Waiting For Kovalchuk…

A lot has happened since Ilya Kovalchuk (642 points in 621 NHL games) became the most talented free-agent in NHL history to hit the open market on July 1, but here we sit on July 18 and the Russian sniper (338 career goals) still hasn’t found a new home. New Jersey, which acquired him in a trade last season is still in the mix, and so are the in, out, in, out, in the Kovy-sweepstakes LA Kings. A third option could be the Russian KHL League, but a talented player in his prime like Kovalchuk needs to play in the league with the most talent and best competition — the NHL.

There are still very valuable players on the market besides Kovalchuk and it seems that the are all waiting for him to sign, before they decide where to go or maybe the other GMs are waiting to see where he lands — making for a very boring two weeks in July devoid of any substantial hockey news.  So, here’s what I am thinking about as we wait for Kovalchuk’s ‘decision’ to be made:

-The NY Islanders have made some solid, off the radar moves to shore up their blue line (Mark Eaton & Milan Jurcina), but more work needs to be done if they are to contend for a playoff spot out of the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. They should look to sign Alexei Ponikarovsky to play in the top-six and bring back two former Islanders to add more grit to their game — Andy Sutton & Raffi Torres. Sutton has said he would welcome a return to the Island and Torres would be a perfect fit on the third line alongside either Frans Nielsen or Doug Weight.

-What in the freaking world is going on in Calgary?!? They signed two ex-Flames, who both had less than stellar tenures the first time around. Alex Tanguay is a shell of the player he was in 2001 with Colorado and Olli Jokinen was traded away for Ales Kotalik and his ridiculous contract and then they re-sign Jokinen who never looked comfortable in Calgary alongside Jarome Iginla. A few days later ex-Tampa GM Jay Feaster as assistant to the GM who will be probably soon be fired in Darryl Sutter.

-There are still two solid goalies available — one via free agency (Marty Turco) and one via trade (Tim Thomas). It’s not every day you have these types of quality goalies available, so stop being cheap and give your team a decent chance to succeed next year (this means you Columbus, Toronto, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa, Montreal, Minnesota, LA, San Jose, Dallas).

-There are two enigmatic, but talented wingers available in Max Afinogenov and Alex Frolov and i haven’t heard peep about either yet. It’s possible that one of these two could wind up in the KHL, but in the right situation they can still be solid NHLers.

-Two talented centers are available for trade, but both have almost unmovable  contracts — Boston’s Marc Savard and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. Hey, maybe they should just be traded for each other?

-It seemed odd to me that: Pittsburgh signed defenseman Paul Martin from New Jersey, New Jersey signed Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa and Ottawa signed Sergei Gonchar from Pittsburgh. This is just my opinion but, a three-way trade during the season would have been soooooo much cooler!

-If the Devils don’t sign Kovalchuk, they should take a hard look at Miroslav Satan, and not just because of the name. Miro proved in the playoffs that he can still produce and help a winning team go deep into the spring.

-Four solid long-time NHL vets are still on the market. Would Mike Modano, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne & Bill Guerin have lasted this long on the open market ten summers ago in 2000? I think not. Modano may go to Detroit, which makes sense in a lot of ways. What if Kariya and Selanne sign one-year deals in Pittsburgh like they did in Colorado? Apparently Sidney Crosby felt he didn’t need Guerin’s leadership, so maybe Guerin could ride shotgun with AO in DC?

-Finally where in the world is Petr Sykora? The rest of your buddies from 2000 are in NJ…..A-LINE, ASSEMBLE!!!!

IRON MEN

In honor of the kick-ass IronMan 2 movie, here are the 88 NHL players that played in all 82 of their teams games this past season.
Quick Hits: Calgary had 7 players appear in every game, including defenseman Ian White (traded midseason from Toronto) who played in a league-high 83 games. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin led all Iron Men in points with 112 and Toronto’s Colton Orr had the fewest points (six) among those who played in every game. Colorado was the only team that didn’t have at least one player suit up for all 82 games. Only three rookies survived to play in every game — NY Isles’ center John Tavares, Dallas winger Jamie Benn and Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers.

Anaheim: Jason Blake, Corey Perry
Atlanta: Maxim Afinogenov, Tobias Enstrom, Rich Peverley
Boston: Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler
Buffalo: Tyler Myers, Jason Pominville, Henrik Tallinder
Calgary: Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Niklas Hagman, Jarome Iginla, Eric Nystrom, Matt Stajan, Ian White
Carolina: Tom Kostopoulos
Chicago: Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Andrew Ladd, Patrick Sharp
Colorado: none
Columbus: RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette
Dallas: Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Stephane Robidas
Detroit: Todd Bertuzzi, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart
Edmonton: Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, Dustin Penner
Florida: Keith Ballard, Michael Frolik, Bryan McCabe, Steven Reinprecht
Los Angeles: Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar
Minnesota: Kyle Brodziak, Andrew Brunette
Montreal: Josh Gorges, Tomas Plekanec
Nashville: David Legwand, Steve Sullivan, Ryan Suter
New Jersey: Travis Zajac
NY Islanders: Matt Moulson, Mark Streit, John Tavares
NY Rangers: Artem Anisimov, Dan Girardi, Olli Jokinen, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal
Ottawa: Chris Phillips, Jarko Ruutu
Philadelphia: Claude Giroux, Ian Laperierre, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Kimmo Timonen
Phoenix: Adrian Aucoin, Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Keith Yandle
Pittsburgh: Craig Adams, Jordan Staal
San Jose: Ryane Clowe, Dany Heatley, Kent Huskins, Patrick Marleau
St. Louis: Brad Boyes, Jay McClement, David Perron
Tampa: Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
Toronto: Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle, Colton Orr
Vancouver: Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Henrik Sedin
Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

Team Russia Looks as Good as Gold…

The ice hockey tournament begins tomorrow and after long consideration I’ve made my pick for who will win the gold medal. In looking at all of the rosters I feel that the Russian squad is poised to win their first Olympics gold medal in 18 years, mainly because of their firepower and their strength in goaltending.

