Cross Checks: Tomas Fleischmann
After starting the season 6-1-0, they have gone 4-13-1.
But general manager Steve Yzerman remains hopeful his club can work its way back into playoff contention. It’s not panic time in Tampa.
"We’ve kind of got past the toughest part of our schedule -- not with the results we’d like -- but we've gotten through the hardest part," Yzerman told ESPN.com Monday.
"We don’t have many back-to-backs coming up, we’re playing rested, we’re playing several home games, and we’re playing divisional opponents and other teams that we’re competing for a playoff spot with. In some respect, if we win our games, we can get right back in it."
Yzerman is working the phones, but as demonstrated by the lack of trade activity around the league, it’s easier said than done to get something that makes sense.
"To sit here and say, 'I’m going to do something big,' there’s nothing big that can be done at this time," Yzerman said. "It’s not like we just sit here and do nothing all day. You talk to people, you see if there’s anything that makes sense. For a lot of reasons it’s difficult to find a fit, to find the right players, the right salaries to make a trade. You don’t just do something to do it."
If Yzerman does act, expect a traditional hockey deal where it’s a player who helps him past this season. In other words, he’s not looking for a pending UFA/rental player.
"Rental players cost you draft picks or young players, we’re not interested in that," Yzerman said. "That’s why we signed free agents in the summer, to fill those places. If there’s a trade that makes sense where a team has a need and we have a need, then it would be addressed that way."
The Red Wings, coming off back-to-back losses to Columbus, are expecting a couple of key players back the next seven to 10 days.
"We expect [Valtteri] Filppula back this week at some point on the Western Canada trip," GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Monday. "We’re expecting Darren Helm to come back after that trip, either at home to Minnesota or for the California trip. So we’ll get a few bodies back the next four or five games."
Nothing imminent on the trade front, Holland said as of Monday, citing the incredible closeness of the NHL standings as a major contributing factor. The veteran Wings GM believes a lot of teams need to wait closer to April 3 before deciding what they want to do.
Panthers trade bait
The injury-ravaged Florida Panthers have to start thinking about next season. Two veteran forwards the Panthers will listen to offers for before April 3 are Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann.
I don’t think the Panthers are going to shop them, but if other teams call on them, they’ll listen.
Neither player, though, is a rental.
Fleischmann has two more years on his deal after this season, which pays him $4.5 million per year. He also has a modified no-trade clause; agent Rich Evans gave the Panthers last summer a list of teams Fleischmann would be willing to move to.
Versteeg has three more years on his deal after this season, which carries a $4.4 million cap hit but pays him a bit more in salary -- $4.6 million next season and $4.7 million in each of the last two years.
The final step in making NHL realignment a go for next season will come this week when the league’s 30 owners say yea or nay via a fax vote, which is expected to be completed by the end of the week.
Some teams don’t believe the proposed framework is ideal, but in the end expect the board of governors to give it a green light without much trouble.
Here is a look at some of the top free-agent forwards who are still set to hit the market at noon ET on Friday (listing their teams and cap hits in 2010-11):
Brad Richards, Dallas Stars ($7.8 million cap hit this past season): The 30-year-old native of Prince Edward Island was on his way to a top-five finish in the NHL scoring race before a concussion shelved him in February. He had 91 points in 2009-10 and would have been in the same range again without the injury.
Ville Leino, Philadelphia Flyers ($800,000 cap hit this past season): At 27, he's in his prime and would be a sought-after commodity if he hit the market. The Flyers likely have the room to keep him, given the money unloaded from the Jeff Carter and Mike Richards trades.
Tomas Fleischmann, Colorado Avalanche ($2.6 million cap hit this past season): The 26-year-old was on fire after arriving in Denver and playing alongside Matt Duchene, putting up 21 points (8-13) in 22 games before being shut down by a blood clot in his lung. Providing he comes back fully healthy, Fleischmann can put up some offense.
Tim Connolly, Buffalo Sabres ($4.5 million cap hit this past season): His 13 goals and 42 points (12-25) in 68 games was his worst offensive output since 2002-03 (not counting his two-game season in 2006-07). According to The Buffalo News, the Sabres’ talks with Connolly’s agent, J.P. Barry, have not involved any concrete offers.
Sean Bergenheim, Tampa Bay Lightning ($700,000 cap hit this past season): The forward seemingly came out of nowhere and became a postseason hero, scoring nine goals in 16 playoff games to help lead the Lightning to the East finals.
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks ($4.5 million cap hit this past season): He’s technically set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but it will be a shock if he signs anywhere else. He's going to re-sign with Anaheim or retire. He finished within the top 10 in league scoring with 80 points (31-49) in 73 games.
Other UFA-eligible forwards: Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche; Erik Cole, Carolina Hurricanes; Simon Gagne, Tampa Bay Lightning; Michal Handzus, Los Angeles Kings; Jamie Langenbrunner, Dallas Stars; Alexander Frolov, New York Rangers; Scottie Upshall, Columbus Blue Jackets; Nikolay Zherdev, Philadelphia Flyers; Maxime Talbot, Mike Rupp, Pittsburgh Penguins; Eric Belanger, Phoenix Coyotes; Jason Arnott, Washington Capitals; Brendan Morrison, Calgary Flames; Alexei Kovalev, Pittsburgh Penguins.
