Monday, July 30, 2007

Sather-The Detriment

I understand arbitration and how it works. The player puts up his side which basically says he is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and he hopes to hit the jackpot with that. The team brings up the players negatives without trying to destroy him and hopes to save a few pennies. Glen Sather, the Stealth GM, has hit a new low in hearings with Sean Avery. He said in a mixed sentence that Avery was a detriment to the team. My friend Webster describes detriment with words like, injury or damage, or that which causes it; mischief; hurt. What team was Avery a detriment to? Avery may not be the second coming of St. Francis of Assissi but he was no detriment to the Rangers. Down the stretch he came right after Lundqvist and Jagr in importance to making the playoffs.

The Sather apologists are lining up behind Mr. Detriment himself, Glen Sather, and the biggest thing I get out of all the smoke and mirrors was that Avery performed poorly against the Sabres. Did anyone catch Malik and Rachunek's performance against the Sabres? How about Tom Renney's woeful performance against the Sabres? What was more detrimental than Malik's massive giveaway in game two? What was more detrimental than Rachunek's performance in the entire series? What was more detrimental than Renney giving away game five in the last minute by having the Jagr line on ice to protect a 1-0 lead?

The apologists point out that though Avery was hurt for the Sabres he should have kept his mouth shut and toned it down. Why? Part of Avery's arsenal is his mouth. Esa Tikkanen made a living with his mouth and distracted and annoyed many an opponent into poor play. Sather was riding high for a while and getting credit for two great free agency acquisitions. Think about it for a minute. Both of those players, Drury and Gomez, desperately wanted to play for the Rangers. Reminds me of another great catch last year, Brendan Shanahan, who called up the Rangers to sign up. Basically three top players who wanted to come here more than anywhere else. No selling, no effort.

Want to save money? Get rid of the stealth GM whose name is never mentioned in the Garden regardless of the event. Avery may have some negatives, everyone does, but being a detriment to the team is not one of them. The apologists claim that Avery only played a half year with the Rangers and we will need a full year to really judge him. Huh? There were a few Rangers who played a whole year but it seemed like a half year when looking at their stats. However, Stealth Sather has accomplished one thing. He has ensured that Sean Avery will get one of the loudest ovations on opening night intros. What do you think Stealth Sather, Mr. Detriment himself, will get? Will he be there?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Free Agent Leftovers

Free Agent LeftoversFree agents are like left over food. They are always around and available at the drop of a new contract. There always seems to be as many free agents left over as their are reheated leftover dishes. With not much to do I rummaged through the free agency list to see what was still available. My wife wishes that I rummage and clean out my closet or throw out old useless mail. No fun in that.

There are still some interesting names out there. Anson Carter, Andy Sutton, Eric Lindros, Sean Burke, Michael Peca and Peter Forsberg. The last three could be of some interest to the Rangers. Sean Burke could be a valuable backup to Henrik Lundqvist and could probably sign for a reasonable dollar amount. However, its the last two names that have my interest.

There are rumors galore that the Rangers and Peca have an interest in each other. Peca would take over the third line center position between Prucha and Callahan. Peca is a tough competitor and would add more grit to the Ranger forwards. The Rangers could always use a little more grit and Peca is a good face off man, good penalty killer and could provide much needed experience to his two young wingers.

Forsberg is the guy that interests me but I don't know what his price will be. He just hit 34 years old which puts him one year below the magical 35 where all kind of dollar shenanigans are okayed. Forsberg would be perfect between Prucha and Callahan. He too is tough and while he has averaged over a point a game in his career he is also an excellent defensive player, winning the plus/minus award one year. Forsberg has accumulated 623 assists in 697 games and there is no reason to believe that he cannot continue that pace centering Prucha and Callahan. Last year in 57 games with the Flyers and Nashville Forsberg registered 55 points. Also he can kill penalties and with the absence of Ortmeyer, that may pose a problem for the Rangers.

Signing Forsberg will be a boon for Prucha and Callahan. With Forsberg the Prucha/Callahan combo could easily get 50-60 goals between them. This would give the Rangers three great scoring lines and if we come up with that elusive big "D" man the Rangers could be a contender for The Cup. As you can tell it's the boring time of the year for hockey so those of us who get antsy look for things to write about.

