Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vermette Reportedly Avoids Arbitration

The word on this morning is that the Senators have finally signed Antoine Vermette to a 2-year deal, worth $5.525 million. His arbitration hearing was supposed to go this morning, but the two sides have come together to put the pen to paper.

Vermette's negotiation has been the subject to much speculation over the past few weeks. So much so, rumours were coming out of the woodwork saying that the two sides were too far apart and that a trade looked to be likely for Vermette to get out of Ottawa. Senators fans can relax, now that they have one of their top performers back in the fold. The question is, however, will this signing stop all the trade rumours around Vermette for this season?

In 81 games for the Senators, Vermette scored 24 goals and added 29 assists for 53 points last season, which set new career highs in all those categories. His previous career high was 39 points, set the season before. It looks as though he has finally matured into the player that the team was looking for when they drafted him in the second round in 2000.

Jason SpezzaChristoph SchubertMartin Gerber
Daniel AlfredssonChris PhillipsAlex Auld
Dany HeatleyAnton Volchenkov
Antoine VermetteJason Smith
Mike Fisher
Dean McAmmond
Chris Neil
Jarkko Ruutu
Shean Donovan
Nick Foligno
Chris Kelly

The Senators now have 17 regulars signed on to play for next season at the going rate of $46.8 million, $9.9 million short of the cap for the remaining six spots on the team's active roster. Still to be added to the team is restricted free agent, Andrej Meszaros, who didn't elect for arbitration this summer. Rumours will likely remain rampant about his departure via trade until his deal is done.

Although the signing of Vermette is complete, there can't be much of a sense of accomplishment coming from the GM's office in Ottawa. Bryan Murray hasn't really improved the team at all or adequately filled in some of the gap that have been left behind by guys like Wade Redden, Cory Stillman or Mike Commodore. Arguably, he did fill the gap that Ray Emery left behind well with the signing of Alex Auld, but that's only one gap.

This team listed above will rely even heavier upon the top line, which now can't afford to be broken up, as it will likely be the gist of the offense in 2009. Sure, the team is chalk-full of character guys with the addition of Jarkko Ruutu to an already grinding third and fourth line. This will have to be the season for Nick Foligno to step up and assume a second-line role, while Alex Nikulin and Ilya Zubov try and make the jump up for a full-time spot.

There doesn't seem to be much pool depth in Ottawa beyond the usual suspects. Once the well of top line talent runs dry around the Sens, you likely won't be heading back to pick many players for your pool teams.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jackets Sign Leclaire

The Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they re-signed coveted restricted free agent goaltender, Pascal Leclaire, to a new 3-year deal worth $11.4 million on Wednesday. The deal was a long time in the making, but both sides should obviously be glad it's all done and over with.

Leclaire, 25, had himself a stand-out season with the Blue Jackets, winning 24 games, 9 of them through the way of the shutout, and included 2 assists for a pool-point total of 68. That placed him just outside the top 50 in last season's rankings and could earn him a very high draft pick spot, in your local hockey pool. He should be going into training camp this Fall as the number one goalie in Columbus, which does make his minutes very valuable to the poolies that hold him on their team.

Although his salary is structured over the next three seasons, his salary cap hit will remain the same at $3.8 million per season. Good news for the Blue Jackets, if he becomes a bonafide superstar keeper, he'll become quite the bargain in town. His new signing and salary brings the Blue Jackets up to 21 players at a reasonable cap hit of $45.8 million.

They have made some good improvements to the team this summer, but they'll need a big year from Leclaire and Rick Nash, not to mention their new additions in Kristian Huselius and R.J. Umberger. The list for the Jackets is a little more exciting than past years, which could have them spread out among your pool teams quite well.

Parrish Not Wild About Minnesota

On Tuesday, Mark Parrish was placed on waivers, with the likely intention to be bought out by the Minnesota Wild, if he is to clear them by Noon ET on Wednesday. Surprisingly, Parrish still has three years left on his contract, which have a cap hit of $2.65 million a piece. By Wednesday afternoon, Parrish was indeed bought out by the Wild and had become an unrestricted free agent.

