July in the Rear View
Well, almost. August is always tougher because there is no rookie camp or other hockey oasis in the desert that is the offseason.
Nothing much going on in these parts, save for Tom Poti’s scheduled appearance on The Caps Report podcast on Wednesday. Around the league, there is a bit more buzz, so might as well kick around a few of those items to help kill off the waning moments of the year’s seventh month.
Dallas Stars forward Antti Miettinen was awarded a one-year contract via arbitration, and he will earn $885,000 for the upcoming season. Buffalo defenseman Nathan Paetsch (three-year deal), Ottawa center Chris Kelly (one-year) sharp-shooting Montreal winger Michael Ryder (one-year) and Rangers forward Marcel Hossa (one-year) all signed pacts that enabled them to avoid the arbitration process. Rangers irritant Sean Avery went through a contentious arb hearing with the team on Monday, and a decision on his 2007-08 salary is due tomorrow.
We’re mere days away from the end of this annual process. Thirty players had arbitration hearings scheduled, and more than three-quarters of that total (23 of 30) opted to sign and settle before going to arbitration. Thus far only three players have actually gone in, sat down and gone through the process.
Besides the Miettinen decision, arbitrators awarded Washington’s Brooks Laich a one-year deal for $725,000. Avery’s number is pending.
That leaves four hearings out there still on the docket: The Islanders’ Aug. 1 case with winger Trent Hunter, the Kings’ Aug. 2 case with center Mike Cammalleri, the Panthers’ Aug. 3 case with defenseman Steve Montador and the Lightning’s Aug. 3 case with center Ryan Craig.
Hunter sounds like a good bet to settle beforehand, and neither Montador nor Craig are going to break the bank in a best-case scenario. This means that after last summer’s arbitration blood-letting ($5 million each for Daniel Briere and Scott Gomez, and a $2.9 million award for J.P. Dumont), it’s likely that only two awards this summer (those of Avery and Cammalleri) will reach the “walk-away” threshold of $1,221,304.
It’s early obviously, we’ll see. Still a few cases to be heard/settled.
If you are waiting for another RFA offer sheet shoe/domino to fall, I give you Florida’s Stephen Weiss. There was a story in Tuesday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel in which Weiss’s agent claims that at least three other teams have inquired about the possibility of Weiss signing an RFA offer sheet.
In other news, Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky sent congratulatory videos out to Barry Bonds for his upcoming 755th home run and to Tom Glavine for his upcoming 300th win. The videos are the type played in-stadium by the game ops crews. In The Great One’s tribute to Glavine, he noted that the Mets hurler was the L.A. Kings’ fourth-round choice in the 1984 NHL Draft, taken ahead of future Hockey Hall of Famers Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille.
Speaking of RFA offer sheets, Phoenix’s Keith Ballard is another ripe for the plucking. He and the Caps’ Brian Pothier played nearly 30 minutes a night during the IIHF World Championship tournament in Moscow in May. Ballard and Pothier were clearly the top two defensemen on the Team USA roster.
Sad news from Tampa Bay where longtime NHL forward Rob DiMaio, who missed all of last season because of a concussion, has not been cleared to play and won’t lace them up in 2007-08. Although he is 39 and prospects of a comeback would seem to be especially dim, he can’t bring himself to announce his retirement. Anyone who watched DiMaio play won’t be surprised by that. The gritty winger left it all on the ice every night and turned a minimal amount of talent into an 894-game NHL career. There are a few guys around the circuit that could use a heart transplant, especially if they got DiMaio’s ticker.
Finally, the venerable Pat Hickey of The Montreal Gazette makes a good point about Michael Ryder being underappreciated up north, to the point where his days in the bleu blanc et rouge are likely numbered. Ryder has his warts, but Hickey rightly points out how every team in the league would love to have developed a player like Ryder, who was chosen with Montreal’s eighth-round pick (216th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
Happy birthday to Dale Hunter and a hearty hat tip to Gavin Toner, Rob Keaton and Ben Wilson whose “Put Cancer on Ice” contest at Kettler on Saturday raised $1,700 in the name of the late Dave Fay to be donated to the fight against the disease. Way to go, boys.