I know that I have been talking up 21 year old Brandon Dubinsky and I haven't quit on him but the prospect of getting a Peter Forsberg as a third line center intrigues me to no end. What do you think? And if Dubinsky does make the team the Rangers will be the only team in the league to have two players from Alaska. Now that's a tidbit that may help you answer a trivia question.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Kan't Kill Kasparaitis

Darius KasparaitisDarius Kasparaitis has more lives than a cat. In fact he has more lives than Glen Sather wishes he had. Rumors abound that Kaspy is getting himself in the best shape that he been in years. Jaromir Jagr has said that the Rangers need a defenseman. Strange, isn't it? The Rangers have eight defensemen on the roster and Jagr says we need one. Apparently Rozsival, Malik, Tyutin, Girardi, Mara, Pock, Strudwick and Hutchinson don't quite fill the right bill and Jags may be right. Maybe Marc Staal is the answer. Maybe. The Rangers don't have a rock em, sock em, stay at home defenseman who can keep the opposing forwards honest. Enter Kasparaitis.

The knock by Renney on Kaspy was that he wasn't in shape. However if Kaspy comes in in great shape what will be the next excuse? Too old? Kasparaitis will be 35 in October. Jagr is already 35, Shanahan is 38 and Straka will be 35 in September. He makes too many mistakes? Malik is 32, and who makes more mistakes than Malik? So who would you rather have? A mistake prone 32 year old mush or a mistake prone 35 year old basher?

I like the idea of a 35 year old guy working himself in the best physical shape he can be in, especially one who is not afraid to sacrifice his body and dole out punishing hits. The Rangers do not have that on their back line. We have many stick and poke checkers but too few body hitters. Is it any wonder there is always a crowd of opposing forwards in front of Lundqvist? I guess the other knock of Kaspy is that he draws over $3 mil/year. Malik draws over $2.5 mil. I would rather have Kaspy for the extra mil or so, wouldn't you? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sather On A Roll

Is there a GM in hockey who is having more fun than Glen Sather? Sather is having one hell of a time in this off season. First it was the draft, then the free agency and now it is the trade route. On paper he seems to be having a perfect summer setting the stage for the grand opening in less than ninety days.

In a deal that was more significant for the salary cap implications than the player personnel, Sather traded Matt Cullen back to the Hurricanes for 6'2" 206 pound defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, who played in all of 41 games with the Hurricanes last year and still led their defensemen in power play points (8) and assists (6). Hutchinson has played 95 NHL games and has scored 33 points, which comes to one point every 2.8 games. As a comparison Michal Rozsival gets a point every 2 games and Marek Malik gets a point every 3.29 games. Is Sather setting up another trade involving a defenseman?

Trading away Cullen gives Sather roughly $2.5 mil extra in the salary cap. Cullen was sporadic last year playing much better at the tail end of the season when he was made the third line center. In all fairness Cullen was misused most of the season by Tom Renney. Renney rarely played Cullen on the point on power plays even though he was quite successful at that with the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup Champs. The departure of Cullen opens up a spot for a Dubinsky or Dawes or is Sather thinking of signing Peter Forsberg as the third line center, power play and penalty killer specialist?

ICINGS: Condolences and prayers go out to the family of John Ferguson, Sr., who passed away at the age of 68. He coached the Rangers from 1976-78 amid much turmoil. He basically forced the retirement of Rod Gilbert, changed the Ranger uniforms and traded Rick Middleton to Boston. The Rangers only won 43 of the 121 games he coached. He had a much more successful career as a Montreal Canadien where he wrecked havoc on the Rangers regularly. A tough, rugged player, John Ferguson, Sr. R.I.P.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sather The Fireman

Glen Sather must have read the Pundit's last post, "Playing With Fire", and decided to put it out before it became a wildfire. He struck swiftly and efficiently yesterday getting both Brendan Shanahan and Henrik Lundqvist under one year deals which prevented Shanahan from bolting and Lundqvist from going to arbitration and eventually to free agency. Shanny put the money where his mouth and heart are. He took $2 mil for one year plus bonuses that will get him over $4 mil/year.

Lundqvist reportedly inked for $2.5-$3/year, though John Dellapina of the Daily News is reporting that the Prince signed for $4.5 million. Boy, has the price of poker gone up. So Glen Sather either has $6 mil or $4.5 mil to play with. Either way, there should be enough bread to ink Avery at $2.5 mil and Hossa for about $1 mil and have maybe $2.5 mil or $1 mil left over. Do you think that Souray will come that cheap?

Signing Lundqvist for one year gives Sather flexibility and allows him to tie up Lundqvist for a long time after New Years. The same logic will apply to Avery. Nail him for one year now at $2.5 and then sign him to a long term deal after New Years. If Sather truly wants Souray he will have to trade some high priced veterans and then hope that the salary cap doesn't drop.

Watching all these salary machinations you have to wonder, what did the lockout accomplish?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Playing With Fire

There is an old saying that when you play with fire you will get burned. Glen Sather and the Rangers are testing that old adage. Sather gets kudos for acquiring both Drury and Gomez but that kind of strapped him short of cash for Shanahan, Lundqvist, Avery and Hossa. It seems he is on the verge of a deal with Shanny that will give him a base of about $2.5 mil plus bonuses that will bring him up to the $4 mil mark that Shanny is shooting for. What about the other three?

