Cross Checks: Miikka Kiprusoff
Deadline eve saw three more big names change teams, further diluting a trade pool that already had seen plenty of players find new homes over the past two weeks.
Anyone ever hear of deadline day? You know, when you’re supposed to make your trades?
Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Jarome Iginla and Jordan Leopold moved last week. Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester and Michal Handzus switched teams Monday. And then Tuesday brought more action as Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Ryane Clowe switched addresses among the bigger names on the market while depth blue-liners such as Davis Drewiske and Marc-Andre Bergeron also moved.
Last season, only two trades were completed in the 48 hours before deadline day. This year? Make it 10!
So what’s left there, guys?
Well, there’s the whole goalie thing in Toronto.
Dustin Bradford/Icon SMIJaromir Jagr was one of the latest big-name players to get traded before deadline day.
For the Canucks, the dynamics have changed. They don’t need a center anymore after getting Roy from Dallas. So the Canucks can live with a winger, for example, in a Toronto deal if the Leafs wanted to make a move on Luongo.
No question the Canucks are well aware of Toronto’s interest in Kiprusoff and understand they need to make it clear over the next day just what they’d be willing to do, once and for all, on the Luongo front with Toronto.
So more than likely, that will be the big story Wednesday before the 3 p.m. ET deadline if the Leafs decide the fit is right on either Kipper or Bobby Lu. Or neither.
There certainly has already been much to digest:
• Jagr to Boston. The Bruins actually phoned Dallas about 3-4 weeks ago to check on Jagr’s availability and at the time didn’t think he was going anywhere. At the time, the Stars were actually thinking they would sign Jagr. But over the past week, things changed. The Stars kept losing games and after much internal debate and deliberation including right up to Monday night, the front office decided it was time to unload. They would move Jagr and Roy, their pending UFAs, after already having done so with Morrow.
Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk met with Jagr on Tuesday morning and while he didn’t have to, because the veteran winger doesn’t have a no-trade clause, out of respect for the future Hall of Famer, he felt him out on a possible deal to Boston after telling him they had decided not to re-sign him. The answer from Jagr was yes.
No doubt, the Stars will get criticized for pulling the plug when they can still make the playoffs, but I credit them. It’s the third year in a row that the team is straddling the playoff demarcation line, and the two previous years they tried to give the team the best possible chance to make the playoffs but didn't get returns on assets. They missed the playoffs both times, and got nothing in return for anyone.
Now they’ve picked up some solid young assets in the trades for Morrow, Jagr and Roy and the team will be better off for it in a few years.
• For the Bruins? They finally get the impact, rental winger they were looking for in Jagr. And frankly, this might actually be a better fit than Iginla, the player they thought they traded for last week. Jagr has more offensive creativity and will have a bigger impact on Boston’s power play than Iginla would have in my humble opinion.
• Clowe ends up with the Rangers and going East all along I believe was important to the Newfoundland native. The Sharks presented him with trade options to either New York or Vancouver -- the Canucks pushed real hard in their efforts to get Clowe -- but ultimately a move East mattered most. I think Clowe felt the Rangers presented a better fit. And it would not surprise me if he ended up re-signing there in the offseason.
Credit here to Clowe’s agent Kent Hughes and Sharks GM Doug Wilson in the way in which they handled this. Wilson gave Hughes the green light to talk to teams over the past week to feel out options. They worked together hand in hand because of Clowe’s no-trade clause, and it proves that sometimes you can make it a smooth operation if everyone involved is on the same page.
• The Canucks struck out on Clowe but got the part that really mattered to them: a center. Roy can play in either the No. 2 or 3 hole when Ryan Kesler returns. Henrik Sedin, Kesler and Roy down the middle is not too shabby at all. And Kesler has played wing at times in the past, and that’s another possibility. I still think the Canucks will try to pick up another winger between now and Wednesday’s deadline, but they’re already a better team for sure with Roy on board.
• In an small move, the Montreal Canadiens added Drewiske, the depth defenseman they had been looking for. A Western Conference team executive called Drewiske “a top character guy, a good penalty-killer, decent hockey sense and a big body.”
Sometimes the lesser deals are the ones you end up talking about a few months or years later. I’m not saying Drewiske will ever be a star; he won’t. But I think he can a be a solid third-pairing player for Montreal, and the Habs only paid a fifth-round pick for him.
My TSN colleague Aaron Ward was first to report the news.