Parrish played in 66 games for the Wild last season, which was injured for eight of those games missed and was a healthy scratch for the remainder. In those 66 games, he scored 16 goals and added 14 assists, but it was his ice-time that was a concern. You could assume that Parrish had some troubles with head coach, Jacques Lemaire, and would welcome a change of pace, but he had been playing in Minnesota for two seasons now, after signing a 5-year deal with the team to bring him to the State of Hockey.

Parrish's value may have diminished some, but there could very well be a few teams knocking on his door for his services, but it will be more interesting to see how much they'll pay for him.

Canes Add a Young Bowman

The Hurricanes were proud to announce that 2007 third round pick, Drayson Bowman, will compete in training camp for a spot on the roster this Fall after signing his first NHL deal, a 3-year, entry-level deal worth $2.06 million.

Bowman, 19, stands 6' tall and has a 181 lb. frame, which could stand up to the punishment of the league, but he also brings good hands and good hockey sense to the table, which had impressed assistant GM, Ron Francis, according to his statement. Bowman helped lead the Spokane Chiefs to the 2008 Memorial Cup Championships and does stand to make a splash down in Raleigh.

Things are looking up for the Carolina prospects.

Filppula Signs Long-Term in Detroit

The Red Wings announced on Wednesday morning that they have signed one of their key forwards from their Stanley Cup winning team, Valtteri Filppula, to a new 5-year, $15 million deal. The team now has all of their key players signed on, but there could be some more work done on their line-up heading into camp.

red wingsFilppula, 24, finished the regular season in Detroit playing in 78 games, scoring 19 goals and adding 18 assists. Not terribly high totals for poolies, but he did bring 11 points in 22 games in the playoffs, not to mention some good grit and quality ice-time to the championship team. His experience should raise his profile and his confidence, which should in turn, increase his production. With such a low total brought from last season, Filppula could be considered a sleeper pick in some pools, especially if he gets that increased production this season.

At $3 million a season against the cap, Filppula can be considered a bargain asset in a season or two. This is the kind of handywork that GM Ken Holland is known for in Detroit and he'll need it when the contracts come up for some of his bigger players in the coming seasons. Unfortunately, the Red Wings now have 21 players signed on for next season for the ceiling-touching amount of $55.7 million. For their last two spots on the active roster, they only have $1 million remaining, which isn't a lot. Of course, they can sneak by this by only have 21 players on their active roster, calling up and sending down players through the season to help fill gaps, but that's a lot of paperwork.

Koistinen Awarded One Year

The Nashville Predators retained the services of defenseman Ville Koistinen, by having their negotiations setttled through arbitration. On Tuesday, the arbitrator decided that Koistinen's deal will be for one year at $700,000.

Koistinen, 26, played in 48 games for the Predators last season, registering 17 points (4G, 13A) and he was a +13. If the Preds can get him going at his full potential for all 82 games, he could come out of nowhere this season and become a very good NHL defenseman and a very solid pool pick. He could be a good one to take as your last defenseman, as he may surprise a lot of people.

J-P DumontRyan SuterDan Ellis
Jason ArnottDan Hamhuis
Alexander RadulovShea Weber
Martin EratVille Koistinen
David LegwandGreg de Vries
Vern FiddlerGreg Zanon
Radek Bonk
Jordin Tootoo
Scott Nichol
Jared Smithson
Jed Ortmeyer

The Predators now have 18 players ready to play full-time in the coming year at a reasonable cap hit of $39.4 million. The team also has plenty of young talent still coming up the ranks to fill some of the gaps, including Pekka Rinne in goal, Jonathan Blum & Cody Franson on the blueline and Antti Pihlstrom up front. They might need them too, since the free agent pool has run dry of great talent.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hockey Pool Draft Date Announced

You may not have to think about hockey pools yet (hell, it's only the end of July), but that's what you have the Opiated Sherpa for, right? He's got everything under control, nice and early as well. He already has a date and a place booked for your drafting pleasure...

October 7th, 2008
Jameson's Pub, NE Calgary

Well, mark it down on your calendars, it will come sooner, rather than later. The reservation has been made for 6pm, so show up any time around then.

