UPDATE from 3-on-3 Tournament...MPS impresses and changes his name.

Jason Gregor
July 09 2010 08:06AM

COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 23: Ilya Kovalchuk of Russia looks dejected after losing the IIHF World Championship gold medal match between Russia and Czech Republic at Lanxess Arena on May 23, 2010 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

I return home from the greatest fishing trip of my life (more on that in a few days) and I see that the Hall-hype is in overdrive, the Oilers still don’t have a veteran 3rd liner, Ilya Kovalchuk is still an UFA and Lebron James might have the biggest sports ego of all-time.

I’ll be at Clareview this morning watching the 3-on-3 rookie tournament and I’ll be most interested in Hall, MPS and Teemu Hartikainen. I won’t put too much stock in how they play because dominating against rookies is much different than going up against NHL veterans, but I am curious to see them live.

I’ve seen Hall on TV and his game speaks for itself, but I just want to see the hype up close and personal. MPS is the big wild card for me. So many scouts have told me they think he is ready to make the jump to the NHL and that is speed is his best asset. Hartikainen is another guy that some think is a wild card to make the squad because of his style of play; which possesses more grit and sandpaper than any of the other young prospects.

I don’t see Hartikainen making the squad, but today is the first chance to see if the kid has the potential to make the NHL in the future.

This camp isn’t about finding out who can play in the NHL, rather it will show which young guys can’t.

Veteran still needed

The Oilers were interested in Rob Niedermayer, but he took Buffalo’s offer because the Oilers didn’t make him a direct offer. Normally teams will submit an offer to a guy and give him a short window to make up his mind. It came down to Buffalo making a secure offer and rather than wait for a “what-if” from the Oilers he took the sure thing. He had an offer on the board from another team but choose Buffalo.

Niedermayer would have been a good fit in Edmonton on a one-year deal. He’s won a Cup, is a great team guy and would have given them a solid 3rd line centre.

They still need to add that guy, and I haven’t got any info regarding Dominic Moore, but if I’m the Oilers I’d look at him. The only problem is he isn’t that big or physical, but he is reliable and might be the best option left, unless Steve Tambellini can add a centre via trade.

Kovalchuk still free

This is the longest a player of Ilya Kovalchuk’s status has remained on the market, but I wonder if this is good for hockey. Edmonton isn’t interested and wouldn’t have a chance if they were, but even fans here are curious to see where he will end up. The rumours and possible scenarios is keeping hockey in the conversation in places where normally they wouldn’t get a sniff. It’s not a hype-crazed machine or anything, but I think it is good to see a guy like him float around for longer than six hours on July 1st.

Let me be clear and say a little speculation is good, but thankfully NHL players aren’t like the NBA.

In what other sport would you have a guy who has won nothing hold a press conference to say where he is signing. The best part of my fishing trip was there wasn’t any TV, Internet or phone so I didn’t have to follow Lebron James’ ridiculous saga.

James is a great player and a phenomenal athlete, but after watching his press conference last night I hope to hell the Miami Heat never win a championship with him. This entire James, Dwayne Wade and third-wheel Chris Bosh saga made me sick. James has a one hour show to tell the world where he is playing, while simultaneously ripping out the heart of his home state. Classy move Mr. James, classy move.

The players and their player’s association would be crying COLLUSION if the owners ever did anything similar. The best part about this putrid scenario is that the NHL looks even better by having a solid salary cap. The soft cap of the NBA is a joke, and the JWB signing will hurt the league long-term. In 2009, 40% of the teams in the league lost money, and there has been speculation that as many as 20 teams lost money last year. I’d bet you can add Cleveland to the list of teams that will lose money next year.

MLB is a joke because normally it is the same 10 teams with a realistic shot to win. You get the odd upset but that’s it. The NBA will be the exact same. The Lakers and Heat will exceed the cap every year and they can afford it. I know the Knicks prove that overspending doesn’t guarantee a winning team, but any decent GM with a brain and an abundance of money will give his team a chance to win.

I’m a fan of the NBA, but yesterday’s ridiculous and ego-induced press conference has drastically lessened my interest. I will only watch hoping the Heat loses. And rooting for a team to lose is never as fun as rooting for an underdog or your favourite team. Being a spiteful observer isn’t as enjoyable as being a passionate fan.

