What's on your minds? Free agency and Forsberg
What do you think Forsberg will do next year? Will he play, and if so, who are the leading candidates? It was such a dream come true to get to watch a hockey god for two months while he was in Nashville.
SHOT OF THE WEEK
Every week, we present an NHL photo and I provide a caption. E-mail me your suggestions (include your name and hometown/state) and the next week we will use the best ones and provide a new photo.
In an effort to prove he was interfered with, Ray Emery pulls out his ultimate weapon: TiVo.
-- Brian Kentala (Westland, Mich.)
The Emery board.
-- Shan Prum (Sherman Oaks, Calif.)
"Who said Versus was to hard to find?!"
-- Skip Longen
"Has anyone seen my Xbox controller?"
-- Joel Graboff
"Does anyone know what channel 'Entourage' is on?"
-- Joel Graboff (Boston)
"Now which knob adjusts the tint?"
-- Duane Saskowski (Buffalo, N.Y.)
Peter Forsberg turns 34 on July 20. He shares a birthday with Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, Murray Craven, Michael Anthony, now formerly of Van Halen, and Carlos Santana. Last season, Foppa had 55 points in 57 games. If you get a point a game in this "new" NHL, you are a top-shelf player. In five playoff games for Nashville, Forsberg had four points versus San Jose.
He would be a great No. 2 center on a really good team. He's a good fit on a deep team where his minutes could be managed. If Forsberg's minutes were managed, he probably could play in more games than he has in the recent past. Forsberg is a hard book to read. He hides a lot of information behind those steely blue eyes. The questions surrounding his return are: (1) Will he play? (2) Will he go for the most money? (3) Will he go for the best fit?
I think he will play because of his age and because it's hard to turn down millions of dollars and hard to turn down being relevant in your line of work. I think Forsberg will want a combination of 2 and 3. The best fit for him is a team such as Pittsburgh, as the Penguins have young players who can move back and forth from center to wing. Forsberg wouldn't have to play a lot and could get days off on long road trips and occasional back-to-backs. He probably would have to take less to play in Pittsburgh.
The Rangers are always a favorite because New York likes stars and playing with Jaromir Jagr would be very satisfying. Plus, Forsberg could get big money from New York. Washington's cap room, Alexander Ovechkin and incoming Swede Nicklas Backstrom make the Capitals attractive. The Bruins have tried to sign Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano in recent offseasons, so I guess you can never count them out. Would he return to Philadelphia? The Flyers offered him a very nice contract before they traded him, so I don't think much has changed there; but the Flyers are probably better off going in another direction.
But, as we said, Forsberg is an interesting dude. He could sign a one-year deal and play for anyone. Montreal? Toronto? Los Angeles? It's easy imagining Forsberg in New York, playing with Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist. I would think he will wait until the dust settles, then pick the right spot.
I just heard the new Wilco album and it's an automatic classic. Jeff Tweedy should be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for both Wilco and Uncle Tupelo.
Because of Ken (not The Otter), I went to my local Borders and bought the new book on Einstein by Walter Isaacson and the new Wilco CD "Sky Blue Sky" on a rainy Friday. Eleven seconds in, I knew I had made the right move.
Maybe the sun will shine today
The clouds will blow away
Maybe I won't feel so afraid
I will try to understand
Maybe you still love me
Maybe you don't
Either you will or you won't
Maybe you just need some time alone
I will try to understand
Everything has its plan
I'm gonna stay
Right for you
Maybe the sun will shine today
The clouds will roll away
Maybe I won't be so afraid
I will understand everything has its plan
-- "Either Way" by Wilco
Hope it makes it into the next article, but all my roommates here at Western Michigan are huge Wings fans and read every week.
Defensive Undergraduate Assistant
Western Michigan! Home of Keith Jones. Oh, by the way, you can preorder Keith's autobiography that I helped write at www.middleatlanticpress.com. Keith is giving every cent he makes off the book to Alex's Lemonade Stand, a unique foundation that evolved from a young cancer patient's front-yard lemonade stand to a nationwide movement to find a cure for childhood cancer. Since Alexandra "Alex" Scott (1996-2004) set up her front-yard stand at age 4, more than $10 million has been raised toward fulfilling her dream of finding a cure for all children with cancer.
That's why when I mentioned Soprano and the E-ZPass in last week's column, I wrote that it would be on someone else's account. I was aware of the E-ZPass tracking system. Is there any chance that Dr. Jennifer Melfi is working for the FBI? I'm starting to think she is going to play a major role.