Up front the Russians can throw two lethal lines at their opponents with any combination between Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin and Maxim Afinogenov. In my mind it doesn’t matter how you combine these six and they are still the scariest two lines in this short tournament.

Finishing out the bottom six forwards will be familar names gone from the NHL, but in active duty for the Russian league — the  KHL: Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Morozov and Alexander Radulov. All players who are capable of taking over a game when they are in a groove.

The Russians will be led on the blueline by the always-steady Sergei Gonchar and the underrated Andrei Markov, with solid depth provided by Fedor Tyutin, Anton Volchenkov, Dmitri Kalinin & Denis Grebeshkov. Gonchar will be the key player here — his passing and work on the power play will go a long way in determining the difference between evenly-matched teams in elimination games.

In goal Evgeni Nabokov, the backbone of San Jose’s great regular season success over the last three seasons, will begin as the starter, but if he should falter they can still turn to Washington’s Semyon Varlamov (who proved last postseason that big games don’t faze him) or Ilya Bryzgalov, who has pulled Phoenix from the ashes of the NHL to fourth in the West with 19 games left. Between the three of them, most likely Bryzgalov or Nabokov, they have the ability to shut down an explosive, high-powered team a tad more than some of the other goalies in the tournament — including Martin Brodeur and Henrik Lundqvist.

I think the gold medal game will be Russia vs. Team USA, final score 5-2 Russia.

Canada will win the bronze medal game 4-3 in ot against Sweden.

Hope that I am wrong…but I won’t be…

What You Need to Know [11.21.09]

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1029

This week’s highlights:

Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin proves he doesn’t need twin Daniel to score at the NHL level, San Jose’s Dany Heatley nets his 2nd hat trick of the young season, Maxim Afinogenov finds his mojo in Atlanta and LA’s Ryan Smyth & Montreal’s Brian Gionta become the latest scorers to catch the injury bug…

What You Need to Know…

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1017

This week’s highlights:
St. Louis steals the show in Sweden, the Islanders Sharks and Ducks pick a captain, and Maxim Afinogenov finds a new home…

Who’s left?

It has been one month and one day since free agency started and there are still some notable unrestricted free agent names who have yet to find a home. These are serviceable players, who if they find the right situation (i.e., linemate, coach, system), they can be a valuable asset to any hockey team and I’d be shocked if they are still not signed with a club…be it in the NHL or in Russia, Sweden, wherever…by September 1.
Here’s the best of who’s left:

PLAYER — OLD TEAM — THE LOW DOWN

Maxim Afinogenov — Buffalo — Could be headed to KHL, thought he’d fit well with Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta.
Marc-Andre Bergeron — Minnesota — Has one of the NHL’s hardest shots, but his defensive abilities are questionable at best.
Todd Bertuzzi — Calgary — Big Bert hasn’t gotten an offer from Calgary yet, and won’t. His size could be useful to a team like Detroit, for the right price.
Mike Comrie — Ottawa — After a midseason trade to the Sens, Comrie didn’t do much. Still, a few teams looking for a center could sign the 28-year-old to a one-year deal; he could work out in New Jersey if signed.
Manny Fernandez — Boston — Proved last season he can still tend goal in the NHL, but will he accept another backup role?
Mike Grier — San Jose — Solid, checking line, penalty killing forward is a hard worker who should be signed soon; preferably with the Devils, but could also help the Islanders or Toronto as well.
Robert Lang — Montreal — A risk coming off of a torn achilles at the age of 38, but most teams are in the market for a dependable center. Would Ottawa have enough cash to sign him to play on line two with AK-27?
Manny Malhotra — Columbus — I’m shocked he didn’t end up back in Columbus, as he seemed to really mature and develop under Ken Hitchcock there, but they also signed Sammy Pahlsson, who plays the same role. Would love for him to join the Devils though, Tampa could be an option too.
Miroslav Satan — Pittsburgh — His agent Twitted (or tweeted, whatever) that the Isles are interested, but not buying it. I say he goes to either Vancouver or the KHL. I’ve given up on the dream that Satan would join the Devils (for now).
Mats Sundin — Vancouver — Will he play, or won’t he? At 38, what does Sundin have left? If he isn’t going to give a full season, no one will want him after performing so poorly last season with the Canucks.
Petr Sykora — Pittsburgh — Has bounced around too much for a guy that can score when motivated or in the right situation. I’m thinking he lands in Minnesota or St. Louis.
Alex Tanguay — Montreal — The best of what’s left as far as I’m concerned. Will hate him less for his two-goal performance in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals if he signs with New Jersey. He’s only 29 and still has some productive years left. Join the Devils Legion Alex, join us.

Hopefully in the coming weeks, some of these guys find work, preferably with the Devils!

Devils in mix for FA wingers…

Word has it that the NJ Devils are interested in signing Maxim Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik according to Bleacher report.com.