason situation earlier, as well as comparable defensemen like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber). Sather went on record just yesterday as saying, "we have made Staal a pretty lucrative offer, and I don't think we're very far apart." So, I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see Staal on a 4+ year contract at $5 million per. And apparently, I wouldn't be surprised if that happens in the next two days.

In other news, the NHL has officially decided to fine the Devils for attempting this Kovalchuk contract. Look: I hate the Devils as much as the next guy. That's not even true. I hate the Devils like a zabillion times more than the next guy, unless the next guy is Dennis the Fireman who sits in section 423. But this is stupid. The CBA, agreed upon by both the NHL and NHLPA, allows for a contract like this. The contract was rejected by reasonable means, and then another one was put forth. The whole thing points out that there are flaws in the CBA, but it resolved largely as it should have.

So where the fuck does the NHL get off fining the Devils for this?!? They're being charged $3 million, a third-round pick next draft, and a first-round pick sometime in the next four drafts (to be determined by the Devils). And this is all retribution for what, exactly? Signing a player to a perfectly legal contract under the admittedly terrible CBA and getting that contract voided? I've said here that I agree with Richard Bloch's ruling in the arbitration, and I do - the Kovalchuk contract absolutely violated the spirit of the CBA. But you're gonna tell me that the Devils, in even attempting to submit a contract like this, were somehow breaking some sort of rule? What, exactly, do the Devils deserve punishment for here?

I'll tell you: it's for making the NHL look foolish. The insane oligarchy of the NHL doesn't like looking like it made any mistake, whether that mistake is employing awful officials or signing an agreement with loopholes. Bettman et al, as is their wont, took this whole Kovalchuk thing personally, and they decided to strike back personally. I'm not saying there's not some part of me that's excited about the goddamn Devils losing a first-round pick, but it's really not just. The NHL wanted to flex its muscles one more time after reaching a balanced agreement didn't leave them feeling powerful enough, and they enacted this penalty because they could.

Or does anyone believe there would have been a fine if the team in question were the model franchise Penguins, or my beloved Coyotes, instead?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


So Ilya Kovalchuk is a Devil, with a 15-year contract that pays him $11-11.8 million a year for ages 29-33 and will count as a cap hit of $6.67 million throughout. The NHL approved this and agreed to not investigate existing contracts (which is basically an agreement to not go back on something they already previously agreed to, the big-money adult equivalent of saying "but this time I REALLY MEAN it!!"). As part of the accord, the NHLPA agreed to two minor amendments to the CBA, to apply only to contracts signed from here through the end of the CBA (any contract signed prior to September 4, 2010 is exempt from the new amendments).

The amendments are fairly minor and a little complicated. I'll try to give the quick summary, but largely you don't have to worry about it. There are two of them. The first applies only to contracts that last for 5 or more years and that include or go beyond a player's 41st birthday. For these contracts, those years that include ages 41+ are not averaged in when the overall cap hit is calculated. The cap hit in these years is simply the player salary. So, for example, say you are signed to a 5-year contract at $8m/$7m/$6m/$3m/$1m. If you do not turn 41 until this contract ends, its hit will be $5m/year, as normal. If you turn 41 in year 4 of this contract, the cap hit will be $7m/year for the first three years, then $3m for the 4th year and $1m for the fifth year.

The second amendment only applies to contracts that last for 5 or more years and that include or go beyond a player's 36th birthday, and whose 3 most expensive years average $5.75 million or more. For these contracts, those years that include ages 36+ and that are still included in the average cap hit calculation (ie that do not include ages 41+) have a minimum cap hit of $1 million. The player may be paid a salary of less than $1 million for these years, but it will count as $1 million in the average cap hit calculation. So, for example, say you are signed to a 5-year contract at $6m/$6m/$6m/$0.5m/$0.5m. If you do not turn 36 until after this contract ends, its hit will be $3.8m/year, as normal. If you turn 36 in year 2 of this contract, the cap hit will be $4m/year instead.

