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Tricks of the trade

Moving big names isn't an easy fix -- and more notes

Posted: Monday November 6, 2006 1:49PM; Updated: Monday November 6, 2006 2:07PM
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Brad Richards' NHL maximum salary of $7.8 million per season crimps any attempt by the struggling Lightning to deal him.
Brad Richards' NHL maximum salary of $7.8 million per season crimps any attempt by the struggling Lightning to deal him.
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Full marks to Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster for recognizing the Lightning's problems are on the bench, not behind it, and essentially blaming himself for the team's rocky start.

"I don't think a coach becomes stupid overnight," he told the Tampa Tribune. "Honestly, if [anyone is tuning coach John Tortorella out] then I wish they would identify themselves to me and let me move them on because I would rather see them gone than a hell of a good coach."

With Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis basically carrying the team and Brad Richards' contract making him difficult (though not impossible) to move, it's unlikely that any deal would involve the Big Three. Instead, look for the impending shakeup to involve a mid-level player like Ruslan Fedotenko in exchange for a reliable blueliner to bolster their penalty kill, currently the second-worst in the NHL.

Nashville Flyer?

Could disgruntled Flyer Peter Forsberg be on his way to Nashville? Rumors suggest as much, but given the cap implications, it's not likely. That doesn't mean the Predators won't be looking to add to their mix up front before they head to the postseason, however. The team has an enviable wealth of young talent already working the blueline, so prospects like Ryan Parent and Cody Franson could be expendable if the team's in position (healthy enough) to launch a serious Stanley Cup challenge.

Nashville sent rookie winger Alexander Radulov packing on Friday, but it was no reflection on his effort. The team's top prospect offered some dazzling evidence to support his ranking: two goals in six games despite averaging less than nine minutes per night. The problem? The Preds are loaded with veterans on one-way contracts up front. Radulov couldn't displace anyone on the top six, and doesn't really fit in as a depth player, so his development is better served in Milwaukee. With first line winger Paul Kariya entering unrestricted free agency after this season, a permanent slot may open up for Radulov in 2007-08.

Jacket straits

Is there room on an NHL roster for a shootout specialist? Not in Columbus, or anyplace else, apparently.

The Blue Jackets last week put second-year winger Jaroslav Balastik on waivers after scratching him for four straight games. Despite his bargain basement salary ($525,000), there were no takers, and Balastik, who turns 27 in three weeks, was assigned to Syracuse of the AHL.

A two-time goal scoring champ in the Czech league, Balastik had 12 goals and 22 points in 66 games as a rookie last season, but really made his mark in the shootout, where he was six for nine. Of course, that ability to score in the tiebreaker isn't of much value to a team that has trouble staying close enough to actually get to the shootout.

Balastik had the skill, but lacked the grit and strength to earn a regular spot among Columbus' top-six forwards. Still, given the floundering team's offensive woes, it's interesting that the Jackets can find room for a one-dimensional player like Jody Shelley, but not for someone with scoring touch.

The Call

No two ways about it. That was a brutal call by referee Mick McGeough to rob Ryan Smyth and the Oilers of a dramatic game-tying goal against Dallas on Friday night.

After a last-minute faceoff to the right of Stars goalie Marty Turco, McGeough, a veteran of nearly 1,000 NHL games, thought he saw Oilers center Shawn Horcoff use his glove to move the puck back to the point. McGeough immediately blew his whistle, nullifying Smyth's rebound goal that would have capped a 3-3 comeback.

MeGeough was quick. He was decisive. He was wrong. It didn't even take a review of the tape for most onlookers to realize that Horcoff cleanly won the draw with his stick, never coming close to using his hand on the puck. But the call was made, and the game ended 3-2 for the Stars.

No doubt, McGeough's blunder cost Edmonton a point, maybe two, in the standings. Given how tight the playoff race in the West is likely to be, those probably would have come in handy in April. But they're gone now, and the Oilers and their fans need to stop whining and get over it. It was a mistake, not a malicious act or indication of incompetence. In fact, McGeough deserves credit for stepping up immediately to admit he blew it, as does the NHL. That mea culpa does little to placate anyone in Edmonton, but it was the right -- and only -- thing to do.

And before anyone in Edmonton starts working up a voodoo curse on McGeough, it's worth pointing out that the better team that night was not the home side. Given how well the Stars were playing, the Oilers were lucky to be in the position to tie it up. It's also safe to say almost every Oiler has made a costly mistake or two this season -- at least that's my guess, going by the fact that they're not 13-0.

Every team gets its share of breaks over the course of a season. It's just that the bad ones, like this phantom hand pass call, tend to be more memorable. But that doesn't make them more prevalent. And a veteran ref shouldn't be blacklisted because he made one of them. But, just the same, the league might want to avoid scheduling Mick at Rexall Place for a little while.

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