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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

As the Wheel Turns: Kovalchuk Revisited

Who is this above?  Well, that's the real putz in this whole mess, apparently, Devils team owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek.  You see, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello doesn't like these long-term contracts.  While I, for one, think he's probably more supportive of them than he might seem, the point stands that Lou wants us to know it was the ownership's deal.  And that falls on Mr. Vanderbeek.

As of today, the 17-year, $102 million dollar deal has been rejected by the Wheel of Justice that is the NHL, on the premise that it didn't believe that Kovalchuk would be playing until he was 44.  Anyone who's paid attention to these mega-deals knows that the more-recent contracts to Zetterberg, Pronger, and Luongo (among others) have been approved on the premise that they would be playing into their 40s, so obviously there's little issue there.

So why did the Kovalchuk deal really get rejected?  The Top 3...

3. Bettman's finally "awakening the giant within."

2. Wild night at The Cock Bar.  "Reject" button sticky.

1. Didn't realize that Dean Lombardi's "You complete me" visit the night before was ripped off Jerry Maguire.

Promise me you'll take care of Jonathan Lipnicki...

Look, the reality is that the Kovalchuk signing was going to be a big deal, but it became a huge deal when the terms were disclosed.  It brought a lot of unwanted attention even outside the league because the length was unprecedented (as was the Dipietro contract) and, when laid bare, the terms were as well.  Yes, we saw similar structure to other lengthy deals, but seven years at-or-near league minimum?  Come on.

I agree we shouldn't pin this one on Lou, as there's little doubt that James Vanderbeek's long-lost father is the more-likely culprit.  That being said, let's hope that this becomes a case-in-point for the next CBA.  If there is one.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Kovalchuk Interactive Post

Yay for the Devils, the Red Rocket is back!  Kovy decides not to mirror the Great One's legacy of moving to the far coast to bring jubilation to the beach bums, opting instead to not have to move his shit at all.  Having just moved about 3 times in the last month, I'd make the same choice.

Now that Kovy's broken the seal on the NHL free agent constipation, it begs the question of what happens next.  Who are the next movers and shakers?  Do Kings fans riot now or later?  Do Montreal fans riot on their principled behalf?  Why did Kovy choose Joisey?  And most of all, how does this affect the standings?

Keep an eye on...
Simon Gagne
Possibly the second biggest name in player movement rumors over the last two weeks, Gagne has been rumored to go to the Rangers, the Lightning, or the Kings, among others.  His regular season value is slightly above league average, tempered always by the possibility of injury, but his postseason contributions are underrated.  He will move very soon.

Bobby Ryan
The Ducks and Ryan are still far apart in their negotiations, and Brian Burke smells blood over in Toronto (and it's not Kaberle eating his own head).

Kevin Bieksa
When healthy, Bieksa is a highly effective defensemen with a good shot and a mean streak.  The Blue Jackets and Sharks are interested as well as the Ducks, and the Canucks would like to get Bieksa out of his locker so that they can gold-plate it for Hamhuis's arrival.

Mike Modano
No "old man" jokes here, though when he was drafted Patrick Kane was working his mother's uterine wall like it was a cab driver. The Red Wings and Wild are interested, though let's be realistic here: Modano will sell tickets and be a father-figure to the younger players (which pretty much makes Willa Ford the best MILF ever).

Top 3 Reasons Ilya Kovalchuk Chose Jersey Over Los Angeles
3. He knows nothing about U.S. geography.
2. Found a naked and bound Alexander Frolov in Dean Lombardi's closet.
1. Between the aging Mobsters, abandoned buildings, and smelly landfills, it's like he never left Russia.

What Does Kovalchuk in Jersey Mean for the NHL Standings?
Let's be clear: the fact that he signed exactly where he was the last two months of the season makes this a far-easier conclusion to reach.  As far as the Atlantic Division rivals are concerned, this is one of the more innocuous places he could go.  They were good, not great with Kovy on their team, and his deadly offensive prowess was somewhat dampened by the fact that the Devils are defensive-minded and Parise-focused in their attack.  In all honesty, I think the Devils did more for themselves by the Arnott and Volchenkov signings.

The Devils will still be a solid team, as they were without him.  But the fact is, he's not the guy in Jersey, and with fewer shooting opportunities and the usual questionable defense, he becomes a (likely) expensive complementary piece.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Free Agent Fiesta: Blog Cosby's Picks

Needless to say I think the signings this year have been pretty lame, but since I feel I should point out the ones that show less lameness than the rest, here are my picks:

Jaroslav Halak to the Blues
The Blues saw the capabilities of Halak in the playoffs, and they know how Mason played when Nashville was a playoff contender. This is a clear steal for a team that was in need of a change. Mason is a good goalie, but he didn't have enough, and his age is climbing beyond repair. Halak is young, shows great talent and very little sign of Raycroftism. This pickup will aid the ever long struggles of the Blues and their hopes for becoming a playoff contender by giving them a goaltending foundation that can easily serve them for many years. I have no clue why Montreal seems to think Auld and Price are going to satisfy them, but I guess sometimes you just make bad decisions and then you have to live with them.

Least Favorite
Christopher Higgins to the Panthers
Seriously? Has no one figured out that this guy's talent has faded with every move? Sure he had 52 points a few seasons ago, but he hasn't begun to show that anywhere else. The difference between Higgins and a player like Saku Koivu is that Koivu consistantly puts up 50-60 points season after season...Higgins did it once by miracle, or maybe he had a little help from Mr. Koivu, Streit, and Markov...Oh, yeah those guys. He's getting to the age that your hoping for a Tim Thomas breakout.

