NHL Newsand Rumors – August 7, 2009

We know the Tampa Bay Lightning is interested in Alex Tanguay; agent says it is mutual

Bullish Burke wants bruising Buds to work hard

No future for Pogge in T.O.

Does Zherdev make sense for the Wild?We know the Tampa Bay Lightning is interested in Alex Tanguay; agent says it is mutual

Damian Cristodero

Scoring wing Alex Tanguay switched agents recently to Steve Kotlowitz. That shouldn’t change the dynamic too much in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s pursuit of the unrestricted free agent (Tampa Bay’s ace in the hole could be that Tanguay played for coach Rick Tocchet when Tocchet was an assistant in Colorado). But Kotlowitz, unlike Tanguay’s former agent, Bob Sauve, is a little bit more forthcoming.

Not much, mind you, but it is more than we got from Sauve.

“Tampa is certainly one of the teams Alex has strong interest in,” Kotlowitz said Thursday.

What does that mean? Well, let’s read between the lines. It probably means Tanguay understands the Lightning’s financial situation and perhaps is willing to go the one-year-contract route. That serves two purposes. It doesn’t lock in Tampa Bay to a lot of money over a long-term deal. It also gives Tanguay some incentive to perform while looking for a bigger payoff and playing with guys like Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. It also probably means Tanguay likes what he has seen the Lightning do in the offseason and believes the team has at least a chance to win.

Still, it will take some money to sign Tanguay, and Tampa Bay’s payroll is at $46.72 million. So let’s speculate on how the team can make some cuts. Who, in other words, could the team trade? I’m not saying any of these players will go, just saying why they could be candidates.

Lukas Krajicek: The defenseman was signed to a one-year, $1.475 million deal. Now that Tampa Bay has added Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker and Kurtis Foster, Krajicek, who does not play a physical game, is, at best, sixth on the depth chart.


Bullish Burke wants bruising Buds to work hard


Training camp doesn’t begin until Sept. 12, but Brian Burke already has thrown down the gauntlet.

“One of the biggest problems last year was the sense of entitlement here,” the Leafs GM said yesterday as he introduced new Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins.

“I want every player under contract to realize that I will not hesitate to send a player on a one-way (contract) to the minors if he’s not prepared (to play hard).”

Burke says he is not looking to make any more roster moves, but he has cap room and an glut of defencemen.

“I’d like to see a little bit Darwinian theory at work at training camp and see who wants to play here,” Burke said. “If something materializes that made sense, we’d look at it.”

One defenceman Burke expects to be in the opening-day lineup is veteran Tomas Kaberle, whose window to be moved closes on Aug. 15.

Kaberle brings an offensive element on a team that is bigger and tougher.

Burke said he is “excited” to see what Kaberle can do with some of the veteran defencemen he acquired, particularly Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin.

“Say your first (defensive unit) is Kaberle and Komisarek,” Burke said. “Kaberle is not picking his teeth out of the glass all night (anymore). I’m excited about that.

“There’s some notion that everyone has to be tough on a hockey team. They don’t. You have to surround your skill guys with enough size and toughness that they can play their game. And I think that’s what we’ve done.”

Burke reiterated his belief that the club’s so-called skill players — Mikhail Grabovski, Jason Blake, etc — could enjoy excellent seasons because they now are surrounded with sandpaper.

“I believe that toughness and fear are contagious,” the GM said. “And I count on improved performance from some of those kids just because we’re bigger and meaner.”


No future for Pogge in T.O.


Justin Pogge apparently hasn’t checked his answering machine in a while.

If he did, he would have learned that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has promised to find him a new home.

“I left him a message and told him (that),” Burke said yesterday.

“He’s a good kid and if it’s not going to work out for him here — and obviously he got pushed down the depth chart with the acquisition of (Jonas) Gustavsson — then I would try to find him a place to play, and I’m going to do that.

“But I don’t intend to give away a good, young goaltender either.”

With the acquisition of free agent Gustavsson — widely considered the best goaltender outside of the NHL last season — from the Swedish Elite League, and the improving play of James Reimer with the Toronto Marlies — it’s doubtful Pogge will see much playing time in Toronto this coming season.

The Fort McMurray, Alta., native played seven games for the Leafs last season, posting a goals against average of 4.35.It’s clear the club now looks at the 24-year-old Gustavsson as their goaltender of the future — a mantle once worn by Pogge, who struggled at both the AHL and NHL levels last season.

As he did with defenceman Staffan Kronwall, Burke said he will bend over backwards to help a quality individual within his organization find another place to play if his time has run out with the Leafs.

“If the guy’s a bad kid, or a dirt bag, then he can gut it out (and stay put),” Burke said.

“But if he’s a good kid like Justin Pogge, then you want to find him a place to play.”


Does Zherdev make sense for the Wild?

Michael Russo

Maybe. Maybe not, and probably leaning toward the latter.

Nikolai Zherdev, the 24-year-old winger and former first-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is suddenly an unrestricted free agent after the New York Rangers on Tuesday walked away from his $3.9 million arbitration award.

Zherdev scored a career-high 27 goals with Columbus in 2005-06 and a career-high 61 points with Columbus in 2007-08. Last season with the Rangers, he scored 23 goals and 58 points but disappeared in the playoffs and was largely criticized for a perceived lack of drive and determination. Zherdev can be maddening at times because he is so talented and goes through streaks of ineffectiveness.

At some point the Wild must make another move in my opinion, but the above red flags and one other has me thinking the team will stay away from him.

Zherdev would always be a risk to just bail for the Continental Hockey League (KHL) mid-contract. The KHL would undoubtedly be interested in him and as the league keeps proving with guys like Radulov and Hudler, it’s willing to take NHL players without regard to whether they’re under contract.

According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks here, Zherdev was seeking $4.75 million in arbitration. As you can read in Larry’s column, he does an interesting analysis of that contract desire. According to Larry’s research, 22 wingers under contract next season will earn as much as $4.75 million, and 13 of those came when they were signed as UFA’s or pending UFA’s. Of the remaining nine, only three are under 25 and they are Alex Ovechkin, Jeff Carter and Corey Perry.

As Larry writes, Zherdev’s not in that league.