RUMOUR MILL IS GETTING HOT…

The next three weeks will be extremely exciting for hockey fans. Compliance buyouts could start as early as Monday, June 24th, or as last as Friday, June 28th, the 2013 NHL entry draft happens Sunday, June 30th and the free agent signings occur July 5th.

Between now and then we will hear some juicy rumours, witness some interesting trades, debatable draft selections and some horrendous UFA signings.

I can’t wait, and thankfully we won’t have to with copious speculation already circulating around the hockey world.

Here’s some of the big stories already floating around.

Beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Josh Yohe, had a strong piece on why the Penguins will trade Kris Letang. 

Shero is fairly confident Letang has become a must-move player. 

That is true because Letang is not the consensus best defenseman on the Penguins, at least in the eyes of management and coaches.

That is true because the Penguins are deepest on defense among top prospects, including a couple of first-round picks from last summer (Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta).

That is true even though terms of Malkin’s new contract will provide the Penguins with more cap room to keep good players around him and Crosby — if the cap increases annually under this labor contract, as it did during the last one.

The Penguins are set up for Letang to count around $6 million against the cap and to continue paying Crosby ($8.7 million), Malkin ($9.5 million), right winger James Neal, Martin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury ($5 million apiece). Evidence of that was their offer to Staal, who would have counted about $5.75 million annually against the cap had he stayed — and that was with Letang taking up $3.5 million in space.

Letang, 26, a first-time Norris Trophy (top defenseman) finalist, aims to at least double his current salary on any new deal. He was the only NHL defenseman to average a point per game during the regular season. He is in his prime. 

According to Yohe the Pens are prepared to pay Letang $6 mill/year, but nothing more. Letang is very good offensively, more physical than some think, but some question his defensive zone play. The Penguins have the luxury of having the best offensive one-two punch (Crosby and Malkin) in the NHL, so they can risk moving a proven puck moving D-man.

I suspect playing with Crosby and Malkin might hurt Letang, because some wonder if they make his stats (points and advanced) look better than he is. I’d guess they do to an extent, but I still believe many teams would be interested, and I’d put the San Jose Sharks near the top of that list. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle have one year remaining on their contracts, ( a combined $20.56 million), and Doug Wilson loves puck movers and he isn’t afraid to make major trades.

Before you scream Letang doesn’t deserve to be paid like Shea Weber, keep in mind Brian Campbell makes $7.14 million.

LETANG IN EDMONTON

Letang would be the #1 pairing D-man the Oilers desperately need, but what is the asking price?

Would the #7 pick in this year’s draft, Jeff Petry (#4 D-man) and a young forward get it done?

The Canes gave up the #8 and Brandon Sutter (3rd line C) to get Jordan Staal last year. Letang is worth more, but how much? Pens might ask for Paajarvi, but would they settle for something less? I don’t know, but I’m curious to see if the Pens and Letang can’t reach a new deal what is asking price would be.

AVS PASSING ON JONES?

"If we do pick first, we’re leaning more toward one of those three forwards," Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said in Adrian Dater’s article yesterday.

Is this a bluff by Joe Sakic, or is Colorado seriously looking at one of Nathan Mackinnon, Jonathon Drouin or Alexander Barkov? In 2009 there was talk the Islanders might take Matt Duchene instead of John Tavares, in 2010 it was Taylor vs. Tyler, in 2011 there were rumours the Oilers would trade down and last year it was Nail Yakupov or Ryan Murray.

In every case the projected #1 pick went first overall, but I don’t recall Garth Snow or Steve Tambellini/Kevin Lowe suggesting they wouldn’t pick the consensus #1. Seems like an odd approach from the team holding the #1 selection.

While Sakic isn’t the GM, in title, it is clear he is the main decision maker. His comments just made the final 10 days leading up to the draft more interesting.

Do you think the Avs will pass on Jones and take a forward, trade down or that this is a bluff and they will stick with Jones?

THE HOCKEY NEWS…SAY WHAT?

Dater tweeted this yesterday:

The Hockey News will name Detroit-Colorado biggest rivalry of all time in NHL history.

You could make an argument that the Wings/Avs was the best rivalry of the past 20 years, but to suggest it was the best of all-time tells me the Hockey News is trying to appeal to the younger demographic, or an All-American one.

Between 1996 and 2002 the Avs/Wings combined to win five Stanley Cups, met five times in the playoffs and in three of those meetings the winner went on to win the Cup. It was a great rivalry but it isn’t the best of all-time.

The Oilers and Flames combined to make eight consecutive Stanley Cup appearances between 1983-1990, winning six of them. It was an epic battle during the playoff and the regular season.

The Leafs and Habs have met 15 times in the playoffs, but none since 1979, and only twice since the 1967 expansion. You can say it was easier to meet in the playoffs during the original six era, but these two combined for 10 straight Cup appearances from 1951-1960, and they won 7 championships.

The greatest rivalry is the Habs/Bruins. They’ve met 33 times in the playoffs, and while the Habs dominated the series for a 45 year stretch, the Bruins have won 7 of the last 11 series. No rivalry has lasted longer, and while Detroit/Colorado was good for seven years, it isn’t even in the top-three of all-time.

PARTING SHOT…

Took this pic in Vegas. I’m guessing most of you feel this way, yet you still eat there. Convenience store owner must have a good sense of humour.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • Hey Gregor,
    I remember you posted a while back that the Oilers should seriously consider signing Jagr this off-season.

    I’m wondering if you still feel that way? I think Jagr has looked great in this final. Sure, he’s not the early ’90s Jagr, but he’s still big, can move ok, and clearly hasn’t lost his hands (just ask Ryan Whitney).

