There's lots of moving going on in the NHL right now. Let's talk about the coaches first. Of course Mike Keenan was hired over in Calgary while Dave Lewis was fired in Boston. Remember a few days ago I predicted that Claude Julien might get that job? Well, it's being reported that he will get the job in this report by TSN. That seems to be a good hiring in my opinion. There have been changes in Ottawa as well. General Manager, John Muckler was fired and replaced by coach Bryan Murray. That leaves Ottawa and New Jersey still looking for coaches. Interesting stuff for just a few days before the draft. So much for your coach having some input!
Everyone is still talking about those huge signings by the Flyers yesterday. While Flyer's fans are thinking these 2 players will put them back into Cup contention, I tend to have my doubts. Don't get me wrong, they are both very good, above average players whom I wouldn't mind seeing play for the Canes, but they are not worth the star quality money that they are being paid. First of all, 6 year deals are unusual. Kimmo Timonen is getting paid close to what the elite defensemen in the league are getting paid. Kimmo is an excellent offensive defensemen, no doubt. But can he be counted on to be your number one shut down guy for 30 minutes a night like Pronger, Neidermayer, and company? I don't think so. Plus, right now Cane's fans are seeing the affect of a possible bad ending of a 6 year contract with Bret Hedican. If Hedican can't play to his potential, the Canes are out 2.4 million. If Timonen can't play to his potential in 5 or 6 years when he's in his late 30's, the Flyers are out over 6 million plus. Big difference!
Scott Hartnell is a good young player with potential, but he's now making more money than Justin Williams, and for a longer period of time. Excuse me, but Willie has accomplished much more in his career than Hartnell has. Plus, Hartnell is not a very smart player. He gets suckered into taking stupid penalties and I remember that happening a couple of times in the playoffs against the Sharks last year. They were ill-timed penalties which cost the Preds dearly. Hartnell is nothing but a decent 3rd line player. Well, now he is a grossly overpaid, decent 3rd line player. The Flyers are burying themselves for years to come, just like they did with Hatcher and Rathje. Is Bobby Clarke still the puppetmaster over there, pulling the strings for Holmgren? It sure seems like more of the same for Philadelphia!
I know some of you are still waiting for my predictions about who the Canes will pick from the free agent forward pool. Let me tell you, it's slim pickens compared to who is available at center! First, let me shoot down a couple of goofy rumors I have heard. A couple of sites have said that the Canes are interested in Roman Hamrlick and Paul Kariya. While Hamrlick would be a nice acquisition, (at the right price), the only way the Canes could afford him is if Hedican was not coming back. Perhaps management made a couple of inquiries just in case, but I don't see the deal happening. As for Kariya coming here, no way. Paul made 4.5 million last year and won't be taking that huge of a pay cut to play on the Canes 3rd line. It's wishful thinking on someone's part, but no way Jose', that's not going to happen either.
Last week I reported that Bill Guerin would be my first choice for our open 3rd line forward position. I would offer between 2 and 2.5 million for one year or two. Other players who I wouldn't mind seeing come here are Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi. Both are available and are within the Cane's price range. After that, things get dicey. If you check the CanesCountry UFA listing, you'll see most of the wingers on the list are 4rth line type players. There are a few guys who might be possible 3rd liners, but I wouldn't take the risk. I'm not interested in and would eliminate the following right off the bat: Jeff Friesen, Tony Amonte, Anson Carter, Todd Bertuzzi, Peter Sykora, Mike Johnson, Richard Zednick, Owen Nolan, Radek Dvorak, Ruslin Fedotenko, and Jan Bulis. They are all coming off injuries or bad years for one reason or the other. There is nothing that makes me want to sign any of them unless Rutherford can't sign one of the prefered forwards and the Canes get desperate. Then I would go cheap and just offer a one year deal. I might take a look at Ladislav Nagy if the price was right, but I wouldn't go above 2.5 million for him. While Blake would be wonderful here, he'll be signing for much more than the Canes can afford along with Ryan Smyth and Brendan Shanahan. Scratch them all off the list. Someone like Marty Gelinas might work, but he would be near the bottom of my wishlist. I love Marty, but his best years are behind him. Keith Tkachuk will be picked up by someone, (but not us), maybe St. Louis. We may have to hope that one of our rookies will step up in camp and claim a spot. Stranger things have happened!Â Have a happy.