FA Market in Three Days, Balsillie Loses, Rumor Monger Scout

It’s that time of the year again where the GMs play and the players relax, at least…most of the players. It must be quite a feeling to be a player…say of Ryan Smyth’s caliber and just sit on the couch, looking at the date and say to yourself “Man, in three days I will be destined to become a millionaire.” How about that huh? Anyway, some teams to look at.

Jim Balsillie is apparently losing the bid. Sure, the NHL will risk moving to Kansas City, but who gets the blame?

And….someone replies, via e-mail, from a rumor monger’s Web site. I’ll call him the rumor monger scout who scouted my articles. Geee, I wonder where he came from.Well, here we are waiting for July 1 and the clock to hit 12,00-pm eastern time. I’ve heard a lot of rumors and most of them show:

Gomez, Briere, Drury, Smyth, Souray, Buffalo, Hamrlik, Stuart, Calgary, Rangers, Islanders, Flyers, Montreal, Toronto, LA Kings, Sharks, and Edmonton.

How about Colorado, St. Louis, Phoenix, Columbus, and Minnesota? These teams will definitely be active in the market, same with Atlanta.

Colorado they could bring back Drury, but they’ll look at big name players as big as Briere. Sheldon Souray is someone that could fit in.

St. Louis has gone American as they may try to re-unite Guerin and Tkachuk together with Doug Weight. Drury and Gomez are also US born. The Blues have the money to spend and they are seeking some key players to add as they are hunting the playoffs in 2008.

Phoenix always made interesting acquisitions in the free agent market, expect them to do the same, although they will try to go young and avoid over 30’s players. Of course Gretz is thinking Gomez, still young, and a key center. Yet, they may be interested in Bertuzzi, despite his age as he may be an exception.

Columbus needs to change the look of the team, and expect GM Howson to make a difference. He’ll go via free agency and maybe he wants to pull a biggie with Drury possibly coming in and getting the captaincy role as well. They need help everywhere, so big name or low profile names, Columbus will use a lot of ink.

Minnesota will lose a few free agents, which clears up their budget. They need to refine their offense and put stronger depth on the defense. If they want to go BIG, then I think Jason Blake is their kind of player.

The New York Rangers are making the Big Apple media talk as Michael Nylander has still not signed. Larry Brooks of the New York Post recently wrote a column saying that Slats is in no rush to re-sign Nylander. I recall saying the same thing on a Rangers fan message board a couple of weeks back, or so. And, he is right. I think Michael Nylander does not want to leave New York. I actually give the guy the benefit of the doubt that despite his demand in a salary raise, he wants to remain a Ranger and have success. He can just go for the money and risk of never succeeding again, but I think he will remain a Ranger and Sather knows that, which is why he is taking his time. Slats has more important things to do, such as re-sign Henrik Lundqvist, Sean Avery, and Petr Prucha. Also, the Rangers still need that center and either way, they will go after Scotty Gomez or Chris Drury. Just because one of those two may sign July 1, does not mean that Nylander is replace. Now if you see both of them signed, then yes, Nylander will not come back. I doubt that will happen, but a Double Decker American Sandwich in NYC will draw loads of attention. The Rangers may also seek a left-winger in case they are not too sure of Marcel Hossa, and possibly a defenseman despite having good depth.

The New Jersey Devils may end up losing Brian Rafalski, despite his saying that he wants to remain a Devil. Sure, at what price? $5M per? Ah, ok…see ya. If Scotty Neidermeyer retires before Rafalski signs anything, then I think Brian Burke will take Rafalski. They are also losing Scott Gomez to free agency, which means that they will need a center as depending on two youngsters in Parise and Zajac won’t be so safe. If the Sharks manage to sign Drury, or Gomez, then Patrick Marleau will be under Lamoriello’s radar. I think the Devils may struggle finding free agents to add offense. After a poor showing against the Senators, the Devils offense is in major need of help, and they will have a fair amount of money to spend this year.

The Carolina Hurricanes will look for some improvements as well. Apparently a trade is pending with the Philadelphia Flyers, but that won’t guarantee them anything. They need some improvements, nothing major, but Peter Laviollette may seek Jason Blake, maybe Michael Peca as well.

Dallas Stars may have other plans as nothing has been done yet with Ladislav Nagy. The Stars want some more energy to the line up and Jason Blake could be sought after, possibly Scott Gomez as well. Dallas has been too quiet in recent years, they want to be more competitive and may seek youth as well via free agency.

Don’t be surprised if the Florida Panthers may show some interest in Paul Kariya, who likes the quiet franchise atmosphere, wanted to stay in Nashville but is uncertain as of late. With Vokoun coming over from Nashville, and the Panthers being a young team ready to make the playoffs, Kariya may find himself gaining interest from Martin. Yet, it’s a bit of a long shot idea as Martin said no big name free agents, but added depth, like Todd White, possibly Vik Kozlov.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will continue to play desperate hockey, but not on the ice. GM JFJ needs to put this team in the playoffs and is losing a couple of free agents, possibly. He is definitely pursuing a well known player and will add depth. It’s a crapshoot with the Leafs and you can’t really even make an educated guess. Canadian media mentions anyone or everyone signing with the Maple Leafs, so it’s hard to say.