By that time, we'll already have had four games played in the league, the two Premiere games in Europe, so most teams will have their rosters finalized by then. Sheets and likely some magazines will be around for your picking assistance.

The rules will be the same as last season... $50 a head for an entry fee, hopefully we'll have 30 teams participating, we had 17 last season... 8 forwards, 4 defense, 2 goalies per team... goals and assists count for the skaters... wins & shutouts @ 2 points a piece, plus assists for the goalies... it's all pretty straight-forward.

All the official rules will be supplied at the actual draft, so no need to worry about it right away.

If you're interested, you can look up the Opiated Sherpa Hockey Pool Group on Facebook and find his event that he posted there. Everyone is welcome, cancellations are almost certain, so we want to be sure we fill up 30 spots.

Also, the Hockey Pool Sheet will also be available for your selection pleasure for $25 per sheet. It will likely be released before the Premiere games in Europe, but will have a deadline of October 12th.

Locking Up Stamkos

I don't know about you, but it does seem safe to say that we'll be getting our fill of Stamkos-mania this season, with or without a full-time job. Let's face it though, is Steven Stamkos really going to sit on the sidelines for the Tampa Bay Lightning?

The revamped hockey team will announce the signing of their number one overall pick on Tuesday, as they have already started their prospect camp in Victoria and he's already donning the lightning bolt on his chest to rave reviews. Stamkos will be signing a 3-year deal at the rookie maximum of $875,000 for his base salary and it has been reported that he'll have performance bonuses that could total $8.55 million over those same three years. If all those bonuses are made, Stamkos could have a cap hit of $3.725 million to start his career.

The Lightning have done everything in their power this summer to make the playoffs after a dismal season, finishing last in the NHL standings. Additions of Radim Vrbata, Ryan Malone, Mark Recchi, Jussi Jokinen, Gary Roberts, Matt Carle, Olaf Kolzig all point to the playoff direction. But where is Stamkos going to fit in the line-up? Of course, they are going to make room for him, likely on the second line to start. It will certainly be fun speculating on which line combinations will finally come to fruition in Tampa or even speculating whether or not Stamkos will start down the middle or on the wing.

To be honest, I wasn't sold on Patrick Kane going into last season for the Blackhawks, raving on and on more about Jonathan Toews, which still doesn't sound too bad to me, but I was pleasantly surprised by Kane. At the same token, I haven't been completely sold on Stamkos, in the few opportunities I have had to see him on TV, so I am trying not to hold too many high expectations against the kid. Kane, finished with 21 goals and 72 points in 82 games last season with the Hawks, while Toews finished with 24 goals and 54 points in 64 games. The comparison to Stamkos will likely fall to Kane, as Kane has the same kind of drive, so I would forecast Stamkos to be in the 65-70 point range, if you are looking to gauge him for your hockey pool draft.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rangers Sign Sjostrom

The Rangers moved one step closer to a full roster with another signing on Monday. The team announced that they signed forward Fredrik Sjostrom to a new contract, reportedly a 1-year deal worth $840,000.

Sjostrom, 25, acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline, played in 69 games last season, scoring 12 goals and added 9 assists (18GP, 2G with the Rangers).

There was obviously something that the Rangers liked about the Swedish forward, since they are bringing him back for another season. He hasn't quite filled out as a top-quality NHL forward, not particularly high on any pool lists either. With only 21 points last season, he doesn't rank that high in pool scoring. However, it's players like Sjostrom that can come out of nowhere and be a hit for a season or two, so you may want to keep an eye out for him for a mid-season pool transaction, but don't jump on the bandwagon too early, as it could also have trouble making it away from teh bus station.

