Saturday, July 19, 2008

Guess Who's Going to the Hockey Hall of Fame

As some of you may remember, I opined about a month ago that I would not be going to see the Stanley Cup when it made its way to Saskatoon with Mike Babcock. Well, his 2 days with the Cup came and went Thursday and Friday. He spent time at a Tim Horton's on 33rd Street which is mere minutes from where I work. He also headed down to River Landing, Saskatoon's newest downtown centerpiece, again minutes from where I work...and I didn't bite.

Yes, the Stanley Cup was in town but I did not want to see it by piggybacking on a Red Wings win. And that must have been the right decision as the hockey gods saw fit to grant me a viewing of the Stanley Cup that isn't tainted by a Wings victory.

I'm currently sitting in the Fairmont Hotel in Toronto after catching a seat sale from WestJet which ran over the same days that my girlfriend is here for a conference. And does anyone know what's in Toronto - besides Leafs fans? That's right, the Hockey Hall of Fame. And in case you were wondering how far away the Fairmont is from the's about a 5 minute walk.

We even got to sit together on the plane, even though we booked separately, and it was a direct flight on a 737 which means there was in-flight tv. Does anything more need to be said? They hockey gods want me to see that Cup. They need me to see that Cup. And I won't disappoint. I'm headed there in under an hour and won't be back until I've explored every crevice.

EDIT: Oh, and then I've got tickets to The Dark Knight at the IMax tonight. Overall...a pretty good day.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Colorado Avalanche 2008/09 Schedule Released

The NHL has released the schedule for next year and once again, the Avalanche are opening at home. In an interesting move though, they'll be opening it against an Eastern Conference opponent, the Boston Bruins.

My first thought was "Hey, that's something new and possibly interesting" but then I glanced down the list of games in October and thought "They're blowing all the Eastern conference games in October!" But fear not, because then I remembered that this year there will be games aplenty against the Eastern conference. Canadiens, Flyers, Lightning, Bruins, Sabres, Leafs, Islanders, goodness, did you know were this many teams out East?

The Avalanche will also close out the season against a non-divisional opponent in the Blues while playing 4 of their last 6 games outside the division. I guess this year we'll see just how interesting the playoff races are without an inundation of divisional opponents. And who knows, with less games against the Flames, maybe I'll start un-hating them.

Previously, the Avs had opened the season against the Dallas Stars, which meant I could watch the game with my Stars fan of an uncle and, if the Avalanche lost, pull out this gem: "Yeah, well who won the last two playoff series between the Stars and Avs?" Because you know, that doesn't sound childish at all.

And my Leafs fan of an uncle...well he's already a Leafs fan so I don't pick on him too much.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm Shocked! Shocked I Tells Ya!

Both the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News are reporting the same story today: Peter Forsberg is having foot troubles and may not return to the NHL. Hmm...when have we heard that before?

As soon as the season was done, I was calling it a career for Forsberg. I'm sure he appreciated it too. But honestly, what more can be done on his foot at this point? It couldn't be made well enough to withstand a dozen NHL games so how can anyone be hopeful he'll be able to withstand 82 games?

If he does attempt to stage a comeback though, I can understand. This sport is his life, his passion, his identity. It's easy enough for us to say he should hang 'em up. It's much harder for him to call it quits when he knows he is mentally capable of a full season, but his body just won't hold up for him.

Related Links
Forsberg sidelined for months
Forsberg's career might end because of more foot trouble

Friday, July 11, 2008

Puck Daddy Interviews Jose Theodore

Greg over at Puck Daddy just posted a great interview with Jose Theodore, seen to the right as Roberto Luongo's midget sidekick.

It's a fairly candid interview which I find characteristic of most of Jose's interviews. He never denied the struggles he had on the ice nor the off-ice troubles he got into - most notably with the Paris Hilton ordeal.

Sure, you can claim reporters tossed up softballs to him and never really "took him to task" but I don't believe that was ever necessary. If he had stood on the rooftops proclaiming: "I am a God amongst men and all shall bow before my goaltending prowess" - as some of his most ardent supporters do for him - then it would be a different story.