There were four hat tricks in the NHL on Wednesday night with three players reaching the feat for the first time in their careers.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Fleischmann and Ryan Kesler scored their first tricks, while Drew Stafford posted his third. Through Wednesday's action, there have been 38 hat tricks this season, eight more than at the same point in 2009-10.
Check out each player's goals here:
Hard to believe this was the first career hat trick for Lidstrom. Only took him 1,442 games! (If you missed it, be sure to check out Pierre LeBrun's profile on the Detroit Red Wings defenseman.)
Just over two weeks ago, the Washington Capitals traded Tomas Fleischmann to the Avalanche for Scott Hannan. After scoring just four goals in the 23 games with the Caps before the deal, he now has five goals in seven games with the Avs, including Wednesday's third-period hat trick against the Hawks.
Drew Stafford scored all the goals for Buffalo in its 3-2 win over Boston for his third career NHL hat trick.
Ryan Kesler's goal was a little more dramatic. After the Canucks gave up a third-period lead, he scored in overtime to give Vancouver a 3-2 win over Columbus. (Video: NHL)
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun discuss some of the hot topics in the NHL today.
Burnside: Well, my friend, no shortage of topics today. Let's start with the wackiest game from Monday night. Colorado scored three times in the last 2:24 to defeat the defending Cup champs from Chicago, 7-5. Marty Turco was long gone by then, but the goaltender didn't have a very good night. He gave up four goals on 10 shots before he was pulled for Corey Crawford, who gave up the tying and winning goals before the Avs added an empty-netter.
But what I thought was interesting was Tomas Fleischmann, recently acquired by Colorado from Washington, who chipped in a goal and two assists in the third period to help pace Colorado and push the Avs back into a playoff spot in the tightly-packed Western Conference.
LeBrun: The man they call "Flash" now has seven points (2-5) in his six games since leaving Washington and he's showing that if you give him minutes, he can produce just like he did last season with the Capitals. He played more than 16 minutes only three games out of 23 this season with the Caps, but has already played more than 16 minutes in five of his six games with his new team. And you see the production. The Avs have scored the most goals in the NHL, meanwhile, and are a blast to watch. I'm prepared to announce that even though the Western Conference race is incredibly tight, the Avs will make the playoffs. And the Canucks better be careful, the Northwest Division title is up for grabs.
Burnside: Agreed, my friend, I like the Avs' pluck even though they continue to soldier on through a bevy of injuries to key players. The other game that was dynamite Monday night was the Thrashers' 4-3 overtime win over Ottawa in which they blew a 3-0 lead. One of the Sens' comeback goals was scored by Jason Spezza on a penalty shot, but it was Spezza's no-look drop pass early in OT that Bryan Little took the length of the ice and beat Brian Elliott for the winner. Yes, the Sens got a much-needed point, but, once again, Alexei Kovalev was a non-factor, minus-1, zero points, so you can feel the tension building through the snow in Ottawa. Meanwhile, the red-hot Thrashers have Washington in their sights as they are two points back with a game in hand. They are in Tampa for another big game Tuesday night.
LeBrun: I know from talking to Sens GM Bryan Murray pretty much every week over the last two months just how disappointed he is and how much better he feels this team should be. He's been trying to make a trade to shake up the team for a long time, but has been offered bad contracts in return and doesn't want to do that. The trade holiday freeze is Dec. 19-27, so I suspect he'll give it one more college try. I also wonder just how safe Corey Clouston is behind the bench. Hopefully for him, the head coach can turn this around soon and keep his job because that's another area eventually where you'd think Murray will feel obliged to act on if the team keeps losing. As for the Thrashers, wish I had put them higher in the power rankings this week. Fell asleep at the wheel there. They're on fire and at this point, I'm not sure how Craig Ramsay isn't the odds-on favorite for the Jack Adams Award.
Burnside: Don't sweat the Power Rankings my friend, I'll clean up your mess when I do them next week. And you're right about Ramsay and the Jack Adams. Which is a good segue for my final thought, that of the Phoenix Coyotes, where defending Jack Adams Trophy winner Dave Tippett again has Coyotes looking like they're playoff-bound. Tuesday night the City of Glendale will vote on a new lease agreement with Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer. It will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to keep the team in Glendale, but the other option is for the league to move the team to Winnipeg, a process that would begin early in 2011 if no new lease is in place. I think the council will hold its nose and agree to the lease and a deal for Hulsizer to buy the team from the NHL for about $170 million will be announced within days, leaving us only hockey to talk about in the desert moving forward. Now all Hulsizer will have to do is make it work where so many have failed before him.
LeBrun: As stinky as those lease conditions are for local residents, I don't see any other option for the City of Glendale given that the alternative would be seeing the team leave town and that would cost taxpayers even more money in an empty arena. Our colleague from the Toronto Globe and Mail, David Shoalts, also reminds us in today's edition that "there is a chance the Goldwater Institute, a public watchdog, will take Glendale to court for violating Arizona laws against excessive public subsidies for private enterprises." But it does appear the Coyotes mess is finally coming to an end. All of which will shift the attention to your town of Atlanta, Scotty, where the Thrashers' ownership situation and low attendance has people in Winnipeg and Quebec City licking their lips. Until tomorrow.
