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.

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.

Free Agency Busts in the East

Free agency, it’s an exciting time of year for the avid fan. It comes just a few weeks after the champions have kissed the trophy and a city has celebrated. It comes just days after the NHL Entry Draft and just three months short of opening night.

As exciting as it is, it’s also a telltale sign of which teams will have the best chance at contending in the upcoming year. Some teams do absolutely nothing, others go crazy, yet still, some just mystify you with how much they seem to fumble in the offseason. I’m here to focus on these mind boggling blunders of the Eastern Conference this summer.

Before I do so, keep in mind that free agency doesn’t just mean who you signed, it’s who you didn’t sign, who was signed by another team, and what players and draft picks you’ve traded. For some teams, all they need is a tough guy or a goalie, for other teams, you might as well buy a whole roster. Without any further conversation, here are my five free agency busts of the East!

Toronto Maple Leafs

They really haven’t done much in free agency, which alone doesn’t mean too much, but unlike Boston, who won the Cup, they don’t really have anything going for them. For a team that finished 10th in their conference, they haven’t seemed to want to get better. The only moves truly worth noting are the signing of Tim Connolly and Clarke MacArthur. With James Reimer in net, and Jonas Gustavsson as his backup, Toronto seems to feel secure with their goaltending, I could argue against that, but I’ll simply say, “fair enough.”

Moving onto the forwards, I’ve already mentioned MacArthur and Connolly, which are decent pick ups, but they just don’t have any true star players. Since I went there, the names there aren’t that bad at all, but no one truly sticks out. There is no real Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, or Ilya Kovalchuk on this team. I can give them a break as they were one of the many teams lobbying for Brad Richards, but that’s still no true excuse. When it comes down to it, Toronto really could’ve used some room up front and there were definitely more than enough offensive talents out there. They have about $8.6 million in cap space (Capgeek.com), which is more than enough to land you a solid top six forward.

Toronto is relatively adequate with their defense, Dion Phaneuf heads this group and truly sticks out. They also have Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles. Toronto really should’ve tried a little bit harder to make improvements to their team. Even with the most of the offseason to go, Toronto just does not seem like they want to win and seems to be stuck in mediocrity.

New York Rangers

This is one that is bound to get some criticism. Yes, they signed Brad Richards, but is he really worth that much? For another team that seems to dwell in mediocrity, you’d expect much more than just one big signing. Each team plays with twelve forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies, not one Brad Richards.

The Rangers might just be the biggest free agency bust of the year. They signed Brad Richards, but Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle, Michael Sauer and Ryan Callahan have all filed for salary arbitration. Usually, deals are struck before arbitration is reached, but not always. The one saving grace in all of this is that even after signing Brad Richards, they have roughly $16 million in cap space (CapGeek.com).

Now, they have some time to figure this all out, and if they can strike a deal with Callahan and Dubinsky at least, I may be able to forgive them for their terrible start to free agency. The problem is that they still need to add a couple more defenseman to fill their roster out even if they re-sign Sauer. They’re just another team that hasn’t really tried to fix their problems and looking towards one player won’t help them out.

Philadelphia Flyers

This one is just weird. Remember when I said some teams just mystify you, Paul Holmgren has made his team the one to do that this year. I don’t understand why sending away one of your alternate captains and your captain is a good idea. Sending one is excusable, but two of three, what are you thinking?!

However, the Flyers have made some nice pick ups. Signing Ilya Bryzgalov is probably one of the best moves by any team this offseason. This doesn’t excuse them from the bust category though. After all, they’ve lost or traded away about a third of their team.

As of today, the Flyers no longer have Ville Leino, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Sean O’Donnell, Brian Boucher, Dan Carcillo and Darrol Powe. Not every single one of those players is vital to a winning team or even a household name, but you’re talking about losing a third of the roster.

Guys like Powe, Carcillo and O’Donnell are mainly role players and are replaceable, but it’s hard to justify sending away both Carter and Richards. Yes, they Flyers did sign Jaromir Jagr and got Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek for Carter and Richards, but it’s really hard to say they’ve improved their team much, if at all.

Tampa Bay Lightning

I put Tampa Bay on my list because, like Philadelphia, I feel that they haven’t done enough to keep their team or make it any better. In particular, they have yet to sign Steven Stamkos. There seems to be some buzz about possible offers, but no solid information yet. This isn’t quite the end of the world, but if they want to remain a contender it is a must.

They’ve also lost some strong forwards in Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim. Not only that, but they have only 10 forwards on their roster if you include Stamkos. The Lightning have some grit to their lineup, but I think they need just a little bit more finesse and from someone who can play a top six forward position. Holding about $15.5 in cap space (CapGeek.com), Tampa Bay can still have a great offseason. To do this they will need to re-sign Stamkos and fill up their holes at forward, but so far they just haven’t done it yet.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils really haven’t done much at all this offseason, which is part of the reason I have them on this list. This one isn’t as simple as the rest, the Devils missed the playoffs last year, but they also had one of the best runs by any team last year. From the start, you can’t exactly say they are a horrible team. Although, Ilya Kovalchuk has handicapped them a bit with his monster contract.

With that in mind you don’t expect them to make many moves, but you expect more than almost nothing at all. The main reason I am including the Devils is Zach Parise. Unfortunately, Parise missed almost all of last year with an injury, otherwise the Devils could’ve saved themselves from such a hellish start to their season. I believe Parise is an absolute necessity to keeping this team afloat. As with Stamkos, Callahan, and Dubinsky, it is early in the offseason and these players will all sign soon enough, but you can’t wait around forever.

The Devils are a team that even though they struggled last year, they had it rolling from about January to March and were almost unstoppable. Prior to the offseason announcement of the raising of the salary cap, things looked to be quite rough for New Jersey this year. Call it a resurrection of sorts for the Devils. They sit just under $8 million cap space left (CapGeek.com), which should be enough to sign Parise, but they still will need to roll with a couple scratch players to fill out their roster and one more forward.

They still might want to make some moves to give them breathing room, but it shouldn’t be hard at all for them to do so. With a signed Parise, the Devils won’t have any true issues, but it would be nice to see a little bit of shuffling by them as well.

It’s not to late for any of these teams to turn things around as it is early in the offseason and free agency isn’t even a week old. This is time that is most essential to maintaining a solid team or fixing the sometimes gaping holes that exist. If you can’t make it through the offseason, you’ll be hitting the driving range come mid-April, and trust me, you don’t want that.