Archive for February 2007

Deadline Day, 11:30 a.m.

February 27, 2007

There are still four hours of shopping remaining before the NHL store closes for the season. Things are starting to happen, and usually the trickle of deals now is the appetizer for the flurry of swaps that is likely to take place between 2-3 pm.

Everyone had Gary Roberts going to Ottawa or Toronto, with Buffalo maybe having an outside shot, until yesterday. Late Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins got into the mix and got the deal done. Roberts agreed to waive his no-trade clause, and he becomes a Penguin with defenseman Noah Welch heading to Florida. Good deal for both teams. Roberts will be an effective deterrent to opponents taking perceived liberties with the Pens’ young players, and he will help usher them into the postseason for the first time. Florida was able to get a player as opposed to a pick for Roberts simply because there was so much competition for his services.

Not sure whether this would squash the possibility of Phoenix’s Georges Laraque heading to Pittsburgh, but we’ll see. Sounds like the Pens may still want him. EDIT: Just in, Laraque to the Pens for Danny Carcillo and an seventh-round pick. The Pens certainly toughened up, and no one in the AHL’s East Division will be weeping over the departure of Carcillo and his antics.

The Sabres sent goaltender Martin Biron to Philadelphia for a draft choice, thought to be a second rounder. Interesting deal. Philly did Buffalo a favor, taking Biron’s salary off the books. Expect Buffalo to add a forward in that salary slot in the next few hours. The Flyers must believe they’ve got a chance to sign Biron to give up a No. 2, if that’s what it turns out to be. The goaltending roulette wheel continues to spin in the City of Brotherly Love. The Sabres pick up journeyman goaltender Ty Conklin from Columbus to back up Ryan Miller the rest of the way.

Nothing new from Caps land. George McPhee made a pair of solid deals yesterday, picking up a second-rounder for Richard Zednik, and getting a late pick and a defenseman for the Hershey Bears in exchange for defenseman Lawrence Nycholat, who was essentially stuck in limbo. Washington still has some moveable assets. The big question is this: Will they be able to sign Dainius Zubrus at this late hour? If not, he is almost certainly headed elsehwhere.

More all day long.

The Ripple Effect

February 26, 2007

Nothing that happens in the NHL occurs in a vacuum. In the salary cap environment, every contract and every trade has a ripple effect on future contracts and trades, and that might be even more true at trade deadline time.

The deadline is still a bit more than 24 hours away, but some off-ice events of the past few days are likely to have an effect on what transpires between now and Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

From a Washington standpoint, the most interesting development might be the four-year contract extension the Bruins lavished upon winger Marco Sturm. Boston re-signed Sturm to a four-year deal worth $14 million. Sturm is just a couple months younger than Washington center Dainius Zubrus, and the two players were taken just six choices apart (Zubrus went 15th to Philadelphia, and Sturm 21st to San Jose) in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

Zubrus has played 670 NHL games, totaling 134 goals and 352 points. He came into the league as a winger, but has played center the last few seasons. Zubrus has put together two straight 20-goal seasons and is on target for a second straight career year.

Like Zubrus, Sturm has exactly 20 goals this season. But he has 20 fewer assists and thus, 20 fewer points. He doesn’t have Zubrus’s versatility, either. In 659 NHL games, Sturm has totaled 171 goals and 348 points.

Aside from position, there are some similarities between the two players. If the Bruins paid Sturm $14 million for four years, shouldn’t the Caps be willing to pony up a similar amount to lock up Zubrus? Maybe not.

There are those (and I’m one of them) who will tell you the Bruins paid too much for Sturm. He’s a nice player, a good guy, and he’s put together five straight 20-goal seasons. That’s a good level of consistency. But when it’s all said and done, Sturm is a second line winger in the eyes of most. And if you pay a second line winger $3.5 million a year for four years, you still have five other top six forwards, a bunch of defensemen and probably a goaltender with their hands held out looking for similar money, if not more.

The Bruins have been more than willing to spend in recent seasons, doling out big money and long terms to the likes of Alexei Zhamnov, Dave Scatchard, Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard. For all that spending, the Bruins finished four points ahead of Washington in the standings last season. They’re six points ahead of the Caps in the standings this season, with sagging hopes of a playoff berth.

