For almost a year, every time you mentioned New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise, someone else needs to mention Nashville Predators defensemen Ryan Suter, the top unrestricted free agents now available on the open market.
Although a long list of teams, like Carolina, Dallas and Colorado, are lining up to negotiate for their services, only a few are viable contenders (i.e., deep pockets) to gain signatures on contracts, like... Detroit, Detroit and Detroit!
The Red Wings seem to be poised to keep their transition period to a minimum and could quickly move back among the top four teams in the West with a solid core of young players plus seasoned veterans. Other top teams would like Parise, Suter or others, but their rosters are full of top-money players. Suitors include Pittsburgh, Philly and Vancouver.
The Penguins, our futures choice about a month ago to win the 2013 Stanley Cup, include “an appetizing core” of players, according to Minnesota’s Star Tribune – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury. Just how did this group fall to Philadelphia?
Perhaps Minnesota is utilizing the right strategy by signing second-tier free agents and trading away draft picks.A year ago, the Wild pulled off three separate trades to add forwards Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Darroll Powe before the team was ravaged by injuires. The Wild may be worth watching, especially if one is interested in a futures play at 50-1 odds or better despite the depth in the Western Conference.
Several teams made savvy business decisions to move up the hockey hierarchy, while others will soon be seeking new management thanks to a variety of questionable selections.
• Philadelphia traded power forward James van Riemsdyk, the No. 2 pick in 2007 NHL Draft, to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn, the fifth player taken in 2007. Both are young, talented players who may blossom in different environments.
The Maple Leafs always claim it’s hard to win because of the number of NHL players who hail from southern Ontario who want to play well in front of family and friends. For van Riemsdyk, he’s from the tri-state area (Middletown, N.J.) in a close-enough homecoming.
The Flyers later tabbed Scott Laughton with the 20th pick in the first round of this year’s draft. Laughton is a center in the Broad Street Bullies mold -- big, strong and rugged, who doesn’t mind taking a penalty or two. He can also score – like the game-winning goal in the gold-medal game for Canada’s 18-under team in the Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
• Pittsburgh dealt Jordan Staal off to Carolina for the No. 8 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, grabbing center Brandon Sutter and defense prospect Brian Dumoulin.
Stall reportedly turned down a 10-year contract with the Penguins. Now he’ll play with brother Eric in Carolina, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
• The Blues are still in the hunt for a defenseman to pair up with Alex Pietrangelo, 22, the No. 4 pick in the 2008 draft and the team’s best amateur selection over the past five drafts. That’s why this may be the final go-round for St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong. His best move was the hiring of Coach Ken Hitchcock, who suggested moving Pietrangelo to the left side.
You heard it here first! Armstrong will get fired, Hitchcock will get promoted (he is getting old enough to end the grind of an NHL travel sked, the Blues will make a Cup run unlike last season’s 0-4 second-round embarrassment to the Kings.
In addition, the Blues could lose the services of veteran Jamie Langenbrunner, a good off-ice friend of Parise. Could a Miami Heat style coupling of stars signing together come to hockey?
• Calgary: According to the Calgary Herald, “Flames brass (were) over the moon” with their top draft picks. I think not.
Not only did the team trade down seven positions to gain the No. 21 pick of the first round, they selected Mark Jankowski, an 18-year old from a minor Quebec league which is the equivalent to a mediocre high school league, then used their new No. 42 pick from Buffalo to land defensemen Patrick Sieloff.
Management calls Jankowski a “franchise center,” while Sieloff “felt like a gift,” on someone they rated in the top 20, but may have looked good in the USHL paired with a true talent in Jason Trouba, drafted No. 9 overall by Winnipeg.
Let’s face it, Calgary. They’re both players you can sign on the cheap, then hope they make the big club in 2-3 years. What a waste.
Hall Of Fame
A salute to Pavel Bure, Adam Oates (who was just named Washington Capitals head coach), Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin -- the more recent inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Four solid choices, all with lengthy resumes to warrant enshrinement.
However, for the fourth straight year, Dave Andreychuk, who captained Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup, was passed over,
Only one player – Brendan Shanahan – has more goals than Andreychuk’s 640 among players who are eligible yet not in the Hall.
In a 23-year career, Andreychuk’s 640 goals are 14th all-time and third among left wings. Another Hall snub went to Shanahan, considered a lock in this his first year of eligibility, but failed to collect the minimum 14 of 18 votes to achieve hockey immortality. Shanny’s time will soon come.