Shark Bait: Thornton and Marleau Re-Sign

Two of the hottest potential trade candidates are officially off the market.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau inked new deals to remain part of the San Jose Sharks for the next three seasons. Thornton will earn $6.75M while Marleau will earn a smidgen less at $6.66M per season.

Both players will be 37 years of age when the contracts expire.

These are great signings for the San Jose Sharks. This is a team in the thick of the competition in the strong Western Conference and they just locked up two of their best players, both of whom they could have easily dealt for a whole heap of assets while they road Couture and Pavelski down the middle.

What makes these deals beauties is the fact that they are for only three years. Most players want that big time cash out for the end of their career, usually taking them to age 39 or 40 where they will be disgustingly overpaid in their final two-three years.

Thornton and Marleau are still highly effective players in the NHL and should still be functional for the Sharks when they are in their final year of the new deals. It’s safe to assume the Sharks expect to be Stanley Cup contenders for the next several seasons and their play hasn’t suggested anything to combat that theory.

So, with all of that said, there is still a player with an expiring deal that has been lost in all of this conversation.

Dan Boyle.

San Jose had the “big 3” UFA’s heading into the trade deadline and now two of them have been awarded extensions. What does that mean for Dan Boyle? A trade perhaps?

Boyle’s play has declined but he would still be an effective player for a team taking a run at a Stanley Cup. He can quarterback a power play and give you sound defense in your own end. At his age there is nothing flashy about his play anymore but teams look for consistency in a rental and Boyle can provide that.

San Jose would get a pretty decent return on the aging blueliner and use that to continue to build on the fly like they’ve done for the past decade. A little known fact: If Detroit misses the post-season that would put the San Jose Sharks in top spot for the longest active playoff streak.

Thanks for reading!

Predators Acquire Del Zotto, Leafs/Kings Minor Swap

When Alain Vingeault came to New York it became clear pretty quickly that Michael Del Zotto didn’t fit into his plans as well as he did under John Tortorella.

After a stretch of several games in the press box, the rumours started to swirl around Del Zotto and it was all but a matter of time before the young defender was traded. That day came yesterday when the Nashville Predators sent Kevin Klein to the Blue Shirts to acquire Del Zotto’s services.

The upside clearly favors Del Zotto and the Preds, with the defender six years younger than the 29 year old Klein. Del Zotto has 112 points in 292 games with the Rangers while Klein has 79 points in 356 contests with the Predators.

Knowing now what Del Zotto was officially traded for I have to wonder why a deal wasn’t done sooner. Kevin Klein is a solid depth defender but he is by no means a savior, or an equal trade partner for a 23 year old with a lot of potential.

The Preds get the win on this one.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings made a minor deal yesterday as well.

The Leafs sent center Andrew Crescenzi to LA in exchange for forward Brandon Kozun.

Neither player has seen the ice of an NHL rink up close, but Kozun has had success in the American Hockey League with LA’s affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. Kozun has scored at least 20 goals in each of his three seasons in the AHL and appears to be on pace for a fourth.

Crescenzi has played 49 games in the AHL, scoring 2 goals and adding 3 assists. He also spent part of 2012-2013 in the ECHL with the San Francisco Bulls where he had 3 goals and 11 assists in 23 games.

While it’s unlikely that either will play a prominent role with either club, I’d have to give Toronto the edge in this deal.

Rumour Tracker + Fight Of The Year

With around six weeks left until the NHL Trade Deadline it’s time to start rumour hunting.

The low salary cap will make it difficult to move a lot of players but, you never know, we could get surprised. Here are some of what’s flying around in the media.