Kiprusoff has one more year on his deal next season, which pays only $1.5 million (although it counts $5.8 million against the salary cap), and the suspicion here is that the 36-year-old netminder would sign off on a trade to Toronto only if he can get another year out of it financially.
The Leafs and Flames had yet another trade conversation about Kiprusoff on Monday, a source told ESPN.com.
Still, no deal is imminent at this point. There are still some moving parts to all this and there’s no guarantee Kiprusoff goes anywhere. But what is known as of Monday evening is that Calgary and Toronto continue to talk about him.
Any extension signed by Kiprusoff -- if he agrees to one -- could not be officially signed until July because he has one more year left on his deal.
Earlier in the day, Leafs GM Dave Nonis told Toronto reporters that, if the deal is right, he would like to add a veteran goalie before Wednesday’s deadline.
Of course, the other name connected to Toronto is Roberto Luongo. But as of Monday evening, the Canucks' and Maple Leafs' front offices had not talked since last week on Luongo.
- Buffalo Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr was asked to drop his full no-movement clause to go to the Kings and intends to do so, according to my TSN colleague Darren Dreger. The deal is not completely done yet.
- The 2013 fourth-round pick the Sharks got in return from Chicago for Michal Handzus on Monday was originally San Jose’s to begin with. The Sharks dealt the pick to Chicago in June 2012 in a previous deal, so now they get the pick back. And I tell you what, given how sparingly the 36-year-old Handzus has played of late, pretty good value the Sharks got in return, especially when you consider that because Handzus had a no-trade clause, it’s not as if the Sharks could shop him to every team in the league.
CHICAGO -- It’s not so much that the Calgary Flames look like a team that has quit. More that they look like a team that’s paralyzed by the prospect of stuff that might happen. Or might not happen.
But definitely paralyzed.
With speculation rampant regarding the Flames’ efforts to trade captain Jarome Iginla before the April 3 trade deadline and amid varying reports about netminder Miikka Kiprusoff’s willingness to accept a trade, the Flames stretched their road winless streak to 10 games (0-9-1) with a demoralizing 2-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.
"No excuses. I wasn’t good enough tonight. Didn’t create enough for the group. My job is to be ready for the games," Iginla said as the Flames prepared to jet home, where they will face the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.
Early in the day, Iginla refused to talk to reporters. The excuse given by the team’s PR staff was that the popular captain wanted to focus on the game. Of course, that makes you wonder whether Iginla’s teammates needed less focus as they dutifully answered questions about the trade rumors and speculation that have engulfed the moribund team like a plague of locusts.
Iginla did speak after the game and insisted that neither he nor anyone else in the Flames’ locker room can use the trade talk as an excuse.
"It’s part of hockey. I haven’t been in this much speculation since I started playing, but guys go through it all the time, every year at the deadline, and it’s my turn,” Iginla said.
“Honestly, when you get in the game and you want to play, you’re not thinking of those things and you shouldn’t be.
"As far as the rumors and stuff, it will work itself out in five or six days or whatever it is and we’ve been dealing with it now for a few weeks. Like I say, five or six days will go fast. Whatever transpires with this team between now and the deadline, it can’t come fast enough."
Iginla had a couple of strong shifts sprinkled throughout the night Tuesday. He played 16 minutes, 15 minutes, took two shots on goal, took a minor penalty for high sticking in the first period and inadvertently deflected home the Blackhawks’ second goal, prompting a torrent of jokes about perhaps having scored his final goal as a Flame or his first goal as a Blackhawk. Other teams that are interested include Boston, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.
The best player on the ice for the Flames on this night, as has been the case so often during his tenure with the Flames, was Kiprusoff.
He stopped 33 of 35 shots he faced and was forced to deal with a bevy of quality chances authored by the league-leading Blackhawks as the Flames made it 14 straight games registering fewer than 30 shots on goal. In the second period alone the Flames were outshot 16-3, finishing with just 16 shots in total against a team that lost the night before, 5-4 to Los Angeles.
The Flames, clearly an organization in full retreat, refused to make Kiprusoff available to reporters after the game, a decision that will only further cloud the issue about what exactly Kiprusoff’s intentions are if there is a potential trade in the offing. When Kiprusoff finally emerged from the dressing room, he said he had to catch the team bus and didn’t have time to talk.
