Friday, July 29, 2005
15 Back to the Fold
Just announced... The Canucks have extended qualifying offers to their 15 restricted free agents. I expect that the team is also negotiating multi-year contracts with some of these same players (ie. Ohlund, Morrison, and the Sedins).
The Fuel, The Fire
Ohlund for Brule? Are you kidding me? A top-2 defenseman for a relatively-small and unproven junior player. A World Cup of Hockey player for someone who didn't even crack Team Canada's lineup for the World Junior Championships?
Needless to say, Nonis quickly dismissed those rumors, added that Ohlund (and Jovanovski) will be part of the Canucks' opening night lineup, then pointed out (rightly so, IMHO) that most of these rumors usually originate from fans message boards and hockey bloggers.
Let's assume that Nonis is taking the politically-correct road and there is, in fact, truth to some of these rumors. What do you think of them?
Anaheim's No. 2 Overall Draft Pick
Should the Canucks move either Ohlund or Jovanovski in a package for the Ducks' draft pick, they better make sure that they can sign at least a similar caliber defenseman through free agency. Both Ohlund and Jovanovski are legitimate top 2 defensemen who can play upwards of 28 minutes per game. Unless the Canucks are willing to promote Sopel, Salo, Malik or Allen to more minutes, the departure of Ohlund or Jovanovski may leave a significant gap in their defense core.
A more minor rumor circulating is that neither Ohlund or Jovanovski is involved, but Fedor Fedorov, the no. 10 pick and other roster player(s). This may make more sense. As much as Brian Burke dislikes the Fedorovs, Sergei recently exercised his player option for the remaining three years of his contract (his original contract was $40 million over 5 years). At a cost of $18 million over the next 3 years, Burke will unlikely be able to trade him, nor will the new Ducks owners be willing to buy him out. Rather, Burke may well be forced to extend an olive branch to Sergei and bring little brother Fedor into the Ducks system.
Scott Niedermayer won the Norris Trophy last season as the league's best defenseman. He has also publicly-expressed his desire to play closer to his BC roots. However, plenty of teams are interested in Niedermayer (ie. Flames, Flyers, Leafs, Penguins) and he would likely command close to the maximum salary of $7.8 million. Because of the salary cap, if the Canucks sign him, then it's safe to assume that one or more of its core players - take your pick of Naslund, Bertuzzi, Jovanovski, Ohlund - will not return.
Though I would personally prefer that the Canucks sign Niedermayer, there is probably a better chance that they sign Peter Forsberg. Naslund will re-sign with the Canucks. Call it denial, optimisim, whatever... but I can't see him signing anywhere else. When he does, he will bring Forsberg with him. Unlike Niedermayer, whose agent is convinced that his client will command the max, Forsberg is more likely to take a pay cut to play with Naslund. Likewise, Naslund will probably also be willing to sign for less than market value if the Canucks are willing to sign Forsberg as well.
I love Whistler. It's where I belong. I thought of moving there once, but the job situation didn't allow for it.
Anyway, I'm there through the busiest weekend in NHL history. I'll post on this blog when I can.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Season Ticket Holders Cost Uncertainty
Fact: The Canucks' payroll last season was approximate $44 million. This season it would be no more than $39 million.
Fact: The Canucks have 17,000 season tickets (and equivalents) sold, plus at least another 1,500 on the waiting list. In the first week since the lockout was lifted, the team has even announced that they have increased their waiting list by 50%.
The team certainly hasn't lost momentum at the box office, and should keep $5 million in the bank because of the salary cap. And while I understand that yes, this market obviously supports the current ticket prices, shouldn't the team be rewarding their fans for sticking with them through the year-long lockout? In my humble opinion, they are at least in a similar, if not better, financial position as last season and can certainly afford it.
The Canucks are considered contenders, and with a few upgrades, should have a legitimate chance at winning the Stanley Cup. However, if Markus Naslund doesn't re-sign or if Todd Bertuzzi requests a trade, then what direction does the team go? Do they blow it up this year and bring in King, Kesler, Bouck and Goren for more full-time NHL duty? Or do they simply reload by signing from the potential pool of hundreds of available free agents? But if Naslund and Bertuzzi are gone, can the Canucks still convince top-flight free agents to come to Vancouver?
