Yet ANOTHER Brad Richards Post (It’s a Little Different)

The ( ) are merely to explain the line.

Compliments to Mike Henn for challenging me  do this; even though it’s not perfect, I like it.

Now this is a story about how

My life got flipped, turned upside down (hip check)

And I’d like to take a minute just sit right here

I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called New York (Too bad ‘Melo beat me here)

 

In Prince Edward Island born and raised

On the pond is where I spent most of my days

Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool

And all shooting some rubber outside of school

When a couple of guys, they were up to no good

Started pounding faces in my neighborhood (It was actually one John Scott)

I got in one little fight and my mom got scared (Because John Scott murdered me)

And said “You’re moving with ya auntie and uncle in New York”

 

I begged and pleaded with her day after day

But she packed my equipment bag and sent me on my way

She gave me a $58.5 million and then she gave me my ticket

I put my skates on and said I might as well bank it

 

First game yo this is bad (Gabby is hurt again)

Drinking beer out of Stanley’s cups

Is this what the people of New York livin’ like?

Hhhmmm this might be alright

 

I whistled for a cab and when it came near the

License plate said “UH-BOOT” and had waffless in the mirror

If anything I could say that this cab was rare

But I thought nah, forget it, yo homes to New York!

 

I. Pulled. Up to MSG

And I yelled to the cabby “Yo, homes now the Stars suck!”

Looked at my kingdom I was finally here

To sit on my throne as the prince of New York

Free Agency in the East: Who Won So Far?

The 2011-12 NHL free agency period is only a few days old.  There was a bevy of moves made in a frantic first day.  I am going to focus on a five winners in the Eastern Conference so far.

Washington Capitals

The moves that the Caps made so far haven’t gotten a lot of publicity.  There was a draft day deal that traded their 2011 1st round pick (pick 26) for the Blackhawks winger Troy Brouwer.  As a Blackhawks fan, I think the Caps gave a lot for him, but Brouwer does the things that go unnoticed to the television viewers, he has the strength and will to win battles in the corners.  He may not live up to his offensive potential, but he’s a nice player.

The best trade the Caps made was the 1st round and 2nd round conditional pick for the 2012 draft in compensation for, eh, Semyon Varlamov?  Colorado is giving away assets in some stupid deals, this is worse than the Stewart/Shattenkirk deal last year.  I do like Varlamov, Neuvirth, and Holtby; so I believe Washington has some of the best young goalie talent in the league, but a deal like this you can’t pass up.  Because of this trade, Washington is probably going to have a top-5 pick in the draft next year.

And their best deal so far is the signing of Tomas Vokoun at a cap hit of $1.5 million, a steal if you ask me. You ask, “$1.5 million for one of the best goaltenders in the league?” Yes, it’s true.  Think about this as well, the Avalanche signed Varlamov for 2 years at $2.75 per year.  What?  Washington received a steal here, plain and simple and Vokoun will certainly be on all of my fantasy teams.

Other key players they’ve signed are 37-year-old puck-moving defenseman Roman “The Hammer” Hamrlik and two-way forward Joel Ward who gives them even better winger depth than they already had.

Boston Bruins

What have the Bruins done in free agency so far?  Nothing, and that’s exactly why they are winners.  Unlike the Blackhawks the season before, the help of a raised salary cap and the lack of expiring contracts, the Bruins are able to keep their core together.  They lost Michael Ryder who signed with Dallas.  In addition, they lost Tomas Kaberle, whose play in Boston surely means fans won’t miss him much

With Kaberle and Ryder coming off the books they have room to sign a couple more veteran players to take their place.  They could take a chance with a younger player like Zherdev, or an older winger like Samsonov.  With Savard hopefully coming back from multiple concussions, they have some of the best center depth in the league, along with Krejci and Bergeron.  I see no need to do this, but they could get a lot in a trade for any of the three.

The Bruins made a trade with Carolina, sending a 4th round pick and received defenseman Joe Corvo in return.  I think this is a  good trade for Boston and think that Corvo will pay big dividends this year.

