1. Flyers Make Splash By Acquiring Pronger
Sure, the Islanders, Lightning and Avalanche took huge steps to improve their floundering teams by drafting John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene with the first three picks in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal this weekend. However, much of their thunder was stolen by the Philadelphia Flyers, who made an even bigger splash by acquiring stalwart defenseman Chris Pronger from the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night for a veritable boatload of players and picks.
The deal breaks down as follows: the Flyers get the 34-year-old Pronger and 25-year-old minor league forward Ryan Dingle; the Ducks get 25-year-old three-time 20-goal scorer Joffrey Lupul, 19-year-old defenseman Luca Sbisa, the Flyers’ first round pick in 2009 (later traded to Columbus) and their first round pick in the 2010 draft. Trading Pronger became a necessity for the Ducks when they recently received word from captain Scott Niedermayer that he wishes to return for the 2009-2010 season. Keeping both Pronger and Niedermayer would have been nearly impossible for the Ducks considering their cap situation. However, the team had already done a good job preparing for this likelihood by acquiring defensemen Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski in midseason deals.
Pronger, who has one year remaining on his contract, represents a hefty cap hit of $6.25 million this season. With that in mind, the value Anaheim received for Pronger is rather impressive. Lupul, who began his career in Anaheim before being traded to the Oilers for Pronger in 2006, has twice scored 50 or more points in his five full NHL seasons. His Goal Versus Threshold (GVT) was 7.2 last season, good for the eighth spot on the Flyers. Sbisa, selected by Philly with the 19th overall pick in last year’s draft, is widely considered to be a blue chip defensive prospect. The teenager played 39 games with the Flyers last year, notching seven points and a -6 rating.
In Pronger, the Flyers get a former Hart and Norris Trophy winner who scored 11 goals and 48 points last season. Considered to be one of the elite defensemen in the NHL, Pronger’s rather low point total and GVT of 9.1 may represent a down season in 2008-2009, but his defensive value rating of 3.7 was still tops on the Anaheim roster. Ironically, by acquiring the native of Dryden, Ontario it is the Flyers who are now in a precarious cap situation. According to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Flyers are now a mere $5 million under the 2009-2010 cap figure of $56.8 million with several pieces left to add. Therefore, another move may be forthcoming in the City of Brotherly Love. Regardless of any additional moves by the Flyers this offseason, Carchidi reports that both GM Paul Homgren and Pronger are willing to discuss a long-term deal to keep the bruiser in Philly.
2. Kessel For Kaberle Trade Discussed
In what would have been a very intriguing trade, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins were reportedly close to a deal on Friday that would have sent sniping forward Phil Kessel to the Leafs for puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
TSN reports that the Bruins were willing to part with Kessel, who tallied 36 goals and 60 points in 70 games last season, for Kaberle and the Leafs’ first round draft choice (7th overall). However, in an apparent miscommunication, the Leafs believed they would receive Kessel and a significant draft choice for Kaberle alone. The two sides were unable to sort out the ancillary components of the deal and it subsequently fell apart. Setting aside the Abbott and Costello comedy routine between Leafs GM Brian Burke and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli for a minute, a closer look at this potential trade makes one wonder why the Bruins were ever so interested in making it.
The 31-year-old Kaberle, while signed through the 2010-2011 season at a reasonable cap figure of $4.25 million, has seen his point totals decline each of the last four seasons. Coming off a career high of 67 points in 2005-2006, Kaberle has posted totals of 58 (74 games), 53 (82 games) and 31 (57 games) since. His GVT last season was a mere 4.9, good for only 10th spot on the Leafs’ roster and third among Leafs’ defensemen. Kaberle has never been known as a physical defender, and his infuriating hesitancy to pull the trigger from the point has led to a popular joke among Leafs fans that his contract includes a “no-shoot” clause.
The 21-year-old Kessel, on the other hand, posted a GVT of 15.3 and actually had a better defensive rating than Kaberle. Additionally, the Bruins would seem to be flush with blue liners at the moment. Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara is joined on the Beantown defense corp by Dennis Wideman (who actually had a better year than Chara), Mark Stuart, Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward and youngster Matt Hunwick. Kessel is a restricted free agent this offseason and will see his salary increase from his previous cap hit of $2.2 million, but it is still hard to fathom how the Bruins would be willing to give up a scorer with so much upside for a defenseman with such a limited game.
3. So Long, Sergei
Amidst all the draft hoopla, the news that Sergei Fedorov decided to forego another NHL season to sign a two-year deal with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) flew under the radar this week. However, anytime a former Hart Trophy and Stanley Cup winner leaves the NHL, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to look back on what that individual has accomplished. Over 18 NHL seasons, 13 with the Red Wings, Fedorov tallied 483 goals and 696 assists for 1,179 total points. He was an All-Star six times and was named MVP at the conclusion of the 1993-1994 season, the same year he set a career high with 120 points.
Fedorov’s legacy also includes an important footnote when it comes to free agency. Following a holdout to begin the 1997-1998 season, Fedorov, a restricted free agent with the Red Wings, signed an offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes. The offer was later matched by the Wings and Fedorov eventually led the team to their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Such an action was practically unheard of at the time, especially when it came to a superstar player the caliber of Fedorov. The signing received much publicity, particularly since Carolina’s offer sheet included a $12 million incentive clause for reaching the Conference Finals. The Hurricanes had little shot of making any noise in the playoffs at that point in time, but Detroit was a Cup favorite. The tactic was widely considered to be an underhanded one on the part of both the Carolina front office and Fedorov.
That tidbit aside, Fedorov should be celebrated as a player who was talented enough to adapt his game over the years and remain an impact player right up until his departure from the league at age 39. At the tail end of his NHL career, Fedorov became a much-improved defensive player and a valuable leader in the dressing room. His overall GVT of 4.4 and defensive GVT of 1.4 last season were both very respectable for a player of his age. He also had a success rate higher than 56 per cent in the faceoff circle. Fedorov’s defection comes on the heels of fellow Capital Victor Kozlov’s move to the KHL. According to ESPN reports, Fedorov, whose deal is worth more than $3 million per season, decided to join Metallurg so he could play with his younger brother, Fedor.
4. Flames Continue To Make Noise
What was already a pretty eventful offseason in Calgary got more interesting with news the club swung a deal with the Florida Panthers for the rights to smooth-skating defenseman Jay Bouwmeester over the weekend. The Panthers, who, in retrospect, really should have moved JayBo at the deadline, received the rights to fellow unrestricted free agent defenseman Jordan Leopold and a third round pick (Josh Birkholz).
The focus now shifts to the Flames front office and whether or not they will be able to sign Bouwmeester to a long-term contract. There is no guarantee they will be able to do so, and even if the two sides can come to an agreement, another significant contract may need to be moved to keep the Flames from suffering the salary cap shenanigans that handcuffed them late last season. The team is currently $11 million under the cap, but a contract the size of Bouwmeester’s would eat up a significant portion of that total, leaving very little with which to fill out the roster.
5. Tavares Joins Islanders After Stellar Junior Career
Fans of hockey on Long Island should be absolutely giddy over the club’s selection of Canadian Junior star John Tavares with the first pick of this year’s entry draft. The 19-year-old forward set a multitude of records in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) including breaking Peter Lee’s record for career goals. Tavares jumped past Lee in dramatic fashion, scoring a hat trick in a win over the eventual Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires on March 8. Tavares ended his OHL career with 215 points and 218 assists. It should also be noted that Lee required five OHL seasons to set the record while Tavares broke it in only four.
Bill Duke is an author of Puck Prospectus. You can contact Bill by clicking here or click here to see Bill's other articles.