I’m unofficially on holidays, but before I completely vacate the sports scene for two weeks of golfing, drinking, hiking, drinking, sleeping, drinking, making four in the morning prank calls to Wanye, drinking, eating, ogling ladies, golfing and watching another buddy walk the plank, I realized there is only four weeks until the NHL is back.
The countdown to the Oilers training camp is on. In 28 days the Oilers will be back on the ice at Rexall Place, and while they will have 50+ players at camp, it is pretty obvious who will make the final 23 man roster.
There are very few question marks as to who will crack the squad. The bigger question is what position and on what line will guys play.
Khabibulin and Deslauriers are the goalies.
Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Smid, Staios and Strudwick will be the seven defencemen.
Horcoff, Hemsky, Penner, Gagner, Cogliano, O’Sullivan, Moreau, Pisani, Jacques and Stortini are locks. That leaves four forwards positions. If Cogliano becomes a winger then Brule and Pouliot are both in, but if #13 stays at centre then Brule, because of his two-way deal, will be hard pressed to stick in October.
Liam Reddox will be one of the extra forward, and I’d guess MacIntyre will be the other for the first part of the year. Bobby Nilsson is the biggest question mark. Supposedly he has been working his ass off in Sweden and is in the best shape of his career, whether than translates into showing a consistent effort every night remains to be seen. Many in the organization feel he could benefit the most under Quinn’s style. If Nilsson is dedicated he will be fine, but if he is the same inconsistent player he’s been to this point in his career he’ll either be in the pressbox or in the minors.
Rob Schremp hasn’t signed yet, but indications are he will in the next few weeks and he’ll come to camp with a clean rap sheet, but I don’t see him being quick enough or strong enough to stick.
The next month will drag on for Oiler fans, and the most intriguing part of the pre-season will be watching who Pat Quinn slots in as his top-six forwards. If Cogliano moves to the wing, then O’Sullivan, Nilsson and Penner will battle for the other two wing positions, since we’d all agree Hemsky is the #1 RW.
Kessel not coming
Many Oiler fans have been hoping the Bruins might be interested in dealing Phil Kessel, but according to Bruins beat reporter, Mike Loftus, that is highly unlikely. Loftus informed us on my show this week that both the Bruins and Kessel aren’t in a rush to get him signed.
He has shoulder surgery after the playoffs and isn’t expected to be ready until a month into the season. This gives the Bruins some time to manage their salary cap. Currently the Bruins are $1.5 million under the cap, so a signing Kessel means they’d have to bury a guy in the minors or trade a contract or two.
Kessel’s camp wants at least the same $3.75 million cap hit that David Krejci got from the Bruins, and Loftus felt that it might take $4 to $4.5 million to get Kessel on a longer term deal. And if the Bruins struggle to score goals in the first month, then Kessel’s camp feels his value will only increase.
The Bruins have openly said they would match any RFA offer, and right now they have no plans of dealing Kessel. Marc Savard is ten years older and has one year left on his contract. The Bruins feel Kessel is their future sniper and aren’t willing to move him.
With four weeks to go before camps open around the NHL there is still a host of players unsigned. Kessel, Rob Niedermayer, Stephane Yelle, Manny Fernandez, Dominic Moore, Andrew Peters, Anton Babchuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Todd Bertuzzi, Rhett Warrener, Mike Peca, Manny Malhotra, Mark Parrish, Daryl Sydor, Richard Zednik, Kyle Calder, Denis Gauthier, Dan Fritsche, Robert Lang, Alex Tanguay, Derek Armstrong, Radek Bonk, Greg Devries, Dean McAmmond, Mike “suitcase” Sillinger, Blair Betts, Mark Bell, Mike Comrie, Miro Satan, Petr Sykora, Phillipe Boucher, Dan Hinote, Marcel Goc, Taylor Pyatt and Mats Sundin.
That doesn’t include some younger and less proven RFAs, but out of these 34 players how many will find a home in the next month. You have to think someone will sign Tanguay, Babchuk and Comrie, and don’t be surprised if you see some of these veterans accept two-way deals just so they get to camp.
With a limit of only 50 contacts per team here’s a breakdown of how many contracts each team has to date. ***This list includes junior players like Eberle, who if they go back to junior won’t count against the 50.
Anaheim: 44 | estimated cap space: $4 million
Atlanta: 45 | estimated cap space: $10 million
Boston: 42 | estimated cap space: $1.1 million
Buffalo: 40 | estimated cap space: $4 million
Calgary: 51 | estimated cap space: $1.9 million
Carolina: 44 | estimated cap space: $2.6 million
Chicago: 46 | estimated cap space: $1.4 million
Colorado: 44 | estimated cap space: $9 million
Columbus: 39 | estimated cap space: $11.4 million
Dallas: 44 | estimated cap space: $10.4 million
Detroit: 47 | estimated cap space: $500,000
Edmonton: 46 | estimated cap space: $1.1 million
Florida: 42 | estimated cap space: $7.6 million
Los Angeles: 47 | estimated cap space: $9.4 million
Minnesota: 46 | estimated cap space: $4.2 million
Montreal: 48 | estimated cap space: $2.8 million
Nashville: 39 | estimated cap space: $15 million
New Jersey: 43 | estimated cap space: $5.1 million
NYI: 43 | estimated cap space: $17 million
NYR: 47 | estimated cap space: $3.6 million
Ottawa: 42 | estimated cap space: over by $500,000
Philadelphia: 49 | estimated cap space: $350,000
Phoenix: 41 | estimated cap space: $14 million
Pittsburgh: 46 | estimated cap space: $1.8 million
San Jose: 39 | estimated cap space: over by $300,000
St. Louis: 49 | estimated cap space: $8.6 million
Tampa Bay: 37 | estimated cap space: $11.2 million
Toronto: 50 | estimated cap space: $2 million
Vancouver: 40 | estimated cap space: $2.5 million
Washington: 49 | estimated cap space: $1.8 million
Remember that teams like Calgary and Toronto have some players signed that will go back to junior, thus lowering their total contracts, but they are still very close to the maximum of 50.
When you look at San Jose and Ottawa’s cap situation, it makes it even harder for those two to swing a deal involving Dany Heatley due to their lack of cap space.
In the next month look for Nashville, NYI, Columbus and possibly Dallas to be the teams that sign some of the more well-known names still on the free agent market. They all have lots of cap space. Phoenix does as well, but I doubt that franchise will add much payroll. It seems that Tanguay will end up in Florida or Tampa Bay, but he will need to lower his asking price.
You might think the NFL is a better league, but anyone who watched the Eskimos/Stamps game has to agree the CFL is a better game. The final two minutes of an NFL game suck. Take a knee, or watch the offence run up to the line of scrimmage only to spike the ball. LAME.
What’s great about the CFL is that finishes like the Stamps/Esks game happen on a regular basis. I love both games, but the NFL is so anti-climatic that rarely do you see a finish as exciting as a CFL game. Why the NFL doesn’t stop the clock after a catch and then start it when the ref whistles the play back on is beyond me. One simple change would make that game much better. Or maybe it’s just me.