Yes, if Sonny Corleone had an E-ZPass express lane to take, he would still be playing bocce in Mingo Junction, Ohio, with Moose and Ron Pizzoferrato.
With the finals looming and the Cup soon to be raised, I wanted to know how you feel about the rush of non-team people onto the ice once the Cup is presented. Last year, the Hurricanes were literally corralled into a 10-foot square. It was all they could do to pass the Cup to each other, let alone skate with it. I would love to see a ban on all non-team personnel from the ice so the players can skate with the Cup and share it with the fans. What do you think?
I think it's sickening. No one is more pro-family than me, but it was out of control last year in Carolina. Put the families on the bench. Give the players some space. It's their day. There is plenty of time for pictures throughout the evening -- on the ice, on the Zamboni or on the mother-in-law.
So far in the playoffs, I've seen goalies from three different teams place their water bottle over the corner of the net to obstruct the camera's view in a would-be video replay. In your opinion, is this a clever trick or is it cheating?
It's like the pitchers who put the resin bag high on the pitcher's mound to possibly distract the hitter. My question is, why do goalies need a water bottle? They get a TV timeout every five minutes or so. Runners who participate in the Boston Marathon don't take a drink every five minutes. I know it's hot in that gear, but let's make it harder on goalies, not easier. Actually, they should nail some beer cans to the side of their masks and place those plastic tubes from the cans to their mouths, like the NFL fans use.
I am a huge Rangers fan. It was an unbelievable year and I cannot wait for next season to start already. The Rangers have a huge decision about Michael Nylander. I assume he wants to stay and play with Jaromir Jagr for his remaining two years. With that being said, do you think a Drury or a Gomez is a sure thing for the Rangers? I hear rumblings about the Rangers packaging Petr Prucha and Al Montoya for a defenseman, which would make sense. What do you think?
The Rangers have some nice players at the AHL level, and they have older players. They don't have much in between. They're likely hoping 20-year-old Marc Staal will surprise them in training camp and make the team with his entry-level contract. If he is identified as a top-four defenseman on the roster this September, he will stay; but I would project him to play for Hartford, where he can gain professional experience under Jim Schoenfeld and his staff. He can be on the No. 1 power-play and penalty-killing units and get involved in all situations. That probably wouldn't be the case in New York. From there, the Rangers could let Staal play some games here and there to get a feel for the NHL game and understand what he needs to focus on when he goes back down to Hartford.
Montoya is certainly an asset the Rangers will deal for the right price, but you wonder whether his stock has peaked. Montoya was the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, a draft that yielded a powerful one-two punch in Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Montoya, 22, had six shutouts in 48 AHL regular-season games last season for Hartford.
Nylander was a great sign by GM Glen Sather. He missed only four games over the past two seasons and had 162 points in 160 games with the Rangers. All for $2.3 million. I see no reason not to bring him back at $3.5 million for two more seasons. Nylander, Jagr and Martin Straka are beautiful to watch. I suppose Nylander could get a three-year, $10 million offer from a team such as the Capitals, but I would think he would stay with the Rangers. I don't know why they wouldn't keep him as a two-year investment.
The Rangers obviously need a big-time center -- that's why I mentioned Forsberg above. But Nylander is a great price. Scott Gomez will cost the Rangers $6-7 million a year. Unless Forsberg takes a smaller deal to play in New York (maybe $4 million), the Rangers would be better off keeping durable Nylander and trying to make offers to Gomez, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere & Co. to see how it plays out.
As we've mentioned before, Gomez would be a good sign for any team. He probably will get a five-to-seven-year offer. Gomez is the ideal No. 2 center because he is not a big-time goal scorer like, say, Jason Spezza, Sidney Crosby or Vincent Lecavalier. He would be a good fit with Jagr, but he would be nice on the No. 2 line with Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery. Avery can get the puck and give it to Gomez, who can find Shanahan. Plus, Avery would create a lot of space for Gomez to make a lot of plays. Shanahan had only 12 even-strength goals this past season. Playing with Gomez and Avery, that number would go up assuming Shanahan signs with the Rangers, which I think we all can agree will happen.
The Rangers have a good farm system. If they make a couple of signings to add some speed on the back end and scoring punch up front, they will return to the playoffs next season and have a better chance of advancing.
