Canadian Corner – July 5, 2011.

Another Vancouver columnist chides NHL GMs for overspending in the UFA market, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke responds to criticism from a Toronto sports columnist, the Flames re-sign Anton Babchuk, a look at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the Oilers prospect camp, addressing the Jets lack of activity in the UFA market, P.K. Subban heads to Haiti, and the Senators rebuilding process gets underway.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

VANCOUVER SUN: Iain MacIntyre offers up a tongue-in-cheek critique of Canucks GM Mike Gillis’ signing Marco Sturm to a one-year contract when so many of his peers were overpaying players of equal or lesser skills with their wild-spending ways during the opening days of this year’s NHL free agent market.

“One year? What was Gillis thinking? If he was serious about keeping up with colleagues, Gillis should have thrown money away for the next three or four years. Did Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon not have Sturm’s phone number?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: MacIntyre’s criticism of the wild spending in recent days is justified, as is his claim most of those deals will haunt those teams for years, but really, this isn’t any different than any other year when the salary cap rose significantly and teams had extra money to spend. Those teams who’ve engaged in such wild spending, and that includes those poorly-managed teams which now are “forced” to spend to get over the cap minimum, will have no right to complain about it when the next round of CBA talks begins sometime next year.  They did this to themselves, no one put a gun to their collective heads, and if they try to engage in blaming “greedy players”, they will be, to be blunt, talking out their arses. Give Gillis credit for not going spend happy this year, but of course, he had a Stanley Cup finalist roster he wanted to keep intact as much as possible, plus he didn’t have as much cap space as other teams this summer. Still, he didn’t lose his mind and give Christian Ehrhoff a 10-year, $40 million contract.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

NATIONAL POST: Michael Traikos reported yesterday evening Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was “deeply offended” by the criticism leveled at him by Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons, who chastised Burke for being in Afghanistan on July 1st supporting the troops rather than being back in Toronto trying to woo Brad Richards into joining the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To a small degree, I understand Simmons’ critique. It’s the opening of the UFA market, Brad Richards was available and willing to listen to an offer from the Leafs, and Simmons felt Burke should’ve been there to make his pitch in person. But Burke has a strong support team, including former GMs Dave Nonis and Cliff Fletcher, to make the Leafs pitch, and Richards apparently understood why Burke couldn’t be there in person and didn’t hold it against him or the Leafs. Besides, given the moves Burke swiftly made after Richards opted to join the Rangers (signing Tim Connolly to a two-year contract, acquiring Cody Franson and Matt Lombardi from Nashville whilst shedding Brett Lebda’s contract), I’d say the Leafs management are quite capable of getting things done with Burke outside the continent. Simmons is of course entitled to his opinion, but his criticism turned out to be baseless.

WINNIPEG JETS.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Ed Tait responded to criticism from some Winnipeg hockey fans over the Jets limited activity in this summer’s UFA market thus far, especially considering how much the club needs to spend (over $9 million) just to get over next season’s $48.3 million salary cap floor. Tait points out RFAs Andrew Ladd, Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler are all due raises, there are still some unrestricted and restricted free agents the Jets are believed interested in signing, plus the club clearly isn’t comfortable with signing UFAs to long term contracts which could handcuff their future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets critics should be complimenting their management for their prudence thus far. The raises for Ladd, Bogosian and Wheeler alone could be enough to put them over the cap floor, and they’ll likely make a couple of affordable depth additions which should also push them over. Tait also noted the club has to look ahead to when other Jets will be eligible for RFA/UFA status and the need to have the cap space to re-sign them. Besides, don’t these critics remember team president Mark Chipman saying the Jets wouldn’t be amongst the free-spenders this season? And have those same critics taken a really good look at the lack of depth that was in this summer’s UFA pool? Those folks need to relax and instead focus their concern on how much it’ll cost to re-sign Ladd, Bogosian and Wheeler.

