The Quiet Before the Storm, Replaced with the Eye Today
As the old saying goes: time sure does fly when you’re having fun. As such, it’s hard to believe today is the last official day of the 2008-09 season. It seemed like only yesterday that Penguins fans were waking up with hangovers from a celebratory night but all of a sudden the NHL Entry Draft has passed us by and we’re on the cusp of another exciting free agency period. I have many points to cover here before July 1st kicks off at noon eastern time, so let’s get started.
First of all, for those wondering about draft follow-up, I’m still putting that together. I’ll try get some pieces up on the winners and losers and some players to look for. I’m also actively compiling information on 5th round pick Alex Velischek who comes from my area as well as 6th round pick Viktor Ekbom. Calls and e-mails have been dispatched and information is being compiled. I’m already pretty familiar with Velischek as he went to high school fairly close to me. He’s a strong, two-way defenseman that will probably become more defensive-minded as he further progresses. He has a cannon of a shot. He’s very strong, strong as an ox and has a physical edge to his game. Good character, devoted to the game. Son of former NHLer Randy Velischek, so the bloodlines are there.
Ekbom I’m still learning about, I have a bare bones scouting report on him. One thing I noted about him though is that he just re-signed with Linkopings HC (SEL) until 2011 and he’s already 20 years old. So, hopefully the Penguins scouts know something I don’t about him and his future plans. Just on pure hunch and history, I’m not sure I expect Ekbom to play in North America ever, but I haven’t heard back from the people I’ve contacted about him – mere blind speculation on my part.As for the news from today, of course, the big deal.
The Montreal Canadiens have acquired Scott Gomez, prospect defenseman Michael Busto and prospect forward Tom Pyatt from the New York Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins, top defensive prospect Ryan McDonagh, defensive prospect Pavel Valentenko and soon-to-be UFA Doug Janik.
The Canadiens get absolutely destroyed in the deal. The original reported deal was Chris Higgins for Scott Gomez. Which would have made some sense, the Habs get their expensive center, the Rangers get a serviceable player and cap space. Now, not only are the Rangers off the hook for Gomez’s bloated salary, but they get one of the premier defensive prospects in the world right now in McDonagh. Valentenko left for Russia from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL this year, so he may never return. Busto isn’t likely to be an NHL regular, maybe a #7 down the road. Pyatt may become a bottom-six forward down the road.
Look for Dany Heatley to be a Ranger very soon.
To follow up from yesterday on the unqualified restricted free agents.
The Rangers, additionally, did not qualify Vladimir Denisov or Joe Barnes. The Phoenix Coyotes have let go former first round pick Alex Bourret, forward Joakim Lindstrom and enforcer Garth Murray. The New York Islanders, besides not qualifying Peter Mannino, did not tender an offer to Jamie Fraser or Jason Pitton.
The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to qualify goaltender David Brown. Which makes sense considering the recent signing of Brad Thiessen.
The Edmonton Oilers parted ways with Stephane Goulet, David Rohlfs, Tyler Spurgeon, Sebastien Bisallion and Mathieu Roy. Reportedly, the Oilers have bought defensive prospect Josef Hrabal.
Update: The Devils did not qualify defenseman Andy Greene.
Update: The Maple Leafs did not tender Andre Deveaux, Jay Harrison, Ryan Hollweg, Erik Reitz, Andy Rogers, Jaime Sifers or Jeremy Williams. They’re free to go.
The Dallas Stars, predictably, didn’t allow Jere Lehtinen to make it to free agency. They gave him a one-year, $1.5 million deal with an additional $1 million in incentives.
Johnny Oduya and the New Jersey Devils have come to terms with puck-moving defenseman on a three-year deal worth $10.5 million ($3.5 million per year).
Additionally, the Devils have traded the rights to prospect Tony Romano to the New York Islanders for Ben Walter (UFA – July 1) and a conditional 2012 draft pick. Update: They have already re-signed Walter.
The Ottawa Senators have reportedly offered a $1.7 million per year deal to tough guy Chris Neil (apparently, four years, $6.8 million). Neil rejected it. I’m not sure if he’ll find more than that on the market though, that seems like a lot for a player of his type.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin may yet be Vancouver Canucks. Apparently, they are close to a deal but TSN’s Bob McKenzie says nothing is done yet.
Watch for a trade to go down tonight for Dany Heatley. The New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers are hot on his trail. Dustin Penner, a roster defenseman (Tom Gilbert makes sense), a top prospect (perhaps Petry, Nash or Eberle) and a pick is believed to be the offer from Edmonton. While the Rangers will likely serve up Michal Rozsival, the rights to Nikolai Zherdev and one of Bobby Saguinetti or Michael Del Zotto.
Update: The Calgary Flames have signed Jay Bouwmeester to a five-year deal worth $33 million ($6.6 million per year)
Stay tuned for updates to follow.