As a Ducks fan, it's nice to see the support and ink that you're giving Ryan Getzlaf. It seems like he's been overlooked because of Crosby and Ovechkin (perhaps rightfully so, given what those two have done for hockey), but Ryan might be the most complete player out of all of them. He's such a solid two-way player (nice to see a guy with such a killer shot also be a solid penalty killer and checker) and he's an outstanding competitor. How long do you think before he truly dominates teams? My guess is around the All-Star break of this upcoming season, when he'll really come into his own.
Ryan Getzlaf was the 19th overall pick of the 2003 draft, a draft that is turning out to be outstanding. Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Zach Parise, and so on. Just plug "2003 NHL draft" into Google and check it out. If that draft were held again, knowing what we know now, Getzlaf would be a top-five pick. I don't see Getzlaf being a gigantic offensive player like Crosby and Ovechkin. He will be a durable player, who I see averaging 30 goals and 50 assists with a career year here or there. His hands are amazing, and he will get better as he gets smarter.
Assuming Peter Forsberg does not play next season, the Predators are potentially going to lose a bunch of their top players. What do you see happening with these four regulars?
It's terrible to think that a team with the third-best record in the NHL is potentially going to crumple. Everyone seems to think that Hartnell is gone to Edmonton and Timonen to Philadelphia to join his brother. Chris Mason and Marek Zidlicky are being thrown around as possible trade bait. Thoughts? Comments? Trade proposals?
Let's focus on Hartnell, Kariya and Timonen.
Hartnell is a Western Canadian and would be a great fit with the Flames, Oilers or Canucks. He's a hardworking 20-goal scorer who won't do much playmaking. Last season, he made $1.75 million. He's probably a four-year, $12 million guy at best. He's only 25 years old, so signing him to a five-year deal probably is not too risky. So, five years at $15 million is probably his deal. Any more and he's overpaid.
Kariya turns 33 in October. I'm surprised at all of the anti-Kariya e-mails I get. He's durable and played in all 82 games four of the past five seasons. He's had 50-plus assists in three of the past four seasons, so he makes those around him better. If he plays with a really good playmaker, he has the release to score 30-35 goals. That's why I've been advocating for Kariya to sign a three-year, $12 million deal to play in Pittsburgh with Crosby and the Penguins. The Penguins are going to be on television a lot, so for players like Kariya, they should be able to supplement their income with good equipment deals and local Ford dealership agreements.
Timonen is going to get pizzaid. He's 32, and this will be his most lucrative contract. He needs to think about his family and go for the contract home run. Five years, $20 million is his starting point. Whichever teams bids the highest probably will get him. Whether it's the Rangers, Devils, Penguins, Blues, Wild ... Timonen is very good and would make anyone better.
The best theme song of all time is, of course, the tune for "Hockey Night in Canada."
Should Paul Holmgren go after Briere or Drury? What other centers will be available free agents? If the Flyers can find another guy (besides Briere) to play with Gagne, then I would prefer Captain America (Drury).
Take it easy,
I think Briere will re-sign with Buffalo. He made $5 million last season, and I don't see any reason to pay him any more than that. I see no reason to give him a five-year deal at 6-7 million per. So, unless Briere has his heart on playing with Montreal or Florida or whomever, I would sign a tidy five-year, $25-30 million deal and stay in Buffalo. Drury will sign a long-term deal, five to six years at about $6 million per year. His value has never been higher. Of all the things in life, one of the most important, maybe the most important, is good timing. Drury's NHL Q rating will never be higher than it is right now.
How about, instead of hockey babies, we start seeing hockey babes?
When you find a picture of Jessica Biel in a Hakan Loob sweater, send it along.
Greetings from Northern Ontario! It's the most wonderful time of the year -- the birds are singing, the bugs are chewing us all to pieces and the best teams in the league are competing for the most prestigious trophy in all of professional sports. I'm thoroughly enjoying being cooped up indoors, watching hockey this spring, and apparently my niece is having a blast, too. Even though her mommy, daddy, Grandpa Harry and auntie are all rooting for the Red Wings, this little rogue has broken from the pack and supports her hometown Senators.
Cheers from Levack, Ontario,
(P.S. -- About a year and a half ago, I appealed to your vanity and asked you to suggest a name for this little dynamo. You came up with some great combinations, but in the end, my idea won out and Maira was born!)
Maira. The most beautiful sound I've ever heard.
John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or crosschecks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.