The one answer that will likely stand out to Avalanche fans is the response on whether Theodore felt he "owed" the Avalanche anything:
I owed them respect. They believed in me when things weren't going that well. If they thought it would have been a good idea to buy me out, they would have. But they didn't do that. They're a great organization, so I do owe them for getting me back on track. But I put the work into it also.
Amen to that. It wasn't just the Avalanche who stuck by Jose Theodore, Jose Theodore stuck by Jose Theodore too. And if it would have made sense for the team to buy him out, I have no doubt they would have done so. The Avalanche did it because they were trying to make the best of a tough situation and were lucky to have a guy who actively worked on his game rather than just collecting his paycheck.

I will admit it stuck in my proverbial craw when he said:
When I saw things weren't getting better with Cristobal, I knew there was going to be an opening. I didn't want to sign too quickly in Denver. I just waited for the spot, and that was my first choice.
But it only hurts that he felt Washington was a better choice than Colorado. Not that he owed it to Colorado to sign him with them but decided to bolt for Washington over a "measly" $2M.

In the end, the most controversial goaltender in the league is now another team's problem. I'm comfortable with that.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Svatos Files for Arbitration

I smelled this coming but didn't want to jinx it. Unfortunately I smelled right and Marek Svatos has filed for arbitration. Dater says his sources say Svats is looking for $2.5M a year. I'd jump on that no problem - if Svatos would ever play a full season.

In his first 3 seasons he has averaged 63 games, 24 goals and 39 points. Not exactly numbers that scream "double my salary" and I expect that is what an arbitrator will say as well. Unfortunately though, if you check out some of the salaries at, you'll notice names like Fernando Pisani, Sergei Samsonov and Lee Stempniak in that $2.5M range which could turn the tides in Svatos' favor.

This does prevent an offer sheet from coming in and also doesn't preclude the team from settling with Svatos before the arbitration date. The arbitration hearings are held from July 20th to August 4th so it could be some time before we know if Svatos is returning or not.

If the arbitrator does side with Svatos, Giguere should not hesitate to sign him. When he's healthy, nobody is as opportunistic a scorer as Marek Svatos is.

Related Links
Svatos taking Colorado to Arbitration

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Random Thoughts: Brought to you by Jack Handey

There's a lot of disappointment over the Avalanche's woeful offseason so far and rightfully so. As Jib points out, the Avalanche are looking a bit like Scrooge McDuck while MHH Joe is worried the team is headed down goon alley. DD prefers to poke fun at the Leafs for the moment which is definitely something I can get behind.

Myself, I'm soaking in a warm Saskatchewan summer so I'm kind of in "chillax" mode at the moment. Of course, the free agent frenzy was a different story as I had the tv on and computer open with about 300 tabs following the action. Once the weather starts turning towards hockey though, I'm fearful of what my thoughts on this team will be. But for now, here's what's going through my head.

Huet is not that great
One of the main things I've been seeing in comments throughout various sites is that the Avalanche are braindead for not picking up Cristobal Huet after Jose Theodore walked. I'll admit that when I heard Theodore was headed to Washington the first thing that popped into my head was that Huet could be headed our way. A millisecond later those thoughts were obliterated as the screen read "Colorado Avalanche Sign Andrew Raycroft"

I won't repeat what came out of my mouth at that moment but it wasn't good. Then I found out that Raycroft cost $800K while Huet ended up going to Chicago for $5.4M. And all was well. Ok, not entirely well but I still get a kick out of that being the last line of a wildly famous series of novels. Can you say "Lame ending?"

As much as I think Pierre McGuire is wrong for using Brodeur's contract as a benchmark for why the Huet signing is bad, he's spot on that they just handed out gobs of cash to a goaltender who has yet to win a playoff series. Let that sink in for a minute. Sure, Theodore has never gotten past the second round but at least he's saddled up his team a few times and got them past the first round.

And for a player who played hardball with a team, got what he asked for and then still walked, I have some questions about his character.

Tucker will be loved
As long as he can keep the douchery and whining to a minimum, Avalanche fans will enjoy Darcy Tucker. We grew to begrudgingly love Cody McLeod in a few short months, right? Well Tucker and McLeod aren't that different. They've both got ridiculous tempers coupled with gritty, never back down attitudes. Just dye Tucker's hair red and call them twins. Except one of the two can score 20+ goals in a season.

Naslund not needed but what about B-mo?
I've seen some folks mention they want Markus Naslund. Aside from that not being an option anymore...well, it was never really an option to begin with. Smyth and Wolski are the team's two top-line left wingers and let's leave it at that.