All said and done, don't worry too much about these: they will only affect those few big, front-loaded contracts, and even then, they won't affect them much, except in very specific cases. But just for fun, I went back and looked at the Kovalchuk contract, to see what these new amendments (the ones that the NHL so magnanimously allowed the contract to be exempt from) would do to it. Turns out that with no salary under $1 million, amendment two doesn't affect the contract at all. Amendment one only kicks in for the last two years of the contract, in which Kovalchuk will be making $3 million and then $4 million. So for the first 13 years of this 15-year deal, under the new amendments, Kovalchuk's cap hit would be $7.15 million.

Brand new Kovalchuk contract's cap hit under the CBA as it stood before this whole debacle: $6.67 million. Same exact contract's cap hit under the CBA with the new amendments laboriously drawn up, tentatively debated over most of the off-season, and notably exempting Kovalchuk's deal in an act of apparent compromise: $7.15 million.

$487,179. This whole thing produces a cap hit difference for which you cannot legally sign an NHL player. So what the fuck have we been talking about this whole time?!?

Ah, well. At least this nonsense is over, and we can go back to our regularly scheduled nonsense. First up: by way of Puck Daddy, making fun of backup goalie Dan Ellis! Ellis finished his $3.5m, 2yr deal with the Predators and signed a $3m, 2yr deal with the Lightning. Then he made the mistake of having a Twitter account and no perspective. He commented on a chain of comments about a possible NFL labor lockout next season using both of these.

Ellis tweeted, "if you lost 18% of your income would you be happy? I can honestly say that I am more stressed about money now then [sic] when I was in college." Then (spread over 3 tweets), he continued with the following justification:

If you don't make a lot of money I don't expect u to understand in the same way I could never understand what it is like to risk my life daily as a fire fighter or police officer...especially not a soldier. There r pros and cons to every profession. U r kidding yourself if u think money makes things any easier.

BOOM! Twitter exploded with a lack of sympathy, which Puck Daddy does a pretty nice job of summarizing. Of note: these tweets happened on Labor Day.

And now back to reality: still no word on Staal. Training camp starts in 10 days. Is this starting to feel eerily familiar to anyone?

Finally, the Traverse City Tournament (hosted annually by the Red Wings, in which a few teams' prospects go compete against each other - the Rangers participate every year) starts on Saturday. Who's driving me to Michigan?

Friday, September 3, 2010

There's no hockey to talk about but I want to talk about hockey

So here's a bunch of little crap that isn't really worth talking about, except that I want to. That's the beautiful thing about the editing cycle of the blogosphere: there isn't one!

First of all, someone explain this to me: On the one hand, you've got the Rangers, right? All summer, we're talking about our lack of meaningful depth at center. We've got, basically, Dubinsky, Anisimov, Christensen, and a King's ransom of "utility" wing/centers. So what do we do? First, we maintain a very fluid borderline between "wing" and "center." Then, we offload Brashear and take on Todd White for $2.375 million. Finally, a week ago, we sign this Tim Kennedy winger with the intention of trying him in the middle.

Then, today, a few days into fucking September, the Pittsburgh Goddamnit Penguins sign Mike Comrie for $500,000. And they're probably going to play him as a wing! What the shits, people? Do we just live in a different economy of players than they do? Fuck the heck?!? I hate being jealous of the Penguins.

OK. I feel better now.

In other news, the league is going down in flames around us. For those of you who have been hiding behind a protective shield of willful disbelief, the CliffsNotes tell us that Richard Bloch agreed with the NHL that the Devils' offer to Kovalchuk was designed to circumvent the CBA and should be voided. The contract was therefore considered void, in accordance with the CBA (which itself defines the contract as valid, but allows for either the NHL or the NHLPA to file grievances and for independent arbitrators like Bloch to make decisions on those grievances that could potentially go against something that is otherwise completely valid according to the written terms of the CBA - basically think of him like the American courts in this case).

So, the Devils drafted a new contract that still abuses the terms of the CBA to its advantage (like other contracts in the NHL already do), but less so (although it still pays Kovalchuk $90 million over its first 10 years and then only $10 million over its final five). That one has not yet been accepted or rejected by the NHL. It was supposed to be decided by the league by 5:00 Wednesday, at which time they extended their own deadline to 5:00 today. Then, that night, our own beat writer Larry Brooks printed an article claiming that the NHL had delivered an ultimatum to the NHLPA.