Dark-Horse Signing
P.A. Parenteau to the Islanders
I'm not sure why the Ducks like to make it a habit of trading away promising prospects, but here's one who's never been given a chance. Sure he's a 9th round pick, but he has shown great numbers in the AHL over the years and has great stickhandling skills that can aid a team in need of something. Finally he's on a team that will play him and I think you may all be amazed at what he will do this year on the second line of the Islanders...yes that's my prediction.

Free Agent Fiesta: Forsberg's Foot's Picks

That was a strange title to write. The double possessive.

While the free agent period isn't over (thanks, Kovalchuk), there have been plenty of signings to talk about, analyze, and weep over(sorry about the Boogeyman, Matteau). Here are my picks:

Anton Volchenkov to the Devils
Sure, there were flashier blueliners out there that signed for similar money (Gonchar, Hamhuis, Martin), but Lou made Anton a deal he couldn't refuse. Out of all the big free agents on the blueline, I expect Volchenkov to have the most pronounced effect on his new team. While the departure of Paul Martin in Swampland is notable, the guy only played 22 games last year. So basically, this was a team carried by Johnny freakin' Oduya until the trade deadline. Now they add a tough as nails, shot blocking, hard-hitting, vodka-guzzling maniac. The Sister Banger is very happy about this signing. Very happy indeed.

Least Favorite
Sergei Gonchar to the Senators
Maybe I'm being a bit biased here. I'll come clean. I'm not a Sergei Gonchar fan by any stretch of the imagination. And while his playoff performance this past summer was pathetic by anybody's standards, that's not why I'm choosing this to be the worst deal made so far. My biggest problem with this deal is that the Senators are now stuck with a 3-year, $5.5 million dollar per year deal with a rapidly aging defenseman when there were better options out there. Gonchar was given a no-trade clause, and since he was over 35 when he signed the contract, the cap hit remains throughout the life of the contract even if he retires or is waived. Younger, more well-rounded players like Paul Martin or Dan Hamhuis would have been better options.

Dark-Horse Signing
Nikolai Zherdev to the Flyers
Yeah, he's an ultra-talented Russian. Yes, there have been concerns about his work ethic, consistency, and attitude. Yes, he fled the NHL to spend a year in the KHL. Still, the $2 million dollar deal allows the flyers to add a creative and immensely-talented scorer in their top 9 with little risk because it's only a 1 year deal. $2 million is a low figure for a young guy who put up 61 and 58 points in his last 2 years in the NHL.

Free Agent Fiesta: Matteau's Picks

The urge is always strong to call it a "Free Agent Frenzy," but Gary's trying to appeal to new markets so I'm going with "fiesta."  I figure this is the first honest push towards the Latino audience since Luis Mendoza and maybe Scott Gomez.

I wanted to do a little up-to-speed on the free agent signings to this point, because I think we all know full well that it's aggravating to wait for the other shoe to drop on a potential Kovalchuk signing.  It's (nearly) universally accepted that his will be the biggest signing of the offseason whether it be to the KHL or NHL, but perhaps this is the best time to weigh in on our picks for favorite/least favorite/potentially-good signings.

Matteau's Favorite
Andrew Ebbett to the Phoenix Coyotes
Initially I was going to say Olli Jokinen, because the news that he wouldn't be returning to the Rangers brought squeals of joy, but I think that was a given.  Andrew Ebbett has been on my radar for a few years now, as he's always been a smart hockey player.  Left undrafted after a decent hockey career at Michigan, Ebbett's size (5'9", 174 lbs.) has often stood (ha ha) in the way of his playing time.  But after losing Matt Lombardi, Phoenix has an opening for a guy who could set up their goal-scoring wingers, and Ebbett could very easily beat out the under-performing Martin Hanzal and Kyle Turris.  At worst, he'd end up on the second line with Shane Doan; in a similar playing-time scenario in Anaheim, he put up 32 points in 48 games.  Signed at the league minimum, Ebbett is another smart budget move by the Coyotes owner, whoever that might be.

Least Favorite
Derek Boogaard to the New York Rangers
I'm not a huge goon fan, so the Brashear signing last year was annoying to me because, as we learned and I had suspected, it did nothing for the team.  But there was something to be said for Brashear's scoring potential going into the season.  The Boogeyman has no such potential, and will be saddling the team with over one-and-a-half-million dollars a year to remind us.  I'd say I'm furious, but I think incredulous is more accurate, particularly since Sather had made such a good signing (Martin Biron as a backup) that same day.  The "Fire Sather" supporters are growing in number exponentially now.

Dark-Horse Signing
Manny Malhotra to the Vancouver Canucks
He came at a premium for a defensive-minded player, but the former first-rounder Malhotra has a good chance at earning every penny of his $2.5 million per year over the next three years.  If players like John Madden, Kris Draper, Jere Lehtinen, and Mike Richards are any indicator, teams have shifted to recognizing and rewarding the part that wins championships (Washington, pay attention).  All have had long careers with basically one team (though Madden was paid handsomely to leave Jersey), and Malhotra's defense has deserved such recognition.  One of the best faceoff men in the league, he won a whopping 62.5 percent of his puck drops last season.  Never a threat to scored more than 35-40 points in a season, he's nevertheless a perfect 3rd liner, the kind of intelligent, big-bodied forward that can anchor a sound playoff team.  Now if only he learned to be a goaltender...

The Kovalchuk signing will be big, and as I said it will be considered much bigger than any of the above.  That being said, the acquisition of players like Ebbett and Malhotra (and in a way, Boogaard) go a long ways towards determining a team's fortunes in the following season.

Fire Sather!