Cross Checks: Ian White

The spotlight shines brightly even in the offseason around the NHL. Christian Ehrhoff, James Wisniewski and the entire Florida Panthers roster have all enjoyed some moments in the sun as they prepare to try to make the best of new environs. But what about the under-the-radar guys, the players who may have quietly assumed new addresses but who may be ready to make a significant impact? Here's a look at 10 such players:

Alexei Ponikarovsky, Carolina Hurricanes

OK, so the big former Leafs winger has scored just seven times in his past 77 regular-season games and was a bit of a bust in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. But Ponikarovsky should find a comfort zone with head coach Paul Maurice, for whom he played for in Toronto. And Ponikarovsky has scored 20 or more goals (and once scored 19) three times in his career, so he has something to bring to a Carolina team that will take all the production it can get.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Colorado Avalanche

Given his injury history and uneven play the last couple of seasons, it's easy to forget that Giguere has collected at least 30 wins in four seasons since the lockout. He was, lest people forget, the goaltender of record when the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. At age 34, there should still be lots left in the tank, and, given the lack of durability for young netminder Semyon Varlamov -- the man tabbed by the Avs as their goaltender of the future -- Giguere could be asked to do a whole lot more than just offer mentoring and open the gate at the end of the bench.

Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

It's easy to overlook the arrival of the big (6-foot-2, 214 lbs.) winger, given all the other moves made by the Flyers this offseason. But if Paul Holmgren is right, people won't be overlooking the contributions of the former seventh overall pick in the 2007 entry draft. Yes, Voracek didn't become the player the Columbus Blue Jackets thought he would be -- has anyone in Columbus outside of Rick Nash become the player they hoped he would be? -- as he topped out at 16 goals in his three years as a Blue Jacket. But guess what? He's going to play with top-end talent in Philadelphia and get a chance to put that big body to use.

Anthony Stewart, Carolina Hurricanes

We must admit being a bit mystified that the Winnipeg Jets didn't bother to make a qualifying offer to keep the big winger in the fold, and we wonder whether they'll regret playing against him six times a year now that he's landed in Carolina. Admittedly, Stewart -- the 25th overall pick in 2003 -- has been slow to develop, but he did show some good net presence in Atlanta last season, scoring 14 times and finishing with 39 points. Five of those goals were on the power play and, like Ponikarovsky, the 26-year-old Stewart should get many opportunities to improve on those numbers in Carolina.

Andrew Cogliano, Anaheim Ducks

Another first-round draft pick that didn't show enough promise for the Edmonton Oilers, Cogliano may find Anaheim more to his liking. Right now, he's likely a third-line center behind Ryan Getzlaf and Saku Koivu but he can also play the wing. With a more talented cast around him, the 24-year-old may finally blossom after twice scoring 18 goals for the Oilers. He had just 11 goals a year ago but has never missed a game in four seasons in Edmonton, something the injury-plagued Ducks will be pleased about.

Ian White, Detroit Red Wings

No one is suggesting that White will replace the retired Brian Rafalski in the Red Wings' lineup, but White has more tools than he's given credit for possessing; watch for head coach Mike Babcock to take full advantage of them. White had nine points in 17 postseason games for the Sharks last spring -- the Sharks dispatched Detroit in a thrilling seven-game set in the second round -- and will be a nice addition to a Red Wings team that still has plenty of game left.

James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins

Will Sidney Crosby be back? How hungry is Evgeni Malkin? What does Steve Sullivan have left? In a city hungering for a return to contender status after two disappointing playoff seasons, it's a little bit easy to overlook James Neal. The big winger was acquired before the trade deadline from Dallas for Alex Goligoski, but, with both Malkin and Crosby injured, Neal never really found a groove for the Pens. He scored just once in 20 regular-season games and then added one more in a seven-game first-round playoff loss to Tampa. Look for a lot more this season from the big winger, who will turn 24 over Labor Day weekend.