  • Sportsnet suggests Legwand could end up wearing a different jersey for the first time in his career, with New Jersey and Washington as possible destinations.
  • Eklund reported that Olli Jokinen’s name is being thrown around the rumour mill, again, like always.
  • Matt Moulson’s name keeps appearing next to Ottawa and Los Angeles in rumours.
  • The Maple Leafs are listening closely to offers on Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer. Three good pieces to work with to bring back a need for the organization.
  • The Ryan O’Reilly watch is on with about a month to go before he is eligible to be dealt should Colorado want to travel down that road. It’s only logical that one of O’Reilly or Statsny gets traded for some help on the blueline. With Duchene and MacKinnon as the present and future of the middle for Colorado there is no need to keep both Stastny and O’Reilly around when both could yield a significant improvement for the defense of the Avalanche.
  • Dennis Wideman’s name keeps popping up out of Calgary in trade rumours. Brian Burke is very effective at cleaning house when he takes over a sinking ship. It’s ironic that he ends up in Calgary and ends up firing the man he goated into trades when he first took over in Toronto. The only player safe in Calgary is Sean Monahan.
  •  Tomas Vanek is most likely headed to free agency in July, so it’s up to Isles GM Garth Snow whether he wants to spend March-June trying to re-sign the star forward or deal him and try his luck when the market opens. Pittsburgh is always looking for a winger opposite Crosby/Kunitz so expect them to be rumored in every conversation about Vanek.

Two nights ago Antoine Roussel and Kevin Klein had the bout of the year. It was a flashback to the days of Rob Ray, Bob Probert and Tie Domi. Fists were flying non-stop for the duration of the fight before both players ran out of gas and ended the fight in mutual exhaustion. Here’s the video from hockeyfights.com.

It’s Getting Nash-ty In New York

Much scrutinized was the selection of New York Rangers forward Rick Nash to Team Canada’s Olympic roster for Sochi next month. Many people cried out for Flyers forward Claude Giroux or Lightning superstar Martin St. Louis to be chosen over the Rangers star.

Claude Giroux and the Flyers got off to a slow start this year that most likely cost him a spot on Team Canada. Regardless, I’ve never bought into the whole ‘Giroux is better than Crosby’ thing. It was always quite funny to me. In Marty’s case it ran a bit more personal. Not only was he snubbed in what’s likely to be his last chance at the Olympics, but he was snubbed by his own GM. How’s that morning hello going to go? Awkward.

It comes down to size for the Rick Nash decision. Nash is going over to Sochi to be a force in front of the net and to bang bodies around. He’s going to fill the role that Milan Lucic would have filled, only Nash has beauty hands and can skate a thousand times better. This was a role filling decision by Steve Yzerman and Nash fit the role. St. Louis and Giroux didn’t fit into the top six forward group, essentially rendering them useless to Yzerman and company.

Since the night before the selection to Team Canada it’s been getting Nash-ty on Broadway.

Nash has amassed 9 points in his last nine games, all of them goals, after starting the year with 16 points (7 goals) in 26 games. Call it catching your stride, call it motivation or call it coincidence, the undeniable fact is that Rick Nash is playing great hockey right now. He’s playing the type of hockey that we all know Rick Nash can play, and that’s a big bodied, fast, snipe-show display of stardom.

Oh, and the Rangers are 6-2-1 over those games.

Thanks for reading!

Tortorella Shelved For Six, Hartley Fined

The fallout from the Vancouver-Calgary melee last Saturday night is in. Canucks bench boss John Tortorella has been suspended for 15 days, or 6 games, and Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley was fined $25K for their actions during the Hockey Night In Canada contest.

Hartley’s fine comes from the line he chose to start and the intentions they had heading to center ice. Tortorella’s suspension is a result of his shenanigans outside of the Calgary Flames locker room in the first intermission.

Hartley placed Torts in a lose-lose situation when he sent out his goon squad to start the game, an image similar in fashion to the Buffalo-Toronto pre-season game in September. Tortorella had two options: 1) Go ahead as planned and start the Sedin line, or 2) Send out a 5-man crew that could handle a scrap or five.