Here are some guesses of mine regarding free agents:

Smyth: Colorado, Detroit, St. Louis
Drury: Columbus, Los Angeles, Rangers
Briere: Sabres, Flyers, Montreal
Gomez: Colorado, St. Louis, Washington
Souray: Calgary, Colorado, Atlanta
Hannan: Calgary, Dallas, NYI
Stuart: Edmonton, LA
Nylander: Rangers, Flyers, Atlanta
Slava Kozlov: Washington, Detroit, Buffalo
Schneider: San Jose, Detroit, Edmonton
Jason Blake: Columbus, Colorado, St. Louis
Guerin: St. Louis, Anaheim, Montreal
Preissing: Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Atlanta
Bertuzzi: Phoenix, Anaheim, Detroit
Daniel Markov: Phoenix, NJ, Columbus
Nolan: Anaheim, St. Louis, Florida
Hamrlik: Dallas, Montreal, LA
Yashin: Atlanta, Washington, Chicago
White,T: Florida
Belfour: LA, Boston

Feel free to add your own and add more free agents.

Nashville Predators

I like Jim Balsillie’s passion for hockey and his willingness to bring another team to Canada. I am all for it and I am glad he is a Canadian as well. I supported him over the city of Pittsburgh back when the Penguins could have been bought. But ever since he started pulling some odd stunts with the Nashville Predators, the guy has lost some of my support.

People should stop using the Mark Cuban comparison as well because I don’t think Cuban was willing to spend millions of dollars on a team he did not even own. That’s what Balsillie has been doing. I think the sale of fantasy season tickets was a silly idea, and it did not sit well with many people, including Mr. Leipold. Did the guy learn from that? No. A report later on, and a couple of weeks back or so, said that Balsillie wanted a contract with MLSE, ownership of the Maple Leafs, to air Nashville Predator games on Leafs TV this season. Why? Balsillie, you don’t even have a team yet and you’re willing
to spend millions? The guy was skipping too far ahead and I think his antics of spending millions of dollars without much care ridiculed Leipold by saying “Hey, I got SOOOOO much more money than you do, just give it to me”.

Watching Balsillie in this game is like watching a Texan entering an upper society auction with an ugly tuxedo and waiving dollar bills around and bragging about his richness. “This 14th century cup of glass was from King Henry the VIII. The starting bid, $200,000 dollars.” And the Texan (Balsillie) goes “WHAT!? I’ll bid $2 million on that thing and drink my whiskey in it!”

Balsillie pushed too much to a point where he was annoying the NHL, Leipold, who asked Balsillie to fire his lawyer, and other owners. Why?

All that Balsillie had to do was buy this franchise without doing anything crazy. He was the projected buyer and with his antics he was telling the core fan base of the Predators that he was stripping the team from them, he was telling the employees of the organization and the stadium that they will no longer have a job by June 2008. He didn’t have to say a word about Hamilton or Southern Ontario in general. All he had to say, and do, was “I want to buy the Nashville Predators”. But he did not say that. Basically, what he said was “I want to buy the soon to be Hamilton Predators”. It was a dumb thing to do.

Balsillie did not play anything smart here. He was wreck less and careless about this situation. He should have bought the team, that’s it. Once the team was under his name, then he could have done whatever he wanted. But, he overdid it. Did Tom Hicks, who of all sports owners is a mess, ever pull any idiotic moves when buying and moving the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas? No.

Now, I am also blaming the NHL and Bettman here for being way too complicated towards Balsillie. Canada deserves another team, it will help the NHL financially, so do it already. I think that in a couple of years, or five, a team will be on the verge of moving anyway and Balsillie will get his team. Or, now is the time to push for an expansion team on his part. If the guy is willing to spend so much money for marketing, then he should get in touch with hockey fans in Canada and in the USA, and start building a good PR. He should build a stadium or renovate the old one in Winnipeg, and push for an expansion team. But, if a team comes along for sale, the guy better have learned his lesson.

How I would have played it if I were Balsillie?

I would have been optimistic about buying the Nashville Predators and make attempts to improve the market size of the team in Nashville. If approached about relocating the team the answer of “not ruling that idea out” would have been perfect. “Where if possible?” My answer: “Possibly Kansas City, Las Vegas, Portland, or maybe Hamilton. A lot of options.” I would have concentrated on this hockey year. That means, the idea of relocating the team was not going to be talked about at all during the process of buying the team. Balsillie did not just talk about it, he took actions for it. He was thinking about the 2008-2009 Predators.