There are more uncertainties surrounding this team's roster now than there have been in the recent years. In the best case scenario, the Canucks re-sign Naslund, keep Bertuzzi, sign Forsberg and Niedermayer, etc... and the team won't need to justify keeping ticket prices at their current levels. But in the worst-case scenario, the Canucks may start the season with Morrison, Cooke, Sedin, Sedin and King as their top forwards... in which case the team may well have to lower ticket prices to avoid the flood of cancellations and keep their season ticket base.
Maybe this is what Nonis - and season ticket holders - are waiting to see.
Markus Naslund : BC's Adopted Son
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
God bless my hockey-mad city.
Jim Hughson Joins CBC Broadcast Team
Hockey Day in Canada (An Update)
The good news is that, this season, the Northwest Division (Canucks, Flames and Oilers) plays the Northeast Division (Leafs, Habs and Senators) so Hockey Day in Canada is alive and well for at least another season. On Saturday, January 7th, CBC will broadcast: Ottawa at Montreal, Toronto at Edmonton, and Calgary at Vancouver.
Game On! 10.05
Of course, the Canucks will open against... the Coyotes.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Nazzy - Foppa - Bert : My Pipe Dream
Imagine a first line of Naslund - Forsberg - Bertuzzi.
Or a first line of Naslund - Morrison - Bertuzzi and a second line of Sedin - Sedin - Forsberg.
Or a first line of Naslund - Morrison - Forsberg and a second line of Sedin - Sedin - Bertuzzi.
Well, you get the idea.
But is this a realistic scenario? Last week, I stepped in Dave Nonis' shoes and put together a roster with approximately $2.7 million of cap space left. I also estimated Naslund's salary to come in at $6.5 million.
If Naslund and Forsberg decide to package themselves together, they have to realistically expect to take a pay cut. In the new NHL, teams will no longer be able to commit a significant percentage of their salary cap to only two players no matter how good those players are. Well, they could, but they would be surrounded by a bunch of minor-leaguers.
With the salary rollback, Naslund would have made $4.3 miilion last season. So what if... the Canucks offer Naslund and Forsberg that same contract for a combined $8.6 million? Will that be enough to entice the dynamic duo?
Of course it's not that simple. And I'm sure it would require the Canucks to be a bit more creative. (Let's face it, the Canucks also need to upgrade in other areas.) But nevertheless, Nazzy, Foppa and Bert on the Canucks 1st line. It's a nice pipe dream.
Monday, July 25, 2005
It's More Fun When You're Winning
Saturday, July 23, 2005
No More Hockey Day in Canada?
The NHL announced their revised schedule guidelines for the upcoming season. The new, NFL-style, "unbalanced" schedule places a bigger emphasis on divisional and conference play. The basic guidelines break down as follows:
- Each club will play 8 games against each of their divisional rivals.
- Each club will play 4 games against each of the non-divisional teams in the same conference.
- Each club will play 1 home game against each of the teams in a designated division outside their conference.
- Each club will play 1 road game against each of the teams in a different, designated division outside their conference.
What this means for Canucks fans is that, during the regular season:
- Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton and Minnesota will play at GM Place four times
- Original Six favorite, Detroit, and heated rival, St. Louis, will play at GM Place twice
- other Canadian teams - Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa - will play at GM Place only once every three years
- similarly, Boston, New York Rangers, Crosby, Lemieux and the Penguins, Heatley and the Thrashers will play at GM Place only once every three years
To me, the biggest change is only being to watch the Leafs, Habs and the Senators once every three years. Does this mean that CBC will no longer have their "Hockey Day In Canada" specials in February, when all six Canadian teams are playing against each other? (A great Canadian tradition, BTW.) Did the NHL not pay attention to the success of the outdoor heritage game between Montreal and Edmonton last year? How will the league promote Crosby to the Western Conference when each city will only see him once every three years?
The NHL has spinned this change as a means to "strengthen rivalries" and "maintain the integrity of the conference-based playoff format". They also argue that the new schedule "allows for continued exposure of teams and star players from the other conference". My question is how it does these.
