Category Archives: HTR Feature Article
Here are the NHL’s top 10 storylines for this week:
Will Columbus finally move Rick Nash? Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson put the power forward up for bidding again. Nash is ready to waive his no-trade protection to go to the right team. Trade talks are heating up. The Sharks and Rangers appear to be the front-runners and New York is especially eager to upgrade its offense. But the number of serious suitors could reach double figures. The Blue Jackets should hire Blues president John Davidson before letting the hapless Howson make this move – but when was the last time this franchise made the right move?
Will Edmonton Nail its first overall pick? The Oilers have lots of young offensive talent. They need to strengthen their defensive corps. The organization loves young Ryan Murray. The Oilers are also smitten with defenseman Griffin Reinhart. But . . . most everyone agrees that Russian scorer Nail Yakupov is the top talent in this draft. Trading down from the top pick seems like a good idea, but will another team make an offer than the Oilers can’t refuse? This decision could go down to the wire.
Can the Devils retain Zach Parise? He would love to stay in New Jersey, but he needs to get paid. As the top potential unrestricted free agent, he can look at teammate Ilya Kovachuk’s $100 million contract as his guideline. Parise rejected the Rangers as a suitor, but the Red Wings, Kings and Maple Leafs are some of the teams that could interest him should the Devils fail to come up with appropriate money. The Devils franchise needs new investors and fresh cash to make this deal happen.
Can the Predators retain Ryan Suter? Nashville GM David Poile is holding out hope that he can re-up Suter and his running mate Shea Weber for the long haul. But Suter would attract top-dollar interest from the Red Wings and other attract teams in free agency, so he seems determined to play out that process into July. Should Suter stay put, the value of other potential UFAs like former Blue Dennis Wideman would rise precipitously.
Will Roberto Luongo move on from Vancouver? Young Cory Schneider replaced him in the postseason and seems ready to do the same for the 2012-13 season. Ideally the Canucks will off-load Luongo’s massive contract – a $5.3 million salary cap hit until 2022 – and gain the flexibility to keep the rest of its core group together for years to come. The draft would be a good time to make that move, since Florida or Toronto could make a big play for a cornerstone netminder.
As an unrestricted free agent come July 1, would Kovalev seriously consider a return to the NHL? And if so, would he have a jersey preference?
“Hopefully, I’ll find an NHL team,” he said. “The preference is always going to be a team I’ve played on (Canadiens, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators) because you know the environment.
“And I’d definitely like to come back to Montreal. They’re all about the young guys, but I can help in all different ways. And I can still play. I have a lot of energy.
“I always think about having left Montreal,” he said of signing a two-year, $10-million UFA contract with Ottawa in July 2009, having played four-plus seasons with the Canadiens.
“You make a mistake in life and you learn from it. I would make a different move if I could have that back.”
That summer, depending on your source, Kovalev agent Scott Greenspun failed to contact the Canadiens before then-GM Bob Gainey began his dramatic rebuilding, or Gainey was so vague about deadlines for the two sides to speak that a phone never rang before he moved.
A free-agent flood poured into Montreal and Kovalev soon was washed down the highway towards Ottawa, leaving a big piece of his heart in Montreal.
Kovy lifted you out of your seat with excitement some nights – ask those who held a spirited rally outside the Bell Centre before he signed with the Senators – and sent you home maddeningly frustrated by his ghostly apparition on others.
But he was never, ever dull, something that’s not changed in the two years he’s been gone. And Kovalev still gets a kick out of being recognized in Montreal, toying with those who think they’ve spotted him as they trail him down the street, their calls to him ignored – just for awhile.
The Leafs are expected to be near the front of the line if former Anaheim Duck first-rounder Justin Schultz becomes a free agent in a couple of weeks.
Schultz, a big defenceman with 44 points in 37 games, is leaving the University of Wisconsin a year early to play pro. But he’s thus far not signed with the Ducks, who could lose him if a deal is not reached by June 24. After that, a number of teams are in the picture, his home province Vancouver Canucks, the needy Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers, Oilers and the Leafs.
Toronto’s connection is that Burke drafted him just prior to leaving the Ducks in 2008, 43rd overall, the round after another Wisconsin defenceman Jake Gardiner. Anaheim was so anxious to get Schultz signed, it was reportedly prepared to burn a year of his entry-level contract just to play him in the final few games of the regular season. The Ducks might also work a trade for his rights before the 24th.
Alexander Radulov is believed on his way back to the KHL in light of an offer from Sergei Fedorov’s CSKA club that considering tax implications, we’re told, would make him the world’s highest-paid hockey player.
The regret regarding the Stanley Cup Finals is Ilya Kovalchuk’s back injury deprived the Devils of the club’s most singular, dynamic weapon against the Kings. It’s not as if the Devils are unique in dealing with a significant injury to a significant player. The Canucks had to deal with issues that eliminated Ryan Kesler as a factor in the 2011 defeat to the Bruins.
It’s just unfortunate that, if for nothing else but the sake of entertainment value, the most explosive and compelling player on either side was so diminished.
Rangers’ prospect Jesper Fast will be attending the club’s development camp following the Entry Draft, but the 20-year-old winger is contractually committed to playing the 2012-13 season for HV-71 of the Swedish Elite League.
The world of goaltending options is closing in on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Tomas Vokoun signed in Pittsburgh and Anders Lindback acquired by Tampa Bay, the list of available quality goalies has shrunk by two. And while there are many teams interested in inquiring about Los Angeles backup Jonathan Bernier, at this time the Kings prefer to maintain the status quo with Jonathan Quick as starter and Bernier behind him.
The pro-active trade Steve Yzerman made for Nashville’s Lindback hurts the Leafs in two different ways: 1) It removes a goalie they should have had interest in from the marketplace; 2) It provides one of their opponents in the Eastern Conference with potentially better goaltending than it has had in the past (and you know the Lightning, with Steven Stamkos, can score goals).
With Vokoun and Lindback scratched from the list of the available and the Kings’ Dean Lombardi saying “having only one quarterback is dangerous,” that leaves Roberto Luongo as their best goaltending option moving forward to this week’s NHL draft and trade meet. The good news with Luongo is it won’t cost much to get him. The bad news is it’s a long-term solution for the Leafs and if they still believe in James Reimer and, to a lesser extent, Ben Scrivens, then it isn’t an ideal situation for the development of a youngster.
While there are still run-of-the-mill free agents available such as Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen and Chris Mason, there is nothing that would excite Maple Leafs fans here. Luongo remains the most viable option — and that’s not without its pitfalls.