The ultimatum, according to Brooks, contains a pair of "band-aid" rules modifying cap calculations on future contracts: one that cap calculations will only count contract years prior to the player turning 40, and one that cap calculations on contracts longer than five years will use some unspecified formula that gives more weight to the more expensive years. The idea is if that the NHLPA agrees to these amendments by the end of the week, the NHL will approve Kovalchuk's new contract and accept other currently-standing contracts with would retroactively violate the new rules. However, if the NHLPA rejects the amendments, the NHL would reject the Kovalchuk deal, as well as moving to void Roberto Luongo's contract and investigate Marian Hossa's.

Since then, it has become less clear whether or not the NHL gave an "ultimatum" per se, as well as what the specific rules are. Brooks's latest report claims that a deal that crosses age 40 would be treated as two separate contracts with two separate averages, while a deal for 5 years or more that goes past age 35 would treat all salaries under $1 million as a full $1 million for cap purposes. However, what's clear is that it seems like the approval of the Kovalchuk deal is somehow tied to the NHLPA's acceptance of some sort of CBA modification. And it certainly sounds like that acceptance also affects whether or not the league goes on to investigate other currently existing contracts, which obviously they have already approved. Which, to me, is the really, really shady part.

Meanwhile, the NHLPA, you may have heard, has no leader right now. Donald Fehr (often called "the man who ruined baseball" by people who give a shit about baseball, of which I am notably not one and therefore can't comment intelligently on the subject) is currently the most likely in line for this position, and he accepted it given a list of conditions, including a salary demand and the right to continue living in New York despite hockey operations going on in Toronto. The NHLPA board, of course, didn't seem that thrilled by his conditions (particularly, it is suspected, the one where he gets to hire his brother as an outside special counsel), because they didn't bother to vote to approve him Wednesday night, even though they had originally been thought to. So, Fehr is acting director for now, but the NHLPA doesn't actually have a director.

And so that's where we are. More and more people are starting to speak out and call for an NHL commissioner with the best interests of the game, not of the league making money, in mind, the NHLPA still has no one in charge, and Bettman and friends continue to make the NHL the laughing stock of professional sports. The next chapter of this embarrassing drama should come in in about two hours, when some other bullshit excuse pushes this deadline back even farther, and the end result continues to be "everything is still up in the air."

Training camp starts in two weeks, by the way.

To go out on a lighter note, we turn to Michael Del Zotto, who appears to be auditioning for the part of our generation's Yogi Berra, reportedly saying, "There's no days off, whether it's practices or games, or even if it's a day off getting rest."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I gave up on August

Look, people. I keep telling you: start paying me to maintain this shitty blog, and I won't have to take hiatuses (hiati?) when my real job which pays me real money requires me to do real work that impedes my freedom to sit around blogging all day. The jerks.

Oh, and also, basically nothing has happened.

Well, I guess we did sign this one guy. His name is Tim Kennedy (no relation), and he's a 24-year-old, 5'10", 173 lb. left wing. Apparently he had been on a million dollar contract with the Sabres, was eligible for arbitration, and was awarded $1.2 million, from which the Sabres then walked? Or something? It doesn't matter. What matters is that he's another 24-year-old forward with potential to be decent (10-16 last year, in his first real season) but not great, whom we'll try out at center despite him being a natural wing, to see if it can work out.

Oh my god, how fucking familiar does that sound?

It's a one-year, $550,000 deal, so: no harm, no foul, I guess? We'll have one more young guy trying out for a roster spot? I don't really see the reasoning, but it's hard to get too worked up about it, or really to care at all. Tim Kennedy: another name you'll see on preseason rosters.

As for important news, Staal remains completely unsigned, there is no word whatsoever on talks moving in any direction, and training camp starts in 16 days. So, I guess that's "important," but it's not actually "news."

Goddamn it somebody give me some hockey already.