Prior to last night's opening game of the Stanley Cup Final series in Vancouver, Commissioner Gary Bettman took the opportunity to deliver his "state of the League" message to the assembled press corps. He addressed a bunch of important topics, all of which will impact the Carolina Hurricanes in some way to some degree.
Pierre LeBrun did a thorough recap here: Breaking down Bettman's presser: Phoenix, realignment, CBA talks, the cap and more - Cross Checks Blog - ESPN and you can also check out the 25-minute video over at NHL.com.
With numerous pending UFA contracts getting a lot of attention (and fan anxiety maybe?) in Raleigh, the subject of the salary cap generates more buzz than any other topic not including division re-alignment. It also has much more immediate impact. Here's the first hint of what to expect:
• NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said next year's salary cap could be as high as $63.5 million. The exact figure will be announced in late June
The 2011-12 Hurricanes salary budget is expected to be, as it was last year, ruled more by the minimum "Floor" than the maximum limit "Cap". (The floor is fixed by the current CBA at $16 million less than the cap figure.) This past season, the floor was at $43.4 million and, according to CapGeek.com, the Canes payroll cap came in at $49 million, when all was said and done. This included the buy-outs for Rod Brind`Amour and Frank Kaberle, both of which have expired, and not accounting for various pro-rations derived from mid-season trades and signings. (You still with me?)
At this time the Canes have about $30 million obligated for the 2011-12 season with 11 roster players signed. That number includes goalie Justin Peters who Rutherford indicated will return to the AHL, with a veteran back-up taking over the role of game-day gate-boy. With the ownership picture still "a work in progress", what is the budget figure on Edwards Mill Road this coming year? It looks like $47.5mil could be the minimum, meaning there must be 10 more players signed for $1.8mil/year average. Will owner and keeper of the cash Peter Karmanos Jr greenlight a request from Rutherford to wander north of that figure? If so, how far? The answer will determine how many of the higher-priced UFA's Rutherford will re-sign or bring to the club.
While you're chewing on that, I have a plenitude of intriguing and useful hockey links from near and far, even all the way from Kandahar. (After the jump.)
All about roster moves.
Lindstrom, Kivisto Take Unconventional Paths - Paul Branecky, Tracking the Storm Blog The Hurricanes beat the clock on Tuesday, signing Mattias Lindstrom and Tommi Kivisto on the last possible day to retain their rights.
Other tweets from @PaulBranecky to keep in mind:
Other news: D Mark Alt, G Frederik Andersen to attend conditioning camp in July. Andersen to start for Frolunda (SWE) next season
Also, D Danny Biega (Harvard) expects to graduate, turn pro after junior season. Think about that. Sounds hard.
Cory Lavalette had these scouting updates just a few weeks ago on all of these kids: Alt, Biega, Andersen, Kivisto and Lindstrom (as well as Brian Dumoulin and Justin Faulk) : Carolina Hurricanes boast small but talented group of collegiate defensemen - Hockey's Future
HockeyBuzz.com - Matt Karash - Options for Pitkanen's slot? I also realize that Jim Rutherford has had minimal luck adding defense via free agency. He has almost exclusively used the trade wire to build a ho-hum defense that has outperformed what he paid to get it. So can he get a real replacement for Pitkanen or does he get outbid, fall to tier 2 options and leave the team hoping for too many things to work out for the defense to be even as good as last year?
Here's a name that's not currently on CapGeek's Canes roster for next season: Portage's NHLers excited for Winnipeg's return - The Daily Graphic/Central Plains Herald-Leader from Manitoba: Troy Bodie is a restricted free agent heading into the offseason, and said that while he hasn't heard anything yet about getting a deal done, acknowledged that it's still early and there's plenty of time to stay in Raleigh. "It's a great community. They really come around the team and support it well," said Bodie,"It's fun playing there."