Burnside: So, my friend, a real, honest to goodness hockey trade today with Colorado shipping veteran defenseman Scott Hannan to Washington for forward Tomas Fleischmann. Both can become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and both should help their new teams, but the thing that sticks out for me is how much this reminds me of the Tampa Bay Lightning's pick-up of Darryl Sydor during the 2003-04 season. That was the only significant move made by the Bolts as they went on to win the last Stanley Cup before the lockout. I know people say Hannan's game has deteriorated since he was a rock for the Sharks back in the day, but he should fit in nicely with the Caps. Your thoughts on how Fleischmann fits in for the Avs?
LeBrun: Avs GM Greg Sherman keeps a low profile around the league but maybe he's out from under the radar now. In a league where there are almost no trades before Christmas, he's completed three in two weeks. I spoke with Sherman today, and he laughed when I suggested there should be some kind of award recognizing that feat given how tough it is to make trades in this system in the first half of the season.
"Certainly it's been busy, that's for sure," Sherman said with a chuckle.
Injuries forced his hand in all three cases as the Avs have been pilloried in that department. The Fleishmann deal comes just days after losing star winger Chris Stewart for four to six weeks. The blue line was also beat up, which is why Sherman went out and got Ryan O'Byrne and Matt Hunwick. But Sherman was quick to point out that while the injuries played a part, he had a long term view as well with these moves.
"I believe that this is a scenario through where we've improved our hockey club not now but also down the road," Sherman said.
"Certainly in all three cases, you have Tomas at 26, and O'Byrne and Hunwick in their mid-20s as well. So it's a positive situation for us."
So for the Avs, it's still about keeping with the young, growing team. But for the Caps, Scotty, it's about now!
Burnside: Having covered the Caps in their meltdown in the first round against Montreal last spring there were some obvious problems, starting with the power play, which Hannan won't get near with a 10-foot pole. But beyond that, winning a championship is all about the cast of leaders, not just one guy.
I think Hannan fills an important role on a Caps team that is still learning to win when it counts. Now Hannan hasn't won it all, either, but he's been around the block a few times and should be a valuable resource for Bruce Boudreau given how young the Caps' blue line is. As peerless PR man Nate Ewell pointed out after the trade, Hannan would have led the Caps in blocked shots each of the last four seasons and those leadership by example qualities are hard to come by in this league.
Fleischmann had seen his stock fall this season in part because the Caps have drafted so well. They have high hopes for rookie center Marcus Johansson, so it's not like they're leaving themselves short by moving Fleischmann, who will get better exposure in Colorado, I am guessing.
LeBrun: Fleischmann scored 23 goals last season, so the offensive talent is there. He joins a team in Colorado that leads the entire NHL in goals per game (3.52), and Sherman told me he thinks the slick forward will fit right in because of that up-tempo style in Denver.
"He's going to bolster our lineup for sure," Sherman said. "Three of our top six forwards right now are unable to play. He certainly fits right into the system that Joe runs, he fits our identity and fits in the type of game we've been playing."
Interestingly, while the timing with the Stewart injury might have been the final push for Colorado to pull the trigger for Fleischmann, a source in Washington told me Tuesday that talks between the two teams began in August.
In Hannan, Scotty, it'll be interesting to see if the Caps can re-discocver the San Jose version of himself. He was OK in Colorado, in my opinion, but much more impressive in his younger days as a Shark, so much so that he got an invite to play for a deep Team Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Burnside: Yes, people forget that Hannan was one of those shut-down defensemen that GMs and coaches drool over as shown by his whopper four-year deal that pays him $4.5 million annually. He's just 31 so it's not like he should be breaking down and, in fact, has been extremely durable given the physical style he plays.
And here's the interesting thing. While Washington GM George McPhee suggested on Tuesday that Hannan completes their defense, he's still got lots of cap room left in case he wants to go shopping at the trade deadline for some depth up front, especially down the middle. Can anyone say Brad Richards? It'll be interesting next spring to see if we look back on this day as a monumental moment for the team.
Likewise, it'll be interesting to see if the changes the Avs have made this week can keep them in the hunt in a tough conference.
LeBrun: Key in all this is that the Avs entered the season with one of the league's lowest payrolls and tons of cap room. That gave them more flexibility in trade talks, especially when the injuries hit.
"It's also the timing we're at as a franchise," Sherman said. "Our identity as being a young team, certainly the business side coincidences with that. We've just been fortunate to find [trading] partners where it works on both sides."
They've added three NHL players in the last two weeks but given up only one off their active roster. Impressive work. The Caps, meanwhile, perhaps learned a lesson from last season when they added a few rentals at the trade deadline. Those players didn't seem to gel with their new surroundings in time for the playoffs. Now Hannan has two thirds of a season to do so.
Scotty, we talked trade today! Be well my friend.