Rumors and Notes from the NHL

1. Spezza speaks about Heatley

2. Free Agent Winners and Losers so far

3. Sharks could be in the Market for a free Agent

4. Devils interested in Brendan Morrison

5. Leafs shopping for a penality Killer1. Spezza speaks about Heatley is reporting an article where Jason Spezza spoke his opinion on the latest Heatley rumors. Spezza stated “I just hope that this doesn’t stall our organization. We want to move forward, and if he wants to come back, then we’ll accept him back and we’ll be a good team with him. But if he doesn’t want to be here, he has to let us make a move and get some players to replace him.”

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2. Free Agent Winners and Losers so far

Fox Sports is reporting their opinions of who are the winners and loser of the free agent market so far in 2009.



At first blush it appears as though new GM Chuck Fletcher replaced one injury-prone goal guru with another, but signing Martin Havlat — for $2.5 million less than Marian Gaborik, I might add — was of the utmost importance as a building block in the Wild’s new philosophy of up-tempo hockey.

If freshly minted bench boss Todd Richards is going to construct a house of goals, he’ll need some semblance of tools to do it. Not only is Havlat a good foundation, his signing will lay the groundwork for the Wild to attract other UFAs in the coming days.


Many GMs should have their heads examined for the money and terms handed out to players 30 and older, but in this case the Oilers made a smart move. Nikolai Khabibulin will be 40 by the time his four-year deal expires, but at a price tag less than $4 million, it’s not egregious should Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers supplant him as the No. 1 in a couple of seasons.

Plus, with Khabibulin between the pipes, the Oilers have a bona fide game-stealer, which this young but inexperienced squad will need if they hope to make any noise in a tough Western Conference. GM Steve Tambellini and Co. deserve credit for their hot pursuit of Dany Heatley, despite the $4 million bonus the Senators now have paid him.

Tampa Bay

As I said in my analysis of the Matt Walker signing during our real-time coverage Wednesday, GM Brian Lawton, despite being surrounded by ownership in-fighting, deserves a lot of credit for the three moves he made, all of which strengthened the team’s most glaring weakness: its blueline.

Mattias Ohlund was the perfect player for the Lightning: a stable, veteran Swede defenseman who can mentor future star and countryman Victor Hedman. A seven-year deal for a 32-year-old seems excessive, but if Ohlund retires, that money comes off the books. Snagging Matt Walker from the Hawks and re-upping Lukas Krajicek provides the Bolts with a decent top six.


New York Rangers

After ridding themselves of a seemingly unmovable contract (Scott Gomez) the day before and allowing their resident thug (Colton Orr) to walk, GM Glen Sather seemed to be regaining some of the shine that’s worn off since joining the Blueshirts oh so long ago.

It was short lived, however, as New York quickly picked up a soon-to-be unmovable player in Marian Gaborik and took up another roster spot with Donald Brashear, who somehow got a two-year deal at age 37.

Toronto Maple Leafs

GM Brian Burke gets a minus for giving Colton Orr a four-year deal alone, but we’ll backburner that and instead focus on the letdown of accomplishing nothing more than acquiring a pair of rough and tumble blueliners (Mike Komisarek and Garnet Exelby) who can’t score worth a lick. Expectations were high Toronto would add additional scoring punch, but those hopes went for naught.

Yes, the Blue and White will leave teams black and blue next season, but PIMs don’t win games. Goals do.

Chicago Blackhawks

Hey ‘Hawks fans, who do you like better: Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews? Because after this season, you’ll very likely only have one of them in your lineup. Kane, Toews and Duncan Keith, the team’s best defenseman and another must-keep, are all RFAs next summer and each will be looking for a significant raise, somewhere in the $5-6 million range.

With the cap likely going down after 2009-10, there’s not going to be a whole lot of room to spare after Marian Hossa’s deal this summer and Brian Campbell’s in 2008. Never mind the fact you still have RFAs Cam Barker, Kris Versteeg, Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer and Corey Crawford to re-sign with a little less than $9 million to deal with this offseason. Good luck, GM Dale Tallon — you’ll need it.

