Monday, June 30, 2008

The Free Agent Frenzy Is Near

In a mere 24 hours the gates will lift and the NHL's annual free agent frenzy will begin. What does that mean for everyone? Well, if you are lucky enough to live in Canada, you get to watch endless speculation by the TSN talking heads while following along on Jay Onrait's live blog as he makes fun of his co-workers. And of course you get to do that while sitting in your underwear on the couch because tomorrow is Canada's birthday. The little guy is growing up so fast.

If you're in the US, you can follow along on TSN's website along with their handy free agent tracker. They tend to get the breaking news up quickly and only if it's 100% confirmed. If you're the informed rumor loving type, Spector and The Fourth Period have you covered. If you're the ill-informed rumor mongering type, you know where to go (but hey, we've all gone there once or twice).

So what does Giguere currently have on his grocery list? Well, I don't know as I haven't talked to him for a little while (ie. ever) but I know what I'd be looking for if I were him.

If Joe Sakic were to do the unthinkable and retire, that leaves the team with Paul Stastny as the #1 center (good) and Tyler Arnason as the #2 (bad). Of course, T.J. Hensick could sweep into camp and take over the #2 slot but he just doesn't seem ready for that many minutes at this point.

Since there isn't an abundance of centers on the market, I would love to see Giguere pull a swap that would send Arnason out of town and bring in a 2nd-line center. I shudder to think at what he'd have to package up to get that sort of return though.

I'm pretty happy with the wingers on the team. Assuming Wolski and Svatos get signed that's a left-wing lineup of Smyth, Wolski and McLeod. Cody McCormick played left wing for most of last season so could fill in that fourth slot. Then on the right you've got Hejduk, Svatos, Jones and Lappy.

Well, after the signings of Liles and Foote, the defense is pretty well locked up. Giguere could be trying to make a move to bring in the uber-coveted Brian Campbell but I think that's unlikely. As for Wade Redden, I'd love to snag him but Giguere would need to move out someone like Clark or even Hannan to make room both roster and salary-wise.

With Jose Theodore all but gone it would appear that Peter Budaj is the presumptive #1 with Tyler Weiman the favorite to back him up. Admittedly that doesn't fill me with a sense that the Cup will be coming home. However it's not a terrible option either. Budaj has shown to be a solid goaltender during extended runs and I'm getting more comfortable each day with giving him a shot.

The other options out there include names like Ray Emery and Andrew Raycroft, both of whom I wouldn't touch with 100 foot poles. If Giguere were to bring in Ty Conklin at a reasonable price, I certainly wouldn't cry about it but I must admit, I'm itching for Weiman to get some NHL action.

So what you're trying to say is...?
Which brings us back to what I think Giguere should do. I'm going to go on the presumption that Sakic comes back just to make things easier. I think if Giguere can package up Clark and Arnason for a return of draft picks, he should go after Redden. Forget about Campbell, Redden is the guy at the top of my defensive list. He may be older and not as fancy with the puck but he can still break guys out of the zone and is very responsible defensively.

That would leave Stastny, Sakic, Hensick and Guite down the middle which I'm very comfortable with. It would also leave the team with Foote, Redden, Hannan, Liles, Salei and Leopold on the back end. I've got to say, that's a squad that could pull a deep playoff run out of Budaj.

The best part is, I am fully confident that he will do something even smarter than what I'm suggesting.

Related Links
Free Agency - Part 1 from Jib
The Free Agency Countdown Begins
Giguere talking today and Dater's free agent ideas

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Liles, Foote Re-sign with the Avalanche

(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
TSN is reporting that John-Michael Liles and Adam Foote have re-signed with the Colorado Avalanche. The terms for Liles are believed to be 4-years at around $4 million per year while Foote is on a 2-year deal at $3 million per year.

I was a bit surprised to learn of the signings. I was actually about to make a post questioning the labeling of Jeff Finger as a "puck-moving defenseman" in Darren Dreger's latest blog when this popped up on the TSN front page. After a dramatic double-take, I decided the signings were a bit more important to cover.

John "The Model" Liles
Liles was a question mark heading into free agency for the Avalanche. He didn't have a great year offensively but most - including myself - felt his defensive game improved significantly. There was a bit of trepidation that he would sign elsewhere and we'd be left with Kyle Cumiskey as our next great hope for an offensive d-man.

The one thing Liles needs to work on is being the powerplay quarterback he is expected to be. Last season he put up 20 points (5G, 15A) on the powerplay. While those aren't horrible numbers, they are not entirely what I'd expect from the #1 D-man on the #1 PP unit. And that's taking into account how ineffective the Avalanche powerplay was last season.

It was believed that he could sign in the $4-$5 million per year neighbourhood with another team. I think it could have easily been $5M so I'm happy to have him back with a $4M price tag. As long as he keeps improving.

