OK, so the timing of the debut could’ve been better – America’s Independence Day? – but welcome to the latest feature on Spector’s Hockey, as I look at the top NHL news stories from each of Canada’s seven NHL cities! Today, analysis of the recent moves by the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Canucks, lingering bitterness at Dany Heatley in Ottawa, possible options to improve the Jets offense, the Flames aren’t done making moves, and the Oilers latest signing. Enjoy!
Toronto Maple Leafs: Damien Cox of the Toronto Star and Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun both approved of the Leafs four-player deal with the Nashville Predators, shipping out little-used blueliner Brett Lebda and a minor leaguer in exchange for Cody Franson and Matt Lombardi.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Franson is of course the gem of the trade, a promising young defensema who could go on to become a blueline “stud” for the Leafs. And if Lombardi makes a full recovery from the concussion which sidelined him for all but two games last season, it’ll be an even bigger win for the Leafs.
Montreal Canadiens: Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette is doing “triple backflips” (careful at your age, Jack!) over the Canadiens addition of winger Erik Cole, who inked a four-year, $18 million deal on Friday, but was puzzled over GM Pierre Gauthier’s decision to cut loose affordable backup Alex Auld in favor of a more expensive Peter Budaj as the club’s backup goalie, and lamented the loss of yet another quality role forward in Jeff Halpern.
Former Hab Georges Laraque meanwhile believes Benoit Pouliot, whom the Canadiens opted not to re-sign, could come back to haunt them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I won’t do triple backflips, but I do agree with Todd’s take. Cole, despite an injury history, played 82 games in a bounce-back performance last season, and bring in much-needed physical skill to their scoring lines. I was also puzzled over the addition of Budaj and the decision not to retain Halpern for at least one more season. As for Pouliot, he’s done nothing in his NHL career thus far that should scare any team, let alone the Habs, or for that matter, his other former team, the Minnesota Wild.
Vancouver Canucks: Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province shakes his head disapprovingly at how much has been spent thus far in this year’s NHL free agent frenzy, but approves of Canucks GM Mike Gillis’ restraint, as well as his re-signings of Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins to affordable contracts. He also dismissed those “Shea Weber to Vancouver” rumors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Willes’ on the amount of money invested in the second-tier talent, but that’s to be expected given the combination of the salary cap increase by $5 million, and the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool. Gillis has indeed so far shown restraint, but then again, he did invest $2.25 million on a one year deal for the now-fragile Marco Sturm. Not as bad compared to other teams, granted, but you’ll have a tough time finding folks willing to bet Sturm will go uninjured next season.
Ottawa Senators: Tim Baines of the Ottawa Sun observed former Senator winger Dany Heatley has worn out his welcome with yet another team, being deal from the San Jose Sharks – for whom Heatley agreed to waive his “no-trade” clause two years ago after demanding a trade from the Senators – to the Minnesota Wild for another former Sen, winger Martin Havlat.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: “And don’t let the door hit you on the way out, disgruntled Dany”. Nice to see Baines isn’t harbouring any lingering bitterness…;) He claims this makes the number of teams which soured on Heatley to three, but it was the winger who requested trades from the Thrashers and the Senators respectively. Those teams hadn’t “soured” on Heatley. OK, the Senators did, but only after Dany’s trade demand and subsequent unwillingness to waive his trade clause to accept a deal to Edmonton. The Sharks, on the other hand, obviously had following his performance in the 2011 playoffs.
Winnipeg Jets: Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press believes the Jets need a center and/or winger to bolster their offensive attack, suggesting they either chase whatever UFAs are still available, swing a trade (noting defenseman Zach Bogosian’s name was brought up during the entry draft), consider sending an offer sheet to a top restricted free agent like Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, or the NY Rangers Brandon Dubinsky or Ryan Callahan, or Jets fans cross their fingers and hope for the best with their current roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Well, there’s really nothing of value remaining in this year’s UFA market so that’s out, and the seemingly cautious Jets management don’t appear likely to pitch offer sheets to anyone. A trade would be the best possibility, but giving up Bogosian could be a move which comes back to haunt them, unless they get a real sweetheart of an offer for him. For now, I’d say getting Bogosian, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler under contract, and then see how things shake out next season, might be the best option for their first season in Winnipeg.
Calgary Flames: Steve MacFarlane of the Calgary Sun reported Saturday Flames GM Jay Feaster was disappointed in losing out of the Brad Richards sweepstakes but vows he’s not done improving the club, suggesting he could turn now to the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the high number of Flames with movement clauses, that might not be easy, though Feaster was able to convince Robyn Regehr to accept a trade to Buffalo. Not really sure, looking at their roster, who they might be able to part with to bring a return which improves them, as Jarome Iginla’s not going anywhere, they recently re-signed Alex Tanguay, and I don’t believe Feaster wants to part with Miikka Kiprusoff and Jay Bouwmeester. Chime in, Flames fans, gimme some trade options. Rene Bourque? Mark Giordano?
Edmonton Oilers: Derek van Diest of the Edmonton Sun reports the Oilers had signed winger and former Oiler Josh Green to a one-year, two-way contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Oilers earlier signings (Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Cam Barker and Andy Sutton), this move likely signals the last notable free agent signing by the club for the rest of the summer.