There are any number of different ways to construct a team in this brave new salary cap environment, and we’ve seen several teams go off in several different fiscal directions over the past two seasons. Some have been successful, and some have not. When you have $48 million to spend (for argument’s sake, let’s assume that’s the Cap for next season), that means your average player can be paid about $2 million. And remember, you don’t want to spend right up to the cap. That’s proven to be a huge hindrance for several clubs in the last two seasons. Is Sturm really worth almost double what you would pay the “average” player? You can debate that, but I don’t think he is. To me, he’s worth somewhere closer to $3 million, maybe even less.

It’s not my money, and it’s in the eye of the beholder, as they say. But I’m guessing the Sturm deal isn’t going to make it any easier for the Caps to come to terms with Zubrus, who came to Washington at the trade deadline six years ago. After Sunday’s 3-2 loss to New Jersey, Zubrus was philosophical about his future.

“Yeah, it crosses your mind,” he said, when asked if he had thought that Sunday’s game might be his last as a Capital. “You have to be realistic. I don’t know if I did play my last game [for Washington], but it’s a good possibility that I did. We’ll see what happens. You think about it more between periods or before the next game. But during the game you’re focusing on that next shift and that next play. We’ll see what happens over the next couple of days.

“Honestly, I don’t want to talk too much about it. If it happens, it happens. If I go somewhere, I go somewhere. I’ve been traded before at the deadline. It wouldn’t be that new to me. It’s not in my hands now.”

Carolina’s deal for Anson Carter (the Canes sent a fifth-rounder to Columbus for the ex-Caps winger) was a good one for the defending Cup champs. I’m not sure why Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean could not extract more of a price from a team that is currently without two of its top six forwards (Erik Cole and Cory Stillman) because of injury. Had MacLean waited until Tuesday, he almost certainly would have done better. Like Boston, Columbus has not exactly proven to be a bastion of hockey wisdom in recent years.

Anaheim GM Brian Burke has been outspoken about the high prices being demanded by the “selling” GMs around the league, and he has been even more outspoken about how he’s not going to pay those prices. Over the weekend, Burke shipped defenseman Shane O’Brien (ostensibly the Ducks’ No. 5 defenseman) to Tampa Bay along with a third-round choice in exchange for goaltending prospect Gerald Coleman and a first-round choice. The betting is that Burke will use that first-rounder in a bid to upgrade his defense or add another forward before Tuesday’s deadline.

The thinking is similar in the Montreal-San Jose trade, where the Habs dealt blueliner Craig Rivet and a fifth-rounder to San Jose for defenseman Josh Gorges and a first-rounder. The Habs have been seeking a second line center for quite some time, and they had some depth on defense. With the first-rounder obtained from the Sharks, the Canadiens may become a player in a deal that will upgrade their forward ranks.

Rivet will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and the Sharks have a very green blueline. He will lend some veteran stability back there in San Jose the rest of the way.

Atlanta paid a hefty price for Keith Tkachuk (a first-, a second- and a third-round choice plus Glen Metropolit), and also did so for defenseman Alexei Zhitnik, who is on the books for $3.5 million for each of the next two seasons. Mired in a 2-7-2 slide, the Thrashers have the league’s worst record over that span. Atlanta was flying high early in the season, but has tumbled from the top spot in the Southeast. Thrashers GM Don Waddell must be feeling the heat. He guaranteed a playoff berth last season, only to watch his team fall short. If that were to happen again in 2006-07, he would likely pay the price with his job.

Tkachuk is a big winger who has been playing in the middle this season. With Steve Rucchin out because of a broken foot, the Thrashers having been muddling along with Eric Belanger (a recent acquisition from Nashville), Bobby Holik, Jim Slater and Niko Kapanen as their four centers lately. None of the four is a top six guy, and it could be argued that Rucchin no longer is, either. Tkachuk is going to have his hands full down in Atlanta. He doesn’t have much of a résumé as far as the postseason is concerned. Nearly a point-per-game player (911 points in 958 games) during the regular season throughout his NHL career, Tkachuk has 27 goals and 53 points in 81 postseason tilts. He is minus-16 in the playoffs, and has but one goal in his last dozen playoff games.

