When Steve Yzerman went from Hall of Fame player to front-office executive four years ago, he wasn't really sure what the future held. He wasn't totally sure if he would end up an NHL GM one day, if he really wanted that.
Now he knows.
"Yes, I would like to run a team one day," Yzerman told ESPN.com this week. "But who knows when that will be, if at all. I'm just focused on Team Canada right now. But yes, if the right situation and the right fit comes along one day, I would definitely look at it."
Yzerman has had one singular focus since being named Team Canada boss in October 2008: the Olympics. He let it be known in hockey circles he wasn't interested in any NHL GM offer until he was done with that. Well, two weeks from now, he'll be done.
As a vice president with the Detroit Red Wings over the past few years, Yzerman has been able to learn firsthand from two of the game's great managers in GM Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill. That, combined with the pressure-packed experience of running Canada's Olympic team and being the GM of the country's entry in the 2007 and 2008 World Championships, has given Yzerman the necessary tutelage to take that next step into an NHL GM job.
"I've certainly learned a lot over the last four years in Detroit from Kenny and Jim," said Yzerman. "And obviously everything with Hockey Canada has been a real great experience, but we'll see what happens down the road."
Yzerman won't jump at the first job offer; it's got to be the right fit and the right team. But mark my words, he'll be an NHL GM one day.
Blackhawks goaltending rumors
With Antti Niemi getting his third straight start in goal for Chicago on Saturday night, it certainly hasn't done anything to quell the rampant speculation the Blackhawks would try to upgrade their goaltending position before the March 3 trade deadline.
I spoke with a few NHL executives from other teams Saturday to try to separate fact from fiction on this, and here's the best I could come up with from sources I trust:
The Blackhawks have done their due diligence around the league and looked at the available goalies, but ultimately believe there's no real upgrade on what they have, not to mention how difficult it would be to fit in a new salary given their cap situation (it only got worse, short-term, with the acquisition of Kim Johnsson on Friday).
In the final analysis, I don't think the Hawks are totally sold on their goaltending, but they also don't believe there's a fix out there that makes sense at the present time. And really, what you're seeing now, as ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers told me Saturday, is Niemi getting a chance to be the man.
Again, as I've mentioned here before, you can't forget that the Hawks continue to lead the NHL with the fewest shots against per game, by far. They don't need Niemi or Cristobal Huet to steal games come playoff time; they just need them not to blow them.
Islanders goalie rumors
Everyone knows Martin Biron (who started Saturday afternoon) will likely be moved before March 3, but from what I'm hearing, the Islanders would also be willing to move Dwayne Roloson for the right price. Unlike Biron, Roloson is not an unrestricted free agent on July 1; he has another year on his deal at $3 million, although his cap number is $2.5 million. The obvious concern is he'll be 41 for the second year of the contract; but given the way he's played this season, you can't help but wonder how he couldn't help a team in these playoffs.
Another Islander likely on the move is towering defenseman Andy Sutton, who is UFA July 1. The Islanders received a lot of calls on him Friday and will almost surely move him by March 3. He's a solid pickup in the Hal Gill, shot-blocking, penalty-killing type of way.
The folks with Slovakia's Olympic hockey team are obviously holding their collective breaths right now as their best forward, Marian Gaborik, deals with his leg injury. The star Rangers winger gave it a try Friday night, but had to leave the game. His leg was sliced open right above his knee earlier this week.
I'm told he's officially "day to day," but Friday night wasn't a great sign. The one positive thing for Slovakia is it doesn't open its Olympic tournament until Wednesday at 9 p.m. PT/midnight ET, so that gives Gaborik extra time to rest (although it's a doozie against the arch-rival Czechs). And the Slovaks can't take a game off; they're in the Group of Death with Russia, the Czechs and Latvia.
Possible Stars owner
You probably read the reports this week, including some from ESPNDallas.com, regarding a possible ownership group involving Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Stars player Mike Modano in minority roles.
Another name I first brought to your attention back in October is that of Bill Gallacher. The Calgary, Alberta, oil tycoon is loaded and talked with the NHL earlier this season. Because of oil industry ties in Texas, the Stars were always a team many believed was on Gallacher's radar. But I spoke to him earlier this week, and other than confirming he had spoken with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman earlier this season about the league in general, he said there was not a conversation about one team in particular.
"I haven't pursued anything yet, I've been busy with my other business activities," Gallacher told ESPN.com this week. "I'm aware of the Dallas situation, but I haven't acted on that. Right now, I'm just swamped with what I have going here [in the oil industry]."
The NHL, I'm told, is hoping Gallacher will get involved in the Stars' situation, but from what he told me this week, it doesn't sound like a priority at this point. Another name out there is Doug Miller, according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. He's an oil guy from Dallas and also apparently well off.
Predators and Hamhuis
Friday's mini-trade deadline came and went, and Dan Hamhuis was still a Predator. I mean, it seems hard to believe Nashville would even trade a top-four blueliner when a playoff spot is a realistic target. Then again, Preds GM David Poile can't stand the thought of the UFA-to-be walking away July 1 and getting nothing in return. It's a real tough choice.
"All things being equal, we'd like to sign him, but I'm not sure all things are equal," Poile told ESPN.com on Saturday.
Making the playoffs is really important to this franchise, so I think if I were a betting man, I'd say Hamhuis survives the March 3 trade deadline. But there's always the chance the Preds could move him for some much-needed offensive help. That's another option. The best solution to all this, of course, is Hamhuis signing an extension before March 3 to take away all the stress.
"We'll talk to all our unrestricted free agents during the Olympic break," said Poile. "What I want to do is sign Dan Hamhuis, but I don't know if that will happen."
You may be wondering why the heck the Leafs would bother with claiming forward Jamie Lundmark off NHL waivers from the Calgary Flames on Saturday. It's a depth move, so when the Leafs move Alexei Ponikarovsky and possibly a few other bodies March 3, they'll have somebody to stick in there for the remainder of the season. It's a no-risk move since Lundmark is earning $600,000 this season, but it is a two-way contract that pays him much less if he's sent to the AHL. He's also UFA July 1.
More on the Panthers
I told you Friday about the Panthers working the phone before the Olympic trade freeze, trying to move more bodies after dealing Dominic Moore to Montreal on Thursday. They weren't able to on Friday, but have certainly set the stage with several conversations for more moves come March 3.
GM Randy Sexton has the backing from the Panthers' new owners to move a bunch of bodies. The owners took the rare step of reaching out to fans Friday with an open letter.
Following a 4-1 loss in Carolina on Tuesday night, I'm told Sexton reached out to his two main owners, Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel, and had a few meetings over the next few days regarding what he believed should be the direction of the team.
Sexton believed it was time, no matter how painful in the short term, to break up this team and rebuild it around the core of David Booth and company.
I credit Sexton and the Panthers' ownership group for having the guts to go down this route, because, quite frankly, after a decade of futility, I'm not sure how much patience or loyalty remains in that market. Time will tell.