Adam Foote brought in a huge veteran and physical presence at the trade deadline last year. The Avalanche defense had been lauded as a bit soft even with the acquisition of Hannan. However when Foote arrived - and Ruslan Salei for that matter - things turned around quickly. When Adam Foote is on the ice he is angry. It doesn't matter who he plays against, he skates around with a look of hate on his face at all times. I love it!

He is getting up there in age but a 2-year deal is just fine by me. People claim he lost a step or two lately but it's not like he was ever Pavel Bure or Kyle Cumiskey. Whoever thought you'd put those two in the same sentence.

I'm very happy to have Foote back not just for nostalgia sake but for the Chuck Norris mentality he brings to his game. That's right, Footer only has two speeds: skate and kill.

Defensive Line
So where does this leave the Avalanche's defensive line? Full actually. Liles, Clark, Hannan, Salei, Foote and Leopold are now all under contract for next season leaving between zero and one slots available. That one extra slot, lovingly known as the "press box slot", could be filled in by re-signing Jeff Finger but I fully expect him and Kurt Sauer to hit free agency to go somewhere where they will play every night. Yes, yes, Leopold will be injured two games into the season and they can take his spot. Ha ha ha ;)

The Cap
This puts the Avalanche's current defense at a cap hit of about $20M at the moment. Is it a $20M squad? We'll have to wait for the rest of the teams to finalize their rosters to adequately judge that. At the moment, I'm mildly skeptical with a healthy dose of optimism.

This leaves the team with around $37M in total commitments leaving them about $19M to finish off the forwards and deal with the goaltending situation.

If you still believe Sakic is coming back, which I do, then the team is looking at about $14M for the rest of the squad which includes locking up RFAs Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski. That doesn't leave a ton of space so don't be looking for a big free agent splash like last year.

Kyle Cumiskey
Of course, where does this leave Kyle Cumiskey. He's essentially Liles with a babyface and faster wheels. He's toiled down in the AHL for the last couple seasons with a few stints with the big club. When he was up, he was impressive with the caveat that we forgave his defensive errors to a certain degree because he was young and inexperienced.

Well, initially I was going to bemoan a soft defense because Foote had yet to sign. Now that Foote has signed I'm happier with the toughness of the D and actually hope Cumiskey doesn't make the team out of training camp is it would mean a lot of press box viewings and not a lot of action.

Relax much?
There was some hand-wringing going on over the lack of updates from the Avalanche camp. What people often forget is that this team is like the CIA when it comes to giving out information. I was surprised we were as in the loop on the Theodore situation as we were. But after signing two key defenseman to some pretty solid contracts, are people ready to calm down yet? Probably not.

Related Links
Avalanche Re-sign Liles
Avalanche Re-sign Foote

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Report: Theodore to test the free agent frenzy

Just as I was about to leave for a day of touring San Francisco I thought I'd check my feeds one more time. I must have had a premonition as Adrian Dater just put up a quick post on his blog that talks between Theodore and the Avalanche appear to have broken down. So it looks as if Jose Theodore will test the free agent market come July 1.

So at the moment, it looks as if Peter Budaj will come into training camp with the #1 status and Tyler Weiman and Jason Bacashihua will battle for the backup position. I don't see FG taking a chance on some of the available goaltenders such as Ray Emery or Marc Denis. Of course Denis does have ties to the Avalanche but how many trouble cases does this organization need to take on at this position?

I, as am sure many others are, am curious for both what the Avalanche offered and what Theodore and his agent, Don Meehan, think they're going to get. He may have bolstered his status somewhat in the last half of the season but that doesn't wipe out the two seasons before that where he was less than mediocre.

Related Links
Theodore about to test free agency

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Avalanche Extend Qualifying Offers to Four; Continue Talks with Theodore

We finally get to hear about the Avalanche's qualifying offers! Said offers had to be in today for all restricted free agents to retain the rights to them and the Rocky Mountain News reports the players extended offers were: Marek Svatos, Wojtek Wolski, Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod.

The one notable missing off that list...Tyler Weiman. Maybe I feel more invested in him as he's from Saskatoon but I really like the kid. Sure, I've never actually seen him play more than 20 minutes but I saw him sit on the bench a few games. He seemed to do it quite well.

But then once I started checking out the RFA situation, I noticed QOs weren't extended to Jason Bacashihua or Michael Wall either. That leaves Peter Budaj as the only goaltender under contract at the moment.

The Avalanche continue talks with Jose Theodore but talks don't mean squat until the contract is signed. I don't get the impression that they expect Delmas to step in right away. So my only question is: assuming Theo gets re-signed, who's going to play goal in Lake Erie? And if Theo doesn't get re-signed, the question gets an addendum of "who will back up Peter Budaj?"

I'm guessing QOs to Weiman and Bacashihua simply haven't been announced yet and Wall is going to be the odd man out. Unless FG was completely asleep at the switch which is as likely as me hitting a hole in one a bum knee. Even Tiger couldn't do that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I leave for one day...

I leave for one day and all hell breaks loose. Ok, not all hell but maybe a tiny squeak of lava from a festering volcano.