Besides, if we want an ex-Canuck, listen to Jibblescribbits and start rooting for Brendan Morrison. He'll come at a cheaper price and he can fill a need for depth down the middle. Because as we are all painfully aware of, Tyler Arnason is not a depth player. We're not even sure if he still plays hockey at this point. It actually makes me sad that I said it was good that the Avalanche re-signed him last summer.

Sakic did not hamstring the team
Joe Sakic not deciding his future has had minimal impact on the team's future direction. Yes, if Joe does retire (*knocks wood*) then there is a problem down the middle for the team. I don't know if Wolski is cut out to be a center at the moment so having Stastny, Wolski, Arnason and Guite doesn't fill me with a ton of confidence. The first and last I'm fine with but the middle feels a bit soft.

However, find me a top-line center to replace Sakic in the UFA pool and I'll give you a cookie. You could make an argument for a 2nd-line center within that group but there's no real standout that would have appeased fans. And no, Mats Sundin doesn't count since he is still undecided on his playing future.

And for goodness sakes, please quit saying Joe Sakic is being selfish.

Related Links
Reality check on Huet/Kolzig
Avs moves nothing major

Excited about Raycroft?

So I was briefly perusing the Avalanche's official site checking out all the late breaking news (hah!) and noticed the current poll asks which recent move Avalanche fans are most excited about.

So far, Adam Foote is winning by a comfortable margin followed by Darcy Tucker, Wojtek Wolski and John Liles respectively. Bringing up the rear is dark horse Andrew Raycroft. Of course the Avalanche also have the Per Ledin signing along with the recent Daniel Tjarnqvist acquisition but those are filed under "Other".

Now, I would expect the Raycroft signing to be dead last for sure. Yes, the "Other" category is making an appearance at 2.5% but does the "Other" option really count in a poll? If "Other" counted, then the people who are conglomerated under "Other" would be one of the primary options.

But again I digress so here's my question which goes out to the 62 people (as of this writing) who are most excited about the Raycroft signing: Why?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Welcome Back Wojtek Wolski

The Avalanche have re-signed Wojtek Wolski to a 2-year, $5.6M deal. So thats' $2.8M a year which is great as I thought he would be in the $3M to $3.5M neighbourhood.

It's a good deal for both the Avalanche and Wolski. Wolski has untapped potential and it's anyone's guess whether he can finally tap into it. If he doesn't, the Avalanche are only on the hook for 2 seasons. If he does, the Avalanche can re-up him in a couple years. And for Wolski, if he breaks out then he's in line for a solid new contract a couple years from now.

I'm quite happy with this signing and I expect nothing short of a 70 point season this year for Wolski. It shouldn't be as much of a problem since he won't be scared to death of making a mistake and having to ride the pine.

Related Links
Wolski Re-signs
Wolski signs

Red Wings Sign Hossa

(Marian Hossa in his former job as a bus boy)
The Detroit Red Wings have won the Marian Hossa sweepstakes signing the winger to a one-year contract worth $7.4M. So much for not paying anyone more than Nik Lidstrom, eh? I think that line of reasoning is a bit specious anyways. EDIT: Can't function this morning apparently. Lidstrom is getting 7.45 but I thought he was getting 7.25.

I actually had a brief email back and forth with a TSN personality last night in a similar vein. He - or she - said that Huet making more money than Martin Brodeur was ludicrous; as if that's the main reason that contract is insane. In terms of capabilities, yes it's crazy. But in terms of a market place, it's not a true comparison. Brodeur signed an extension 2 1/2 years ago and a lot has changed in the NHL market since then. That's why long-term contracts, while more or less guaranteeing job security, won't always guarantee that you get paid what you're worth based on the market.

Anyways, I'm getting a bit off track so back to Hossa signing with the Red Wings. Yesterday, the Wings picked up Ty Conklin for $750,000 to backup Chris Osgood. Most people expected Conklin to sign for at least $1M based on his run with the Penguins. Instead, he was cajoled onto the Cup winning team for a bargain price. Well done Detroit.

Then Marian Hossa, who I'm sure had about 8 kajillion different offers to look over yesterday, decides to head to the Cup winning team as well. If you're the kind of guy who wants to chase after a Stanley Cup, it makes sense for both sides. The Wings need to sign Zetterberg next year and he won't be cheap. This does nothing to change their cap hit for next year. For Hossa, he goes to a team that is virtually unchanged from the one that steamrolled their way to the Championship this spring.