With the soon-to-be-35-year-old Tkachuk off the table, the contending clubs now turn their hungry eyes to the likes of the Blues’ Billy Guerin and Washington’s Zubrus. Although the New York Islanders are still in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase, they’re reportedly mulling offers from several Western clubs for All-Star winger Jason Blake, currently in the final year of his contract.

Detroit found the price for Tkachuk to be too costly. The Wings, Canucks and Ducks look to be the Western Conference teams with the most potential use/need for a player like Guerin or Zubrus. Dallas is fairly thick up the middle, but could certainly use some additional scoring punch. Minnesota is said to be looking for a center and a defenseman. Zubrus could be useful to the Wild, but Minnesota GM Doug Risebrough sounds like he is looking to make a “fine tune” type of deal more than a major move.

Out east, Buffalo has been banged up lately, and a sizeable center would not hurt, especially if concussed Chris Drury is expected to miss significant time. Montreal and Toronto are also thought to be sniffing around for additional top six forward upgrades. The Rangers have been in need of a second line center all season, but their playoff hopes are sagging like captain Jaromir Jagr’s shoulders. New York seems to be growing tired of Jagr’s act.

The Caps are likely to do most of their dealing with Western clubs, but Caps GM George McPhee has not ruled out making a move with an Eastern Conference rival.

With the likes of Guerin, Blake, Bryan Smolinski, Owen Nolan, Gary Roberts and others being bandied about, Zubrus seems to be beneath the radar of much of the North American hockey media for now. A quick scan of Monday’s morning papers in the 30 NHL cities did not turn his name up in association with any other clubs, but the Caps are finding that there is a good deal of interest in his services right now. If he and the Caps can’t come to terms in the next 24 hours, Zubrus is likely to have a new address. And he could provide a big push for a team with designs on a Stanley Cup title.

Some other noteworthy items:

Bryan’s Best — Former Caps coach Bryan Murray recently became just the fifth NHL bench boss ever to record 600 wins. The Ottawa Sun asked Murray to name the top five players he has ever coached in a career where he has been behind the benches in Washington, Detroit, Florida, Anaheim and Ottawa. The Caps heavy list is as follows: Steve Yzerman, Scott Stevens, Sergei Fedorov, Rod Langway and Bengt Gustafsson.

Skrastins Scratched — Avs defenseman Karlis Skrastins saw his NHL record (for a defenseman) 495-consecutive-games-played streak come to a half on Sunday when a knee injury forced him to the sidelines for Colorado’s game at Anaheim. Skrastins recently surpassed Hall of Fame defenseman Tim Horton, who had set the standard at 482 consecutive games played nearly four decades ago.

52 Pick-Up

February 23, 2007

As of Thursday night’s NHL action, Caps center Dainius Zubrus stood 52nd in the NHL scoring race, tied with three others with (ironically enough) 52 points in that position. The Caps are interested in keeping Zubrus, and Zubrus is interested in staying in Washington. So it’s possible a contract extension could be announced between now and Tuesday’s 3 p.m. NHL trading deadline. If no deal can be struck however, the Caps must trade Zubrus. He becomes an unrestricted free agent in July, the playoffs are beyond Washington’s grasp, and the demand is there.

It can be hard to determine the value of a player as the deadline approaches. Basically, it is whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay, and is acceptable to the “seller.” As with contract negotiations, you can sometimes use “comparables” as a basis of measuring value. Problem is, no real comparables to Zubrus have been moved thus far.

The Nashville Predators paid a handsome price for center Peter Forsberg last week, but he was one of the best players in the game as recently as 2003-04 (when healthy). He is also a proven playoff commodity. On the debit side, his salary cap hit to the Preds is more than three times what Zubrus’s would be. Forsberg is 33 years old, and has not played more than 60 games since 2002-03.

Earlier today, the Carolina Hurricanes obtained veteran winger Anson Carter from Columbus for a fifth-round draft choice in 2008. An ex-Capital, Carter doesn’t provide any basis for comparison, either. His salary is higher ($2.5 million to Zubrus’s $1.85 mil; but potential suitors will only be assessed about a third of that amount in terms of a “salary cap hit”) , he is older (he’s 32; Zubrus is 28), he is less versatile (plays wing, Zubrus plays center or wing) and has produced less in 2006-07 (10 goals and 27 points compared to Zubrus’s 20 goals and 52 points). The Carter deal doesn’t help the potential return for right wing Richard Zednik, another Capital who figures to be on the move between now and Tuesday if he does not ink an extension. Then again, just because the Jackets took less than they should have when they had the leverage, doesn’t mean the Caps should or will.