    He would look great as an oiler, if he’s willing to take on a mentor role on an up and coming team instead of a true contender.

    It’s usually the gems in the 2nd or 3rd tier of free agents that brings the best bang for the buck. While everyone is excited for the big shiny baubles like Bickell (who is sucking in the SCF, BTW), I hope MacT and his pro scouting crew are leaving no stone unturned in their search for better players who will help their group.

    • Jason Gregor

      I wrote that last year, not for this summer. Thought Jagr would have given Hemsky a big boost, but if Bruins win I doubt he leaves for a team that has missed the playoffs 7 years in a row.

    • A-Mc

      If Boston wins the cup and Jagr isn’t finished, i wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the road of mentor on a developing team for a year or two to finish out his career.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Hey JG…I agree that the rumour mill is ready to explode…it probably already has.

    I would deal Petry, MPS and the #7 for sure..for Letang…if he would sign with the Oilers at $5.5 to $6 mil per yr at say 6 six yrs long term.

    I agree that Sakic is playing with Florida under the premise of getting one of the top forward picks…MacKinnon, Barkov, Drouin.

    But i don’t think Florida is worried to rush now for number 1 cause there are three to look at not two or one.

    Besides…Calgary threw out publicly the thought…into the ring… to of trading it’s three 1st rounders in order to get the #1…

    Pending what Colorado actually does with/about Jones, I can see even Calgary then going to Florida for a big trade deal situation too.

    The Oil are still ok at #7 in my mind but I hope they can get up to 4th with Nashville for Barkov.

    I truly think that Calgary tips the scales with what they do decide they want with by trading all or any of those three first rounders – for the #1 to until it gets to #5 with Carolina.

  • geoilersgist

    Those gas stations make me laugh. You have to love ‘merica. Man I can’t wait for October so I can be in vegas.

    Can wait for the next two weeks to go. Going to be some amazing hockey news going down.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Can’t really see what’s so funny about this picture. Is it the name of the store/restaurant? Can’t really see from the image provided.

      Tried using my binoculars, but it obviously doesn’t have the same affect as at the football game.

  • A-Mc

    Holy Christ i would be tickled pink if we landed Letang.

    I would only give up the 7th/Petry/Paajarvi if as part of the deal, Letang signed a new contract for an extra 4+ years over his 1 remaining. It would absolutely kills us to pay that price and have Letang walk after next season.

    Also i’m not sure what the optics would be like if Letang showed up and commanded a 7M/yr contract when the previous super stars (hall/ebs) were signed for 6m. Also, once you have 1 guy that breaks that 6M/yr barrier, that opens the door for the other potentials in Nuge, Yakcity, and Schultz Jr.

    If somehow there was a way to snag Letang @ 6M/yr to equal hall/ebs, i say go for it. GO GOGOGOGOGOilers!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ken Holland is probably already on this Letang thing. He’s locked him up long term at a 5.5 cap hit. Maybe another one of those post dated deals.

    A lot could happen in the next two weeks that could leave MacTavish standing at the alter with these couple supposed deals. Two weeks is along time, especially if something better (Letang) comes a teams way, and the team involved decides to go in a different direction.

    Screw the money back guarantee Craig. Lock these post dated deals in now (like Holmgren did) and have the teams on the hook now. Todays NHL game/teams needs or direction, can turn on a dime.

    • djc

      Wouldn’t it just be easier to use cut and paste since you are pretty much writing the exact same thing after every article?

      We get it, you want trades and you want them now. Oilers management is terrible. Weber is God. Blah blah blah ….

  • T__Bone88

    It’s a joke that they named Det-Col the greatest rivalry. If that’s the case an argument for a Dal-Edm rivalry could be made for one of the greatest, happened about in the same time frame. I agree that Mon-Bos and Mon-Tor would be 1st and 2nd for greatest rivalries.

    • Jason Gregor

      Don’t see why not. Pittsburgh will pay him $6 mill and they have Crosby and Malkin at combined $18.2 mill.

      So for argument sake you give RNH same as Hall and Eberle, that is $18 million. Pens have James Neal at $5 million, similar to Yakupov.

      I don’t see any reason J.Schultz should get much more, if any, than Voynov so that puts him at $4.1 million.

      Hall, Eberle, Letang, Schultz, Yakupov and RNH would be combined at around $34 million, if the latter three produce to get big raise.

      Is a bit of a risk, but cap likely to be back at $70 mill in two years when 64 deal kicks in, so wouldn’t be crazy. You’d hope players would be more proven by then, that is the major question mark.

      • John Chambers

        Agreed – the Oil can afford Letang at $7M.

        The rub though is that they might have to trade Eberle or Yakupov once Yak comes off his ELC.

        But that’s a good thing – look at the return Pitt is getting from Staal and Letang – young, economical, proven NHL’ers + high picks. It’s like having a mini-rebuild.

        The Oil could acquire Letang (dump Hemsky & Horcoff), and be very competitive for the next two seasons until Yak comes off his ELC. Assuming RNH, Yak, and Shultz are signed to a combined $16M at the end of the ’15 season, you trade Eberle for a high pick and solid prospect.

  • vetinari

    Also

    Terry Jones ‏@sunterryjones 2h
    Sure sounds like Craig MacTavish has a couple of deals done and is just waiting for the Stanley Cup to end so he can announce them.

  • DSF

    Joe Sakic is trying to squeeze some juice out of Florida. Florida will give up something to get NM. I would not be surprised to see Colorado and Florida exchange picks. Colorado will then take Seth Jones.

    • Bonvie

      I would like to see the Oilers target Myers out of Buffalo with pressure on management about the contract and with Myers having a bit of a step back in the last few years, this is perfect timing for a team to make a strong bid for an elite defenseman.