Scott GomezMichal RozsivalHenrik Lundqvist
Nikolai ZherdevWade ReddenSteve Valiquette
Chris DruryDan Girardi
Markus NaslundPaul Mara
Brandon DubinskyMarc Staal
Nigel DawesDimitri Kalinin
Dan Fritsche
Fredrik Sjostrom
Patrick Rissmiller
Petr Prucha
Aaron Voros
Ryan Callahan
Blair Betts
Colton Orr

The 22 players listed above come at a fairly reasonable price, when it comes to Ranger spending. The cap hit for those 22 is only $54.7 million, still $2 million away from the cap ceiling. At worst, they should be adding one more defenseman to the mix to make the roster a full 23 players, which they could open a door to Tomas Pock or Bobby Sanguinetti for that honour. That could easily put the team in great shape come trade deadline day in February. The Rangers could have some lofty goals for 2009 and they certainly have the potential in their team to reach them.

Panthers Announce Bouwmeester Signing

Of course he does! Why the hell not?

Just an hour or so after finishing the Quiet Monday Rumours post, which I elaborate on some rumours that Jay Bouwmeester will be traded away from Florida this week, he goes ahead and signs a 1-year deal ahead of his arbitration hearing. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed with the press release, but we could speculate that the deal is likely worth $4 to $6 million for the year, which could be said as fair market value.

Bouwmeester, 24, was the 24th ranked defenseman in 2008, scoring 15 goals and adding 22 assists in all 82 games for the Panthers. His most remarkable statistic was that he led the league in ice-time at over 27 minutes played per game.

Cory StillmanJay BouwmeesterTomas Vokoun
Nathan HortonKeith BallardCraig Anderson
Stephen WeissCory Murphy
David BoothBryan Allen
Brett McLeanNick Boynton
Richard ZednikKarlis Skrastins
Rostislav OleszMike Van Ryn
Kamil KrepsWade Belak
Josef Stumpel
Ville Peltonen
Gregory Campbell
Chad Kilger
Radek Dvorak

Before Bouwmeester's signing, the Panthers had 21 players signed on for the coming season at a salary cap hit of $44 million, which should now skyrocket towards $50 million with this new signing. The Panthers also have some quality young talent on the cusp of taking some of the open spots in the line-up, which could sure up the team at a minimum price. Shawn Matthias, Anthony Stewart, Michael Frolik, Keaton Ellerby, Kendall McArdle and Michael Repik lead the charge.

Of course this Bouwmeester signing doesn't mean the end of the speculation about his playing future in Miami. This deal could likely put a monetary value on a deal and/or keep away certain suitors, if the deal has an expensive price tag. There is a good chance that the Panthers will dangle Bouwmeester through the season and try to get the best deal out there, while they try and remove the bad taste of the Roberto Luongo deal from their club history. If teams want the blueliner that badly, they will have to pay through the nose and the Panthers now hold all the cards again with this new deal. Well, the cards will expire next July, but they hold a significant value until then.

As for pool value, Bouwmeester doesn't climb the ranks any today. It could be argued that he can increase his value with experience and nearing his prime, but he is still playing for the Panthers going into October and they haven't done much to increase their scoring production this summer. In actual fact, with the loss of Olli Jokinen, they've done more to hinder it than improve it. Since the Cats aren't in the Sundin race, there isn't much they can do to help themselves out, except deal Bouwmeester for some quality scoring talent. They have already added Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton to the blueline mix, so they won't be too short of talent there if they do deal him.

Quiet Monday Rumours

I don't know about you, but I can't wait until the players finally hit the ice for training camp, the pre-season and inevitably, the regular season. October 4th is circled on my calendar, as that's the day when the league begins the season over in Europe (Stockholm & Prague) and we can finally put stories from the boardrooms and negotiation rooms to bed. Until then, however, we must plug away at what we have for hockey news and that's signings, trades, buy-outs and well, rumours.

I think if there is one player that could out duel Mats Sundin for the 'most anxious story yet to happen,' it would be restricted free agent defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester. Suffering in the sunbelt, the young defender (24-years old), has had a hard time making a huge name for himself, the way he should have by now, since he was touted as one of the great young prospects to be drafted. Sadly, the team in Miami never really materialized around him and he has had to settle for mediocrity in his career. This summer, however, it could all change.

Negotiations with Bouwmeester have been rumoured to be tumultuous, at best. The reports over the weekend say that he had rejected a huge long-term offer from the Panthers and the best likelihood will be that the team will trade him before it's all said and done. Saying that, the Panthers will likely ask for the farm for Bouwmeester, which agreeably, most teams will likely make that move, because Bouwmeester does have the value of a small farm.

