Cross Checks: Matt Carle

NEW YORK -- Of the many memorable hours leading up to the epic gold-medal game at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 between Canada and the United States, this is one that has stayed with us.

It was a conversation with then-U.S. associate GM David Poile the day before that game.

He had spoken earlier in the process about the importance of the Olympics, specifically the impact a strong showing might have on future generations of U.S. players. About how the 1980 Miracle on Ice team became a beacon for a generation or more of American players as well as -- to a lesser degree -- the U.S. team that defeated Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey championship.

As the gold-medal game approached, it was hard not to be swept up in the emotion of what lay ahead.

“I don't think anybody knew how good we'd be. We didn't know how good we'd be,” Poile said that Saturday. “Let's call it like it is.”

The Americans would be denied a shot at Olympic immortality by the slimmest of margins, a Sidney Crosby goal in overtime, from a bad angle at that.

We were reminded of the legacy -- or at least the potential legacy -- of that team Saturday, when we were swept up once again in the quest for Olympic glory as Poile was formally announced as GM of the U.S. team for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Part of the charm of the Vancouver team was the fact it was the youngest team in the tournament. As GM, Brian Burke was fond of repeating that no one gave the Americans a spit of a chance to earn a medal, let alone battle for gold.

No question the dynamics will be dramatically different in Sochi on a host of fronts.

“In Vancouver, we were turning the page,” Poile told on Saturday.

That team was the first that didn’t hearken to the glory days of Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios and Keith Tkachuk et al. The idea was that if the team had any success at all, it would provide a good base on which to build for 2014.

The Americans’ run to the silver (going 5-1 in the tournament) means they will not sneak up on anyone in Sochi. Not with the past two Conn Smythe Trophy winners on the roster in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Quick. Throw in top-end talent like Ryan Suter, who in our book was the hands-down best defenseman in the NHL this season (finished second to P.K. Subban in Norris Trophy voting), Minnesota Wild teammate Zach Parise, David Backes, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown and there will be a strong core returning from the Vancouver squad.

Still, trying to handicap Olympic contenders based on results from a tournament four years in the past is a mug’s game. Yes, some continuity is important. Understanding the routines of an Olympic tournament, the media, the schedule and the ebbs and flows of a short, high-drama competition is critical to how a team comes together.

But each tournament represents a different world, and that is where the management structure and coaching staff are so critical to a team’s success.

USA Hockey neatly sidestepped a potential public relations problem early on by structuring its management team in the manner it did. Poile moved up the ladder and will be joined by Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero, who will act as associate. The two worked together for the Nashville Predators and were part of the U.S. management committee that helped put together the 2010 team.

But Burke, the architect of that team, has been kept in the fold as director of player personnel. He will accompany the team to Sochi.

It was Burke who came up with the idea of opening the process of selecting teams for international competition to American GMs. He invited colleagues like Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia Flyers), Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles Kings), Stan Bowman (Chicago Blackhawks), Dale Tallon (Florida Panthers) and former Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell to join in the process.

The openness and inclusiveness established by Burke was universally praised by those involved, and as Poile pointed out Saturday, the validation of the process was in the result -- a silver medal.

That Burke, dismissed from his post as GM and president of the Toronto Maple Leafs on the eve of the lockout-shortened regular season in January, continues to have a strong voice in the building of the 2014 team is an important nod to what he’s accomplished. To have marginalized him would have sent a disappointing message.

“He will have a big part in the formation of this team in 2014,” Poile said.

But a nod to the past is also being balanced by a nod to the future, which is critical given that neither Canada nor the U.S. medaled in the two Olympics held away from North American soil since the NHL began participation in 1998 in Nagano. (2006 in Torino was the other.)

A bigger ice surface, time issues and different cultures will conspire to make life in Sochi exponentially more difficult than it was in Vancouver and, before that, Salt Lake City in 2002, when Canada defeated the U.S. for the gold medal.

The committee, which represents 150 years of NHL GM experience and six Stanley Cup championships, will have to keep all those things in mind, Poile said, when making selections, just as it did in choosing the Pens’ Dan Bylsma as head coach.

Burke built a team that could play an NHL-style game with a blend of hard-nosed forechecking, strong defense and goaltending mixed with opportunistic scoring, but the style of play in Sochi may make some of those qualities less important.

Clearly, skating and puck movement will be at a premium on the big ice surface, which suggests players like Keith Yandle, Kevin Shattenkirk and perhaps Matt Carle or John Carlson may be more attractive than other, more physical defensemen.

What about a speedy, skilled forward like Alex Galchenyuk, who had a strong rookie campaign for the Montreal Canadiens?

“Our philosophy is going to be a little bit different because this is in Europe,” Poile said. “We have to tune up our thinking a little bit.”

One thing Poile made clear is that, while a résumé of strong play has historically been a factor in inclusion on the final roster handed in late in December, getting off to a good start next fall will be key in the committee’s final decisions.

In introducing the management team Saturday in New York, president of USA Hockey Ron DeGregorio suggested that an American team is no longer the stuff of miracles but rather the stuff of expectations.

A fine sentiment, and after Vancouver, it would seem it is true. Now it’s up to Poile and the rest to meet those heady expectations.

“This is the ultimate honor and challenge,” Poile said.

The offers were numerous for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on Sunday, so it should surprise no one that they needed at least a day to collect their thoughts.