Mark Cuban was unorthodox in his doings, but he was not this dumb. Sorry Balsillie, you kind of screwed this one up yourself. But, better luck next time and I hope you will bring a Canadian team in the NHL soon enough.

So! As of late, many of you have seen my previous columns take a serious look at Eklund’s rumors, as I have placed some strong doubts about the validity of those rumors. I actually received an e-mail on June 21. Was it Eklund? No, too good to be true. But, it must have been one of his followers who did not find my criticism fair, so he sounded grumpy. Anyway, he did not give out a name and of course I won’t put his e-mail address on here, but here is what “H C” said:

I’ve never visited your site. Never even heard of it actually.

Someone posted your Eklund story over on hockeybuzz so I thought I’d click on the link. Wow, I felt like I was getting hit with grenade shrapnel with all the pop-ups. Anyway, if you don’t believe the rumours to be true, you’ve got Brian Burke to thank.

It was Burkie’s trade deadline diary in the USA Today that made most hockeybuzz readers appreciate all the rumours and speculation.

There’s quite a few supposed deals that didn’t go down in that diary. We’re all thankful Eklund has the inside sources to be able to speak freely about ongoing talks…while guys like you rely on TSN, Sportsnet and Spector’s pages for deals that have already happened. Have fun with that!

Hmmmmm-okay. Never heard of HockeyTradeRumors.com? Go to google.com, or yahoo.com, and type in hockey rumors, or hockey trades, and HTR.com is always listed as #1. Never heard of it? HTR was established in 1996, long before Hockeybuzz. We still remain #1 and twice HTR.com has been on Askmen.com’s top coolest Web sites, for sports web pages anyway, I think.

Wow, I felt like I was getting hit with grenade shrapnel with all the pop-ups.

Yes, true. We have a couple of annoying pop-ups but that’s also because we do not charge our members money for visiting our Web site. We do not charge our members to write their own articles. Trademan is the owner of HockeyTradeRumors.com, and his vision to gather up thousands of hockey fans to share ideas, share thoughts, and contribute to news articles is the foundation of greatness for HTR.com. I rather write columns for free, and satisfy my readers by trying to give well thought-out ideas and opinions that they enjoy. Our articles are Copyrighted, protected, and it’s all thanks to Trademan’s contribution and he pays a price for it too.

Our members are thankful for that, and applaud HTR for what it offers. We don’t need to get paid to have that, sir.

Personally, I do not see a big connection between Eklund and Burke’s diaries.

We’re all thankful Eklund has the inside sources to be able to speak freely about ongoing talks…while guys like you rely on TSN, Sportsnet and Spector’s pages for deals that have already happened. Have fun with that!

Oh, you mean when Eklund reported of a well placed source that had Horton going to Ottawa and Jacques Martin being interested in Gerber? Truth: Martin said he was never interested in Gerber. Truth: I contacted an executive in the Panthers organization that replied saying “Horton will re-sign”. Or recently, Eklund reported that Brandon Shanahan and Scott Gomez have been seen working out together. Here is his quote: “The current line on Scotty Gomez is… There are teams willing to pay $8 million dollars for the guy. He has been seen running with Shanahan, so the Rangers are being speculated.” Truth: Go to John Dellapina’s (New York Daily News) blog where he talked to Shanahan about the report and Shanahan said: ““That’s pretty funny,” Shanahan said from Cape Cod. “I haven’t seen him at all. I heard he was in Alaska. Where do they come up with this stuff?””

Yes, be thankful that you are receiving wrong information while we are having fun reading the truth. I also like how so many of Eklund’s reports for trade rumors on Draft Day came out to be true. How many? A big, wonderful ZERO.

Ok, look folks. I enjoy reading rumors around the hockey media, and what Eklund does is interesting, but to a certain extent where responsibility becomes an issue. I already expressed my feelings towards Eklund’s doings, no need to repeat them. I myself have had sources and have been told some information before it actually happened, but I respect the people that share that information with me, and If anything I ask permission if I can share it. Most of the time I received a “No” for an ans
wer. And you know what? It was fine with me. I remember saying Bobby Holik to the Rangers when he was a free agent, and the infamous HTR member from a few years ago, mantaray, shut me down yet who turned out to be right? Less than a couple of weeks ago I told you guys to expect Nathan Horton to re-sign. I never said a source told me, but that’s what I was told. Who turned out to be right?

So, I respect information that needs to be kept private. It’s their business, not EVERYONE else’s business. My kind of philosophy completely contradicts Eklund’s kind of philosophy, but you know what my fellow hockey fans? I rather share just one piece of information regarding a transaction that I know for sure is true instead of sharing hundreds of pieces of information where possibly 2% turn out to be true.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this piece and HTR will be on High Alert for July 1, 2007, at noon eastern. We’ll have the latest. Like a motto of a news media TV channel says here in the US, “We Report, You Decide”.

Thanks for reading as always,

Micki Peroni