Kiprusoff has one season remaining on a six-year, $35 million deal. His wife recently gave birth to the couple’s second son, an event that is believed at the heart of the uncertainty over whether he would accept a trade. The situation has the potential to put the team in a difficult spot (something of a theme for the Flames over most of the past decade) because Kiprusoff does not have any contractual say in whether he is traded. His no-move clause expired last summer.
GM Jay Feaster politely declined to address the issue.
When Kiprusoff returned to action last week after taking time off to be with his wife, he told local reporters when the team was in Nashville that he tried not to concern himself with trade rumors. He gave no indication at the time that he would try to block a move.
Although one can sympathize with Kiprusoff’s situation with a newborn at home, the uncertainty will do little to help his trade value, value that was suspect to begin with, given some injury issues and uneven play through the early part of the season. But he has put in two sterling performances in a row and would no doubt be coveted by a number of teams looking to add a solid veteran who quite clearly still has game left.
Of course, no team will come within a country mile of Kiprusoff if they think he might balk at accepting a trade.
If given to cynicism, one might wonder at the timing given that the Flames have paid Kiprusoff $33.5 million of the contract with just $1.5 million remaining next season -- and there has been some speculation the 36-year-old might simply retire rather than play out the final season of one of the initial so-called cheat contracts that were outlawed in the newly completed collective bargaining agreement.
Had the Flames taken advantage of the expiration of the no-move clause last summer and dealt Kiprusoff then, this might be a moot point but is yet another example of the uphill battle facing Feaster as he tries to take advantage of the looming trade deadline to reverse the team’s fortunes. Or misfortunes, as the case might be.
And perhaps the most combustible of them all won’t even pit the league versus the players as much as owners against owners.
We’re confident NHL commissioner Gary Bettman -- given his track record -- will be able to keep his owners in line (publicly) on this issue, but behind closed doors it has the potential to be a doozy.
It has to do with how the NHL hopes and plans to deal with "back-diving" contracts, the so-called cheat deals signed by the likes of Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo and a legion of other players who did nothing technically wrong in using a loophole in the expired CBA to sign long, front-loaded contracts with extra, low-salaried years added at the back of them to bring down the cap hit. (The cap hit is calculated by dividing total salary -- bonuses included -- by the number of seasons in the term.)
My colleague Craig Custance at ESPN The Magazine wrote about this very subject back in August. The first back-diving deal is generally believed to be when Miikka Kiprusoff and agent Larry Kelly cleverly found a loophole in the system and signed a six-year, $35 million extension in October 2007, a deal that pays him $1.5 million for the 2013-14 season. Hey, who knows, maybe Kipper will play that season, but the widely held belief from the get-go was that Kiprusoff would retire before the last season, his contract would no longer count on the books for the Flames because he was under 35 when he signed it, and adding that extra season was only to bring the cap hit down to $5.83 million. He made $8.5 million in 2008-09, $7 million a year the next two seasons, $6 million last season and is due to make $5 million this season, if there’s a season. The average of the first five years of his deal is $6.7 million. That $5.83 million cap hit sure looks good.
Well, you get the drift. Soon, other teams and agents got into the act and the next thing you knew, back-diving deals were in vogue. The league was furious. It warned owners and GMs over and over again to stop doing them and, in fact, according to various sources over the past few years, made it clear in board of governors meetings that teams doing these types of deals could be penalized in some shape or form in the new CBA.
And of course the teams that didn’t do these type of deals, gambling that they would be better for it in the next CBA for not doing so, are keenly awaiting what’s next. No one has been more vocal about his dislike for back-diving deals than Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. So much so that Burke testified against his longtime friend/mentor Lou Lamoriello over the contract handed by the New Jersey Devils to free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. The league ruled against that contract (which was back-diving) and made the Devils restructure it while also punishing them (docking them two draft picks -- one of which was a first-rounder -- and $3 million).
Burke has support from a lot of other teams on this issue and you can bet when the time comes for the league to tackle this issue in CBA talks, the Leafs' GM will be pushing hard for the league to do what he feels is the right thing.
Reached by ESPN.com Thursday, Burke declined to comment, citing the league’s rules about teams not commenting on CBA matters.
And because the league has been focused almost entirely on the Big One, the core economic issues, this issue of back-diving contracts sits on the sideline for now.
In the meantime, we are left to speculate on what, if anything, the league will do with back-diving contracts.
-- Could the new CBA recalculate back-diving contracts so that years left on a contract still count against the team’s salary cap even if said player retires?
