Countdown to the season…

countdown-to-season

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.

Cheap veterans

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.

Exciting finish

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.

  • DizzyD

    Lame @ Hemmertime…wow your first and have nothing else but that to contribute?…wtf man.

    is this a misprint as well "Phoenix: 41 | estimated cap space: $14 million " ?

    thats alot of cap space… they could almost turn their team into something…..wherever they end up…

  • DizzyD wrote:

    is this a misprint as well “Phoenix: 41 | estimated cap space: $14 million ” ?
    thats alot of cap space… they could almost turn their team into something…..wherever they end up…

    They have that much space, but based on their financial situation I don't see them adding a lot of payroll, especially if the pending ownership isn't complete. The league will not want to add salary to a team that they might be running.
    Mike wrote:

    Gregor, do you really think Nilsson can be an impact player? I just can’t see how he will. Outside of the final 20 games in 2007 he has done nothing.

    It would shock me if he is consistent, since outside of the the 20 games you mentioned he hasn't been. He has loads of skill, but his dedication is the issue. Having a new coach should benefit him as much as it should Penner, but we'll see if both guys are committed to being consistent.

  • bingofuel

    Guys, you have no way of knowing this, but I hate when people's only comment is the order in which they commented.

    Don't post "first," or "second," or whatever. We can all see the order in which you commented.

    Try instead to add to the conversation.

    KTHXBAI

  • patty

    I totally agree Gregor, if the NFL stopped the clocks it would be fantastic. And that 10 second runoff for a penalty? brutal.
    However, it was pretty cool to see the Broncos get in formation and kick a winning field goal within 11 seconds last year. That's just one game, compared to literally hundreds that end with zero drama. A CFL style clock scheme would be awesome.
    Isn't Dallas having ownership bankruptcy issues right now too? I'd think that would make them lean closer to the cap floor than the ceiling.

  • Wanye Gretz

    bingofuel wrote:

    Guys, you have no way of knowing this, but I hate when people’s only comment is the order in which they commented.

    Personally I think it's hilarious and well warranted. Mind you I am often entertained by the comedy of Three and a Half Men, so I shouldn't be counted.

  • Librarian Mike

    Wanye Gretz wrote:

    I am often entertained by the comedy of Three and a Half Men

    I love that one! The best episode was when the 'half man' beat up the cabbie over 20 cents.

  • 99thoilerfan

    Jason,

    So are you "surprised" with the some of the
    players still out there? and how many do you think
    might have overpriced themselves, out of a job?
    Or is the market telling them something ?

    Enjoy the Holidays, Dude!

  • oilerdiehard

    Prendergast was on the Pipeline show a week or two ago. He said he expects there will be 8 top six level AHL forwards in Springfield to start the season.

    I can think of 7 fairly obvious names that fit the bill. That being Schremp, Minard, Fretter, Potulny, Stone, Trukhno and Linglet.

    Which leaves one more and I suspect he was thinking of either Reddox or Brule. I am leaning towards it being Reddox he was thinking about. Just a guess on my part of course. But I will be mildly surprised if Reddox is up with the big club to start the year (depending upon some unlikely trade that changes the landscape).

  • CM

    Jason you couldn't be more wrong about the NFL…

    I agree on some nights the CFL has a better last 2 minutes but for the first 58 minutes its not even close…The NFL is almost 1 billion times more exciting…

  • Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

    Jacques is a lock? Any idea why? JFJ doesn’t bring anything that Stortini doesn’t, and Stortini is better in every facet.

    They are opposite wingers…they won't compete against one another. Jacques is a lock because of his size. They have no one else with any sort of size who can play on the 4th line. MacIntyre is big but can't play as well as Jacques. Jacques fits a role and Quinn likes to have some size on his team.

    CM wrote:

    I agree on some nights the CFL has a better last 2 minutes but for the first 58 minutes its not even close…The NFL is almost 1 billion times more exciting…

    Based on what…because when you watch a game you get slammed with highlights of other games so you are constantly getting fed info…That doesn't mean the game you are watching is any more exciting.
    99thoilerfan wrote:

    So are you “surprised” with the some of the
    players still out there? and how many do you think
    might have overpriced themselves, out of a job?
    Or is the market telling them something ?

    It shows us that journeymen or veterans won't be getting big bucks. The league used to sign these guys all of the time, but thankfully now they would rather go with cheaper, younger players and guys who most fans don't pay to see realize where they stand and can't demand big dollars.

  • Helmerfied

    Hey guys,

    @ Willis, Brownlee or Gregor,

    Not sure if you are watching this thread anymore (and, if not, I'll re-ask in a more recent article) but I was wondering if any of you know the regulations regarding the cap in terms of what happens if you are over. Do you have a grace period in which you can be over? When must teams be back under by? Is there a penalty for being over? Is it allowed in any way to be over the cap during the season?

    Thanks!

  • CM

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    Based on what…because when you watch a game you get slammed with highlights of other games so you are constantly getting fed info…That doesn’t mean the game you are watching is any more exciting.

    No based on the fact there isn't a punt every 3 plays. I know we need to appreciate the canadian content of the league but I wouldn't mind seeing a little less of prefontane.