And if James does win a championship or two, can you compare him to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? Teams were built around those guys. They didn’t have to set up summer meetings with other star players and agree to from a supposed terrific trifecta.

The NHL has a lot of warts, but today I’m glad Edmonton is an NHL city rather than an NBA city. Thankfully the NHL will never have to endure the same disgusting lunacy because of their hard salary cap.

**UPDATE AFTER 3 on 3**

MPS was the best player on the ice, followed by Jordan Eberle. It is hard to get a true evaluation of players in the format of 3-on-3 from the blueline in, but Magnus Paajarvi (he has dropped the Svensson) showed his experience and dominated at times. He was very good on the cycle and down low.

Eberle scored some nice goals, going by a D-man, cutting to the net and either roofing it upstairs, or going fivehole. Since being drafted Eberle has talked about improving his speed and he does look a bit faster, but he is much stronger than before and that is imperative if he is going to battle against NHL defenceman.

Jeff Petry is bigger than I expected and he also stood out. He will need some seasoning in the AHL and getting used to playing 80 games, but I think he has better upside than Taylor Chorney.

Martin Marincin really impressed me. He uses his stick incredibly well down low and his raw talent jumps out at you. Once he fills in a bit this kid might be a steal for the Oilers. He moves well for a big man and coming to the WHL should help him get used to the North American game.

Teemu Hartikainen didn't do much for me, but this 3-on-3 concept isn't the best format to judge guys. He skates okay, but at times he looked frustrated.

Anton Lander could easily play in the AHL and I think after one more year in Sweden he could make the jump to the Oilers. He is very poised and seems mature beyond his years. He thinks the game incredibly well, especially in his own zone. I really like his game. But it is his leadership that might be his best quality. When I asked Paajarvi about him he couldn't stop raving about what a great guy he was. It almost seemed like Paajarvi looked up to him and they are the same age.

Cameron Abney has really improved his skating. He will never be a great skater or puckhandler, but he has made great strides. He is a 4th liner at best, but he has size and toughness and if he can improve his skating even more he might have a shot.

Tyler Pitlick has a great shot. He ripped a few one-timers past the goalies with ease. He is easily 6'2" and might be taller come next year. I'll be making sure I will be at Rexall when the Medicine Hat Tigers play the Oil Kings this year.

Taylor Hall was solid. He had a few moments where you really noticed his skill and speed. After the skate he said he wants to improve his balance. He feels he needs to improve his leg strength and will spend the next two months improving in both those areas.

Paajarvi was the most impressive player and I'm looking forward to seeing how he matches up against NHL players come September.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 gretzkycurry
July 09 2010, 10:36AM
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Yes, Lebron was a free agent and he is entitled to shop his services anywhere.

However, here's the part that I think makes him a jerk. Lebron took his time and waited until the best of the free agents have been signed and then tells the Cavs to stick it. Could he not have given the ownershipthe heads up that the odds were slim on his return so that they could have made a play for some replacement parts.

Basically, what Lebron did to the Cavs is similar to what Heatley did to the Oil last year except for one major difference: Heatley didn't owe the Oil anything, whereas Lebron has been well treated by the fans and ownership in Cleveland and he screwed them over big time.

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#2 Ender
July 09 2010, 02:30PM
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Completely off-topic, but for those with a stomach for some colorful language who might also be considering buying an IPhone, this is a pretty funny clip.

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#3 Senator Theo
July 09 2010, 03:17PM
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@rossc

Someone told me that you were just like RossCreek, but without the reek - any truth to that?

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#4 Evilstu
July 09 2010, 10:30AM
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While I understand some of your concern for our young players going out and endulginging in the wobbliest of pops, I encourage you to tuck your horns a bit. What gives any of you the right to chastize ANYONE for what they do in their free time? I understand that they are somewhat famous and therefore are easily critisized but I can't say I agree with that logic. They play hockey people....HOCKEY!! For all you know your family Dr. is a closet drunk yet I am sure that is not something you worry about when you bump into him/her at a local pub or dining establishment. Their job is far more important although FAR less entertaining, yet they would escape the critisim they guys have to deal with.