- Under the old format, divisional rivals already played each other six times a year. Does adding two more games really strengthen the rivalry that much more? What about the traditional rivalries? The Canadian rivalries? The Original Six rivalries? Red Wings vs. the Leafs, Blackhawks vs. the Rangers... the league's largest cities will visit the other only once every three years?
- I agree that in a conference-based playoff format, the league would want to maintain the integrity of the regular season. However, under the old format, teams already played 64 of their 82 games within the conference - that's 78% of their games within the conference. The new schedule states that 72 of teams' 82 games (or 87%) will be within the conference.
- The old format ensured that teams visit teams outside their conference at least once every other year. How is reducing the number of times that teams from the other conference play inter-conference games "allowing for continued exposure" of these teams and star players? By making sure that Crosby and Lemieux and Heatley and Kovalchuck and Thornton and Theodore only play in the West once every three years? By making sure Naslund and Sakic and Iginla only play in the East once every three years? By making sure I can watch Marion Gaborik and Manny Fernandez one more time each year in lieu of watching Saku Koivu, Eddie Belfour and Jaromir Jagr?
Smooth move, NHL. Build the game by limiting exposure. But I suppose the way that the league has "grown the game" in the last 10 years, this is simply par for their course.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Crosby to the Penguins; Canucks Pick 10th
In 1984, Mario Lemieux came to Pittsburgh with similar expections as Crosby will have to resurrect the Penguins franchise. Mario knows what its like to arrive with such hype - a few years after his arrival, the Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups - and can ensure that Sidney will have a smooth transition to the NHL. He will be able to show Sidney how to deal with the pressure, the hype and the media. He will also be able to mentor him on simpler things like how to prepare for a game. Not a bad situation at all.
On the local front, the Canucks will pick 10th overall at the draft. Using the 2003/2004 final standings, they would have picked 26th overall. But instead, the Canucks go from winning the Northwest Division title to also having a top 10 draft pick. In a deep draft year, picking 10th will provide the Canucks an opportunity to add a blue-chip prospect to an already good nucleus of players. The Canucks' last top 10 draft picks were Bryan Allen (1998) and the Sedin twins (1999).
Free Bert! (pt. 2)
Because of his suspension, Bertuzzi missed the Canucks' playoff run, was unable to play for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey, was unable to play in Europe during the lockout... but more importantly, if Bertuzzi misses the first two months of the upcoming season, it jeopardizes his chances of playing for Team Canada in the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Wayne Gretzky, Team Canada's executive director for the Men's Olympic hockey team, has openly endorsed Bertuzzi's hockey ability - Gretzky considers him to be one of our country's best hockey players. "If he's playing from September to December, I don't think there's any question about his ability as a hockey player and you can go from there and say that if he's playing well, he'll be part of this team. It's as simple as that," Gretzky said when he announced Team Canada's training and orientation camp roster.
If Bertuzzi is suspended 10-20 more games, then it means that he won't begin playing until sometime in November or even early December. This doesn't leave him a lot of time to return to top form and be ready to represent Canada in Turin.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Because the free agency season starts in just over a week, it is especially crucial for the Canucks to know Bertuzzi's status for the upcoming season. If Bertuzzi will remain suspended for the start of the season (which he shouldn't), then the Canucks will have to fill his roster spot. Or if Bertuzzi indeed becomes reinstated immediately, then the Canucks can use that to entice Naslund (and other free agents) to re-sign with the team.
In order to not compromise what the Canucks can do during the free agency season, Bettman must make his decision soon. It's only fair to the Canucks and to their fans.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
What Will (Should) Nonis Do?
Oh Captain My Captain
Absolutely have to convince Markus Naslund to re-sign with the Canucks. Nazzy is an all-NHL first team all-star and one of the best point producers in recent seasons. Not to mention that he is the team's captain, their heart and soul... and is immensely popular with the fans.