Niclas Bergfors, Nashville Predators

Every year, Nashville GM David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz conspire to pull a rabbit out of the proverbial scoring hat. Two years ago it was Patric Hornqvist; last year it was Sergei Kostitsyn. Could it be Bergfors this season? The former first-round pick (25th overall by New Jersey in 2005) went to Atlanta as part of the Ilya Kovalchuk trade and was shipped to Florida at the trade deadline last season before signing with the Preds as a free agent this summer. Bergfors had 21 goals between New Jersey and Atlanta in his first full NHL season in 2009-10, including nine power-play markers. Look for him to get lots of opportunity in Nashville to make good on his potential.

Mathieu Garon, Tampa Bay Lightning

Although there were lots of goalies whose profiles might have been higher, Tampa GM Steve Yzerman went after journeyman Garon as his backup to Dwayne Roloson, who signed a one-year deal with the Lightning after a superlative effort in leading the Bolts to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals. Roloson will turn 42 before the regular season is a week old, and the Lightning will want to make sure he has plenty left in the tank for what most expect will be another playoff run next spring. That means Garon will have to shoulder the load for, what, 30, 35 games? The two netminders played together in Edmonton, and head coach Guy Boucher said in an interview that he expects them to form a strong tandem.

Roman Hamrlik, Washington Capitals

Talk to Washington GM George McPhee and he'll tell you that one of the main reasons the Caps folded against Tampa in the second round of the playoffs had more to do with the health along the blue line than it did players' efforts. With Tom Poti looking like he won't be able to play anytime soon and with Scott Hannan departed for Calgary, the Caps added some veteran insurance in the form of Roman Hamrlik. Although he is 37, Hamrlik can still log heavy minutes, as he averaged 22:16 a night during the regular season and then saw that number increase in the Canadiens' first-round loss to Boston. Hamrlik was particularly impressive the previous spring as the Canadiens advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in spite of a badly depleted defensive corps. As for a mentor for rising defensive stars John Carlson and Karl Alzner, you couldn't ask for a better guy than the classy Hamrlik.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Ian White wasn't officially ruled out for Game 2 on Saturday, but San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan all but did just that.

"At this present time I'd say no [he will not play Saturday]. He didn't practice today," McLellan said after Friday's practice. "He'll come to the rink tomorrow and we'll evaluate him. We'll put his well-being and health ahead of playing."

With White out because of a suspected head injury, the options for McLellan are either veteran Kent Huskins or rookie Justin Braun.

"I don't know that we're completely sure on that yet; we'll make that decision tomorrow," said McLellan.

Part of the issue is that Huskins has been out two months with an upper-body injury, although he did practice again Friday.

"That's part of the reason why we're still not sure who's going in or who's not," McLellan said. "I have to sit down and talk to him later today. But he's a veteran player who has played in a lot of situations like this, won a Stanley Cup. So it's nice to have that option as well."

If it's Braun, the Sharks coach has no qualms about using a rookie.

"This is a young player that we're very excited about in our organization," McLellan said. "We feel that he has -- and I don't want to pressure on him -- but that Logan Couture-type of upswing in his development. He's not a 17- or an 18-year-old. He's an older player that has matured and has had a chance to play a number of games with us this year. So we feel good about him being there. He had a real good year in the American League. He'll be ready if we call on him."

Bruan had 11 points (2-9) in 28 games with the Sharks this season and posted 23 points (5-18) in 34 games with AHL Worcester. He's got big-time offensive upside.

"For a lot of people who haven't seen him play, I think he's done an amazing job," veteran blueliner Dan Boyle said Friday. "He's a right shot, a big shot, a big body and he played really well for us. He's a guy on the outside right now because he's young, but I'm not nervous if he comes in."

Braun, 24, practiced again Friday and said the possibility of playing his first playoff game is exciting.

"I've been watching playoff hockey for years," Braun told, grinning ear to ear. "Last night was the first live playoff game that I've seen. I just try to get ready for every game so that doesn't change for tomorrow."

What did he learn from watching Thursday night?

"Just where they're going with their forecheck, I got a pretty good idea of what I need to do [to] break out," Braun said.

Heavy Minutes

With the Sharks going down to five defenseman on Thursday night, Boyle logged a game-high 35 minutes.