-- Could all long-term contracts, back-diving or not, be recalculated so that the five highest-salaried years count as the cap hit? Suddenly Hossa’s deal in Chicago would go from a $5.275 million cap hit to a $7.9 million cap hit under that scenario.
-- Could all existing contracts, long-term or not, be recalculated so that the actual yearly salary for that season counts against the cap and not the average salary? Imagine Minnesota’s reaction if Ryan Suter and Zach Parise would suddenly go from counting $7.53 million (average salary of their new deals) against the cap to $12 million against the cap this season and next?
-- Could the teams that signed these back-diving deals still be penalized in cap space, retroactively, even if they since have traded those contracts? Think of the Flyers, for example, being on the hook for Jeff Carter’s cap hit after he retires, even though he’s no longer in Philly.
-- How about this one: If contracts are recalculated leaving teams with front-loaded or back-diving contracts way over the salary cap, allow those teams to stay over the cap, however tax them for each dollar they’re over the cap. Then, put that money into the revenue-sharing system. This could entice the NHLPA, which is espousing more meaningful revenue sharing among the 30 teams, to perhaps come on board with the recalculation of contracts and the cap.
And you can go on and on and on speculating just how the league might go after existing back-diving contracts. If the league does, teams such as Toronto and San Jose and Carolina (there are plenty of others) who didn’t do back-diving deals will feel vindicated and gain an advantage by not getting hammered by the new contract calculations.
If the league doesn’t do anything drastic on this front, then teams such as Chicago (Hossa), Vancouver (Luongo), Minnesota (Suter, Parise) and others will certainly breathe a sigh of relief.
Keep an eye on this one. It's going to be one of the most fascinating developments in the next CBA.
TwinsFan10157: Pierre, honestly, is there ANYTHING, ANYTHING positive about a team that is out of the playoffs but winning this late in the season? Take my Wild, THEY NEVER get a top-3 pick and here we thought with all the injuries they've suffered this season that no way this year's team (which has been tanking for 3 months) can hang around and win games no matter how hard they try, BUT NO! Instead, THE WILD PICK NOW to decide to win 3 games in a row, all against playoff teams (thank you very much) and fell all the way from possibly second or third overall in the June draft to 7th! AGAIN, a MIDROUND PICK! Is there seriously anything positive at all from my Wild winning this late in the season because I just want to rip my hair out (as much as I love them) for continuing to win when it seemingly gains them nothing!
atchi020: As a WILD fan, I could not be more disgruntled. Starting from 1st in the NHL to falling out of the playoffs to injuries to the late-season collapse and flop. Now, after they tossed the great start and were sitting in place to get a top 3 pick in the draft, they decide to go on a 3-game win streak against playoff-caliber teams? Could being a Minnesota sports fan be any worse? Please get us Parise back to his home state!
My take: I certainly empathize with Wild fans this season. You got teased in early December and then hit over the head with the reality hammer the rest of the season. This club needs to find some offense moving forward. I don’t mind the young pieces on defense. I will also say I like how GM Chuck Fletcher and his staff have restocked the organization's depth. The cupboard was bare when he took over. That hasn’t quite translated yet at the NHL level but there are some quality prospects coming. You saw 20-year-old Jason Zucker join the team last week, he’s part of that wave. And yes, if Zach Parise hits the July 1 market, you better believe Minnesota will be all over him, although the Wild will hardly be alone (Detroit, Rangers and a list of other teams will be in the hunt).
Girouxsalem28: It really ticks me off when I hear all of these "experts" talking about how it was the Flyers' fault for the brawl Sunday. They seem to point out the incident when Brayden Schenn crosschecked Sidney Crosby, saying that they can't go after the face of the NHL and it's a blatant attempt to hurt him, etc. Didn't anyone see Crosby initiate any of it? He hit Schenn after the goal and Schenn retaliated. I don't understand why nobody in the media other than Philly members see this.
My take: I think you’re seeing the coverage through your own Flyers-colored glasses. I know here in Toronto the footage on TSN showed both Crosby’s shove of Brayden Schenn and the melee at the end. The bottom line is, there isn’t a smoking gun here. I don’t blame Schenn or the Flyers at all. Nor do I blame Crosby or the Penguins. You’ve got two intense rivals and the blood was boiling all game long. Good old-fashioned hockey, if you ask me. Nothing wrong with it. And this is the difference between the orchestrated line brawls between the Devils and Rangers, which I hated because it was decided ahead of time and had no bearing on the game, compared to the late-game theatrics Sunday afternoon that were a spontaneous, emotional reaction between players whose emotions reached a boiling point. There’s a clear difference between both instances, and put me in for the latter any day.