Cut these kids some slack, I just hope those of you who point the finger and comment on what these kids should be doing, or how they should be behaving, have the ability to set the same standards for yourself.

Quit talking about how they are kids. If they are old enough to join the military, and fight for our country, they are old enough to handle their own affairs.....and yes, that includes getting pinned now again and chasing some skirts.

Deal with it.

On another note, I am excited for the upcoming season. Nolan would be a great fit, and I hope we have THREE rookies starting the season. It's going to be a blast to watch.

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#5 Bandwagon jumper
July 09 2010, 10:54AM
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Well Evilstu, I agree to a certain extent with your comments, but there is a major disconnect between comparing my boozing family doctor and a young fellow who's now a role model for hundreds of kids. I don't see any kids wearing jerseys with Family Dr. on the back.

I want my kid's heros to be like Gretzky not like a Habibulan awaiting his day in court. And I am sure Wayne had his share of wobbly pops but tried to do so in a manner that would not put his, or his teams, or his city's reputation in a bad light.

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@Souby

Well Betts was sitting around last summer with his thumb up his butt and would've signed here, but last year Tambo decided to change the team through internal changes.

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@Souby

I understand what they tried to do last year, but I just can't see why you don't get that Vet for the just in case scenario.

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#8 Souby
July 09 2010, 11:25AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

I couldn't agree more. You cannot discount having a solid veteran presence around to help settle down the kids on and off the ice and to play quality minutes when called upon.

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#9 Doughboy
July 09 2010, 01:37PM
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Just for the record, I hope both Hemmer and Penner remain happy, affordable, and productive Oilers. With those two especially you're just never sure where their head is at. Good young team in a snazzy new arena couldn't hurt future contract negotiations however...

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#10 Dyckster
July 09 2010, 02:49PM
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DC wrote:

I used to work with his sister Rebecca. Don't know why I felt inclined to share this.

~Please keep your "I used to work with his sister...." to yourself, no one cares.~ JK

Bring on Asham, having said that, at what point do we have too many forwards to sift through? It's gonna end up like a fishing derby where you catch your limit early, but cull your smaller fish with bigger ones as the day progresses. I guess in the end we'll end up solid here and in OKC.

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#11 Starbuck
July 09 2010, 08:12AM
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What about a guy like John Madden or Owen Nolan?

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#12 oilesks
July 09 2010, 08:14AM
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welcome back, nice rant

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#13 book¡e
July 09 2010, 08:15AM
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I fully agree with your rant about LeBron - the guy lacks even the slightest bit of class.

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Fishing, where'd you go?

Hard salary cap? Is that what the NHL has?

As for a vet, what would your thoughts be on a guy like Madden? Seems to be something we could use for a year.

Edit Starbuck beat me. I'd also add Guerin.

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#15 Shaun Doe
July 09 2010, 08:23AM
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Hey Gregor, I'm interested to hear about your fishing trip. I live 15minutes away from the mighty Fraser River so fishing is pretty much front an centre for my neck of the woods. Add to that I work in fisheries and am currently working for the Freshwater Fisheries Society teaching kids how to fish. So good fishing stories are always fun to hear as far as I'm concerned.

Also, I too am curious if the Oilers have kicked any tires with John Madden. Has winning a cup priced him out of their range or is there just no interest from either party/one side?

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#18 sofapimp
July 09 2010, 08:35AM
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not a lots of vets will want to come for a rebuild during the growing pain years. we need to find a guy whos trying to play for one last contract somewhere. john madden would be a looking for another cup i think.

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#19 gretzkykurri
July 09 2010, 08:35AM
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Nice post Gregor.

Any word on what's up with AJ? Would he have a shot with the Oil right now?

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#21 getzkycurry
July 09 2010, 08:38AM
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Also, have you seen much of Teemu? Why your interest in him over some of the other youngsters?

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@Jason Gregor

If we sign a guy and he doesn't realize that we are a young rebuilding/transition team, I'd have to question if he is capable of wiping his own butt.

Although I do agree with you.