Bouwmeester set a career-high in goals last season with 15, but his career-high in points happened a couple seasons ago at 46 points (he only had 37 last season). There is plenty of scoring potential for the young Edmonton native, which makes his potential move to a better scoring team a great pool interest.

As a restricted free agent, he is set to become one of the better paid defenders in the game as well, which some teams will have to do some creative bookkeeping to have him. I had seen teams like Boston, San Jose, Dallas and a few others, seemingly in the mix for Bouwmeester, which seems a tad silly for all three. None of them (at the moment) could possibly afford the big table offer that he'll want, which seems a tad fruitless. Unfortunately for teams that need a big salary (i.e. Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, Long Island, Columbus), they don't really have what the Panthers would be looking for in a deal, unless there are a ton of good picks available.

Moving away from Florida and back to the friendly (snicker) confines of Toronto, it looks like the Mats Sundin sweepstakes is the biggest domino to fall on the summer's transactions. Sure, there was a lot of talk that the bigger name stars of the free agent frenzy was going to set off a lot of moves, but that seemed to be exaggerated.

Teams like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto all seemingly have Plan B's in place, if they don't get the services of the big Swede in the coming days. Vancouver is looking at Antoine Vermette and Brian Gionta (rumoured, of course), while Montreal could go after Teemu Selanne and then Toronto will take just about anyone who has a heartbeat and wants a no-trade clause. Once the winner of the Sundin sweeps is declared, these Plan B's could fall shortly after, since we're already heading into August and GM's have an itchier trigger finger, moreso than years previous.

Also in the Plan B department, if your team didn't land Brian Campbell or doesn't land Jay Bouwmeester, then how about paying some possibly overpriced monies to defenseman, Mathieu Schneider, who will likely be the Duck voted off the island, due to salary cap concerns.

Schneider will be a cap hit of $5.625 million this coming season, but you do get a good chunk of talent for all that dough, it has to be said. If the Ducks are to unload Schneider, that will give them some more breathing room around the cap ceiling, which they have been staring intently at since the free agent frenzy began. However, moving Schneider may not be enough to quell the team's fear of going over the cap limit, but he is a good start.

Finally, there are very few other players making waves in the rumour mill at the moment, but some unrestricted free agents that draw some interest would be the newly bought-out, Glen Murray, Ladislav Nagy, David Vyborny and Marek Malik. There is some mild pool interest in these players, but not a lot, thanks to the good influx of young talent that has emerged in the league.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Morrisonn Arbitration Awarded

The Capitals and defenseman, Shaone Morrisonn, went to arbitration in the week and the 25-year old defender was awarded a 1-year deal that is worth $1.975 million.

Morrisonn played in 76 games for the Capitals last season, scoring a goal and added 9 assists for 10 points. His career-high in points is only 14 points and there isn't much potential to be better than that offensively, but his real pool value can come from the penalty box. He was only penalized for 63 minutes last season, but he has hit triple-digits before, notching 106 minutes in 2006/'07.

The signing of Morrisonn now brings the team to 22 players returning to the line-up, but the salary cap hit is larger than the limit at the moment. The salary cap number now sits at $57.5 million, $800,000 more than the salary cap ceiling.

Movements will have to be made to rectify the situation...

Bouchard Inks for Five

The Minnesota Wild locked up another one of their key restricted free agents on Saturday by locking up centre Pierre-Marc Bouchard to a 5-year deal worth $20.4 million.

Bouchard, 24, had a career-high in points last season with 63 (13G, 50A), which made him a pretty valuable player to the Minnesota Wild. He's finally turned himself into a solid hockey pool draft pick.

His deal now gives the Wild 20 players signed on for next season at a rate of $51.6 million, which gives the team plenty of breathing space for their final three players. They have made plenty of good additions to the team this summer, which should make them a big threat in the Western Conference in the standings. They have also made a few good signings that will help some players and there pool point production. Andrew Brunette, Owen Nolan, Marek Zidlicky and Marc-Andre Bergeron all have offensive upside, so this could be a good year for some of their top offensive players.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jackets Sign Two

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed two players to 1-year, two-way deals on Friday. Both forward Mike York and defenseman Aaron Rome signed deals with the Ohio team.

