Around the League – July 7th Edition

In this post-draft free-agent offseason, lots of surprises are the order of the day. I didn’t believe ESPN’s E.J. Hradek when he said that there would be plenty of movement and unexpectedness, but that belief certainly has been thrown out the window over the past couple of days. All we know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure. Is it October yet?

LOTS OF HATE FOR HACKETT, MALEK MIGHT NOT MAKE IT (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Columnist Tim Panaccio yesterday opined that the Flyers, in signing free agent goaltender Jeff Hackett to a two-year deal, are simply buying time for Robert Esche to develop as a number 1. Panaccio goes at great lengths to describe, in detail, Hackett’s long history of injuries and losing during his 14-year NHL career. Not one to sugarcoat it for the Flyers’ faithful, he said that “if you’re looking for Hackett to take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup, it’s not going to happen.” Panaccio went on to say that team never had a deal for Buffalo netminder Martin Biron. Bob Clarke said that he “was never offered to us…it never happened.” Clarke is evidently having difficulty in coming to an agreement with Czech goalie prospect Roman Malek, whose agent wants a one-way deal “with an option for Malek to leave in December if things don’t work out, plus guaranteed millions regardless” for the former sixth-round pick.

My take: Panaccio does bring up solid arguements. There is no reason not to see Hackett as more than a stopgap. That being said, fans would do well to consider that he was the best available goaltender on the FA market. While many (myself included) would have liked Clarke to trade for a starter like Biron, the GM stuck to his guns and refused to give up young roster talent when he could have a stopper for nothing more than the salary he was owed. Hackett could indeed thrive in Philadelphia, playing behind a defense that allowed the least amount of goals in the League last season. As for young master Malek, this young man and his agent better know their place. Sixth-round selections don’t hold franchises hostage with contract demands of freedom and a boatload of bling-bling.

SVEHLA HANDCUFFS MIGHTY QUINN & CO. (Toronto Star)

While their feeble (and possibly futile) search for a new general manager moves along at a slug’s pace, Pat Quinn and his cronies in Toronto are equally sluggish in their attempts to woo free agent talent to improve their aging team. Defensemen Glen Wesley and Oleg Tverdovsky are two players the Leafs actually HAVE interest in (I’ll get to that in a second), but no immediate deals are on the horizon. The reason? Quinn and the Leafs’ braintrust have no idea whether or not “retired” blueliner Robert Svehla intends to stay in Slovakia or return to the team. Svehla has yet to file his official retirement papers with the team and the league, leaving the Leafs high and dry. Svehla says that his agent is advising him to keep his options open, while Quinn feels like the player should hurry up and make up his mind. Quinn is hesitant to commit any funds elsewhere to improve his club, because if Svehla does intend to make a comeback, the Leafs are still on the hook for his $4 million salary.

My take: Quinn made a mistake by qualifying Svehla at the end of the year without full knowing the player’s intentions. This is another in a long line of bad decisions by the team’s front office, and there is no knowing what Svehla will do. You can’t blame Svehla, he’s just looking out for himself and his family. You can blame Quinn for not being smart enough to see this coming.

LEAFS SHUTTING THE DOOR ON POTENTIAL HOMECOMERS (SLAM! Sports)

While twiddling his thumbs and waiting on a decision from Svehla, Quinn and the Leafs aren’t making nice with the fans by ignoring players who show an interest in playing for them. Joe Nieuwendyk, Brian Marchment, and even Sergei Federov have all recently shown more than a passing interest in toiling for Toronto, only to see their overtures to the team met with the cold shoulder. Nieuwendyk and Marchment are homeboys who only want to play where they grew up, while Federov actually believes he could be a difference maker there. Rick Curran, who represents both Torontonians, was told by both players to seek oppurtunities to come home at reasonable prices. The Leafs have reportedly said: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” With his budget handicapped by the Svehla situation, Quinn isn’t interested in taking on a big contract like Federov, and has said as much.