Carolina Hurricanes

No big splashes here.  What is there to do in Raleigh, North Carolina?  I don’t have a clue….ok, I just looked up some things to do: apparently they have a lot of museums, there is an annual beer festival (I guess I could live in Raleigh), and many other things that every major city has like historic sites and shopping.  At least they get nice weather, sometimes, with hurricanes, hence the name.

So to the good, I got sidetracked.  The keys here are the re-signing of Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, and Chad LaRose.  Jokinen was re-signed at $3 million a year for three years, which is laughable, because Tomas Kopecky signed a four year deal in Florida for the same cap hit.  Jokinen contributes in both ends of the ice and is a 20-30 goal scorer with a healthy Eric Staal.  A couple free agent signings were two solid forwards who will give you between 15-20 goals, Alexei Ponikarovsky and the lesser of the Stewart brothers, Anthony Stewart.  Also Brian Boucher is a serviceable backup to Cam Ward who is still a top-10 goaltender in the league.

 

The Hurricanes also signed Tomas Kaberle to a 3 year $13.75 million deal.  The Hurricanes have better defensemen on their roster and a prospect would have been better playing this position instead of an overrated “puck moving” defenseman who refuses to shoot from the point.  I still count their free agency a win, but this is a stupid signing.

Philadelphia Flyers

Many would hardly consider Philly as winners this offseason.  When the first of two blockbusters was revealed, the one that sent Jeff Carter away, I was so confused.  I figured it must be so they can sign Ily Bryzgalov, who they traded for the negotiating rights of.  Well, I was right, but I didn’t think it would result in trading away Mike Richards too.

The deal for Carter netted them the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft (drafted C Sean Couturier), a 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft (drafted Nick Cousins), and Jakub Voracek.  The Richards deal gave them more in return; they received promising prospect center Brayden Schenn (drafted 5th in 2009 draft), Wayne Simmonds, and a 2nd round pick in 2012.  Yes, they gave up two experienced, talented, two way centers for a lot of prospects basically, but in the end this could still be a fair deal.  All three players received can contribute immediately.

Right winger Jaromír Jágr signed a $3.3 million deal and was poached away from the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Jaromír Jágr that tortured Philly for several years during the 1990’s is now wearing the Flyers sweater.  He’s been almost a point per game layer in his later years.  I see him having a decent season; something like Mark Recchi has had in Boston, but just a tad bit better.

The biggest signing was the 31-year-old goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9-year, $51 million deal.  Signed until he is 40, Bryzgalov is the goaltender that they needed the past few seasons.  Last year I said if Nabokov would have signed with the Flyers they would have won the Cup.  Well that’s not the case this time around with Carter and Richards gone.  This team will still make the playoffs and compete very well, but there will just be that lack of scoring.  Also with those two gone, Briere is very likely to play center, and it’s well known that his scoring decreases when he plays this position as opposed to wing.

Other moves the Flyers made were the signing of Maxime Talbot to a 5-year deal, he will fit nicely here.  Andreas Lilja will take care of the third pair on defense.  They’ve lost Darroll Powe, Ville Leino, and Daniel Carcillo.  They should be happy to “lose” Carcillo, although.  He was nothing but an idiot, he goes out and gets penalties on stupid plays, he has energy but is a worthless turd that was a Broad Street Idiot, not a bully.

Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff (not the Sabres)

Both players signed with the Buffalo Sabres this offseason.  There is a reason they are winners and not the team though, they were highly overpaid.  Leino inked a 6-year, $27 million deal.  Ehrhoff’s deal was longer, 10-year, $40 million deal.

Right now this hurts the Sabres because they have to shed some more salary (they are over the cap right now), which shouldn’t be too hard because they have some useful players and many teams are struggling to meet the salary floor.  They were reportedly going to be in the Brad Richards sweepstakes, and were going to meet with him and his agent.  But with the window closing for Leino to be available; so they chose him over trying to get Richards, who honestly probably wasn’t going to choose them anyways.