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#24 I'm a Scientist!
July 09 2010, 08:41AM
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Maybe we get the vetran presence somewhere other than at the center position. How about Bill Guerin to replace Fernado Pisani on RW of the 3rd line? Is that just a stretch?

EDIT: OPPPS! Already addressed. Nevermind. Refresh first...then post.

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#27 Chaz
July 09 2010, 08:45AM
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Totally agree on Le Bron. Great athlete, but now I just want him, and the Heat to lose. What I think these three guys have done by all going to the Heat is to put all the pressure in the World on their own shoulders. Anything less than a championship every year will be a disappointment.

Not only that, but if Kobe and the Lakers can somehow beat them in the Finals it will cement Kobe as the greatest player of this generation. And it's win-win for Kobe because if he beats them, he's a legend and if he loses to them he just lost to the losers who stacked the best team through their backdoor dealings...

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@Jason Gregor

Are you getting any one on ones with these guys? I know an Islander Blogger/Reporter talked with lots of the Islander prospects and had updates to what kind of goals these kids had. Interesting enough not everyone of them said I want to be in the NHL next.

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#29 Dyckster
July 09 2010, 08:53AM
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Welcome back Jason, now get your butt down to Clareview and let us know what's going on! (Please) LOL

Among many, there was one thing Lebron said that struck me as COLD as far as his true feelings for the Cavs and Cleveland as a whole.

He was asked if/when he wins an NBA Championship he'll deep down wish it would have been with the Cavaliers. He indicated NO! He went on to basically say no athlete cares where they win a Championship, just so long as they win one.

Perhaps later on he realized what he had said cuz he apologized to the Cleveland fans for not bringing home the prize.

I tend to believe his 1st statement is how he truly feels though. What a pompous ass he is.

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#30 Peter Griffin
July 09 2010, 08:54AM
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I believe a third line centre is not a huge deal for this team right now. Use Horcoff or Brule there. Gagner, Brule, Horcoff, Fraser are your centres on opening day. If Hall morphs into a centre slide Brule to wing and we are off and running. We need another d-man in the system that can project to be a top 4.

As for James, don't hate the playa hate the game. They need a hard cap, period.

Howeva, what's the difference to what everyone was doing with Hossa a few years ago. Private meetings with ownership, players contacting him. Then he bounced around from team to team looking for a ring?

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#31 rossc
July 09 2010, 08:55AM
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If taylor hall was dogging it at camp this morning its because he was guest bartending and getting plastered at Oil City last night.

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I will say this at least 2.5mil of that money made was donated to charity last night.

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#33 freeze
July 09 2010, 09:00AM
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Wow, Fortress Lake looks like a great spot to hide out and enjoy the scenery.

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#34 Panda
July 09 2010, 09:01AM
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Jason, while I agree that the Lebron presser was over the top, I believe that NHL free agents talk to each other before signing and they do take into account where their friends are playing.

Bill Guerin signed with the Blues as a free agent to play with Weight in 06, and then Weight returned the favor in 08 when he signed in NYI.

I also seem to recall Forsberg and Sundin at one time making it known they would have loved to play on the same team but it didn't work out.

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#35 Panda
July 09 2010, 09:04AM
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On a different topic, why all the talk about a third line center....shouldn't we be more worried about who is the top line center?

If you ignore the salary and if the shoulder is good, Horcoff is a damn fine third line center, but not a first or second one.

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#36 Ender
July 09 2010, 09:05AM
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Peter Griffin wrote:

what's the difference to what everyone was doing with Hossa a few years ago. Private meetings with ownership, players contacting him. Then he bounced around from team to team looking for a ring?

All the difference in the world. Whatever team signed Hossa had to make serious concessions with the rest of their roster to make room for him under a hard cap. There could be no 'stacking the deck' on any single team. Unlike in the NBA, which was the main point Gregor was making.

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#37 magisterrex
July 09 2010, 09:07AM
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I completely agree on the cries of collusion if the owners tried that. Pat Riley is a sneaky SOB, and I can see him as the mastermind behind it all.

The good news is that LeBron's deft handling of the situation puts him on a whole new level about Chris Pronger and the burning baby crib story!