My take: The front office of the Toronto Maple Leafs is in disarray. A GM/coach who agrees to not be GM anymore, but wants final say on who his replacement may be, and who refuses to surrender any little bit of power he has such a tight grip on is not a recipe for success. We’ve all seen this before when Mike Keenan gets out of control. This is Quinn’s last chance as an executive, since he will probably hold onto the position until the lockout (he even said so himself, isn’t that nice?), and he’s not even doing things the right way. Even if the team doesn’t want those players, at least they can be gracious about it. “Thanks for your interest, guys, but we are heading in a different direction.” Don’t just be a jerk and not respond publicly. They must be taking PR lessons from Osama bin Laden.

NOT TAKING A QUACK AT FEDEROV (Orange County Register)

Speaking of Sergei, those of you who believe that he is a rock-solid lock to join the Mighty Ducks might have to think again. Columnist Bill Plunkett had a sit-down with Anaheim GM Bryan Murray shortly after Murray lost Paul Kariya to conference rival Colorado. Murray admitted to placing a call to Pat Brisson, Federov’s agent, but also owned up to contacting the representatives for other available free agents as well. While admitting that there is some available salary to use to improve the club and fill the void left by Kariya, Murray refuses to get into a bidding war for Federov’s services. Ducks ownership didn’t tender an offer to Kariya because they could not justify spending all that money on one player, and, says Murray, “that philosophy does not change if the player’s name changes.”

My take: So much for Feds heading to the Pond. According to most reports, he is still seeking more than the $10 million per annum he was offered by Detroit, and won’t get that from Anaheim. Despite being a better overall player than Kariya, the Ducks won’t pony up that kind of cash for just one man. They have lots of holes to fill after their magic carpet ride, not only replacing Kariya, but Adam Oates and possibly Steve Thomas, along with re-upping the likes of J-S Giguere and Mike Leclerc.

DROPPING THE HAMR (Tampa Tribune)

While they were admittedly interested in bringing him back to the place where his NHL career started, the Tampa Bay Lightning have put the brakes on their pursuit of New York Islanders defenseman Roman Hamrlik. The Bolts are reportedly offering forwards Fredrik Modin, Sheldon Keefe, and a draft pick to Mad Mike Milbury, while Triple M is asking for Alex Sitov or Nikita Alexeev, or even both. Tampa is exploring all of its blueline options, and is in contact with Colorado UFA Greg deVries.

My take: I don’t doubt that Jay Feaster is interested in Hamrlik, but he would be better served getting deVries at a slightly less than what Hamrlik makes. Plus, he wouldn’t have to give up young talent in order to fill a need elsewhere. The Lightning’s defense is already solid, they would do well to concern themselves with other problem areas, like re-signing Vaclav Prospal, one of their leading scorers from last season.

SLATS SHOT DOWN BY WONDER TWINS (New York Post)

Hey kids, it’s Larry Brooks time! Yaaaayyyyy! This week our favorite narcissist offered up this little tidbit from his beloved imaginary kingdom of Rangerland: Slats really really really wanted the two newest members of the Colorado Avalanche, namely Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Evidently, Rangers GM Glen Sather offered “what amounted to a blank check to bring their act to Broadway.” The offer was never given much thought, as while the players wanted to stay in the Western Conference, they also concerned themselves with another thing that the Rangers aren’t really familiar with – winning.

My take – In the immortal words of the Fab Four: “Can’t buy me looooooove, looooooove. Can’t buy me looooooove, money can’t buy me love.” Slats must feel so unloved right now. In the immortal words of Chicago: “Does anybody really care?” No, not really.

That’s it for now, y’all. Release the hounds!

Sorry big_booty and all. I just wanted to give a small sad update here. Twenty-four year old Rangers prospect, and former Dallas Star draft pick, Roman Lyashenko was found dead in Turkey. No reports on what caused the death (maybe heart failure). Prayers and thoughts go to his family and close friends.


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