Leino is a winner in this whole thing because he is now making $6 mil-6 mil-4 mil-4 mil, 3.5 mil-3.5 mil (for each of the 6 years) and he gets to play his preferred position, center.  Leino was a centerman until he was 23 (now 27), then switched to wing.  Because he is now playing center, likely on Buffalo’s second line, he will be centering probably Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe; an uptick in points is possible.  He had a career year and a fantastic post season last year.  Really though, the main reason Leino is a winner is because he is not “worth” that much money.  He’s a decent penalty killer and camps in front of the net, but his defensive skills combined with his scoring ability do not warrant that much money.

Christian Ehrhoff’s bargaining rights were traded twice before he became an unrestricted free agent.  The first trade was the Islanders giving their 4th round pick in next years draft to the Canucks.  After talks with him and his agent, they realized they weren’t going to sign him, and traded his rights to the Sabres for their 4th round pick next season.  Now, Ehrhoff is a good offensive defenseman and is no slouch in the defensive end.  But his specialty is offense and the power play.  I have no doubt he’s still going to be very good and help this team win, but he was signed for 10 years; the deal will pay him $10 million in the first year, and $8 in the second.  This is more of a win for Ehrhoff because he gets most of his money in the first half of the contract and if he wants to he can retire, or be traded to a contender when he’s in his late 30’s.

The reason I picked the players as winners and not the Sabres is because this gives the team the inability to sign another free agent or two to give them a chance at a Cup run.  I do not see the Sabres as being cup contenders with this current roster, they will make the playoffs, but won’t make it to the finals.

2011-12 NHL Salary Cap

As many of you know the salary cap has been raised for the 2011-12 NHL season.  This can help many teams to keep players they want or to lure in free agents.  But with this it also means that the salary floor has been raised, and this can hurt several teams.  The cap last season was set at $59.4 million and the floor was $43.4 million.  This season both the cap and floor were raised; the cap is now $64 million and the floor $48 million.

Now when a salary cap is raised many fans believe that it’s a good thing.  For example it would have been a great thing for the Chicago Blackhawks after their Cup run.  They had to dump many players like Dustin Byfuglien, Adam Burish, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel just so they could stay under the cap and sign their stars to bigger contracts in order to keep their core.  But the thing that most usually don’t think about is the salary floor.  There are several teams that don’t make a ton of money struggle to meet this floor and still take home a profit.

One such team that had to make a few deals to reach the floor was the Florida Panthers.  There was almost a laughable deal that took place, the one that sent d-man Brian Campbell (from Chicago) and his $7 million cap hit to Florida for Rotislav Olesz and his $3.125 deal.  This was almost a necessary deal for Florida to meet the floor.  After the deal they still had about $24 million to spend to get there.  They then signed Tomas Fleischman and Scottie Upshall to identical 4 year $18 million deals, Tomas Kopecky, Jose Theodore, Matt Bradley, Sean Bergenheim, Ed Jovanowski, and Marcel Goc.  I believe Florida will put a better team on the ice than they have the last few seasons, but when you’re losing money that doesn’t mean a lot.  No one goes to sporting events on in South Beach.  The Miami Heat just had LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, and people still weren’t even showing up for the NBA Finals games.  You see the Marlins on TV and there is no one there.  No one goes to Dolphins games either.

I can solve the problem though, they should just trade and get Olli Jokinen back…
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Here are some other teams that should be taking on salary before the season starts in order to comply with the new floor; Colorado, Phoenix, Winnipeg, NY Islanders, Edmonton, Dallas, Nashville, and St. Louis.  Edmonton and Winnipeg are probably in the best positions to still make money.  Winnipeg has no problem they sold out of season tickets in about 12 seconds; it’s as if the hockey starved fans there forgot that the team wasn’t actually that good last year.

The opposite applies to many other teams.  The raise of the cap is a good thing.  It allowed the NY Rangers to sign Brad Richards.  The Kings to take on a trade with the Flyers to get Mike Richards.  James Wisniewski received a huge deal for a defenseman that doesn’t play a lot of defense.  This probably allows the Devils to re-sign Parise.  It will help the Ducks keep their beastly top line together.

