The Sedins' dilemma, Wild GM hunt, Capitals goalies and more
Sedin twins have bond with Toronto's Dave Nonis, but love Vancouver
Capitals must decide future of benched José Théodore and Michael Nylander
Steven Stamkos not ready for Team Canada despite fine world championships
News and notes and gossip, in 45 second shifts ... except Alexander Ovechkin, who is making everyone nuts by staying out there a minute and a half ...
1. Vancouver forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin will be going as a package if they go anywhere once they become eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1. While Toronto surely would be interested in this pair of first-liners -- the twins have a strong bond with GM Brian Burke's top aide, former Canucks GM Dave Nonis -- the guess is that they wind up staying if Vancouver comes in with a respectable offer.
This hunch is informed by an historical overview of elite Swedish players in the NHL. They almost always sink strong roots in their North American city, like Nick Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit, and Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa. You practically needed dynamite to get Mats Sundin out of woeful Toronto. In the case of the Sedin twins, their respective families are comfortable in that fabulous city and their closest friend in hockey, ex-Canucks star Trevor Linden, still is based there. If the dollars are close, the twins probably will stay.
2. Pittsburgh assistant GM Chuck Fletcher and broadcaster/ former coach Pierre McGuire remain among the viable candidates seeking the vacant Minnesota Wild GM job. After 16 years in the business, Fletcher is a practiced hand, a talent evaluator who would know how to build an organization. McGuire has a slightly different skill-set, but he certainly can energize a market that could turn soft in the coming years unless the Wild shows a more dynamic on-ice and management style.
For one thing, it's not original. Toronto fans did the same to Larry Murphy when he played for the Maple Leafs. (Torontonians can currently check up on Murphy by visiting his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame.) Gonchar was a fine player for most of his 10 seasons in Washington. He doesn't deserve the scorn. But tell you what. If your loyalty to the Capitals dates to that old dungeon in Landover, whoop away. If you just enlisted in the Rock The Red brigade, zip it.
4. Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester figures to break the bank when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. So, what about the second-most coveted free-agent defenseman: Montreal's Mike Komisarek?
According to an NHL team executive, his organization initially viewed the right-side blueliner as a $6 million player but downgraded him slightly after his mediocre season. One problem is the rugged Komisarek brings virtually no offense into the equation. He is an upgrade over Scott Hannan, who signed a four-year, $18 million contract with Colorado in 2007, but with the salary cap poised to shrink in 2010-11, Komisarek might be worth closer to $5 million annually.
"It's tough to justify $6 million for a player without any offense (two goals and 11 points in 66 games)," the assistant GM says, "but then it takes only team."
5. On the subject of contracts, Capitals GM George McPhee figures to have some decisions to make about veterans José Théodore and center Michael Nylander. Théodore, who lost his starting job to rookie Simeon Varlamov after Game 1 in the first round, has one year left on the free-agent contract that he signed last summer. He could regain the No. 1 spot next season, but he more likely will be relegated to the role of mentor for the young Russian, which seems like an uncomfortable fit for the 2002 Hart Trophy-winner. (Brent Johnson would be better suited for that water-carrying job.)
Even with cap money tight, it seems unlikely that Washington would buy out Théodore. The Capitals have another young goalie with star potential in the organization -- Michal Neuvirth, at this stage more technically sound than Varlamov -- but the dangers of having two young goalies that think they should be starters have been amply demonstrated by the Carey Price-Jaroslav Halak debacle this season in Montreal.
Nylander is a thornier problem. He was a healthy scratch in five of the seven playoff games against the Rangers and sat out the opener against Pittsburgh. With two years remaining on his four-year, $19.5 million contract, he is a glum albatross on the team that otherwise leads the NHL in chuckles.
6. NHL lord of discipline Colin Campbell generally is in the right ballpark with his suspensions, but five games for the Capitals' Donald Brashear for his blindside hit on New York's Blair Betts juxtaposed with his decision a few days later not to suspend Anaheim's Mike Brown for his hit to the head of Detroit's Jiri Hudler sent a decidedly mixed message. Until the NHL figures out how it wants to deal with headshots, Campbell will have the unenviable task of inventing justice on a case-by-case basis.
7. Steven Stamkos leads all scorers at the World Championships with six goals, begging this question: Has he done enough to play his way onto Canada's Olympic team?
The answer is, alas, no.
Despite a strong, if stealthy, second half of his rookie season and an impressive start on the big ice at the worlds -- Vancouver 2010 will use an NHL-sized rink, incidentally -- Stamkos finds himself at potentially the most stacked position on Canada's potential roster. Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf are locks to center the top two lines. Then there is Eric Staal, Vincent Lecavalier and Mike Richards, maybe Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (who also plays the wing), Jeff Carter (also a winger) and now Marc Savard.
Savard doesn't have many friends at Hockey Canada after turning down multiple invitations to play in previous world championships, but he has jumped into the mix this season with his strong performance on the championship-caliber Bruins. Considering that a dearth of offense killed Canada in Torino 2006, general manager Steve Yzerman should reconsider the notion of building four traditional lines -- hence, Richards (coming off shoulder surgery) as the checking center -- and put together a team that is a threat to score at any time. Even if Hockey Canada views Savard as a 13th forward, power-play specialist type, he merits consideration. In any case, Stamkos has laid the groundwork for Sochi 2014, if NHL players participate.
NHL Truth & Rumors