The bad news is that the remaining three are going to arbitration in about two weeks or so unless a deal can be reached sooner. In the case of Lundqvist and Avery this could cause problems down the road. This would open both up for free agency next year unless Sather can recover and sign both up for long term deals in 2008. There is no way the Rangers can afford to lose Lundqvist. Lundqvist is the franchise and should remain so for the rest of his career. It would set off a bidding war the likes never seen before with the biggest prize available in years. Could you imagine Lundqvist as a replacement for an aging Brodeur?

Avery is another story though he also should be kept. What he brought to the Rangers could not be measured in points or checks. He brought that intangible, that swagger, that feeling that if you were on the ice with him all things are possible. However, it is quite possible that Avery will test the free agency market and there could be a bonanza for him out there. Also, he is ornery enough to go to the Devils or the Islanders.

Hossa seems to be an afterthought in this whole deal. With the additions the Rangers have added Hossa will be hard pressed to make the fourth line. But he is a valuable piece. Hossa, Cullen and Malik could be packaged in a deal for a tough D man but also if traded they would ease the strain on the salary cap. Hossa got first line action last year and some power play time. With this lineup both of those options are out the window. Is Hossa needed? You tell me.

Cullen was misplayed as a second line center most of the year and now sems to have settled on the third line between Prucha and Callahan. To me, Dubinsky showed enough last year that with some normal improvement he could fit into the third line center slot. Is Cullen needed? You tell me.

Malik had a mixed bag last year. Great plus/minus but heavy booing from the faithful who got tired of his misplaying the puck and being out of position too many times and also for being too slow. The Rangers have seven defensemen plus Marc Staal waiting in the wings to explode on the Garden scene. Also there is big, tough David Liffiton who showed well in his brief appearance last year. And isn't it about time we gave Ivan Baranka a chance to make this team? Is Malik needed? You tell me. There is one more interesting story alive in NHL land. Sheldon Souray is still unsigned. Isn't it odd that the premier power play defenseman in the league is still unclaimed and unsigned? Or is he? Glen Sather will need a lot of cap gap if he hopes to put Souray's signature on a Ranger contract. Do the Rangers need Sheldon Souray, a defensive liability? I would rather see Malik gone and Marc Staal in. You tell me.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

We Still Need A Defenseman

Those are not my words, those are the words of Jaromir Jagr, who is getting hungrier by the minute for one more Stanley Cup skate around. There are those in the drive by media and blogosphere that would have you believe that Jagr is upset that Nylander wasn't re-signed and that Nylander was the big reason for Jagr's great two seasons in New York. Nonsense! Jagr has played seventeen seasons in the NHL and has scored thirty plus goals in sixteen straight seasons. He only played two with Nylander. Nylander had his two best years with the Rangers and that is because of Jagr.

But Jagr has it right, we need a defenseman. The Pundit brought up that point in a previous article. Is Sheldon Souray the answer? Why has no one signed this power play specialist who is close to a disaster playing five on five? He is expensive and will be asking between 4-5 million per. Can the Rangers afford him within the restrains of the salary cap? They can but only if they pull off a trade and jettison Marek Malik in the process. The other expendable talked about is Matt Cullen. With Drury and Gomez in the fold and Dubinski lurking in the wings the Rangers can afford to also trade Cullen. Trading Malik and Cullen would lop off over $5 million in cap money.

But Sather has some immediate problems. Lundqvist, Shanahan, Hossa and Avery are not signed. Prucha re-upped at about $1.6 mil per. My calculation puts the Rangers at about $11 million under the cap. However 3 million belongs to Darius Kasparaitis and that will disappear once Kaspy is either sent to Hartford or released. The rumors that Sather is playing hardball with Avery would be astounding, if true. Avery gave the Ranger team something that has been lacking for years. Swagger. How much is that worth? I would say about $2.5 mil per. Lets hope that Sather don't get carried away with the acquisition of his new super stars that he forgets where the grinders fit in and what they accomplish. Remember the 1994 Stanley Cup Champs needed the likes of Matteau, MacTavish and Noonan to close the deal. Lets not go to arbitration with Avery, lets sign him for what he deserves.

So where do the Rangers get the big defenseman Jagr says they need? I believe it will come from within and his name will be Marc Staal. The Rangers must give this kid a shot and the best way to start is by dumping Malik in a trade. Souray is too expensive and too risky on defense. Keep spotting the young guys, so far it has been paying off. Two years ago it was Prucha and Lundqvist. Last year it was Girardi and Callahan. Very quietly and efficiently the Rangers are becoming younger. Lets keep that trend going.

