1. Senators Introduce New Star
When the Ottawa Senators signed sniper Alex Kovalev to a two-year deal worth $10 million on July 6, many believed it was a way for GM Bryan Murray to replace the production of disgruntled winger Dany Heatley, who demanded a trade from Canada’s capital earlier this offseason. However, when the Senators introduced Kovalev to the media on Tuesday, Murray made it clear he intends to see Kovalev and Heatley on the same team, and perhaps the same line, this winter.
"We can fit both of those guys on our team very nicely, maybe one on left and one on right wing," said Murray during the afternoon press conference at Scotiabank Place. Throughout the whole Heatley fiasco, Murray has been adamant that if a suitable deal cannot be found, Heatley will simply remain a Senator for the coming season and beyond. Kovalev, who was Heatley’s teammate with Russia’s Ak Bars Kazan during the 2004-2005 lockout, told the media he would love to have the talented winger back as a teammate with the Senators.
“Definitely, with the player that he is, it would be nice to have him back. He's a great, talented guy on the ice and off the ice and would definitely help the Senators organization and hopefully will continue to help the organization.”
At various points in their careers both Kovalev and Heatley have been criticized for being selfish, one-dimensional offensive players. Kovalev, especially, has repeatedly been called lazy and soft, two very damning words in the lexicon of North American professional hockey. Usually when “lazy” and “soft” are the adjectives of choice, it’s not a player’s offensive skill or talent for playmaking being called into question, but his defensive capabilities. The final Goal Versus Threshold (GVT) figures from last season seem to back up the notion that Kovalev is a one-way player who fails to carry water defensively.
His final offensive GVT was 9.2 and his defensive GVT was 1.6, good for a total of 10.8, which essentially means he was worth 10.8 goals more than a run-of-the-mill, replacement level player called up from the minors. For a player of Kovalev’s skill set, his defensive rating isn’t awful, but it isn’t very good either. A quick look at a handful of players who produced roughly the same number of goals as Kovalev’s 26 last season proves that the Russian forward is lagging in the defensive department.
Joe Thornton (SJ) : 25 goals, 5.5 defensive GVT, 17.8 overall GVT
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA): 25 goals, 2.9 defensive GVT, 14.9 overall GVT
Marc Savard (BOS): 25 goals, 3.7 defensive GVT, 16.8 overall GVT
Jason Blake (TOR): 25 goals, 2.7 defensive GVT, 11.8 overall GVT
Ryan Kesler (VAN): 26 goals, 2.6 defensive GVT, 9.6 overall GVT
Patrick Sharp (CHI): 26 goals, 1.8 defensive GVT, 7.7 overall GVT
Tuomo Ruutu (CAR): 26 goals, 3.0 defensive GVT, 7.8 overall GVT
Anze Kopitar (LA) : 27 goals, 3.0 defensive GVT, 9.8 overall GVT
Milan Hejduk (COL): 27 goals, 3.0 defensive GVT, 7.0 overall GVT
There are a few examples of such players who exhibited much worse defensive play, however, as evidenced by Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne (27 goals, 0.9 defensive GVT, 8.9 overall GVT), Chicago’s Patrick Kane (25 goals, 0.6 defensive GVT, 9.7 overall GVT) and Atlanta’s Slava Kozlov (26 goals, 0.1 defensive GVT, 11.7 overall GVT).
Healtey, by comparison, posted a defensive GVT of 3.0 last season to go along with an offensive rating of 10.0. His 39 goals tied him for ninth in the league with Mike Cammalleri, formerly of the Calgary Flames.
By all measuers, Heatley is a more effective and well-rounded player than Kovalev, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the two play over the years.
Regardless of whether or not Heatley is a Senator next season, it’s obvious Kovalev was brought to Ottawa to add a little more offense to a club that desperately needs it. With Heatley in the lineup for all 82 games, the Senators ranked 23rd in the league in goals scored last season with a mere 2.6 per game, but the team GVT paints an even grimmer picture. The Senators’ offensive GVT of -22.1 ranked them 25th in the league, ahead of only the Wild, the Avalanche, the Islanders and the Kings. This despite the fact that Ottawa has invested heavily in offensive stars like Daniel Alfredsson ($5.4 million a season for four years), Jason Spezza ($7 million, six years) and the aforementioned Heatley ($7.5 million, six years).