The media world exploded with the consensus that the Canucks should have just played the Sedin line to diffuse the impending situation. Ask Leafs coach Randy Carlyle how that decision played out when he was faced with a similar situation. Carlyle tried to play mediator and ended up having John Scott try to jump his star player, with Kessel responding by going baseball on Scott’s ankles and getting suspended for the remainder of the pre-season.

Several coaches around the league have supported Tortorella’s decision to take the Sedin’s out, voicing the theory of protecting their players. That being said, had Tortorella left his frustration at the :02 mark of the first period, he wouldn’t be suspended for 15 days. It all boils down to Tortorella getting shelved for trying to start his own brawl in the Flames locker room and Hartley getting fined for lighting a fire and cowering behind his players on the bench.

Paid To Leave: How Are The Buyouts Playing Now?

Before the 2013-2014 NHL season began there were 15 players bought out. 15 players paid to play for anyone but the team that held their previous contract. Not exactly where you want to be as a professional athlete, but it also gave the players the opportunity to show their former teams just what they would be missing.

So, did the 15 players stick it to their former clubs? Or did they make the GM’s look great? Let’s take a look at the buyouts, with a pass or fail for the GM.

Chicago Blackhawks (Stan Bowman) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

The Hawks utilized both of their amnesty buyouts when they bought out Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz. Both of Stan Bowman’s buyouts are in the group of 7 players who haven’t played another NHL game, so it’s safe to say his cap casualties were a good decision. Montador has played 11 games for Zagreb Medvescak in the KHL, recording 3 assists, 33 PIMS and sitting -5. Rostislav Olesz played 5 games for the Albany Devils, scoring 1 goal and 3 assists before heading to the Swiss National League A to play with Bern, where he has suited up for 16 games while scoring 3 goals and 3 assists.

Detroit Red Wings (Ken Holland) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

Holland sacrificed defender Carlo Colaiacovo with one of his buyouts to get Detroit cap compliant and, while Colaiacovo wouldn’t have hurt the Wings, it’s worked out in his favor. The ex-Wing signed with the St Louis Blues and has played 10 games, chipping in 2 assists, 8 PIMS and sporting a +1 rating while being a non-factor for the Western Conference power.

Minnesota Wild (Chuck Fletcher) – GM Decision Grade: FAIL

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher saw fit to buy out one of his defencemen  with an amnesty, and it hasn’t gone as well as planned. Gilbert’s +/- is better (-4) and he’d currently be sitting 2nd in Wild defense scoring behind only Ryan Suter if he was still in green. Gilbert has 2 goals and 16 assists for the lowly Florida Panthers this year for his most productive offensive season since 2010-2011 with the Edmonton Oilers. Can anyone say Dany Heatley?

Montreal Canadiens (Marc Bergevin) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

Bergevin was licking his lips when the amnesty buyout was brought up in negotiations. It was just what the doctor ordered for a team with Scott Gomez’s contract on the books. He wasted no time, buying out Gomez before the start of the lockout-shortened season. This year Gomez played 21 games for the Florida Panthers, recording 1 goal and 4 assists while being a -8. Tomas Kaberle hasn’t played an NHL game since being richly terminated by the Habs. He went home to the Czech Extraliga to play for Kladno, where he has notched 3 goals and 18 assists in 38 games. The makeup of the Canadiens blueline, and Kaberle’s inflated salary, made this an easy decision for Bergevin and despite Kaberle’s good season in Europe it’s still a pass.

New Jersey Devils (Lou Lamoriello) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

The Devils bought out Johan Hedberg with one of their amnesty’s with a move that was definitely not a headline maker. With Brodeur and Schneider in the cage for New Jersey there was no need for Johan Hedberg. Since being paid to leave, Hedberg hasn’t played another game of hockey.