Besides Zubrus, what options to other playoff-bound teams have? Not many. Several of the league’s top 52 scorers are on teams whose playoff chances are all but nil. Several others play for teams who aren’t likely to squeeze into the hunt for the Cup. And most of those players aren’t going anywhere, regardless. Here’s a look at the non-playoff players ahead of Zubrus on the league’s scoring ledger, and where they currently rank on that list:

5 – Marc Savard (C), Boston — He has had a great year, is in the first season of a long-term deal and isn’t going anywhere.
9 – Joe Sakic (C), Colorado — He is on the Steve Yzerman career path. One team, entire career. Extremely unlikely to be dealt, and costly if he is.
10 – Jaromir Jagr (RW), Rangers — The playoff math is starting to get difficult for New York, but who wants this guy and who could afford him anyway? The Stanley Cup playoffs are hockey’s foxhole, and you’d be better off with a poodle in there with you than this guy.
12 – Alex Ovechkin (LW), Washington — As if.
19 – Martin Straka (C) NY Rangers — He signed a contract extension last month. He’s staying in New York.
20 – Michael Nylander (C) NY Rangers — In the last year of a deal that pays him $2.28 million this season. He can be had only if the Rangers decide to give up the ghost between now and Tuesday.
26 – Mike Cammalleri (C) Los Angeles — Very reasonably priced cornerstone piece of Kings rebuild. Not going anywhere.
29 – Alexander Frolov (LW) Los Angeles — See Cammalleri, above.
31 – Olli Jokinen (C) Florida — An 80-point franchise center who plays 21 minutes a night and is signed for three more years at a fair price of $5 million per. Maybe Jokinen wants to be traded, and certainly there would be interest. But could team with designs on a Cup make it worth Florida’s while to pull the trigger? Extremely doubtful.
37 – Andrew Brunette (LW) Colorado — A steal at $800,000 this year, and he signed a very reasonable extension back in Sept. Under the current economic structure, you need a guy or two like this who delivers more for the dollar. The Avs would be foolish to part with him, unless the return is Godfatheresque (too good to refuse).
43 – Alexander Semin (LW) Washington — See Nos. 12 and 37, above.
45 – Mats Sundin (C) Toronto — The Leafs hold a pricey option ($6.33 million) on Sundin’s services for next year. They may decline that option, but the only way they deal him in the next few days is if they kiss off all hope of a playoff berth. Not likely.
48 – Anze Kopitar (C) Los Angeles — See Nos. 12, 26 and 29, above.
50 – Brendan Shanahan (LW) NY Rangers — See No. 20, above.
51 – Patrice Bergeron (C) Boston — The Bruins have made some head-scratching deals in the last 16 months or so, but they’re not going to move Bergeron.
52 – Ryan Smyth (LW) Edmonton — He’s not a center, but he is a power forward and a gamer, and there isn’t a team in this league that wouldn’t like to have him. The Oilers are teetering on the precipice of non-contention, and Smyth’s fate hangs in the balance.
52 – Zubrus
75 – Bill Guerin (RW) St. Louis — Still has speed and a great shot. Not many 28-goal scorers to pick from this year. Salary is reasonable ($2 million), but the trading cost might not be.
91 – Keith Tkachuk (LW) St. Louis — Will be 35 in a month. Cap hit would be twice that of Zubrus the rest of the way. Is he twice the player Zubrus is at this stage of both their careers? Will he produce twice as much as Zubrus the rest of the way? Tkachuk is a “name” player. That might fetch the Blues a bit of a higher price than it should.

Half the league is in a buying mode, but far fewer have made the absolute cut-bait decision to sell. It would seem to be a seller’s market, at least for now. Some “buying” clubs will have an easier time adding payroll than others, but virtually all of them should be able to make Zubrus’s contract fit, should they so desire.