Dubsg123: One of the things that really grinds my gears is the fact that once again, Anze Kopitar is being overlooked for the Selke. There is a reason that the Kings are the second-best defensive team in the NHL with the third-best PK. Kopitar is matched up night in and night out against the league's best players/lines. He is the first choice for centerman during the PK (and yes, we have Mike Richards). His plus/minus is in double digits even though his team only has a plus-15 goal differential (thanks to their inability to score for 80 percent of the season). Very few players are more valuable to their team than Kopitar is to his (one of the few who mean more plays in between the pipes behind him). I know you as an appreciator of the Kings...so what gives?
My take: Excellent points, sir. And I will indeed have Kopitar among my five choices on my official NHL ballot for the awards (I got my ballot last week; going to fill it out sometime this week). But my No. 1 vote will go to Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins this season. I think even more than Kopitar, he’s long overdue. He’s had another thoroughly consistent, two-way season for the Bruins and I believe he’s honestly the best defensive forward in the NHL today. But hang in there, my friend, Kopitar’s day will come.
SumNoob: I'm sick of the mediocre on-ice product the Flames have put out in the last two decades. We're becoming the Leafs of the West. I want a big change without a drawn-out Edmonton style rebuild. Do you think GM Jay Feaster can pull of a decent retool this summer with the expiring contracts we have? Without moving Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff (pretty sure Iginla is retiring a Flame), who goes, who stays?
My take: I spoke with a Flames source Monday and it’s clear there’s no appetite for an Edmonton-style rebuild. But change is indeed coming. Three straight years out of the playoffs is not sitting well with ownership whatsoever. The fact half of Calgary’s roster has expiring contracts will allow the Flames that natural window to exact change. But personally, I believe the Flames need to sit down with captain Jarome Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to finally have The Chat. They need to know from those two quality veterans if they want to stick around for this retool. If not, would they agree to waive their no-trades and provide the Flames with the return in assets both those stars would fetch? If Iginla wants to finish his career in Calgary and be a mentor for the younger, retooled Flames, that’s fine as well (similar to what Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips have done in Ottawa). But either way, Flames ownership and management have to have that chat with Iginla and his agent, Don Meehan.
AIs76ers: I know you won't post this, you have never once acknowledged the issue, and you refuse to engage in this debate, but it's time for you to own up to the bias the NHL holds in the Penguins favor. It is totally out of control and it might rob the fans of a deep run by the better Pennsylvania team. Even NBC's announcing trio acknowledged that the Penguins were guilty of a handful of automatic slashing penalties (the exploding sticks) that somehow went uncalled, plus Crosby's violent slash on Claude Giroux on a faceoff that Giroux won cleanly. Today all we hear about is the crosscheck on Crosby. Enough already. It was a penalty and it was called. The goal erased it. And, whatever happened to a penalty for diving? All afternoon the NBC announcers praised Crosby for his strength on his skates, then he flopped like he had been shot. Not to mention, if you rewind the play back a little bit, you will see that Crosby took an equally dirty shot at Schenn, but ESPN has so far refused to show this. I have yet to read a single ESPN writer calling out Vitale for his knee-to-knee hit on Grossmann, which was not exceptionally dirty, but because he is a fringe player his only option was to stick out a leg to make the hit. Then he targets Danny Briere. The only reason that his was not dirty was, again, because he is a fringe NHL player. He targeted Briere's head and followed through with an elbow. And then after it is all settled Arron Asham (another guy who isn't a legitimate player) instigates an additional fight. Yet somehow the Penguins will not hear from the league. Asham and Bylsma should get their automatic suspensions, and maybe Laviolette, too. Enough is enough. I am not going to say that the NHL is actually rigging games or encouraging refs to make the wrong calls, but it is clear the officials are applying a different standard with the Pens.
My take: And this is why we call you guys "fans." In this case, short for "fanatic." You view everything through the tainted glasses of your team, in this case, the Flyers. Honestly, I’ve covered the NHL for 17 years. I would tell you if I thought for a second that the league in any way favored a team over any other. The mere suggestion is simply moronic. You can watch every single game and see missed calls for/against your team. The NHL’s on-ice officials don’t pitch perfect games, and some nights it’s even worse than that, I agree. But to honestly think "the fix" is in on any level is nothing short of ridiculous.