And I guess if the Wings don't win the Cup next year - and God willing they won't - Hossa will bolt to the next team he feels is a contender.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Free Agency Final Thoughts

Well, I think that'll do it for the Avs today. They picked up Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker, both cast-offs from Toronto, and officially announced the signing of Per Ledin. So now we have to wait for a decision from Joe Sakic and the RFAs to truly see where this team stands for next season.

At the moment, the team is a slight bit weaker in goal for a much lighter price tag and have improved the toughness on their forward lines. If you count the signings of Liles and Foote yesterday as part of this, then the defense is solid and I would say within the top-10 in the NHL. Possibly top-5 if Liles wakes up and Leopold stays healthy.

Overall, I'm ok with how things went down today as I actually didn't expect any signings other than a backup goaltender. But it could have been better.

Tucker Train
Tucker, as much as I hate the guy, has a ton of heart and has some skill to go along with it. He can light the lamp while playing on the 3rd and 4th lines and he won't back down from battles in the corner. I absolutely love that style of play and that mindset so I hope it rubs off on some other players on the team. The one thing I hope doesn't rub off is his douchey behaviour at times. Being in Canada I get to catch a lot of Leafs action on CBC and must say that not many games go by where I don't shake my head and say "That f'n Tucker".

Raycroft Razing
As for Raycroft, I'm not terribly happy about the signing. But if he's going to play just 15 games and Budaj takes a step forward in his development, then the Avalanche will have a pretty good price to performance ratio in goal. Stephane Valiquette is still available as I type and I'm going to bemoan not signing him for the entire season. You've been warned ;)

Cutting the losses
So that's what the team has gained. But what did they lose? Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer, Jose Theodore and Andrew Brunette have all moved on as was expected. I'm ok with Sauer going. He had good moments but had some terrible moments as well. If you count either Foote or Salei as his replacement, it's an upgrade. Finger got paid way too much by Toronto so now I'm happy to see him go. Theodore got paid too much as well but then again, he was one of two goaltenders with some solid abilities on a thin market. And Bruno...oh Bruno. I will miss you. However I think letting him go was the right move for the team.

But what about X?
But what about Brian Rolston? Or Brian Campbell? Or Mats Sundin? Or Marian Hossa? All those big names are still in play so why aren't the Avalanche after them? The damn cap, that's why. And also, those players are going to be so overpaid it won't even be funny. Sundin has a 2-year, $20M offer from Vancouver while Rolston turned down a $4.5M per year offer from Tampa.

Cap snap
That leaves the Avalanche with a cap hit of $42.6M (thanks to for the quick updates!) which leaves $14M to spend on Sakic, Wolski and Svatos. If you think that Sakic signs for $5.5M, Wolski gets $3.5M and Svatos gets $2M, that leaves just $2.5M left to finish off the other RFAs (Weiman, Wall, McCormick and McLeod). So money isn't free flowing for the team by any means. And if Peter Forsberg decides to come back, money will need to be freed up.

That's why Giguere let guys like Theodore, Finger and Sauer go and got a bottom-dollar backup option and a reasonably priced Tucker. It was some pretty solid moves for what the organization was looking for and what they had the flexibility to work with cap-wise.

To quickly sum it up:

Darcy Tucker (2 years, $2.25M per)
Andrew Raycroft (1 year, $800,000)
Per Ledin (1 year, unsure of number)

Jose Theodore (signed for 2 years, $4.5M per)
Andrew Brunette (signed for 3 years, $7M per)
Jeff Finger (signed for 4 years, $3.5M per)
Kurt Sauer (signed for 4 years, $1.75M per)

Cap Hit: $42M
Cap Space: $14M

Remaining U/RFAs: Joe Sakic, Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod, Tyler Weiman, Michael Wall.

EDIT: Angelique reports that Tyler Weiman was not extended a qualifying offer so he's an unrestricted free agent. That's too bad as I was pretty stoked to have a Saskatoon kid playing for the team.

Remaining Roster Slots: ~5 forwards, ~1 defencemen, 0 goaltenders.

So what are your thoughts? Are the Avs better, worse or did they just toe the line? Weigh in on the poll or via comments.

Avalanche Sign Darcy Tucker

Sweet Mary, the Avalanche just signed Darcy Tucker for 2 years at $2.25M per year. What's with the Leafs buyout brigade to Colorado? Does Giguere just feel sorry for these guys or something?

