A former Leaf is about to sign with Los Angeles, as Alexei Ponikarovsky has agreed to join the Kings (although a deal has not yet been signed). Â This ends some speculation that “Poni” would have to take his games overseas, as this summers UFA market has seen a lot of viable NHL players still without a job. Â Ponikarovsky was shipped to the Penguins by Toronto at this year’s trade deadline, bringing back Luca Caputi in what was a very fair exchange of players. Â However, Pittsburgh was expecting the Ukrainian to contribute at the level that saw him pour out 61 points for the Leafs in 2008-2009. Â With aÂ disappointingÂ 9 points down the stretch for the recent champs and an awful showing in the playoffs, teams weren’t exactly lining up to sign the 30-year old.
Okay, so my math may be a little off. Â It’s Canada Day weekend, there shouldn’t be any arithmetic. Â Unless, of course, you are an NHL general manager, than you better hope you have your math hat on. Â A quick note to say I hope our fellow Canadian readers, as well as our loyal readers situated the south had an enjoyable holiday weekend.
Now, let’s divulge into what has so far been a somewhat reserved free agency period, One timer style.
–The big news coming out of free agency this hour is this report out of the L.A. Times that indicate the Los Angeles Kings are quite far apart on signing Ilya Kovalchuk. While they may not be out of the running entirely, Helene Elliott suggests the prospects are quite dim. Â So where does Kovalchuk go? Â The Islanders reportedly seem to be the only team willing to offer him the term he is looking for (rumoured to be 10 million for at least 10 years) but are there other suitors? Â What about New Jersey? Â Toronto? Â One would think that although Burke would love to pull off the major move of free agency, the reasons Kings GM Dean Lombardi is balking about bringing in Kovy (term) is likely the same reasons Burkie has reservations.
According to LA Kings beat writer Rich Hammond, it appears as if Kings winger Alexander Frolov is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Citing an interview with Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi, Hammond explains that the team is “not optimistic” about their chances of retaining their young sniper. Should the Leafs be interested in his services?
Photo: Toronto Star
From USA Today - 3/1/2007:
Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke has always been among the NHL’s most colorful wheeler dealers. In 2005-06, he overhauled his team midseason and made a strong playoff run. Last summer, he made a major swap to land franchise defenseman Chris Pronger. Heading into Tuesday’s trade deadline, Burke hoped to make a major splash. He was able to make one deal, but he was unable to land one of the premium forwards. This is his diary of his efforts to make the major deadline deal:
Wednesday, Feb. 7
We’re interested in Peter Forsberg, but when Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren calls I tell him we aren’t trading (first-round pick) Bobby Ryan. We go through a package and I reject several names, including Corey Perry. I say, “No.” Homer and I are fishing buddies, and he jokingly says he wants to help us win the Stanley Cup by trading me Forsberg. I say, “We’re out,” and Homer says he wants me to stay in.
Thursday, Feb. 8
Homer and I talk again on Forsberg and this time he talks about Perry again. He tells me that he has a better offer on the table than Perry and a high pick. I say Perry isn’t going anywhere. We discuss multiple names to go with the high pick and they ask for specific players (Perry, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Kunitz). I like Homer and want him to succeed, but I’m thinking we would be better off looking at Todd Bertuzzi and the possibility of landing another defenseman. But (Florida GM/coach) Jacques Martin isn’t shopping Bertuzzi yet. We are looking at defensemen around the league who could end up being available —Brent Sopel, Brad Stuart and Sami Salo. But I think Vancouver is trying to re-sign Salo.
Friday, Feb. 9
I speak to Los Angeles about Sopel. Trying to trade is like playing musical chairs. You are always afraid you aren’t going to have a chair at the end. You worry that if you say no on one deal, you may not get any. Also, there is a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality,” particularly in the Western Conference. Players, coaches and fans want you to add. The allure of making the right trade draws you in. Remember last season when Edmonton was on the verge of missing the playoffs, made some deals, including getting goalie Dwayne Roloson, and they go to the Finals. It’s the most pressure you face all year, and it’s also the most fun you have.
Saturday, Feb. 10
Phoenix offered me Ladislav Nagy for a first-round pick. I call Doug MacLean about the possibility of acquiring Fredrik Modin. He says he’s trying to re-sign him. One of my problems in trying to make a deal is that I don’t have a first-round pick. I’m thinking I could move defenseman Shane O’Brien to get a first-round pick.
Sunday, Feb. 11
I think Tampa Bay’s (GM) Jay Feaster is interested in O’Brien. Homer calls and tells me that two teams are offering two first-round picks and a player for Forsberg, and another team is offering a first, second and another pick. To me, this is too rich for our blood. I think it’s too high of a price for a rental player.
Tuesday, Feb. 13
Feaster tells me he is interested only in hockey deals, not rentals. I have a long talk with St. Louis Blues President John Davidson about Keith Tkachuk. They want Bobby Ryan in a package.