MaizeandBluePucks: Too many things to rant about with my Leafs.
My take: I've been living in Toronto since 1995 and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it -- even for Maple Leafs' standards. Most of my friends and certainly my brother-in-law, Mitch, are die-hard Leafs fans, of course. I’d characterize their mood as a mixture of disdain, disbelief and genuine hurt. This is a huge offseason for GM Brian Burke and his front office. I think they made a wise choice in hiring Randy Carlyle as coach and a fresh start at camp will help prove that; I think the Leafs have greatly improved their organizational depth, but they’ve struck out so far on some of their key decisions at the NHL roster level. James Reimer wasn’t ready to be a No. 1 goalie. Their blue line had quantity, yes, but not enough quality. The top-six forward group remains small. And Dion Phaneuf is not captain material. The Leafs need to land a No. 1 goalie, a No. 1 center and shift a few of their parts on a roster that crumbled mentally over the past two months. Not an easy offseason, at all.
cnato14: Here I have a rant Pierre.... WHY THE FUDGE IS CHARLES WANG STILL THE OWNER OF THE ISLANDERS!? This man has run the organization into the ground; he feels the need to rehire a below-average coach in Jack Capuano, who has done nothing to try to bring this team up from the cellar of the Eastern Conference. I think that something on Long Island needs to change soon or else the once perennial contender Islanders will be looking for a new home.
My take: I feel your pain, brother. I’ve written this before in this space, but Islanders fans to me are the most loyal in hockey. How can you remain a fan of this team with Wang as owner? Successful organizations begin with stability at the top. But if he’s willing to continue to sink money in this team, the NHL certainly won’t stand in his way. It’s been hard enough to solve ownership issues in Phoenix, and even in decent markets in New Jersey and St. Louis, that the league isn’t going push out an owner who wants to still own a team, even if his eccentric ways hurt the team’s on-ice performance. It’s hard to find deep-pocketed people who want to own sports teams of any league.
sporty7527: When is this gimmick known as the shootout gonna go away? I find it appalling that a game of hockey has to be decided by a skills competition to determine a winner. Up through 2004, there was never anything wrong with ties. The best teams won their fair share of games. The Red Wings had no problem posting 100-plus point seasons when ties were in place. They set the record for wins during the time of ties. Now you have teams breaking franchise records for points in a season, and it's tainted by the all the shootout wins that, prelockout, would have been ties. You have teams like the Devils having 12 of their 45 wins won by shootout or the Penguins, who have won 9 of their 48 games by shootout. You take the shootout away, the Flyers are ahead of the Pens. Teams like them seem reliant on the shootout, and you have teams sitting back to get to a shootout. It doesn't matter if they were outplayed during an entire game. If they can deke out a goalie, they can still get rewarded with a win. And the shootouts are now more and more frequent. The 5-minute OT flies by. Why not make it 10 minutes? Defense slows the game down in OT, so 10 minutes might do better than just 5. I bet if that's implemented there'd be a lot more wins by actually scoring in OT than ties or relying on who can best deke a goalie in a shootout.
My take: Amen, brother. I’ve been anti-shootout on these pages for years, as most people know. I like Ken Holland’s idea: 3-on-3 overtime for five minutes following the 4-on-4 overtime period. So, 10 minutes of OT in all. That would greatly reduce the number of shootouts.
YogitheDuck: Week in and week out I come to you complaining about the Ducks. Everywhere from my disgust with Ryan Getzlaf, games like this last Saturday's against Phoenix, where we put up a season-high 44 SOG but we can't even buy ourselves one goal, and the woes for next season: possibly losing Selanne and fears of a repeat of this season.
Again, I would like to start with my disappointment with Getzlaf. He is the Dos Equis man of the Ducks organization: "I don't always score against San Jose, but when I don't, it's because I missed an open net." Missing that shot only confirms my feelings towards our captain. Lazy play, lack of motivation and leadership that is more than burned out. How can the Ducks afford to let Teemu retire when he is the force keeping them halfway alive and motivated?
Pierre, once again, what do the Ducks need to do to be the team they were in 2007 and be viable contenders for the Cup, or at least be a playoff-seeded team?