New York Islanders (Garth Snow) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

With a stroke of a pen the Mad Mike Millbury days finally game to an end on Long Island. The Islanders were long trying to rid themselves of one of the worst contracts in NHL history and the amnesty buyout gave them that chance. The Islanders, and owner Charles Wang, are notoriously stingy when it comes to the checkbook, so it makes this move that more powerful. You know a contract, and player, was bad when a team who won’t pay people big money to play for them will pay them millions of dollars to leave. DiPietro has played in 5 games for the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL with a goals against of 5.18 and a save percentage of 84.6%, all but putting the final nail in the coffin of a disappointing career.

New York Rangers (Glen Sather) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

After burying Wade Redden’s massive contract in the American League for two years Sather got the chance to rid himself of the veteran defender before the 2012-2013 season. Redden struggled to find consistency and success while playing for St Louis and Boston in the shortened season and has yet to play a game of hockey in 2013-2014.

Philadelphia Flyers (Paul Holmgren) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

Paul Holmgren is notorious for handing out big paydays to players of all walks of life. The amnesty buyout gave him a chance to save his job. His prize signing of Ilya Bryzgalov was cut loose just two years into a hefty contract and has gone 3-7-3 with a 3.25 goals against and a 90.4 save percentage with the Edmonton Oilers this season. Daniel Briere was the next casualty for Holmgren and the Broad Street Bullies. Briere has played 36 games for the Montreal Canadiens, scoring 7 goals and adding 6 assists in a largely disappointing campaign for the clutch playoff performer.

Tampa Bay Lightning (Steve Yzerman) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

When Steve Yzerman bought out Vincent Lecavalier it shocked everyone, even those who knew it had to be done. Lecavalier was the face of the franchise for years and led them to a Stanley Cup, but the length and cost of his contract was too much for a new GM trying to build a winner in Tampa. With his best days behind him, Lecavalier signed with Philadelphia where he has since suited up for 37 games while adding 10 goals, 9 assists and 25 penalty minutes. This became Steven Stamkos’ team very quickly.

Toronto Maple Leafs (Dave Nonis) – GM Decision Grade: PASS

Nonis had more than two options to pursue with his amnesty buyouts, but it came down to Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski. Komisarek took it graciously and has played 15 games for Carolina this year, failing to record a point. Grabovski, on the other hand, left Toronto in the blaze of a fiery tantrum directed towards head coach Randy Carlyle and, at the beginning of the year, looked to be making a fool of GM Dave Nonis. After scoring 13 points in 13 games, the dust has settled and Grabovski has 20 in his last 34. Mikhail Grabovski just wasn’t made to play in a Randy Carlyle system, nor was he paid the salary of a 3rd line center, which is where he sat on the depth chart behind Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak.

Washington Capitals (George McPhee) – GM Decision Grade: FAIL

In hindsight I’m sure McPhee would love a do-over on his decision to buyout Jeff Schultz. With an overrated net, the defensive minded Schultz would have been a welcome member on the blueline this season for Washington, while forward Martin Erat would be a welcome member on the buyout list. McPhee bought out Schultz($2.75M) over Erat($4.5M). Even though Schultz hasn’t played an NHL game this year (41 GP for Manchester in the AHL), I’m sure the Capitals GM would rather have the defensive defender back on his roster, for what would have been the final year on his contract.

 

Most GM’s got a passing grade, with only Minnesota and Washington failing to really cash in on the opportunity to buy a player out. In total there were 15 players that became a casualty of a dropping salary cap. That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

 

 

 

The North Goal

Welcome to your new favorite hockey site. The North Goal is a hockey blog that gives fresh, what you see is what you get, opinions on all things hockey.

The first few posts should be up late tonight, including rumours and more.

The North Goal has a weekly podcast, Pucking Opinion, scheduled to start January 25th at 12:30 AM EST. It’s a 30 minute segment that will run each Saturday (Friday Night).

If you’ve been a reader of Pucking Opinion’s blog while it was online, you’ll be a fan of The North Goal and of The Pucking Opinion Podcast. Be sure to check back tonight and tomorrow as the posts start flowing in.