York, the more likely of the two to stay with the team, will earn $750,000 with the big club this season and far less in the minors. York played in 63 games last season for the Phoenix Coyotes, scoring 6 goals and 8 assists. As of right now, he'll figure into the side, but his production has dropped off pretty far that he will be on thin ice. He's not the pool candidate that he once was, so you may want to skip over him come draft day.

Rome, 24, a minor league defenseman, had 2 points in 17 games with Blue Jackets last season.

Avalanche Sign Svatos

The Colorado Avalanche avoided an arbitration hearding with Marek Svatos on Friday by signing him to a 2-year deal. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed with the announcement.

Svatos finished the regular season on the IR with a torn MCL, missing the last 19 games of the season. Despite his injury, he did finish with 26 goals and 11 assists in 62 games for Colorado, which wasn't a great season for the Czech forward.

He also has a history of being somewhat injury-prone, not having completed more than 66 games in the NHL in his three full seasons. This does reduce his pool value, although his playing 61 to 66 games is becoming consistent.

Islanders Ink Gervais

The Islanders made another key signing towards next season in wrapping up defenseman, Bruno Gervais, to a 3-year deal, worth approximately $2.1 million over the duration. Gervais, 23, was a restricted free agent this summer.

Gervais played in 60 games for Long Island, registering 13 assists. In a deep pool situation, Gervais may come into play a little more, but with only 13 points, he doesn't seem to have much pull. In a keeper pool, he would be a good reserve defenseman, as he does register the odd point, which is good when you're faced with injuries.

This signing now brings the team up to $41 million against the cap for 20 players and they are still looking for a back-up goalie for Rick DiPietro and likely a couple extra forwards for the long road trips.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sabres Sign Darche

An on-again/off-again forward, Mathieu Darche, signed on with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday (terms not disclosed). Darche had spent the bulk of his career in the AHL, playing in 440 career games in the minors. That was until last season, where he managed to get into 73 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 7 goals and adding 15 assists in the season. At age 31, he may not have his best years ahead of him, but with 73 games under his belt last year, he may find himself a little more accustomed to the big league game, which Buffalo is surely to count on. If he can rustle up some ice-time in Buffalo, he could be a 30+ point player.

Lack of Offer Sheets

Before the official start of the NHL's silly season, there was a lot of talk about the crop of restricted free agents that were going to hit the market on July 1st. In the same breath, you heard a lot about the potential of some of these free agents to sign offer sheets, a la the Dustin Penner fiasco of 2007. Amazingly, there has been very little action on that front and that little bit of action had only involved two teams.

First off, David Backes signed an offer sheet from the Vancouver Canucks, which was quickly matched by the St. Louis Blues. Backes has a fair bit of talent as a gritty winger and that was the sort of mucker that would have fit in nicely with the Keslers and Burrows of the team. Backes has pretty good speed and put up some very good numbers in the process (13G, 18A in 72 games).

In response to that signing, the Blues shot back at the Canucks by signing newly-acquired forward Steve Bernier to an offer sheet days later. Bernier, acquired from the Sabres, signed a 1-year, $2.5 million offer sheet, which was also quickly matched by the Canucks. Bernier has some pretty good size and some good hands as well, which made him a highly-coveted player on the restricted free agent list.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much it on the offer sheet side of the table. The free agent class was hyped to be one of the better ones, but there was lots of movement before teams could get their hands on them and there was also some defensive moves made to keep teams away as well. All in all, there isn't likely to be many teams that want to give up plenty of top end draft picks for one player. Building from the ground up is starting to be more appreciated throughout the league, which has a lot of teams keeping their picks to grow and develop top young talent for the future.

Who would you sign to an offer sheet if you were in control of your favourite club? Antoine Vermette? Marek Svatos? Jay Bouwmeester? Valtteri Filpula? Ryane Clowe? There's lots of good options out there, but they won't come cheap!