Even though he took some subtle shots to Canucks' management and questioning their committment to winning a Stanley Cup. However, most Canucks fans feel that his comments were because Burke wasn't willing to blow his budget nor his nucleus for one playoff run. (Read: Burke did not want his team to be the Leafs or the Rangers of the Western Conference). In fact, Burke's reluctance to overspend on players has put the Canucks in great shape post-lockout. Again, the Canucks can re-sign most of their Northwest Division title-winning roster and still have money left over, unlike their main rivals that have to shed salary in order to get under the cap. This will be the Canucks' main selling point to Naslund. Financially, every team can offer him the same contract. But if he truly wants to win, the Canucks can offer him another opportunity to play with basically the same team that just won the Northwest Division title.
Salary-wise, the benchmark is Jarome Iginla, who will probably be offered anywhere between $7 million to close to the maximum allowable salary of $7.8 million. Naslund, who would have made $5.65 million last season (or $4.25 million with the rollback), will command close to the same salary as Iginla. My guess is the Canucks can re-sign Naslund between $6-6.5 million.
Bertuzzi will play for Vancouver this season. As far as we know, he hasn't asked for a trade. He willingly showed up for Brad May's charity game last December, and he knows that he will not be better received or better supported by any other NHL city. Bertuzzi is slated to make $5.3 million this season.
Key Restricted Free Agents
Of the Canucks' restricted free agents some will receive multi-year offers at slightly over their respective qualifying offers. Brendan Morrison ($3 million), Mattias Ohlund ($2.5 million), Matt Cooke ($1.3 million), the Sedin twins ($1.1 million each) and Bryan Allen ($1 million) are considered key pieces of the team and should be re-signed to 2-3 year deals.
In Clouts We Trust
Dan Cloutier ($2.3 million) should be given one more opportunity to prove himself in the playoffs. Though he has suffered some unfortunate injuries in the playoffs, Cloutier is also a back-to-back 30-win goalie. Martin Brodeur is the only other goalie in the league to do this in the last couple of years.
Nikolai Khabibulin, who just won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, is an unrestricted free agent but why spend $5-7 million on him? Signing him means that the Canucks will have to let go of key players to get under the cap. Other cheaper, free agent goalies like Cujo, Manny Legace and Chris Osgood are lateral moves. Alex Auld ($513K) will be the back-up goalie.
Ed Jovanovski ($4 million) is already signed for the season. Marek Malik, Sami Salo and Brent Sopel are restricted free agents. There are persistent rumors that the Canucks are after Scott Niedermayer, but unless he signs for much lower than market value ($4-4.5 million), he won't fit under the Canucks' cap. If Niedermayer does sign, then only one of Malik, Salo and Sopel can stay. My vote goes to either Salo or Sopel ($1.3 million).
The 6th and 7th defensemen spots can easily be filled by any combination of Nolan Baumgartner ($450K), a Moose call-up (Kevin Bieska, Kiril Koltsov or Tomas Mojzis) or a fringe free agent pick-up (Brad Bombardir).
The Rest of the Supporting Cast
This is where it gets tricky. Tyler Bouck ($450K), Ryan Kesler ($703K) and Trevor Linden ($1.5 million) are already signed, which leaves five or six roster spots to fill. (Are Bouck and Kesler ready for full-time NHL duty?)
Artem Chubarov, Jarkko Ruutu, Jason King and Brad May are all free agents. (Brad May is an unrestricted free agent.) Peter Sarno, Lee Goren and Jeff Hereema also all played well with the Moose last season that they may get some playing time with the big club.
Chubarov ($750K) and King ($600K), who suffered a nasty concussion last year, should stay. Bouck and Ruutu are redundant, but if Ruutu takes his qualifying offer ($456K) then he might also stay. Brad May is a fan favorite and takes some of the leadership pressure off Naslund, Linden and Bertuzzi. But unless he takes a pay cut at close to the league minimum ($500-600K), he may not be with the team next year.