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3. Sharks could be in the Market for a free Agent is reporting that the Sharks are in the Market to pick up a Veteran Free Agent. They have a very solid D and solid goalie but they are in the Market for a solid forward. The Sharks have been almost invisible in the free agent market so far, even though they have let enough players go to create some cap room. With many of the top free agents signed, the pickings left for General Manager Doug Wilson are slim.

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4. Devils interested in Brendan Morrison

The NYPost is reporting that the Devils are interested in signing Center Brendan Morrison. Former Devil Brendan Morrison is one offensive center still available on the unrestricted market. Agent Kurt Overhardt refused comment on whether Lamoriello is trying to sign Morrison, but did say “there are a couple of things going on,” and that he expects the 33-year-old to sign somewhere in a few days.

Morrison had sought a trade from New Jersey when he was packaged with Denis Pederson to Vancouver for Alexander Mogilny on March 14, 2000.

Meanwhile, Overhardt said negotiations with the Devils for Travis Zajac have not hit any obstacle, despite Zajac’s filing for arbitration as a restricted free agent.

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5. Leafs shopping for a penalty Killer

THe Star is reporting that the leafs are in the Market for a Penalty Killer. After muscling up with miscreants, the Maple Leafs’ next move may be to add a free-agent, penalty-killing forward.

Sure, they need scoring and filling that void is on general manager Brian Burke’s to-do list. But Toronto also had the league’s worst penalty killing last year and with the team likely to spend even more time shorthanded in the coming season, that could be an unfolding disaster unless Burke gets some help.

“A couple of the things we’re looking at are skilled forwards and bottom-six guys who have some special attributes. We’re looking at guys who might do specific tasks,” Burke said yesterday.

One of the tasks Burke mentioned is penalty killing. So that would make an unrestricted free agent forward such as Blair Betts or Travis Moen more attractive to the Leafs than their modest offensive numbers would suggest.

And there are still some decently skilled free-agent forwards such as Jason Williams and Ales Kotalik available more than a week after the market opened, so Burke still has the opportunity to bring in more useful players without giving up assets.
< br>So he was back working the phones yesterday. One day after saying he wasn’t done rebuilding his team, the GM said he spoke to the agents for six free-agent forwards to see if there was the framework for a deal. He said he also received another trade offer for one of his excess defencemen, a move that would bring in a forward and would involve the Leafs taking on some salary.

The Leafs are about $3.3 million (all figures U.S.) below the NHL’s salary cap of $56.8 million. But Burke has said he is quite willing to take advantage of the cushion that allows teams to exceed the cap by 10 per cent during the summer months. In the past, Burke has said he will bury underperformers in the minors if it allows him to bring in players that make his squad better.

“I want to make sure if we’re down to our last three to five million dollars we want to spend the money wisely,” he said. “We’re at a point now where our next couple moves will preclude further movement, so we want to make sure they’re the right the dance steps.”

Penalty killing was a major problem last season for the Leafs on home ice, where they killed off only 69.4 per cent of their shorthanded situations. Basically, you could count on them giving up a goal every three times a Toronto player went to the box.

That problem should be partially corrected by a goaltending situation that appears improved and by the addition of defenceman Fran├žois Beauchemin, who is a strong penalty killer. Beauchemin led the NHL last season in short-handed ice time per game, with an average of four minutes, 50 seconds.

The Rangers led the NHL in penalty killing last season, nullifying 87.8 per cent of penalties against, and key to that success was the 29-year-old Betts, who earned $615,000. Moen, part of Burke’s team that won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim in 2007, was a big part of making San Jose the fifth-best penalty killing team in the NHL last season.

The Leafs have only 13 forwards under contract who could reasonably be expected to start the season with the big club.

Burke said he will keep fishing to improve those numbers before he leaves on a real fishing trip next week.

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