Trying to shed some light on the NHL's offseason debates
By Kevin Allen, USA TODAY
Sign Nabby or let him walk:
Marleau or Kovalchuk :
Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak: Halak should be Montreal’s goalie and Price should be traded. But as is always the case, we need to know Halak’s asking price before we commit to that plan. I believe Halak has proved his merits. But in a salary cap world, you can’t over-commit dollars to a goalie or you could end up like the Bruins or Chicago Blackhawks. Boston has a talented $5 million goalie (Tim Thomas ) in a backup role, and the Blackhawks have a $5.65 million goalie (Cristobal Huet ) sitting on the bench during the Stanley Cup Final. You wonder whether the success of Philadelphia’s Michael Leighton and Chicago’s Antti Niemi in the playoffs might prompt GMs to consider rolling the dice more in net for financial reasons. The problem with that idea: A situation worse than having a $5 million backup is having no quality goalie. There is still romance around the league about Price’s potential. Would GM Steve Yzerman be interested in Tampa Bay? I believe Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier could fetch a reasonable return, and then they could either trade for another young goalie to stash in the system or they could draft Calvin Pickard late in the first round. I think Price and Halak will both want too much money to keep both.
Sign Nabby or let him walk: Although I would want to hear his asking price first, I’m inclined to let Evgeni Nabokov walk. I’m not in the anti-Nabokov group, but it seems time for a change. On one hand, Nabokov has 131 regular-season wins over the past three seasons. On the other hand, Nabokov’s postseason save percentage has been lower than his regular-season save percentage in each of the past three seasons. Rather than pay him the elite-level wage that his stats say he deserves, I might be inclined to consider a tandem of Thomas Greiss and veteran free agent Marty Turco . Again, much would depend upon how much Nabokov wants and how much Turco is asking. But I’m guessing Turco won’t be asking only for the moon without the stars. He’s not going to command the kind of deal that Nabokov can command.
Marleau or Kovalchuk: Ilya Kovalchuk will the most prominent free agent in the marketplace and there will be more suitors for him than I originally thought. But if you ask me whether the Los Angeles Kings are more likely to go after either Patrick Marleau or Kovalchuk , I might say MarleauKovalchuk . It’s expected that the Kings will pursue an elite-level forward and the presumption they will go after the dynamic, fan-pleasing to put more people in the stands. But GM Dean Lombardi knows Marleau well from their days in San Jose. If the Kings chase a free-agent forward, I’m guessing Lombardi will give strong consideration to Marleau.