"I felt alright," Boyle said Friday. "My minutes were down last month of the season with Ian coming over. So the body wasn't as used to it as it had been prior. But I just had to be smart. I had to try and not jump into the rush on every play like I normally like to do. I just tried to stay back and break the guys out and be smarter."

Starting with a win

The Sharks had lost their playoff openers in the past three years, so it was nice for them to come to the rink Friday and not have to answer all those questions rehashing their playoff history.

"It's nice," captain Joe Thornton said. "Last year, we got off to a slow start against Colorado, and this year it's nice to get the first win under our belts, get everyone calm and get our legs underneath us. Now we can really hit our stride."

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Jarret Stoll's controversial hit on Ian White was a popular topic in the aftermath of San Jose's thrilling 3-2 overtime win over Los Angeles in their first-round opener Thursday night.

Stoll hit White from behind into the end boards in the second period, knocking the dazed Sharks blueliner out of the game. There was no penalty on the play, but replays showed there likely should have been a boarding call.

"I don't like it," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said of the hit. "I didn't like it the first time around, and I don't like it on the replay."

The NHL's head office in Toronto was reviewing the play.

"They should," Boyle said. "I don't know that Stoll is that kind of a guy but that's exactly what we're talking about and trying to eliminate [from the game]. The guy's head is this far from the boards, and you drive your forearm and elbow in there? That's what they're trying to get rid of. I didn't like it."

Stoll said he didn't expect a suspension since there wasn't a penalty on the play.

"He was a little low there," Stoll said of White. "I don't know what he was doing, if he was reaching for a puck or what. He was right against the boards, too, and he was a little low. I just finished my check on him, and it ended up pretty bad for him. I hope he's all right. You hate to see a guy get hurt, regular season or playoffs. I definitely wasn't trying to hurt him."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan was especially upset there was no penalty on the play.

"We saw a really good angle," he said. "The good news for us is that the league is looking at these type of things; they take it very seriously. And it will be dealt with. The bad news is we lost a very good defenseman that we count on. The rest of it is unfortunate because Jarret Stoll is a hell of a player. He ended up taking 20-25 faceoffs tonight and played 23 minutes. And we had to play with five defensemen. It's disappointing that it was missed on the ice, but it's in somebody else's hands, and we know it's a serious thing the league is looking at."

Stoll isn't a dirty player but that's the kind of play involving a head shot that the NHL is trying to weed out, so he faces at least a fine if not a suspension.

White, meanwhile, is obviously questionable for Game 2.

"We'll see how he is in the morning. He's not feeling real good," McLellan said.

Is there a more compelling contract negotiation this season than Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning?

How much will it cost to sign a player that will challenge for the Hart, Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies?


Contract talks officially began Nov. 9, and I suspect it's going to be a long process. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports are slated to chat again over the next week.

"We had an initial meeting with Newport Sports, just an introductory meeting," Yzerman told Friday. "But the one thing is, we're not going to regularly give updates on the process and where we are. We just felt it's the best thing for Steven so he doesn't have to read about it or comment about it every time. It'll take as long as it takes, but we're both committed to trying to get a deal that makes sense for everybody involved."

Wisely, neither side wants this thing played out in the media. The last thing anyone wants is to see Stamkos distracted by it.

So where does it go from here? How much is enough to get a deal done?

My guess is that in a perfect world, Tampa would love to do a Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane type of deal ($6.3 million cap hit), although Newport Sports, and who can blame them, might be thinking more along the lines of a Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million cap hit) or Alex Ovechkin ($9.5 million cap hit) deal.

Listen, Yzerman knows he has to pony up. But I think part of his sales pitch will be similar to what you've seen in Philadelphia, where the Flyers signed their core players to reasonable deals. The sales pitch is about icing a competitive team. Whatever Stamkos signs for, he basically determines the rest of the team around him. That's the thing about a cap system.

Regardless of what happens, it's going to be fascinating. You've got a big-time agent, a brilliant young GM and a rising superstar needing a new deal.