My take: Here’s something that will drive you even crazier: Since Jan. 1, the Ducks are 23-14-5 for 51 points, ranking first in the Pacific Division, fourth in the Western Conference and eighth in the NHL (courtesy of Ducks PR). In other words, that’s the team they should have been in the first half, too. But it seems to happen every year when the Ducks get off to a slow start. Last season, they were able to dig out of the hole and make the playoffs. You’re right on Getzlaf, he’s had a very disappointing season. For my money, he’s got the tools to challenge for the Art Ross Trophy. It’s mind-boggling that he hasn’t put it together yet. I think GM Bob Murray has some big, big decisions to make this offseason about the core of this team, where it’s headed and why he thinks they can’t figure it out on the ice. Personally, I wouldn’t trade Getzlaf, because all you’re going to do the next decade is try to replace him -- No. 1 centers of his ilk are few and far between.
But this team needs some sort of shake-up.
Just inscribe Henrik Lundqvist's name on the Vezina Trophy now. He’s a lock. A look at the candidates for top goaltender in the NHL at this point of the season:
1. King Henrik, New York RangersLeads the league with a ridiculous .941 save percentage and quite frankly merits serious Hart Trophy consideration as NHL MVP. He’s looking at his first-ever Vezina Trophy victory. And if that’s the case, that will make it five different winners in five years for the award.
5. (tie) Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings and Howard’s recent finger injury should do nothing to change the fact that he’s worthy of Vezina consideration, as he still leads the league with 32 wins. Kiprusoff has really come on in the second half, and he’s the single biggest reason the Flames are in playoff contention. The 2006 Vezina Trophy winner has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his past 10 starts.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames
Honorable mention: Mike Smith, Phoenix; Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, St. Louis; Evgeni Nabokov, N.Y. Islanders; Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh; Roberto Luongo, Vancouver.
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks: Most of the attention in Anaheim lately has gone to Corey Perry (13 goals in his past 10 games and firmly in the thick of Hart Trophy discussion) or netminder Ray Emery, who has resurrected his career. But let's not overlook the play of Perry's longtime linemate, center Ryan Getzlaf. It's no coincidence Getzlaf is adding assists the way Perry is collecting goals -- he has two goals and 14 helpers in his past 10 games. The Ducks, meanwhile, look like a sure bet to qualify for the postseason with 12 wins in their past 15 contests.
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara's play of late has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the big defenseman's hit on Montreal's Max Pacioretty. Yet, in the absence of a clear-cut Norris Trophy favorite, the former winner has put himself back in the conversation with terrific play down the stretch. Only Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky, another dark horse Norris candidate, has more than Chara's nine points in the past three weeks. The Bruins captain continues to average 25:31 a night in ice time (sixth in the NHL), and Boston remains the top defensive club in the Eastern Conference and second only to Vancouver overall.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames: Always dangerous to blame a goaltender when a team hits the wall as the Calgary Flames have. Still, Kiprusoff's 2-4-0 record over the past couple of weeks of must-win games for the Flames just doesn't cut it. Over that span, he has turned in an .864 save percentage and 3.74 goals-against average. Those kinds of numbers spell an early tee time once again for the Flames.
Jarret Stoll, Los Angeles Kings: With Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar on the shelf with serious injuries, the Kings are going to be looking for some of their veteran players to pick up the slack if they're going to first hold on to a playoff spot and make a move in the postseason. That would mean guys like Stoll, who has 19 goals this season but has managed to dent the twine just once in his past 13 games. That's not going to get it done come playoff time, that's for sure.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told ESPN.com Saturday that he believes the incident after last Monday's 5-0 loss in New Jersey actually brought the team together even though he thinks it was exaggerated.
"I was doing my press conference and there was a laugh and I looked over," Boudreau said. "But it wasn't Ovi that laughed, it was Kovalchuk that laughed. I don't know what Ovi said in Russian, maybe something like, 'Boy, did we suck.' And Kovalchuk laughed. It was like someone clapping real loud. It's a noise that startles you. So you look over. I made nothing of it."
My colleague and friend Cory Masisak certainly did in an interesting piece that raised eyebrows in D.C.
Boudreau realizes the optics weren't great.
"I can understand as an old-school guy, we never used to talk to our opponents," Boudreau said. "But in hockey's new age, you see it after every game."
The coach chatted with his franchise player about it.
"The next day, we talked about a lot of things, that was just a very brief part of it," Boudreau said. "He said to me, 'That was just my friend and we were just talking after a game.' I said, 'I know, I know.' But when you lose 5-0, people accentuate more than it is. To us, it was a nothing deal."
Boudreau also understands the desire for players of the same country to touch base after games.