For all the baggage he brings with him, the one thing Kovalev has proven he can do at the NHL level is score. He has been inconsistent, to say the least, but he also has posted single season goal totals of 44 (2000-2001 with Pittsburgh), 37 (2002-2003, Pittsburg/New York Rangers) and 35 (2007-2008, Montreal). That’s nothing to scoff at, but it doesn’t guarantee future production, either.
It’s conceivable that Kovalev will play inspired hockey and provide a needed jolt for the Sens’ struggling offense over the next two seasons. However, if Heatley leaves town, the signing will, at best, be a case of the team taking one step forward and two steps back.
2. Blackhawks Reveal Hossa Injury
Well, well, well, it looks like the Chicago Blackhawks are in the news again, for all the wrong reasons, again.
According to a report in the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, a newspaper based in suburban Chicago, the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa apparently suffered a severe shoulder injury while playing for the Red Wings in last season’s playoffs. The Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone speculates that the injury occurred during the Western Conference Finals between the Red Wings and the Blackhawks. If that is indeed the case, it would go a long way in explaining Hossa’s remarkable Houdini act in the Stanley Cup Finals, when he scored exactly zero goals in seven games. The injury, to Hossa’s rotator cuff, may be serious enough to require surgery and puts his availability for the Blackhawks’ season opener on October 2 in Finland in jeopardy.
Evidently, the Blackhawks were aware of the injury when they signed Hossa on July 1 to a mammoth 12-year deal worth a total of $62.8 million. The club is holding out hope that surgery will not be necessary.
3. Media Boss Wants NHL Back In Quebec City
Sun Media is reporting this week that the CEO of parent company Quebecor will actively pursue bringing an NHL franchise back to Quebec City in the near future.
Pierre Karl Peladeau stated Tuesday at a charity benefit that Quebec City is “a hockey city . . . much more than certain American cities with NHL teams.” The president and CEO of Quebecor Inc., Quebecor Media Inc. and Sun Media Corporation claims to be disappointed with the way his bid to purchase the Montreal Canadiens reached an unsuccessful conclusion in June.
“We believed strongly and were confident we would get (the Canadiens). I involved myself enormously in this matter. We were a solid group. I don't understand why we didn't get it,” said Peladeau. The Habs, along with the Bell Centre, were ultimately sold by owner George Gillett to the Molson brothers for approximately $630 million (Canadian dollars).
Quebec City’s previous NHL team, the Nordiques, were founded in 1972 as part of the upstart World Hockey Association (WHA). Along with the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers, they were absorbed by the NHL in 1979. The Nordiques relocated to Denver in 1995, following the sale of the team by owner Marcel Aubut.
4. News and Notes
Youngster Matt Hunwick is staying put in Boston. The 24-year-old Michigan product and the club agreed to a two-year, $2.9 million deal earlier this week in the hopes that the talented defenseman will build upon his promising rookie campaign last season. Hunwick tallied six goals and 21 assists in 53 regular season games in 2008-2009; he appeared in a single playoff contest before undergoing an emergency splenectomy and missing the rest of the postseason. His final regular season GVT was 7.3.
The Associated Press reports that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli may now have to get a little creative in order to sign goal-scoring forward Phil Kessel and keep the Bruins under the cap.
"We are at a point where, cap-wise, we are coming close to the end. So there would have to be some shuffling, but I'm not averse to that," Chiarelli said. "He's a talented player, a young player. We all like Phil, and we'd like to have him back.”
Chiarelli tried unsuccessfully to deal Kessel to the Maple Leafs for Tomas Kaberle on draft day…
The New Jersey Devils and forward Travis Zajac have avoided salary arbitration, agreeing on a new multi-year deal. Zajac notched 20 goals, 42 assists and an overall GVT of 11.8 last season. His GVT was fifth best on the Devils roster…
Bill Duke is an author of Puck Prospectus. You can contact Bill by clicking here or click here to see Bill's other articles.