Doughty talks not begun

Well, you can't mention Stamkos and not the player taken right after him in the 2008 NHL entry draft, Drew Doughty, right? I wrote a few weeks ago that the Kings were drawing up different contract proposals for Doughty's camp. Talks, as far as I can tell, still haven't begun, but one thing I was told Friday is that the Kings at this point are leaning toward a short-term deal instead of the multiyear deals you usually see for these young stars; the reason being that the Kings are weary of the uncertainty of the next CBA. I don't think you can rule out a long-term deal, because, after all, it all depends on the money, but short term is where the Kings are leaning right now.

Iginla rumors not substantiated

Nice to see Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla with a hat trick Friday night, it's been a tough year for him. Trade rumors this past week involving the Kings spread like wildfire in cyberspace. Judging from what I was told by people in the know, the Flames and Kings never spoke, so it appears those rumors were just that.

One thing to keep in mind with all these trade rumors is that the Flames, as of Friday, have not once approached Iginla's agent and they would need to since Iginla has a no-trade clause.

Also, a Flames source told my Hot Stove colleague Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun that Iginla was told by the team he would not be traded.

Of course, stranger things have happened and, as I first reported last month, Iginla remains very much part of the Kings' wish list approaching the Feb. 28 trade deadline.

Should Iggy not be an option because the Flames insist on not moving him, then you wonder what else is out there for L.A., which has the most cap room of the Cup contenders. I think Patrik Elias or Jamie Langenbrunner could be options from New Jersey, as well as Marco Sturm of the Bruins.

The Kings have the cap room, and they want to add a significant forward if they can.

Savard's return raises salary cap questions

Great news that Marc Savard is on the mend from a concussion that threatened his career.

"He's cleared for controlled contact," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told Saturday. "He has a couple of more tests this week. Obviously he has to get back up to playing speed but he's past that first conditioning test which we had for him and that was a big hurdle. He's coming hard."

It's still unclear when exactly he'll return, but once he does, Chiarelli has work to do to get the Bruins under the salary cap.

"Yes, we're going to have to make a transaction or maybe two to be cap-compliant," he said. "I'm not naming any names, there's speculation on a lot of guys, but I've been pretty open about having to do it. Guys recognize that it's a business. I hope to do it in the least obtrusive way, but we'll see what happens."

He won't name names, but I will: Andrew Ference, Marco Sturm (back in December), Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. I think those are all possibilities. Ryder was always considered the most obvious target entering the season, but the one thing I'll tell you is that the veteran winger has played so well I think he's made the Bruins think harder about it. I'm not saying Ryder won't be moved, I'm just saying it's not the no-brainer it once was.

Goalies Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask? They're not going anywhere. The Bruins love their goalie depth and don't want to mess with it.

Sticking with Savard, interesting to see his comments Saturday regarding Colin Campbell. Savard also spoke with Campbell's son, Gregory Campbell, on Friday and relayed to him that there were no hard feelings whatsoever. Tells you a lot about Savard's character that his priority is the Bruins and he doesn't want any distractions as he makes his way back.

Markov being evaluated Tuesday

Star Habs blueliner Andrei Markov will see Dr. Tony Miniaci of the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday.

"They waited for the swelling to subside, they're going to get a more definite assessment of him," Markov's agent ,Don Meehan, told Friday. "Once they do that, the doctors will convene and determine what course of action he will take."

They've been waiting for the swelling to go down in his injured right knee to take a proper look at it. It's a huge meeting because it'll determine whether Markov needs surgery or can simply rehab. Obviously surgery would mean a much longer absence.

Canes hope White stays

An absolutely great trade in my mind this past week by the Carolina Hurricanes in getting defenseman Ian White from Calgary. They got the best player in the deal. Now the team hopes to have him longer than this season. He's an UFA July 1.

"I'd like to sign him but it's our team policy that we don't do that during the season," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told Saturday. "We'll deal with his contract when the season is over, just like the other free agents on the team. But I've been a huge fan of Ian White his whole career. He comes to play hard every night. We were really looking for a guy to play top-four minutes and we found him."

Rutherford actually reached out to the Flames in September, that's how long they've been eying White. Once the Flames signed top blueliner Mark Giordano to an extension in October, which along with other long-term deals on their blue line spelled the eventual exit for White, Rutherford phoned back to stress his interest in White. That's when talks really got cooking.