Mike Maniscalco tells us he will be talking to Rod Brind`Amour tomorrow (Friday) morning at 8am on his Mike&Mark program on 620 the Buzz (AM radio). You can stream here - and I'll be tweeting a reminder in case you haven't had your coffee by then.
Covering a variety of topics, here's the Canes so-called "Secretary of Defense" Glen Wesley on XM HomeIce Wednesday morning (about 7 minutes)
From XMHome Ice May 31 (Tuesday AM), Canes Director of Pro Scouting Marshall Johnston called in. He doesn't talk much about that role as pro scout, but focuses on his diverse career in pro hockey.
Luke DeCock with 730AM Fox Sports' Mike Solarte Thursday morning, covering the Thrashers move, Conference realignment, RecZone status, and Canes roster future. (12 minutes)
Hockey Wilderness Community 2011 NHL Mock Draft: Carolina Hurricanes - Hockey Wilderness Next up on the list is one of my favorite fan bases, and the host of the 2010-11 All Star Game, the Carolina Hurricanes. Make the jump, and help them pick a new Jeff Skinner. Sigh.
Class of 2012 beats '11; Yakupov tops the Jeff Skinner Rankings - Buzzing The Net - Yahoo! Sports Last September, Buzzing The Net introduced what we're calling the Jeff Skinner Rankings in honour of the Carolina Hurricanes' Calder Trophy finalist who made this humble site look half-smart. Rob Pettapiece, basically out of boundless curiosity, built on work by hockey numbers guru Gabriel Desjardins to project which new NHL draft picks from the Canadian Hockey League figured to put up the most points in the big league.
An NCAA defenseman fits the Canes established profile: Tall tale: How Oleksiak is prepping for Combine - 2011 NHL Draft Combine The tallest draft-eligible player is taking extra classes and preparing for the rigorous fitness testing he'll undergo during the Combine.His fine play over the second half of the season enabled him to jump 14 spots to No. 13 on Central Scouting's final listing of North American skaters in April -- the largest leap of any player in the top 20.
Finally, a couple tweets worth repeating from NHL.com's Mike Morreale
[Canes'] amateur scout Tony MacDonald: "This is a much better draft than I think people thought it was going to be entering the season"
Tony MacDonald feels Nugent-Hopkins will be able to step in, play right away. He would know; he drafted Skinner.
Stanley Cup Final stories
A hockeymom special: Sky’s the limit for Canucks’ Ryan Kesler - Nicholas Cotsonikas, Yahoo! Sports Vancouver's rising star comes full circle with trip to Stanley Cup final, surprising even his own parents.
Lightning return to Tampa, welcomed as heroes - Raw Charge The Tampa Bay Lightning were greeted by hundreds of enthusiastic and appreciative fans at Tampa International Airport Saturday afternoon.
Manny Malhotra's recovery - USATODAY.com Photo collection over the last 10 weeks to the announcement he might be available to play in the Final Series.
More good news for those tracking NHL revenues: Game 1 of the Final Draws 4.5 Million, Up 5% From 2010 " Puck The Media The game drew a 1.8 in the coveted Adults 18-49 demo, up 6% from last year’s Game 1. The game won the 10 p.m. ET hour in Adults 18-49. A note from Sports Media Watch regarding the overnights: Game 1 drew a 25.5 in Boston. Game 1 of last year’s Lakers/Celtics NBA Finals drew a 19.1. NHL hockey’s back in Boston, for sure.
Atlanta to Winnipeg
Probably more stories than you want to read in detail, but there is a lot that's been written that has implications for hockey fans in Carolina. While I read more Canadian stories celebrating the defeat of hockey in the south than I ever hope to see posted again, here are a few who get it, and from some unexpected sources.
- Thrashers move impacts Canes - WRALSportsFan.com The Atlanta Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg. This move has more to it than hockey going back to a city that it left 15 years ago.
- Winnipeg's hockey gain is Atlanta's difficult loss - USATODAY.com As Winnipeg fans celebrated the NHL's return to their city, Atlanta Thrashers fans expressed anger, frustration and sadness over the loss of their NHL franchise.