Naslund ($6.5 million) - Morrison ($3.0) - Bertuzzi ($5.3)
Sedin ($1.1) - Sedin ($1.1) - King ($600K)
Cooke ($1.3) - Chubarov ($750K) - Linden ($1.5)
Bouck/Ruutu ($450K) - Kesler ($703K) - Sarno/Hereema/Goren ($450K)
Allen ($1.0) - Jovanovski ($4.0)
Ohlund ($2.5) - Salo ($1.3)
Bieska/Koltsov/Mojzis($450K)/free agent ($700K) - Sopel ($1.3)
Cloutier ($2.3) - Auld ($513K)
This roster leaves approximately $2.7 million in cap space. If the Canucks convince Niedermayer to sign, then he takes the remaining space. Otherwise, they can possibly drop a minor league player from the big club ($450K worth) and sign a good depth player. (Will Paul Kariya or Glen Murray sign for $3.0 million?)
The Modern Day Ginger v. Mary Ann
So the question of the day is... if you were Brad Pitt, who would you much rather be with?
My personal choice? I don't care how sexy she is... I ain't swapping spit with anyone who's swapped spit with her brother.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Canucks and the Cap
- Alex Auld - $675,000 (with 24% rollback - $513,000)
- Todd Bertuzzi - $6.933 million ($5.269 million)
- Ed Jovanovski - $5.25 million ($4 million)
- Ryan Kesler - $925,000 ($703,000)
- Trevor Linden - $2 million ($1.52 million)
(Note: I know Kesler isn't listed on the TSN site, but I'm almost 100 % sure he's signed for the season.)
With the exception of Markus Naslund and Brad May who are unrestricted free agents, the remainder of the 2003/2004 team are restricted free agents. Assuming that the restricted free agents accept their qualifying offers, and taking into account the proposed 24% rollback, the Canucks will have $28 million committed in salaries before the free agency season begins.
Markus Naslund, who is coming from another NHL first-team all-star appearance and has been the Canucks' heart and soul in the last few seasons, is bound to get a lot of offers for close to the maximum salary (20% of the team-by-team cap or approximately $7.8 million per year). But even if he re-signs in Vancouver, the Canucks will be able to keep their core players and have a couple of million dollars to upgrade the team and sign another player or two - a great position to be in considering their closest rivals (ie. Avs and Red Wings) can't re-sign or have to buyout key roster players to fit under the cap.Tomorrow, I'll share some of my armchair quarterback ideas on how the Canucks should upgrade.
Friday, July 15, 2005
A True Partnership
So how do I feel about the present, proposed cap system?
Quite honestly, I like the system that the owners and players have agreed to. The new CBA does include a team-by-team cap of $39 million in players salaries, but more importantly, it also links league-wide players salaries to 54% of league revenues. With this linked system - this "partnership" - both the owners and players will have a motivation to build the game and build revenues. The most obvious way to build the game is by improving the on-ice product - and an improved on-ice product is something that I can appreciate as a fan.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
2 Minutes for Unnecessary Roughness
- Linkage - Everyone knew linkage was going to be part of any new CBA.
- Salary Cap - Ditto. The only thing we didn't agree on was whether it was going to be a hard cap or simply act like some sort of a salary threshold to determine a luxury tax.
- Entry Level Salaries - There wouldn't have been much argument about entry level salaries. Both sides were willing to lower them to 1994 levels minus the easily-attainable bonuses.
- More Liberal Free Agency - We all knew that this was the one big bone the owners were going to throw at the players. Rather than being tied to one team until they were 31 years old, give them more options at a much earlier time in their careers.
- Revised Salary Arbitration - This was already part of both sides' proposals early on in negotations.
So if practically every other hockey fan and media outlet - see TSN, Brian Burke, The Hockey News - knew what the new CBA was going to look like, why did it take 301 days for the lockout to be settled?
Well for one thing, both sides firmly entrenched themselves in their respective positions. Neither side was willing to move. Neither side was willing to negotiate. In fact, if the players had accepted the reality that the new CBA was going to include some sort of linkage very early in the negotation process - not until after the full season was cancelled - there very well could have been NHL hockey last year.
But I suppose that's neither here nor there. We'll finally see the NHL in October. Give both side coincidental minors for unnecessary roughness and let's move on.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
The New Ice Age
I just saw the slogan on the Score. Catchy. Is this the new NHL's marketing slogan?
Good to see that the NHL will be back this season. I just went to GM Place for the annual seat relocation event. Incredibly exciting.
I think I'll comment and post on details regarding the proposed deal over the next few days.
GO CANUCKS GO!