So there was Glenn Healy on Hotstove, arguing that Ryan Suter is putting the Nashville Predators in a bad position. By announcing that he will not re-sign by the trade deadline, Suter, Healy argued, is forcing them to trade one of their young defencemen for offensive help.
In the summer, should the pending UFA decide to leave, Nashville will lose both him and whatever promising blue-liner it decides to trade. Tough spot, indeed.
Instead of looking at this as a minus, Nashville must view it as an opportunity. In a lot of ways, this is the model NHL small-revenue franchise. Always better than the sum of their parts, the Predators are patient, slowly and properly developing their best young players. Until Pekka Rinne, they hadn't broken the bank for anyone, but haven't backed away from making bold free-agent investments (Paul Kariya, Jason Arnott) or trading for long-term contracts (Mike Fisher).
Last year's first postseason victory was a great story, but Suter and Shea Weber are making it very clear that surviving one round won't be enough. The "Win now, or else" message may make the organization uncomfortable. But you know what?
Look, the stars are aligning very nicely in Nashville. They've got arguably the best goalie in the West. After some 46-time Norris Trophy winner in Detroit, they've got the two best defencemen. And, with Jimmy Howard out of the lineup, a shot at catching the Red Wings for first place in both the division and conference. (As of Feb. 7, they are four points back with a game in hand.) Avoiding that brutal four-vs-five first round series is critical.
There are times a franchise must take a stand. This is one. You think Jay Feaster didn't know Nikolai Khabibulin was going to walk in 2004? You think the Blackhawks were unaware they were headed to Salary Cap Jail in 2010?
Bring it on. They won. You can deal with the "inconveniences."
But going for it does something else, too. They've paid Rinne. They're going to throw money at Suter and Weber. Adding an offensive piece or two -- even if it costs you prime prospects -- puts the onus on the players.
"Alright," GM David Poile can say, "We're loading up. We're going to do what you've asked. Now you've got to deliver. No more excuses."
There was an interesting exchange between Suter and a reporter during All-Star weekend, moments after the player revealed his decision. The reporter (not me) came back to check something, and as Suter turned to leave, jokingly said, "They should just give you $9 million."
Suter turned around and replied, "It's not only about money."
Guys who know him well say that is the absolute 100 per cent truth. But, if you're Poile, you've got to make him prove it.
1. The Red Wings are patient, as patient as it gets. The plan was to stay the course with Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald until Howard gets back. That's the big question: Do they really know how long this absence will last? Doesn't look like Mike Babcock trusts Conklin. You run the danger of letting Nashville and St. Louis (five back, three in hand) close in on you. No playoff series is easy, but you've got to avoid that four/five West matchup at all costs.
2. Emailed Lou Lamoriello to ask if The New York Post report that Zach Parise will not be traded is correct. (Other teams think it is, that the Devils will go for the playoffs and take their chances with the UFA after the season.) No response from New Jersey's uber-czar, which is no surprise. I had a better chance of finding out how many surgeries Madonna's had.
3. One GM on the deadline: "If you're trying to follow the Boston model of adding depth, there's going to be something out there for you. But, if you're looking for a real impact player, I don't know who that's going to be."
4. Couple guys were surprised to hear the Rangers are considering Ryan Smyth. Nothing against the Oiler winger, it's more about the Blueshirts themselves. "That team has great chemistry," a GM said. "They're greater than the sum of their parts, a true team where players accept their roles. He'll force roles to change because of where you need to use him. It doesn't always work."
5. The Rangers wanted Cody Almond in the Erik Christensen deal, but Minnesota held firm. Doug Risebrough knows Almond and likes him.
6. The Blues created some buzz by having three scouts at the Winnipeg/Montreal game. They are believed to be looking for a left-side defenceman. Hal Gill and Johnny Oduya are UFAs who could fit.
7. One scout who watched Brenden Morrow last week: "I was surprised how little impact he had on games." Hours after that conversation, the Stars announced Morrow was going back on Injured Reserve with neck and back soreness. Makes total sense, because not making an impact is very unusual for him.
8. Had a good email conversation last week with one of Jeff Carter's defenders. He pointed out that Carter is still very hurt by how he feels the Flyers misled him, and this is still a 40-goal talent. Totally fair; being traded can be devastating for a young player. But, there comes a point where you have to say, "All right. It happened and now I've got to move on." Carter's rep is taking a huge hit. At least one team has backed off because of what they're hearing. If he wants to leave Columbus, he's got to give other teams an incentive to take that 10-year commitment.
9. The Blue Jackets have to be careful, too. They know they probably won't get much, but, in exchange for Carter's long-term contract, opponents will try to get them to take one back. That's usually a bad idea.
10. Since ObamaShun, Tim Thomas is 2-1 with a 2.01 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Small sample size, yes, but Thomas is at his best when he's annoyed at the world -- feeling he's got something to prove. He grabbed the job after the hockey world gave up on him. He won the Vezina, the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup one year after after losing the starting spot to Tuukka Rask. Clearly, he's not thrilled with the media/organizational reaction to his White House decision. Good luck, Boston opponents.
11. Carey Price on Randy Cunneyworth: "We have lots of conversations together, which is something I haven't really had in my NHL career so far. I haven't really had a very uh - well I wouldn't say close but - open relationship with the coach. It's not always hockey stuff, it's just 'Hey, how's the girlfriend doing, how are the dogs?' and just you know casual conversation that I've never really had with a coach before."