Wednesday, Feb. 14
Officially turn down the Blues. Vancouver GM Dave Non-is, my former assistant, tells me he is going to re-sign Salo. New York Rangers GM Glen Sather tells me he’s not a seller, at least not yet.
Thursday, Feb. 15
Forsberg goes to Nashville. Homer was frustrated with me. He said I didn’t know the marketplace. But I have to give him a lot of credit. He really helped the Flyers with that deal. Tampa Bay offers goalie Gerald Coleman and a second for O’Brien. We want a first- round pick.
Saturday, Feb. 17
I talk to Florida assistant GM Randy Sexton about Todd Bertuzzi, and he tells me “the guy we like is Perry.” I offer him profanity. If you are offended by profanity, it’s difficult to make a trade in the NHL. If you are going to try to rob me, at least wear a mask. We talk to Philadelphia about Kyle Calder.
Monday, Feb. 19
At the general managers meetings in Naples, Fla., Feaster sweetened his offer to a first-round pick and Coleman and he wants a third to go with O’Brien. I call Sather to see if he can better that offer for O’Brien.
Tuesday, Feb. 20
Sather talks to me about O’Brien, and Pleau asks if I want to revisit the Tkachuk deal and make it bigger. We decide it’s not going to work, but we are interested in Bill Guerin. Sather tells me he’s got a good offer for Aaron Ward from another team.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
I call Montreal’s (GM) Bob Gainey and push him about whether he’s going to move any of his defensemen. Gainey says he’s unsure if he’s selling. Timing is beginning to be a problem. I decide to push on this, but I don’t get anywhere.
Sunday, Feb. 25
Tkachuk is finally traded to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit and first-, second- and third-round picks, plus another first-rounder if the Thrashers re-sign him. Davidson and GM Larry Pleau hit it out of the park on that one. We decide to trade O’Brien to Tampa Bay. We need the first-round pick to get into the card game. We felt comfortable making the deal because of the way Kent Huskins had played when he was called up. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe thinks he could have trouble re-signing Ryan Smyth. Would I be interested? He said he would want a “Tkachuk style package.” I say we can’t do it. Craig Rivet is traded to San Jose by Montreal, and I call and whine to Gainey about not calling me back and telling me he was available. He tells me that I was late to that party, and he had been talking to Doug Wilson for three weeks. Fair enough.
Monday, Feb. 26
Modin re-signs. While at a game in San Jose, I initiate a deal for Brad May via e-mail. I know him well and like his toughness.
Tuesday, Feb. 27
We were in on several trades. We offered a first and a fourth for Bill Guerin, but the Blues liked the Sharks’ deal better. (Los Angeles GM) Dean Lombardi talked to me about how Mattias Norstrom wanted to stay in southern California and I offered him a first-, second- and third-round pick, but I now believe he never intended to trade him to us. The Anaheim-Los Angeles rivalry is real. We looked at Bertuzzi, but the price was too high. I wanted to make a deal, but I stuck to draft picks. I told our younger players that I wouldn’t trade them and I kept my word. But I did get May. He’s a great character guy with a sunny disposition.
While he would never admit it, Ontario native Nazem Kadri must of felt a twinge of anger at how the biggest day in his life panned out. Treated like a high steak pawn at the 2009 draft where the dreams he worked so hard to achieve were to be realized, Kadri watched as a bitter Brian Burke failed to secure the vaunted trade northwards, then faced the ignominy of TSN analyst Darren Dreger questioning Burke about Brayden Schenn as he sat in silence, festooned in his Maple Leafs jersey. For sure it must have been disappointing and one can only hope he didnâ€™t venture toward any Leafs related websites that night.
Five trades that almost happened.Â Count ‘em, five separate deals. Â So close, yet so far away.
A very good source has it that Brian Burke saw five separate draft day deals fall apart in the last minute of each.Â Â He worked his tail off on each, only to see the other teams back out in the end for a myriad of reasons.Â Yet despite these disappointments,Â Burke was still able to land a very good player in Nazim Kadri at #7, so the draft wasn’t a total loss by any means.
According to Andy Strickland the first draft-related move of this (almost) off-season has transpired.Â Chris Pronger has been traded to the Los Angeles Kings for “a package including Jack Johnson and the 5th overall pick.”Â Note that this is an unconfirmed rumor.Â However, in the past Strickland has been very reliable.
*EDIT*: Strickland has revised his stance slightly.Â New blog link is up.
In the MLSE land of unreasonable expectations, even a superstar troupe like Burke and Wilson will not be afforded another record breaking season; at least not if said record is a fifth consecutive season of playoff free hockey. Subsequently Burke is going to be looking for a catalyst to the rebuilding project come summer and the most obvious route will arrive in early July, not a week earlier in Montreal.