With this increase it allows for role players to receive more money.  Several players just filed for arbitration.  Arbitration is when a player is a restricted free agent and they cannot agree to a deal with a team because they think they deserve more money, they will file for arbitration and it could lead to a hearing, often going in the players favor.  When they are “awarded” a higher salary the team they were restricted to must match that amount, otherwise the player can test unrestricted free agency.  The main players that have filed so far are the Blackhawks’ Viktor Stalberg and Chris Campoli, and the Rangers Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Michael Sauer.  These players will more than likely  win in their meetings and will be awarded more money.

There are more than likely a few other blockbusters to come as several of those teams mentioned above try to meet the salary floor.  Just remember because of the floor, some teams will be fooled into giving players like Tomas Kaberle money to be on their team, cough Carolina cough.  Glad you can meet the floor though.  Be on the lookout for high contract players to be traded.

Toronto. The City That Should Riot

Every major sport in North America has that one team that has such a loyal fan base despite an inability to win.  In the MLB it’s the Chicago Cubs.  In the NBA it’s the New York Knickerbockers.  In the NFL, up until recently, it was the New Orleans Saints.  And in the NHL there is one team whose fan base stays solid through thick and thin and continues to sell out their arena.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team with a storied past in the NHL.  They are one of the Original Six teams and probably one of the most beloved franchises in all of sports.  The last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup was 44 seasons ago in 1967, and they haven’t been back to the finals since, currently the longest drought in the NHL after my beloved Blackhawks won it all in 2010.  There was a recent resurgence for the team dating back to the early 1990s, lead by Doug Gilmour and the late 1990s and again in the early 2000s by Mats Sundin.  No doubt two of the best players of their eras, they still could not lead the Leafs to another Stanley Cup Final, despite making the playoffs 10 out of 12 seasons from 1992-93 to 2003-04 before the lock out.

One thing I’ve found funny in the recent six seasons of playoff-less hockey for Toronto is their rabid fan base thinks every free agent wants to sign with them; they are essentially the Knicks of the NHL. Brad Richards didn’t want to sign with them, and Steven Stamkos won’t unless it’s at the end of his career just for the novelty of playing for his hometown team.  I’m sorry, at this point nobody really wants to play there to win, they play there for money.

Last season, several players gave Leaf Nation hope.  Phil Kessel was the prized acquisition a couple seasons ago, but they gave up a lot for him.  Since turning 21, he’s logged three consecutive 30-goal seasons. James Reimer gives hope in the goaltender department, a position that has been a revolving door in recent years.  Experiments with Jean-Sébastien Giguère, Jonas Gustavsson and Vesa Toskala have left that position in a sinkhole.  Many young players currently on the roster show promise, including Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin.  Along with Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur had a career year last season.  I don’t see MacArthur playing as well as he did last season, but he is going to need to for the Leafs to make the playoffs.  I think there are two future stars on the blue line with Luke Schenn and Keith Aulie to go along with Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek.

Now let’s get to the acquisitions for the free agency of 2011-12 season.  Is Tim Connolly the center that Kessel has been waiting for?  Connolly can be a point per game player, but he’s had constant injury problems.  I see both guys around 80 points this year.

There were two other trades that saw defenseman Robert Lebda and prospect forward Robert Slaney shipped out for defenseman Cody Franson and winger Matthew Lombardi from the Predators.  The second trade brought in defenseman John-Michael Liles from the Avalanche for a 2012 2nd-round draft pick.  I like both trades and the signing for the Maple Leafs.  If Lombardi can recover fully from the concussion he sustained last year that made him miss almost the whole season, I see him having a good year alongside Kessel-Connolly or Grabovski.  Liles gives them the puck-moving defenseman they needed after the Tomas Kaberle trade; the only difference is Liles doesn’t pass up a shot like Kaberle does all too often. I really like Franson, as he’s a very solid defenseman.

So the question is, “Will the Leafs make the playoffs this year?”  My answer to that question is no.  They aren’t ready yet and the teams that were around them also made acquisitions that made them better.  Would I be surprised if they make it?  No, I wouldn’t be surprised, but Leafs fans, don’t hold your breath.