12. Price on PK Subban: "I see a lot of myself in PK, because I've been in his shoes ... To be a young player in Montreal is probably different than being anywhere else because you have so much exposure. You're put on such a high pedestal at such a young age, you have to be able to learn how to harness that and stay humble, and at the same time, be receptive to criticism. Because, it's going to happen, you're going to make mistakes ... and usually everything gets blown out of proportion."
13. After his eight-point night, all we heard about Sam Gagner was he is too small and can't skate. Good thing for Chicago, otherwise he might have scored 15.
14. In all seriousness, one of the biggest problems with guys like Gagner is people focus solely on what he can't do or isn't, as opposed to what he can do or is. Generally, I agree that one night shouldn't change a team's opinion of someone, but an evening like that should at least make you pause. If you put him with good players, he can make things happen. That kind of skill is not easy to find.
15. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau is kind of similar. He's a good fit for John Tavares and clearly is happy. When the two are together, good things happen for the Islanders. Kind of surprised they haven't extended him yet, because he could be a good complimentary piece in a lot of places.
16. Remember: any extensions for Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle wouldn't take effect until 2013-14. So, if you don't get the deal you want for Gagner, you can handle another season at a bigger number. The one word that should scare the Oilers: arbitration. Gagner's agency hired a very smart guy (Danny Tolensky), who constantly throws out stats on his Twitter feed that arbitrators love. (Example: "In the last 25 games Gagner has had a point on 42 per cent of Edmonton's goals and has been on the ice for 57 per cent" or "200 career points for Gagner. Only Kane has more pts from the 2007 draft. Next on the list has 162 pts, only seven in total are over 100.")
17. Get the impression that Edmonton would like to sign Ales Hemsky to a one-year extension, because his trade value isn't very high. With a new CBA looming, you'd have to think he'd rather hit the market and swing for the fences.
18. Ales Hemsky showed something by getting up after being "Kronwalled" during the late HNIC game on Saturday. It's kind of surprising how many players put themselves in that position, knowing that if the puck is coming around the boards, Niklas is going for the big hit.
19. Ryan Whitney played possibly his best game of the season that night, as he tries to overcome his ankle issues. He's taping his shin pads differently, over the tongue of his skates in an attempt for greater support. In the summer, he's going to try to fix the "loose ligaments" in his right foot, but the concern is a similar attempt with Peter Forsberg tightened them too much. One of the considerations? A non-surgical procedure known as "Prolotherapy."
20. Not exactly a secret, but a contract extension for Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is being completed. Can't confirm the term, but if I had to guess: two years.
21. Ondrej Pavelec stopped Jaromir Jagr in a shootout last week as the Jets won in Philadelphia. The goalie said that was the first time he'd ever beaten Jagr on a breakaway during a game or practice (Czech National Team) "in my life." Good timing.
22. Like Alexander Burmistrov's skillset a lot, but Winnipeg is trying hard to convince him to become more of a north/south player and less of an east/west one.
23. Despite Scott Howson's best efforts to quash them, the Rick Nash rumours keep popping up. After watching the Alfredsson lovefest at All-Star, think Columbus has no choice but to keep him for another year (barring an unbelievable offer). The Blue Jackets host the event next season, and if Nash gets traded, who becomes the showcase player for the home team? What gets your fan base excited for it?
24. We're never going to know what exactly happened with Sidney Crosby. And, he will never, ever say anything publicly negative about the Penguins. It's not his way.
25. Hate it when people say that Crosby has nothing left to accomplish, because he's won a Cup and a Gold Medal. You know what drives people like him? Winning again. Think Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or Wayne Gretzky or Larry Bird or Tom Brady is satisfied with one? No, they need more. Crave it. Crosby is the same.
26. How much did Tim Gleason want to stay in Carolina? He may have left about $5 million US on the table. How? He signed for four years and $16 million. In free agency, he probably gets one more year and maybe an extra $250,000 per season.
27. Jim Rutherford knew that if he jettisoned Gleason, it probably costs Carolina even more to replace him. (That's one thing we often forget to consider in trades.) So, he's considering the same possibility with Tuomo Ruutu. Rutherford's asking a lot and is only getting nibbles. Big question with Ruutu will be term. He's done some damage to that body.
28. The first thing you notice about Brian McGrattan and Jordin Tootoo is how good they look. Both in great shape, relaxed and happy. Alcoholism is a battle, a never-ending one. Good on Nashville, the NHL and the NHLPA for providing them the support they need. Hope their story continues to be a happy one.
29. They went together to South Beach during the break. Tootoo tweeted photos of some fish he caught. Did McGrattan catch anything? "No, he goes too early in the morning."
30. One answer that needed to be cut for length was about fighting. Does McGrattan feel that his job contributed to his problem? "When I was in the treatment centre, I was the only athlete in there. [There were] principals, doctors, lawyers, teachers -- some people that did construction. So, alcohol doesn't just affect enforcers in hockey. It affects everybody at every age. I met some people in there who were 60, some people were 18 ... I think it's unfair to put that on guys just because of what they did in the sport. Had I not even played hockey, chances are from what I learned and where I was ... had I not even touched the ice once in my life I probably would have been in the same boat that I was. Had I been a 50-goal scorer, I probably would have been in the same boat, so I don't think it matters if I would've fought once or not. So that's where I kind of stand on that issue."
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