As the NHL offseason progresses, the upcoming season approaches and teams continue to sign players to fill out their roster, here are 5 burning questions about the free agency period in the National Hockey League.
1. Where will Ilya Kovalchuk sign?
Ah, the question on everyone’s mind, that they can’t wait to be answered simply so that they don’t have to hear about it anymore. With lack of big name free agents on the market, a former 50 goal scorer who has done very little in the playoffs in 9 professional seasons, and has never past the firstround has become the biggest fish in the pond. Is he skilled? Yes. Should he command an outrageous contract? No, but thanks to a lack of stars on the market, and some overblown contracts to marginal players (Derek Boogaard for example), Kovalchuk will fetch a hefty price tag, and the fact he is still without a home shows that few teams are prepared to shell out the dough for him. The Los Angeles Kings are rumored to be the closest to signing the Russian winger, even though GM Dean Lombardi denies a deal has been ironed out. If it’s not L.A, it could be New Jersey, but it could also be the KHL.
2. Why didn’t the Washington Capitals do anything?
After winning the President’s Trophy, and meekly bowing out in the first round of the playoffs, the Capitals clearly have some needs to push them over the edge in the playoffs. They need a second line center, which they have yet to sign. They might need stronger goaltending, but after letting Jose Theodore walk, GM George McPhee is going with Varlamov as his starter. The defense hasn’t changed. So what exactly are the Caps up to? They have some cap space, so its likely McPhee is targeting the trade deadline to shore up his line-up. But at the end of the day, this team is no better than the one that was outplayed by the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens and their goaltender in the playoffs. Washington has a great farm system and will likely add some youngsters to the line-up, but the fact that they made no effort during free agent frenzy to improve their weaknesses will go down in history as being either very strange, or some stroke of genius.
3. Why haven’t the Leafs traded Tomas Kaberle yet?
It didn’t happen at the trade deadline. It didn’t happen at the draft. Tomas Kaberle is still a member of a very crowded Toronto Maple Leaf defense corp, and he is still their biggest trade asset. GM Brian Burke made a big trade to acquire Kris Versteeg from the Chicago Blackhawks and signed free agent defenseman Brett Lebda, but the Leafs need top six scoring, and with no high draft picks to use, trade or free agency is the only way that will happen. Despite what Brian Burke says, Toronto could use a number one centerman, and with most of the better ones locked up, perhaps Kaberle can be part of a deal to bring in a quality pivot? That makes so much sense to say, but for some reason, it seems like it will never happen.
4. What were the Calgary Flames thinking?
Calgary missed the playoffs last season. They can’t score, they have very little talent in the system and their best player isn’t getting any younger. So what did they do during free agency? They brought back Alex Tanguay, who’s career appears to be on the back 9, and also brought back Olli Jokinen. What’s that you say? The same Olli Jokinen that never clicked in Calgary, who was traded away at the deadline because of rumored dressing room issues? Yes, that Olli Jokinen. The reality is that the Flames have very little cap room and not many options. Could this be the end of the Darryl Sutter era as GM in Calgary? If the Flames fail to make the playoffs again this season, it probably should be.
5. Will Marty Turco ever play in the NHL again?
After supposedly turning down a job with the Philadelphia Flyers, Turco might be best advised to start saving his money. After the Dallas Stars expressed their desire to cut ties with the veteran, it was assumed Turco would quickly find a new home. But with most teams set in the crease, Turco remains on the outside looking in. Perhaps he could go to Nashville to help Pekka Rinne. Maybe Detroit? Maybe Chicago? (if they can bury Cristobal Huet’s contract of course). If Turco wants to play hockey in the NHL next season, he better not be too picky, or demand too much, because the market for older goalies who have had little post-season success is quite small. There’s a reason Evegni Nabokov will be playing in the KHL for the next four years.