Certain “Buyers” (15) — Nashville, Detroit, Anaheim, Vancouver, San Jose, Dallas, Minnesota, Calgary, Buffalo, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Atlanta, Carolina
Certain “Sellers” (8) — Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Columbus, Chicago, Phoenix, St. Louis, Washington, Florida
Likely “Buyers” (4) — NY Rangers, Montreal, Toronto, NY Islanders
Likely “Sellers” (2) — Colorado, Boston
On the Fence (1) — Edmonton

If I’m one of the buyers, and I need some offensive help the rest of the way, Zubrus is right up near the top of my list. Short of convincing Glen Sather that the sky is falling, Zubrus is arguably the most attractive asset in the NHL’s top 52 scorers. There should be a decent amount if interest in him if he does not re-sign with Washington, but time and the market will tell.

The Root of the Rumor

February 22, 2007

Let’s assume two NHL general managers are talking to each other about a possible trade, formally or informally. How many other people are likely to be privy to the conversation? From what I know, just a handful. And they’re not likely to let it go any further than that room, which makes one wonder: where do these rumors come from?

The Caps annually convene their hockey operations and pro scouting departments a few days prior to the actual deadline. The boys will be getting into town soon for this year’s festivities. What follows are long days filled with phone calls, pacing, scrawling of scenarios, consumption of various local takeout cuisines and ultimately, decisions.

The Caps have a “war room” especially for this and other related hockey decisioning purposes. The seven, eight or nine guys basically sequester themselves in the room for days on end, leaving late each night and arriving early each morning. There is quite of bit of discussion that goes on among those men over those few days, but I don’t imagine any of them spends any time late at night phoning various members of the North American hockey media/blogosphere to inform them which teams they’re calling, which players they’re discussing and what moves they might make.

I’m guessing it’s fairly similar to this in the other 29 NHL cities, too.

But I don’t know. Maybe not.

Maybe in those cities, the GMs and assistant GMs and pro scouts discuss deals and then “leak” the particulars to office workers, media types, man-on-the-street-passers-by, and the delivery guys who bring the takeout vittles. That way, those people can spread the rumors like wildfire, passing them along to media types and bloggers, who in turn make charts and lists and predictions with them. Then, the NHL fans can fire up their computers, log on to message boards and weigh on whether they’d make that deal or not. The GM and his staff can then read those message boards, and use them as a trial balloon, thus using the sagacity of the masses to avoid a disastrous deal. Smart.

Actually, that doesn’t sound very likely either. So who are these “sources” who claim various deals are imminent, possible, dead, pending, or whatever? I don’t know that either, but they’re wrong far more often than they’re right. If you’re an employee of an NHL club, and you decide to leak some info to an “outsider” so you can appear to be “in the know,” well that’s the expressway to becoming an ex-employee of an NHL club. Nothing I have ever “learned” from various conversations here would be worth losing my job over. Even if it was Mike Wallace or Bob McKenzie doing the asking.

I understand that all this trade deadline rumor mongering is fun. It’s interesting. I’m a fan, too, but when so many of the “talks” that are rumored to be talking place have never even happened, it’s extreme.

You can bet that the Caps will be active between now and the Feb. 27 NHL trading deadline. But that’s all you should bet on. I asked Caps GM George McPhee this morning what was going on. He said it’s just a lot of talking, for the time being. He’s received what he termed “a few soft offers,” but nothing that feels imminent or even intriguing for now. Plenty of time, though. You can tell that by the bluster in the quotes of the “buying” GMs, who are currently blathering on about “prices being too high,” and how “we may do nothing.”

While you’re doing nothing, you might want to note that five of the last six Stanley Cup champions did “something” at the deadline. Just some food for thought. Here’s some more:

Last year’s NHL trading deadline was the most productive in terms of the total number of trades (25) and ranked second in terms of the number of players moved (40). The 2002-03 deadline saw 46 players change addresses.

The trade dealine of 1979-80 is considered the first, and the biggest and most far-reaching deal made was the one that sent plucky center Butch Goring from Los Angeles to the New York Islanders for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. Goring helped the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup titles, with the first coming mere months after the trade. Only five players changed hands on that deadline day, but three of them (Goring, Lewis and Ron Low) went on to become head coaches in the league.

That first deadline day also produced a very cautionary deal for the GMs and future GMs. In addition to dishing Goring to the Isles, Kings general manager George Maguire traded away the Kings’ first-round choice in the 1982 Entry Draft to the Buffalo Sabres for veteran defenseman Jerry “King Kong” Korab. The Sabres used the choice (sixth overall) to select high school hotshot Phil Housley, who went on to tally 1,232 points in a 1,495-game NHL career that spanned 21 seasons and eight different NHL teams (including the Caps).