- KuklasKorner : The Malik Report : Conflicted emotions for an adopted Winnipegger. Excerpt:
The Thrashers were never given a chance to compete because their owners wouldn’t spend on a winner and even Don Waddell couldn’t get ‘em going on a consistent basis to help sell fans in a jam-packed sports marketplace on hockey for the second time. Thrashers fans still sprouted like Kudzu and spent millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours supporting a team that did what the Jets did in the 90’s—fail to produce—while watching the vast majority of the players whose names adorned the backs of their jerseys be traded away or plain old let go with such alarming regularity that the best investment might have been a "Thrash" jersey, witnessing their team be mismanaged by an eight-headed hydra of an ownership group, but they stuck by their Thrashers nonetheless…
- The Thrashers Chapter Comes to a Close - Bird Watchers Anonymous A retrospective on me, hockey and the Atlanta Thrashers
- Don Waddell talks about his role in the Atlanta Thrashers’ demise - Puck Daddy Also effectively at its end: The tenure of Waddell, the first general manager in team history and then its president of hockey operations, who said he's not moving with the Thrashers and isn't sure what the next step in his career will lead him
- Video: Thrashers owner Michael Gearon breaks down crying talking about team’s sale and move to Winnipeg | ProHockeyTalk Soon-to-be former Thrashers owner Michael Gearon spoke to the media about the sale and eventual relocation of the team to Winnipeg and broke into tears. Sincere? You be the judge.
- Russian interview with Ilya Kovalchuk - using Google translate, about the reason that Atlanta didn't work: "I think that the problem is the host. Never was a man who truly loved and would understand hockey. So hard to achieve something."
And my last link on the topic, a second hockeymom special. This story is seemingly unrelated but is precisely the way to explain why this move out of Georgia is no cause to celebrate as this story demonstrates the impact of an NHL franchise on attracting and encouraging the best athletes to play:
Hockey a Big Player in Texas Rangers (as in Major League Baseball) Clubhouse - Dallas Stars Even though he loved the game, he never played hockey in his formative years. "We didn’t have a team growing up. Hockey wasn’t that big where I was from," Derek Holland said. "Once I got to high school, all the city schools around us combined to make one team that played against all the other city schools."
Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon is the first of those in the hunt to land a new coach for his club next season. Now it's up to the New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators and, apparently, the Winnipeg TBDs to get it done. And soon.
CBCSports.ca | Elliotte Friedman | Front office staff 1st priority in Winnipeg (this is the usual weekly must-read, but I'll highlight this portion)
One of the reasons the sale took a little longer to close was that True North didn't want to be on the hook for contracts (like Dudley's recent extension) it didn't take. Teams want their staffs in place by the draft. The longer the Jets/Falcons/Moose/Polar Bears take to make those choices, the less chance those individuals will have to land on their feet elsewhere. There is a lot of competition, especially when it comes to coaching.
Fire & Ice: Hitchcock wants to coach in the NHL next season, but hasn’t heard from Devils, yet If the Devils are interested in hiring Ken Hitchcock to succeed the retired Jacques Lemaire, they have a strange way of showing it.
The Bono Brule connection
The hippest hockey story of the day, from, where else?, the Edmonton Journal.
And here's the video of what Bono said to the crowd about being rescued by Gilbert Brule and his girlfriend: YouTube - U2 Bono's Edmonton 360 Speech About Band Being Oilers
The "Tougher KHL"
And finally, as promised, hockey and life for soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in this lengthy but highly pertinent travelogue with Jarome Iginla in a featured role. It's well worth your time: NHL on TSN's Gord Miller makes special visit to Kandahar From there we were taken to perhaps the best known part of the base, the ball hockey rink constructed by Canadian soldiers and home to the 14-team Kandahar Hockey League, or the "tougher KHL" as the Canadians like to call it.