"When I played in Europe, if there was a Canadian on the other team, even if I didn't know him I would wait after the game for him," Boudreau said. "Just to talk in our native language, or just to catch up. I'd like to compare notes on how teams were treating us over there. Do they pay the bills? That's what Canadians wanted to know over there. So we were always waiting to talk to guys after the game. I can see that if you're Russian, Swedish, German, whatever, that maybe having a chance to talk to a hometown friend you haven't seen in a while in your native language after a game, it's a big deal."
Sens' work doesn't generate traction
The up-and-down Senators have worked the phones hard all season long but still no move.
"We do continue to talk and attempt to shore up our team, but at this point there is nothing," Sens GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com Saturday.
Murray would not get into specifics, but a league source told ESPN.com that the veteran GM sent a memo to the other 29 teams saying defenseman Brian Lee was available and that hasn't generated much traction at this point. Meanwhile, other sources told ESPN.com that the Sens have received calls from other teams inquiring about forward Nick Foligno, who didn't have a goal this season entering Saturday night's game against Toronto. Not sure the Sens, however, would want to give up on him this early in the game when he's only 23 years old, but I guess stranger things have happened.
Coyotes sale still not there
The sale of the Phoenix Coyotes from the NHL to a group led by Chicago businessman Mathew Hulsizer is inching closer but it’s still not there.
A source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com Friday that he believed the aim was to close before Christmas. A final lease agreement with the city of Glendale has progressed, said the source, but still hasn't been finalized, either.
Another source told ESPN.com that while the sale was progressing, it would not be completed in time for the Dec. 6-7 Board of Governors in Palm Beach, Fla. But that's not the end of the world since NHL owners can vote on team sales via fax at any time.
Avery Rule in Effect
Quite the gutsy call by young referee Ghislain Hebert when he disallowed Mike Richards' overtime goal Friday and called Chris Pronger for an unsportsmanlike penalty for waiving his glove in front of Miikka Kiprusoff's face.
We call it the Sean Avery rule but in fact it never was a new rule, more a new interpretation of an existing rule -- unsportsmanlike conduct. The NHL released a memo during the playoffs a few years ago after Avery was waiving his glove in front of Martin Brodeur's face.
I checked with the league on Saturday and this was the first time the penalty had been called for this specific reason since Avery.
"It has not been called since then," Terry Gregson, director of officiating for the NHL, told ESPN.com via email. "The spirit and intent of the USC rule is to keep an acceptable hockey decorum in the game, in this case when a player is screening. This type of act is outside the normal boundaries and needs to be controlled for the good of the game."
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren sent Gregson an e-mail to underline his disagreement with the call and Gregson explained to Holmgren why it was the right one. Personally, I think it was the right call. Pronger's glove was in the face of Kiprusoff -- the tape doesn't lie.
Chelios coming out of retirement?
Reports out of Russia over the past few days linked a few KHL teams to retired blueliner Chris Chelios, 48. TSN's Darren Dreger confirmed Friday that there were at least talks between KHL club Vityaz and the Chelios camp.
In fact, Chelios told ESPN.com that two KHL teams were in the mix.
"Two teams are looking for a D-man, so might as well listen," Chelios told me via text message. "Just sniffin' around, nothing serious."
Bergeron gets final clearance
Unrestricted free-agent blueliner Marc-Andre Bergeron got the final clearance from doctors Thursday and can resume his NHL career after recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Bergeron, 30, can help a power play, as he did last season when he potted 13 goals and 21 assists in 60 games with the Montreal Canadiens. He had 14 goals and 18 assists in 72 games the season before in Minnesota. You know what you're getting in Bergeron, a power-play force with a heavy shot but a defensive liability in his zone. Still, double-digit goals can only help a team in dire need of power-play help.
The Florida Panthers have the lowest ranked power play in the NHL, but GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com Saturday that, at this point, his team wasn't involved in talks with Bergeron. While Tallon would not say, I suspect the reason is that he'd have to unload a contract before he could ever think of phoning the Bergeron camp. Columbus (ranked 28th on the PP), Nashville (27th), St. Louis (24th), the Islanders (17th), the Rangers (14th) and the Coyotes (13th), also all told me they weren't in on Bergeron.
What about the Devils and their 29th-ranked PP? There's a blue line that needs an injection and I believe there is some interest there. I also think the Dallas Stars, ranked 22nd on the PP, have a bit of interest in him.