ICINGS:
Buffalo News:
Drury agreed to deal last fall -- ...The Buffalo News learned a bombshell on Monday, and it will go down as one of the all-time embarrassments in Sabres history -- bigger than the broken fax machine, Artem Kryukov and the tumbling Jumbotron all rolled into one.

Drury last fall agreed to a four-year, $21.5 million contract to stay with the Sabres, a source with intimate knowledge of the negotiations told The News. The source said the sides made proposals -- the Sabres offered $20 million, Drury asked for $23 million -- and met in the middle. Then the Sabres either simply forgot or didn't feel the need make anything official. Maybe they didn't want to hurt Briere's feelings, but the Sabres never sent Drury's agent the agreed-upon contract.

After waiting for weeks, Drury instructed his agent to rescind their compliance because, the source said, Drury thought it was bad business...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sather Shoots — He Scores

How about that! The man pulled it off and signed the two hottest commodities, Daniel Briere not withstanding, on the first day of free agency. Scotty Gomez from the hated Devils and Chris Drury who put the stake in the heart of the Rangers in last years playoffs, are now Rangers. In the general scheme of things they are 1 and 1A and from here it doesn't seem to matter who centers Jagr and who centers Shanahan. It is a big win-win situation that Sather has created for the Rangers. In a strange moment Sather flipped a puck to see who would wear number 23 and Drury won the flip and will wear the number.

Michael Nylander took off for Washington where he will feed Ovechkin with his dipsy doo skating. Nylander played great for the Rangers but there is no way that the Rangers lose with two players like Drury and Gomez. Another big sentimental loss was Jed Ortmeyer signing with Nashville. He will be sorely missed for his kamikaze style attack and magnificent penalty killing. He was a huge fan favorite and won the Steven McDonald Award last year.

In a curious move the Rangers signed Jason Strudwick. I would assume that this will loosen up a defenseman for a trade for maybe a strong penalty killer or bruiser or maybe a solid tough stay at home defenseman. I don't think the Rangers can win with last years defense corps in tact. Certainly moving Malik would be a plus despite what his plus/minuses are.

The Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference are in for a massive shakeup. The Sabres and Devils have been fairly decimated. Besides the Rangers, the Penguins have improved with the addition of defenseman Darlyl Sydor and forward Petr Sykora. The Flyers have added Briere plus some young players in a trade and have former backup goalie Marty Biron of Buffalo. Even Washington has become a strong playoff threat adding Kozlov and Poti from the Isles along with Nylander. More on the East later.

ICINGS:

NY Post headline: B'way Bonanza, Rangers land Gomez & Drury
NY Post
B'way Bonanza
Newsday
Rangers Sign Big-Name Free Agents Gomez & Drury
Daily News
Blueshirts Turn 2
Journal News
Rangers Sign Top-Tier Centers Drury, Gomez
Hartford Courant
Time To Make A Cup Push

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Free (But Expensive) Agency

With the prices the contenders and pretenders will be shelling out you wonder why they call it free agency, why not expensive agency or free for all or bankruptcy now and poor house and sanity later. Anyhow, the madness is ready to start much to the delight of the fans and the chagrin of the GM's and owners.

The Rangers, as I stated in a previous post, are gunning for both Drury and Gomez. They are running a gamble by not having Nylander under contract yet. They could hit the jackpot by signing both Drury and Gomez or they could go in the toilet by blowing it and not getting neither of the three, Drury, Gomez and Nylander. Right now all the sports columnists and other bloggers are making all kinds of predictions of why certain players will sign with certain teams. Players are going to sign depending on the size of the contract. The only sure thing seems to be that the Devils have lost Gomez and Buffalo has lost Drury. Oh yeah, the Devils have also lost Rafalski.

Speaking of the Devils, how in the world does Lamoriello hire a coach now after last years fiasco? What coach in his right mind would want to coach the Devils now? I have always thought the world of Lou and considered him to be the finest GM in the business but after last year, I am not sure anymore. But Lou is resourceful and despite the loss of key players he will have a playoff team ready to go at the start of the season even if he has to coach them himself.

I'm betting the Rangers resign Nylander and sign Gomez. However, I bet Dewey would beat Truman and that one day pigs would fly, so don't go to the bank just yet. There are other big names out there but they are in their declining years, names like Forsberg and Kariya and Guerin. The hope with guys like these is that they have comeback years. More often than not its mucho bucks spent on names and not performances. Let the games begin.

ICINGS:

Daily News
Rangers To Be Power Players
NY Post
Free-Agent Frenzy Centers On Gomez
Journal News
Rangers Likely To Target A Center Through Free Agency