Again, it's a move that made me shake my head and go "Srsly?". We just signed one of the biggest douches in the NHL (no Dion, you're still #1, don't worry) for over $2M per season after letting Andrew Brunette walk and sign for about the same price with Minnesota.

Grit and goals
One thing about Tucker though, he plays a bang-and-crash style but he's always been able to put up some pretty respectable point totals. But after 3 straight 20+ goal seasons, including a 28-goal performance in '05-'06, his output dipped to just 18 goals last season. At 33 years old, and with the style he plays, that could be an indicator of the start of a decline. Of course, you have to quantify that by remembering that he did play for the Leafs.

Tucker > Bruno?
But why let Andrew Brunette walk and bring in Tucker? I was ok with letting Brunette go on the premise of a new style of "run-and-gun" offence. Last I checked, Tucker was not the fastest skater in the world. Or even on the Leafs 3rd-line for that matter. But Tucker does have the ability to play on the 3rd or 4th lines in an agitator role. Brunette had stints down there and didn't fare so well last year.

Mix of goals and toughness
So along with some skill on their top lines with the likes of Stastny, Wolski, Sakic and Svatos, the Avalanche now have a formidable mix of annoying people to play against. Tucker, Laperriere, McLeod and McCormick are all able to get under opponents skin and can often drive them to distraction. Unfortunately they sometimes drive themselves to distraction too.

But the real issue I have is that I absolutely despise Darcy Tucker. And now he's on my team. Son of a....

Avalanche Sign Andrew Raycroft

Good grief. Let me go dig up that picture. You know which one I'm talking about. EDIT: Ah, there it is.

Hot on the heels of the Per Ledin announcement, the Avalanche went out and signed Andrew Raycroft to a one-year contract. I'm hoping the terms are something like -$2M. Yep, that's a negative sign there. I want Raycroft to pay the team to play for them. EDIT: TSN says it's $800,000 which makes me a bit calmer.

I'm going to think on this a bit more but at the moment, I'm supremely disappointed. When I heard the Caps signed Theodore, I thought the Avalanche might make a run at Huet. I guess they settled for 10th best.

UPDATE: Ok, I've thought a bit more. I had the oddest premonition yesterday of signing Raycroft. It was of the "Man, I hope they don't do this" variety of premonitions. Now that it's come true, I truly have to think whether it's a good idea or not. So give me a minute...ok, I'm back. No, it's not a good idea but it's not a terrible one.

Francois Giguere stated yesterday that he could be looking at bringing in a goaltender to back up Peter Budaj. Or at least I thought he did. When I went to re-read his comments I couldn't find them in the article on the Avalanche site. I'm 99% positive I read that so I'm not sure why they'd disappear. Maybe he realized what he said and what he did didn't quite jive with each other and decided to edit the article.

Either way, we knew there needed to be someone behind Budaj as nobody - except maybe DD ;) - completely trusts him with the reigns. I was willing to test the waters with Tyler Weiman even though I know absolutely nothing about how NHL-ready he is. I'm guessing he's pretty close to where Raycroft is.

UPDATE 2: Ok, let's look at Raycroft's stats and see if maybe I'm being a bit...holy crap he let's in almost 4 goals per game! He still managed one shutout in the TWO wins he got last season but he let in 63 goals on 509 shots for a whopping .876 save percentage. In the year before that as the #1 for Toronton, he garnered 37 wins (not bad) in 72 games while putting up a 2.99 GAA (bad) with a .894 save percentage.

37 wins is a lot of wins. 72 games is a lot of games. 3 goals per game is a lot of goals against per game. From what I see in the stats and what I remember of watching far too many Leafs games on CBC, the team did their best to win games while Raycroft did his best to lose them. I'd love to just look at the 37 wins by itself but you can't. 37/72 is just over .500 which we all know is not a great winning percentage in the league.

However, given that it's an $800,000 contract I can at least say they didn't overpay for his services. But it's close.

UPDATE 3: So who else could the Avs have gotten? Well, the Wings went out and stole Ty Conklin for $750,000 for the year. That would have been nice. It looks like Chicago is about to sign Huet for over $5M per year for 4 years. I'm ok not getting Huet for that price as I'm not overly sold on him. Jose Theodore got $4.5M per year over 2 years. Definitely ok letting that go.