A year later, Maguire again traded away his first-round choice of two years hence, and again sent it to the Kings. This time, he got former French Connection winger Richard Martin for a first-round choice in 1983 and a third-rounder in 1981. The first in 1983 turned out to be the fifth overall, and the Sabres chose goaltender Tom Barrasso. He won 369 games in his 19-season NHL career. Soon after the Sabres strolled to the podium to choose Barrasso, Maguire became the Kings’ ex-GM.

The first actual deadline day deal involving the Capitals was a whopper of a swap. It came on Mar. 9, 1982 when the Caps shipped left wing Todd Bidner to Edmonton for defenseman Doug Hicks. Bidner, who hailed from Petrolia, Ont. (the same hometown as Dale Hunter), never played another game in the NHL after leaving Washington, where he skated in a dozen of them. Hicks tallied one assist in his 18 games in the red, white and blue. Chalk one up for the Caps.

The seeds of Tampa Bay’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship were planted some six years earlier, in two seemingly innocuous deadline day deals. First, the Bolts traded defensemen Bryan Marchment and David Shaw and a first-round draft choice (later traded to Nashville) to San Jose for Andrei Naarov and a first-rounder in 1998. Then much maligned Lightning GM Phil Esposito shipped center Jason Wiemer to Calgary in exchange for winger Sandy McCarthy, a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in 1998.

With the first-rounder from San Jose (first overall), the Lightning chose center Vincent Lecavalier. With the third-rounder from the Flames, Tampa Bay took center Brad Richards. Esposito converted a bag of shells and some magic beans into picks that turned into the team’s two top centers.

Sometimes, you can be buying when you appear to be selling.

Public Service Announcement

February 22, 2007

The NHL just released this handy little Q&A regarding the league’s annual trading deadline. In the interests of public service, I now cut and paste it here in its entirety:

How is a trade made?

After two clubs have come to an agreement on a trade, the clubs must advise the League office, either by telephone or by FAX, of the terms of the trade. The League office then schedules a conference call with the two teams to review the transaction and give final approval for the deal. Prior to the trade call, the League office will ensure that the team has the appropriate salary cap space to make the deal; if draft choices are involved, that the club has the available choices; and that the team has available space on its reserve list to add the player (s). It should be noted that the 23-man roster restriction is no longer in force from February 27 on.

On the trade call, the League will a) review the terms of the player contracts and ensure that teams are aware of their respective obligations to the player (s) involved; b) ensure that, should a player have a no-trade clause, that the player has waived that right; and c) ensure that any conditions to consummation of the transaction have been clearly defined and agreed upon.

The trade becomes official after the trade call has taken place.

What if a player involved in a transaction has a “no trade” clause?

No trade clauses can vary from player to player. For example, a player may have a list of teams that he has agreed to be traded to. The League requires written documentation from the player that he has waived his no trade clause. If applicable, the documentation must also stipulate which teams the player has agreed it is permissible for him to be traded to.

Can a trade take place after the 3:00 P.M. ET deadline on February 27, 2007?

Trade calls may take place after the 3:00 p.m. deadline but the League must have been advised of any and all transactions, including the specific details, prior to 3:00 p.m. It is not unusual that a number of trades are agreed to between the clubs just before 3:00 p.m. However, due to the volume of trades occurring just prior to the deadline, the League may not be able to conduct the actual trade call until after 3:00 p.m. There are four League officials that conduct trade calls and calls may last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the complexity of the deal.

How is a player’s salary charged against a team’s salary cap when a trade is made at the deadline?

The salary that is charged against a team’s cap is the pro rated amount remaining of the player’s average yearly salary. For example, if a player has an average yearly salary of $2 million, the amount charged against the acquiring team’s cap is the pro-rated amount remaining of $2 million.

This is calculated by dividing $2 million by the number of days in the season (187). The amount ($10,695) is then multiplied by the number of days remaining in the season from the day the trade is made (41 days if trade is on deadline day) to ascertain the amount charged against the team’s cap ($438,502).