Parise got offers from the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars, among other teams. He also has kept the dialogue open with the New Jersey Devils.

By the end of the day, the Stars and Hurricanes said they were out of the Parise mix, the Kings felt they were long shots, while the Red Wings weren’t very confident. It certainly felt like it was down to the Penguins, Devils, Wild and Flyers.

Playing with Sidney Crosby is a big-time allure, but Minnesota also appeals a lot to the Minneapolis native, in my understanding. And you can’t count out New Jersey. The Devils captain told reporters outside Newport Sports’ offices in the Toronto area that he would make a decision Monday.

Suter received offers from the Red Wings, Wild, Flyers, Penguins and Blackhawks, among other teams. Nashville GM David Poile said he was also preparing an offer to retain him.

Hard to bet against Detroit here, but I’d keep an eye on Minnesota and Nashville as well.

Know this: I doubt any team offered more money than Philadelphia for either player. We’re talking north of $100 million for each. But in the end, money won’t be the only criteria for either player.

Once Parise and Suter make up their minds, it should have the predictable domino effect on the rest of the marketplace.

Once Parise goes, Columbus will ramp up trade talks on Rick Nash. The Rangers, Red Wings and Hurricanes are among the possibilities. Parise’s signing will also heat up trade talks for Bobby Ryan in Anaheim.

Once Suter goes, it should move things along on the Matt Carle front. He’s the best UFA blueliner available after Suter. I’m willing to bet Carle easily gets at least $5 million a year whenever he does sign.

Future slam-dunk Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur remained on the market Sunday night, but several teams we spoke with felt the 40-year-old would stay in New Jersey. Chicago, Florida and Toronto were among the teams to have conversations with the Brodeur camp.

The Panthers are still talking to the Vancouver Canucks about Roberto Luongo.

And what of Shane Doan? The Phoenix Coyotes captain is on the UFA market for the first time in his career. Doan told Sunday morning that he wouldn’t decide his future before July 9, when a judge rules on a petition against Greg Jamison’s lease agreement with the City of Glendale, likely giving Jamison's ownership bid more clarity.

The Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings are among several clubs I believe have interest in Doan. He’d be a superb pick-up for any team given his leadership, goal-scoring ability and physical attributes. But if Jamison gets good news July 9, my guess is Doan will stay put in Phoenix.
Here’s what you need to know about the Calgary Flames adding Dennis Wideman on Wednesday.

Forget the rebuild.

Although many had predicted this offseason might finally see the departure of captain Jarome Iginla and/or goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in an attempt to reset the franchise, that doesn’t appear likely to happen.

"We’re not tearing it down," Flames GM Jay Feaster told on the phone from Calgary.

Whether or not Jay Bouwmeester remains a Flame remains to be seen. The Flames, according to rival executives, aren’t really shopping him as much as listening to offers.

If a deal doesn’t come along for Bouwmeester (two more seasons at $6.68 million per) that materially improves the team, my guess is that Feaster can live with a top four consisting of Bouwmeester, Wideman, Mark Giordano and Chris Butler. Not too shabby.

The decision to go after Wideman, meanwhile, was made last week when the Flames had their pro meetings in Pittsburgh in the days leading up to the draft.

"We identified our free-agent list and Dennis was a guy that was right up there in terms of the way we had our pecking order," Feaster said. "We just made a strategic decision that we would ask permission [from Washington] and start talking early to him."

That was last Wednesday. The agreement with Caps GM George McPhee was that if the Flames could agree to terms with the pending UFA Wideman before the end of the draft, the cost would be a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft.

"We were not able to conclude that when the fifth pick came rolling on Saturday," Feaster said. "I said to George, 'If we still have permission to talk to him and we can get him signed, I’ll honor the deal we made.' He said that would be great."

So it became a fifth-round pick in 2013 instead and the Flames also moved Jordan Hendry in the deal for no other reason than they were at their 50-contract limit.

In the end, while you can argue whether or not it’s wise for the Flames to delay their rebuild, I think it was a shrewd maneuver by Feaster to strike ahead of July 1 once the decision was made that they weren’t blowing up this team.

Let’s face it, of course the Flames would love a shot at Ryan Suter, or UFA prospect Justin Schultz for that matter. But given their long odds of landing either, Feaster was proactive in targeting a blueliner they had high on their UFA list. It certainly didn’t come cheap -- Wideman signing for five years and $26.25 million -- but it’s done. And now there’s less sweating to be done come Sunday when the market opens.

In the meantime, the Caps at least got a fifth-round pick plus a minor leaguer for a player they were going to let walk away for free Sunday. And they might not be done with that sort of thing. A source told the Caps would be willing to do the same with pending UFA winger Alexander Semin if a team wanted to sign him before Sunday.

Where's Carle going?

I would not have predicted months ago that Matt Carle would be headed to free agency, but that’s indeed going to be the case.

A source told Wednesday that the Flyers know the pending UFA blueliner will head to market Sunday while very much keeping his current team in the mix.

Notice a trend here? That’s what Ryan Suter has decided to do, and likely Jason Garrison as well.

The Flyers remain very much interested in retaining Carle’s services, so all is not lost. But it appears fairly certain that Carle, a terrific puck mover and offensive blueliner, will at least take a peek out there come Sunday.