But who's still left? As of 3:51pm ET, Stephane Valiquette, Ray Emery, Olaf Kolzig and then a slew of backup guys like Patrick Lalime and John Grahame. Out of the three I mentioned, I would have loved to see Valiquette come over at the right price. Kolzig would have been nice if he'd have been willing to assume a backup/mentor role. And Emery, he can take his attitude elsewhere.

So for me, there were a couple better options out there but not many. I think if Kolzig can't play in Washington or as a starter he's going to retire. I don't blame him one bit either. As for Valiquette, I guess it depends on what he ends up going for but color me unhappy that the Avs chose Raycroft over Valiquette.

UPDATE 4: I just realized that once again, Budaj is being paid less than his backup (based on cap number)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, after the initial shock wore off, I'm about 75-25 on this move. As long as Budaj plays solidly, then the Avs have a reasonable backup at a good price. In fact they probably have the cheapest goaltending tandem in the league. If Budaj falters tough, there's really nobody behind him to pick up the load. Maybe it's a subtle message from FG to Budaj that he doesn't expect there to be any faltering and Raycroft will see 15 starts and the rest will be entrusted to the lovable Boods. I'm curious how Budaj will handle the extra load. He took it all in stride 2 years ago in the infamous stretch run that ended in heartbreak. Can he do it again this season?

UPDATE 5: The Denver Post reports that Raycroft is a former teammate of Jeff Hacket. A-ha! The move makes a bit more sense now. Let's hope Hacket can work some magic and make him a serviceable backup.

Related Links
TSN Free Agent Tracker

Jose Theodore Signs with Washington

Jose Theodore has signed with the Washington Capitals. No more shall we see his flowing locks gracefully move as he follows the action from the bench. Nor will we be subject to him showing his true capabilities before foolishly deciding to play hockey in 50 pounds of equipment after not eating anything for 24 hours.

In all seriousness though, I believe Theodore is a decent guy and wish him well with Washington.

EDIT: It's a 2-year deal with terms not disclosed. Good call on the Caps part to not sign him long-term.

EDIT 2: Sportsnet reports it as $4.5M per year. Good luck to Washington because I'd like that franchise to do well but...boy, that's a lot of cash for Theo.

Finger Signs with the Leafs

Jeff Finger is off to Toronto on a 4-year, $14M deal. Congratulations to Jeff Finger as he is now a millionaire living in the big TO. But he still has to play for the Leafs.

Phoenix Snags Sauer

After losing a couple D-men in the Jokinen trade, Phoenix has signed Kurt Sauer to a 4-year deal worth $1.75M per season. Good for Kurt and I wish him well in the desert.

Avalanche Sign Per Ledin (Officially!)

The Avalanche have officially announced the signing of Swedish agitator Per Ledin. This was reported/rumored a couple weeks back but there was no official word from the organization.

I have no idea who this fellow is but he sounds like a tough grinder who can still rack up some points. Perfect for a fourth-liner.

Let's see if the Avs can turn around their luck with one-year contracts for Euro players (*cough*Hlinka*cough*)

Bye Bye Bruno

We all knew it was coming but Andrew Brunette is an Avalanche no more. Brunette has rejoined his former team the Minnesota Wild.

With the new wide-open offensive style that Giguere and Granato want to run with, Brunette was no longer a fit for the team.

Good luck, Bruno. We'll miss you.

EDIT: Apparently he's looking over the contract but is expected to sign.

EDIT 2: TSN is now reporting it which I consider to mean it's done as they typically don't report unless it's 100% confirmed.

EDIT 3: Per TSN, it's a 3-year, $7M deal. Congrats Bruno!

Related Links
Russo's Rants Free Agent Frenzy Page

Free Agency in 30

The day is about to officially start. Unfortunately TSN is not doing their extended coverage where they have to cover nothing but speculation for the first 2 hours. So I'll be stuck watching Wimbledon and they will break in with news as it happens. Frankly it's probably a better way to spend their day but I'm still disappointed. Mainly because I won't get to read Jay Onrait's blog as he makes fun of the TSN talking heads.

As for what to expect, I'm not expecting much and that was even before Giguere went on record saying not to expect much. I don't think he'll do nothing but last year was an anomaly when they signed two of the biggest names.

But still, I am excited not just for what happens with the Avalanche but also what happens all around the league.

Related Links
Avs not planning on making major addition
Giguere discusses Avs direction
Free agency last minute post from Jib
Free agency last minute thoughts from Dater

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