A Life Sentence

February 22, 2007

On game days, Caps coach Glen Hanlon holds court for the media three different times. He first addresses them after the morrning skate. He chats with them again a couple hours before face-off, and of course, he holds a post-game press conference.

Today’s pregame chat yielded a few worthy tidbits. Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post asked Hanlon whether he had given any thought to breaking up the team’s top forward unit of Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus and Chris Clark.

“There is never a discussion of moving,” said Hanlon. “You have to understand the Russian mindset. It’s like, you play with somebody for life. You don’t change people. The KLM Line, they start out on [the] Red Army [team] when you’re like 12 years old. You don’t even dream of changing. I’ve done that with our [national] team in Belarus. They just look at you like, ‘This is the weirdest doggone thing.’ So it’s kind of Ovie’s mindset that he plays with Zubrus and Clark.”

Hanlon intimated that he would give the trio a chance to work out whatever struggles it may be having on its own.

“I’ve said lots of times that I admire [Tampa Bay coach John] Tortorella’s persistence in [saying], ‘You guys sort this out.’ They’re not flipping lines every single time they get into a dry spell.”

Hanlon did add: “Nothing is forever. There might come a time when that would happen.

“That second line center has to establish himself as a top NHL player. He’s got to be a 60-70 point guy or I’m not too sure that the experiment is worth it to be flipping everybody around.”

Speaking of “that second line center,” there will be another change in that regard for tonight’s game with San Jose at Verizon Center. Brooks Laich will be scratched in favor of Kris Beec. Hanlon felt the need to establish a better presence on the power play, and believes Beech may be able to accomplish that.

“It’s not because of the way that [Laich] has played,” said the Caps bench boss. “We had a real good meeting with him. We’re putting Kris Beech in to try to generate some offense and to try to get a second unit on the power play. We’ve had three wingers out there and we’ve contemplated trying to just tell them to tie up an offensive zone face-off, but that hasn’t worked. Then they’re chasing the puck down. They only get 40 seconds and they’re using 10 of it to chase the puck. We’re hoping that Beech’s power play ability [will help].”

We’re minutes away from seeing how it all works out. One caveat: the power play may not see much action against the Sharks. San Jose has permitted five or fewer power plays in each of its last 16 games, and three or fewer in 10 of those tilts.

Scoring Change

February 20, 2007

Upon further review, as they say in the NFL, there has been a scoring change on the Capitals’ second and final goal in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Originally credited to Alexander Semin with assists from Matt Pettinger and Eric Fehr, the goal now reads Pettinger (his 13th) from Fehr (first NHL assist). Watching the game from the Giant Center press box in Hershey, it sure looked like it was Pettinger who poked it through Jocelyn Thibault’s pads after a frenzied goalmouth scramble.

More than a few have suggested that my presence in Chocolatetown this weekend must have been responsible for the Bears’ consecutive home defeats, a rarity. I can’t say it wasn’t me. I’ll try to wait until they’ve built up some first-place cushion in the East Division standings before I return. I think they’ll be okay. They’re missing their No. 1 netminder (Frederic Cassivi), their capitain and power play quarterback (Lawrence Nycholat), one of their top scorers (Eric Fehr) and a top six defenseman (Jeff Schultz). Such is the nature of life in the AHL.

Even with the less-than-desirable results, it’s always good to check in with the Bears for a couple days. Nearly 20,000 fans came out to see the two weekend games. The place jumps more when the Bears are winning, but they’ve only suffered four regulation losses in 26 Giant Center games this season. Hershey leads the AHL in attendance, averaging 8,628 fans per game. That’s more than 600 more than second place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Speaking of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Bears are back in action again on Wednesday when they host the Baby Pens at Giant Center.

My eight-year-old son had quite the hockey weekend. On Friday, he had a hat trick (his first ever) and got the game puck in his Mites game. On Saturday, his team recorded a 3-0 shutout. As soon as that game ended, he and I headed up to Hershey. He joined me upstairs for the Saturday game against Albany. On Sunday, he was able to skate for about an hour at Hersheypark Arena, the most hallowed hockey rink that still stands in the States (and maybe North America), for my money. He went right from “The Old Barn” to the Giant Center stands for Sunday’s game against Hamilton.

It will all come crashing down on him tomorrow when he goes to school for the first time in a week.


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