CALGARY FLAMES

CALGARY SUN: Steve MacFarlane reports the Flames signing defenseman Anton Babchuk to a two-year, $5 million contract could turn out to be a bargain, depending of course on how well Babchuk performs. The blueliner also received a “no-trade” clause in the contract’s first season and a modified one in the second season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Babchuk struggled in his early games with the Flames but as the season progressed became one of their top defensemen. This deal could indeed turn into a bargain (despite the trade clause) if he performs well.

EDMONTON OILERS

EDMONTON SUN: Robert Tychkowksi reported hundreds of fans turned out for the first day of the Oilers prospect camp to get a good look at 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Tychkowski writes Nugent-Hopkins plays a different style of game than 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall.

“Unlike Taylor Hall, who can dazzle with speed and shot, Nugent-Hopkins is more of a slippery, one-step-ahead-of-the-defender kind of player, so there wasn’t much to see.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Nugent-Hopkins has as good an NHL debut as Hall (without the season-ending high-ankle sprain), the Oilers could have a lethal offensive attack next season. 

OTTAWA SENATORS

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Wayne Scanlan reports the Senators efforts to rebuild with youth this year are “for real”, noting management’s lack of participation in this summer’s UFA feeding frenzy.

“Restraint and patience are the new buzzwords. This rebuild from within is for real, and young players will get a chance this fall they wouldn’t have in previous seasons when Ottawa was dominated by veterans.”

Scanlan believes twenty-year-old defenseman Jared Cowan is all but assured of a starting job next season with the Senators, barring something unforeseen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Senators fans should keep their expectations low for next season in terms of contending for a playoff berth, as rebuilding takes time, but given how much the team has invested in youth, it’ll be interesting to see how well the team performs next season.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

RDS.CA: reports Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban has joined former Habs Georges Laraque on a trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to inspect the progress made in that country’s efforts to rebuild from a devastating earthquake in 201o, including touring a children’s hospital which was funded in part by Hockey for Haiti.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I realize there are some folks critical of how Subban carries himself on the ice, but you have to be a heartless troll not to appreciate his work for charities away from the arena, including this one. Well done, P.K.!

7 Comments

  1. Steve simmonds is a punk
    I bet he has never had one hard day of working his life
    We sit here waiting for trades and news, not about some crybaby who can’t understand why we support our troops
    With all due respect, Spector……
    I hope you never post another simmonds article again

  2. Looks like Ottawa signed Konopka today.
    Sandy, hate to say I told you so lol! That’s a good pickup. Suprised he wasn’t signed sooner.

  3. lol well said Mb4life i cant stand steve simmons

  4. Who is Steve Simmons to critisize Brian Burke ? This guy never has any relevant information worth printing. Good on Brian Burke for going out and visiting the troops, he has pretty competent folks around him that can do the job and am pretty sure although he was half a world away, he was still in contact with his team. I know if I were Brad Richards I would have gained a ton of respect for this man just because he did go out of his way to see that the fans that are risking their lives, are not forgotten. Time for Steve Simmons to give it up, and as you are leaving the sports premises, don’t let the door slam you on the way out

  5. A real nice signing for Ottawa at a great price. There was lots of talk of teams that could have used Konopka. The guy had the second most difficult Zone Starts in the league last year, along with a real low Quality of Teammate rating, and did okay (not great, but those are tough circumstances).

  6. Agreed, Konopka is an affordable, smart signing by the Sens and should immediately improve the team, especially when they can trot him out for a defensive zone draw.

    As for Simmons, the guy can’t get common sense. Yes having Burke in Canada would be nice on July 1st. However Richards knows why he’s not there and what he’s doing. not like he’s taking his family on a trip to disneyland or something which would be irresponsible. If anything this shows the moral character of Burke and for Richards, perhaps the character of the Leafs organization. For a lot of guys they would have great value for such character and respect. Burke had no problems signing making the other signings/trades that day despite being on the other side of the world and as pointed out, has a very good front office around him who can pitch in. Maybe Simmons should do some public service for once in his life and learn what it is to have some moral character.

  7. It’s the this side of PK, along with his hockey skills, flair for the dramatic, and gift of the gab that have turned him into a instant fan favorite in Montreal. Good for him for trying to do his part to help some people out.