Scott Parker was re-signed, Johnny Boychuk was traded, Marty Sertich was signed and Joe Sakic will delay his decision until after free agency starts. So, in order, I'll say: ok, whatever, who cares and sweet holy mother of pearl!

I'm a bit surprised at Super Joe delaying his decision this long and am starting to have doubts on my bold assertion that he will definitely be back next year. If he needs to take this long to decide and is delaying long enough that it could very well impact the team's future, I'm possibly maybe sort of starting to have tiny doubts.

In another startling piece, Andrew Brunette has not even been contacted by Francois Giguere. That's actually a bit shocking. Bruno has been a great player and, as far as I can tell, a great teammate so to not extend him a courtesy call is a bit...well...discourteous.

On the Drew Remenda Sports Show the other night - yes, our sports talk radio show has the Sharks color guy as the lead - he stated that if he was the GM any other team in the NHL, one of the first guys he'd be calling would be Andrew Brunette. Of course, he's not the GM of any other team but the point still stands. I'm tilting my head curiously in FG's direction over this one. I'm sure he cares.

And in case anyone is wondering where I am, I'm in San Francisco for a couple days. A conference on cloud computing tomorrow and then a day to explore the city after that. So I'm in a full-on geek mode starting

Related Links
Avalanche Sign Parker, Sertich; Acquire Hendricks
Still no contact with Bruno and the messy Sakic situation
Sakic will delay decision to retire (I'd reword that headline to "whether or not to retire" - unless they know something we don't)
What's he doing?
Super Joe not in a big hurry

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Avalanche Trade Brad Richardson

I have to run get my precious locks cut but I spotted on Jori's blog that the Avalanche traded Brad Richardson to LA for the 61st pick.

We all saw the writing on the wall for Richardson and I'm actually glad to see him go to LA. He was never able to find a permanent home here but I think he'll do well with the Kings squad.

Jori's also been keeping tabs on the draft which resumed today at 9 am EST time. Otherwise known as "before I wake up on Saturday"

Friday, June 20, 2008

Columbus Trades the Avalanche's Pick

The Columbus Blue Jackets just traded the pick they received from the Colorado Avalanche in the Adam Foote trade to the Philadelphia Flyers as part of a deal for R.J. Umberger.

So in the A-to-B-to-C line of things, we received Adam Foote and Columbus received R.J. Umberger. Hmm...I'm still ok with the deal.

Alex Tanguay Traded to Montreal Canadiens

It was just announced that Alex Tanguay has been traded to Montreal along with the fifth-round pick in exchange for Montreal's first-rounder (25th overall) and a 2nd-rounder from '09.

Sure he's not an Avalanche anymore but come on, you still have to feel a bit invested him ;)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Two PHWA Members Voted Quenneville as the Top Coach

Joel Quenneville with the Jack Adams trophy
In further proof that being part of a professional writing organization does not mean jack squat, our beloved former-coach Joel Quenneville received two first place votes for the Jack Adams award.

Maybe one of them was the same guy who tried voting Sidney Crosby onto the All-Star a right-winger.

Thanks to Mirtle for keeping us abreast of how the voting went for each of the awards last night.

And thanks to Tapeleg for giving some excellent suggestions on making the awards ceremony better than a preschool awards show.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ian Laperriere Receives Father of the Year Award

Our beloved Lappy was an honoree at the 2008 Father of the Year Awards put on by the American Diabetes Association and the Denver Father’s Day Council.

Seriously, how could you not like this guy?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NHL Entry Draft Order Released - Avalanche Pick 50th

The NHL has released the entry draft order (PDF) and, as we all knew, the Avalanche's first choice will come midway through the second round at #50.

Do I want a first-round pick for this team? Yes. Do I lament losing it for the Adam Foote trade? No. Adam Foote helped propel this team into the playoffs and showed some of the youngsters on the squad what it meant to be a determined and gritty player. I wish the lessons had lasted longer but it was invaluable first-hand experience.

The Avalanche tend to have mixed sucess with first-round picks while finding some gems in later rounds. So I'm holding on hope for that to continue this year or for Giguere to pull of a shrewd trade for an early first-rounder. And by "shrewd trade" I mean a controversial trade which will re-ignite the blogosphere for a few days.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Guess Who Ain't Goin' to See the Stanley Cup?

Mike Babcock is from Saskatoon. I live in Saskatoon. Mike Babcock's team won the Stanley Cup. Each member of the Cup winning team gets their own personal time with the Cup. See where this is going?

I've never seen the Stanley Cup up close and personal but I never thought my first good opportunity would come at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. It seems like some sort of sick, cruel joke.

I know Babcock will be coming here with the Cup to show it off.

And I know I won't be going to see it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dater: Why Hockey Rules the NBA

I've been busy lately so updates have been non-existent. That will change in a few weeks but in the meantime, check out this most excellent post by Adrian Dater: Why Hockey Rules the NBA

Nothing more can be said.