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#38 Ryan
July 09 2010, 09:08AM
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Interesting article about Riley Nash:

http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/rbh/comments/riley_nash_to_decide_soon_very_soon/

Seems the Canes are offering him a guaranteed spot as 3rd line C if he leaves Cornell. That could be fun to watch. My guess is he gets murdered by the NHL competition and schedule.

Jason, could you get someone from Carolina on your show to talk about this? If it's not too busy of course :)

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#39 freeze
July 09 2010, 09:09AM
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Have the contract details for the 'big 3' come out yet? The Team was saying this morning that they took less money to play together. True?

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#40 Ender
July 09 2010, 09:09AM
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Panda wrote:

Jason, while I agree that the Lebron presser was over the top, I believe that NHL free agents talk to each other before signing and they do take into account where their friends are playing.

Bill Guerin signed with the Blues as a free agent to play with Weight in 06, and then Weight returned the favor in 08 when he signed in NYI.

I also seem to recall Forsberg and Sundin at one time making it known they would have loved to play on the same team but it didn't work out.

Sure, but those players sometimes have to take a haircut on salary to make that sort of thing work under a hard cap. Of course, if you aren't a superstar then you're free to play with whomever you want but in that case, who cares? The team isn't 'stacked'.

The story here is superstars having their cake and eating it too; they get to stack one particular team with elite talent and they all still get paid their big salary. Couldn't happen in the NHL.

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@Panda

If Hall, Eberle, and MPS all make this team we will most likely end up rolling 3 offensive lines so I don't know that it really matters that much next year.

This team isn't planning on winning the cup next year so why not just play the best line on a particular night as your top line?

If we had to make the playoffs next year I'd be concerned, but we don't.

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#42 DoubleJ
July 09 2010, 09:10AM
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We need to sign are rfa's. Whats up Gagner? I'd like to have him signed sooner then later.

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#43 Bandwagon jumper
July 09 2010, 09:12AM
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I didn't need to hear that about Hall but I am not surprised.

He has all the makings of a party hard kinda kid. Even his comments after he was drafted, something like this: "I made the right decision to spend time with family last night".

I think the Oil need to put a short leash on Hall.

Welcome back Jason.

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#44 billmad
July 09 2010, 09:12AM
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So, does anyone remember the pics of Pat Kane and Kris Versteeg half naked in a limo after a game in Vancouver last season? Guess what other "beauty" was there... that's right, John Madden.

Not sure I'd want him to be an example to our future.

"Check out the guns, girls!" http://communities.canada.com/theprovince/blogs/kurtenblog/archive/2010/01/26/chicago-blackhawks-shirtless-partying-pictures.aspx

And for the record, I would have done the exact same thing... but I shouldn't be mentoring ANYTHING!

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#45 danjo1
July 09 2010, 09:12AM
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@Jason Gregor

I totally agree with you regarding James. What is your take on Gilbert's letter to Cavs fans?

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#46 David S
July 09 2010, 09:12AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Fortress Lake.

There are no excemptions for NHL teams to go over the cap like the NBA. So I'd call it a hard cap, instead of a "soft" cap like the NBA.

I don't see Guerin as a guy who would help the Oilers. He has never been a defensive specialist, nor do I think he has any interest in being in a rebuild.

The most important factor in bringing in a veteran guy, is ensuring the guy understands the landscape in Edmonton. Winning is always important, but a veteran needs to be a leader and most importantly patient with the young guys. I don't think Guerin fits that bill.

Jason, I think you're describing Mike Comrie.

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#47 Chaz
July 09 2010, 09:14AM
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@freeze

Not sure if the details have been released, but all three have said they're taking less than they could have elsewhere. Le Bron actually said during his presser that they hadn't agreed on the terms yet and that his agent was still working on it.

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@Ryan

How can you offer him a guranteed spot? What's going to happen when they realize he has to play 4th line or go to the minors? Good for him if true.

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@Bandwagon jumper

Are you kidding? What did you do as an 18 year old? How about one that just received a helluva nice signing bonus?

Gagner has pics on facebook all corked up, should we worry?

These guys are kids, they are going to play.

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#50 jake
July 09 2010, 09:17AM
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Gregor,

Can you just elaborate a little more on how you feel about the James, Bosh, Wade thing, you were a little vague..... kidding.

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