Thin Air: Post-Draft, Pre-Free Agency Notes

A few notes on a Tuesday – 

- I feel bad for Rick DiPietro.  He was defined by a bad contract decision by the NY Islander, and his history of injuries that were beyond his control.  He never lived up to the billing, but much of that had nothing to do with his ability.  He’s gone down as a footnote and a joke, and that isn’t his fault.  Sure, he could have turned down the overwhelming contract and done something more reasonable, but come on.  Would you turn it down?  Probably not.  Thus ends a strange saga in the NHL.  

- Speaking of the Islanders and goalies, I can’t understand why the Islanders didn’t toll Tim Thomas’ contract after not playing for them for a year.  They did it with Nabokov’s contract and got the free cap hit they desperately needed to get to the salary cap floor.  By tolling his contract, they get the same hit if Thomas stays away from the league, and if he comes back, they either get a decent goalie or a trade asset.  Unless the new CBA doesn’t allow for this, I’m baffled.

- Speaking of the new CBA, I haven’t dug into this one nearly as much as the last one.  Perhaps it’s a lack of interest, or maybe I don’t want to burn more brain cells trying to wrap my head around the intricacies of the deal.  The ink is barely dry and we are already seeing fallout from the damned thing.  I’m going to remain somewhat ignorant to it for now.  

- Vincent Lecavalier, if my feed reader is to be believed, is an old, washed out player who is a bad fit for every team.  Except for Montreal.  For some reason, the consensus is he would work out there.  I think it’s mostly how people want to see him.  They have been talking about Lecalvier being a Canadien for years, they have completely bought the narrative.  If he were to stay with the Lightning until he was fifty, fans would still ask that he become a Hab just to see what that would look like.

- The Avalanche have a problem with their recent history.  Since the lockout, they have been on the decline as a franchise, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see players shy away from the team in free agency.  Even with the recent changes in coaching and management, the Avs have a lot to prove.  They have to show that they are a franchise worth coming to.  Money isn’t everything, especially to elite players who have already been paid a lot previously.  A chance to win the Cup is a big motivation, and if you aren’t in the hunt, then you aren’t as attractive to players.  The market may reflect this.  It could take a few years until the Avs dig themselves out.  

- Speaking of the market (OK, I’ll stop now), there was plenty of head scratching over the amount of money Mike Smith got in his extension with Phoenix.  It looks like a lot for a guy of his caliber, but take a look at the market only a few days later.  The Islanders are looking for a solution, the Flyers are looking for someone to help Steve Mason, and Tampa Bay may only have two backup goalies.  And UI’m stunned, STUNNED, that we haven’t heard Florida mentioned in goalie talks.  You have to play the market, and Mike Smith certainly did.  He was able to negotiate from a place of power and got a good deal.  Considering the options on the market, Phoenix may have gotten off cheap. 

- The Avalanche put Greg Zanon and Matt Hunwick on waivers today, clearing the way for them to be bought out.  That leaves Jan Hejda, Eric Johnson and Ryan Wilson from the starting roster of last season.  Please recall that Ryan O’Byrne was traded to Toronto at the trading deadline last season and Shane O’Brien was traded to Calgary recently.  With the addition of Cory Sarich, that leaves them with the call ups of Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott to round out the defense, with no one left to sit in the press box.  Either the Avalanche have a lot of faith in Barrie and Elliott, or they have someone in mind in free agency, and are confident they will get them.  When it was pointed out to me at the end of last season on The Avs Hockey Podcast that Matt Hunwick was the most consistent defenseman the Avalanche had, my head nearly exploded.  But will I actually miss him?  No, not really. In my opinion, he’s a good defenseman from the knees down.  My concern is that the Avs will wind up short on defense starting the season, but perhaps they actually have a plan, unlike the past administration where they had a used dartboard.

- Why exactly is Greg Sherman still around?  If Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic are driving this boat, what is he still doing with the team?  I understand it’s good to have someone around who knows how to work the fax machine (just ask Chicago), but come on.  I don’t understand what the point is.  So far, they have cleared out his coach, one of his free agent signings from the previous season, and lost many of his mistakes to trades and waivers.  It’s like a boyfriend eviction, throwing out all the stuff they had in your apartment, but somehow still keeping the boyfriend. 

- There were two times when I said “Holy S#!+” during the draft.  Once when Cory Schneider was traded to New Jersey, and the other when Dave Bolland was traded to Toronto.  The Devils made a very smart move, finally securing the future of their goaltending, and Vancouver fixed part of it’s goaltending issues.  I’m not sure I buy the statement that they were looking to groom and trade Schneider three years ago, but good for them for dealing with it.  In regards to the Devils, if the hockey world was looking for them to find their next franchise goaltender, they may have found it.  He is just as secure as a starter as many of the teams out there have.  Mostly, the hockey world first asked itself if this was the next Marty Brodeur.  No, but who is?  Marty is the (second) best goaltender ever.  Schneider might be a damn good goaltender.  But to expect him to be Brodeur is to ask way too much.

- I wonder about the Luongo situation.  You have to expect that Luongo has been sat down by management at some point and asked what his problem with staying is, and how they can fix it.  If a new coach isn’t the solution, if getting rid of the challenge to his throne isn’t the answer, then the issue must be with either management, the players, or the media.  Overall, they have fixed enough for him at this point.  It’s time for him to play.  

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