If you watched Hotstove Tonight on Hockey Night In Canada last weekend, you heard Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon toss cold water on rumours that he was willing to trade unrestricted free agent-to-be Stephen Weiss, who has a no-move clause.
"Ridiculous," Tallon said. "I'm not trading him, I'm going to try to sign him."
The Panthers are loaded with prospects and re-signing Weiss allows the organization to a) hold on to those players and b) prevent head coach Kevin Dineen from tossing them into situations they may not be ready for.
It's really hard to find good centres. Clubs get them and try their hardest to keep them. In the last four seasons, Florida's finished 17th, 28th, 27th and 27th in goals per game. In each of those years, Weiss finished in the top two in team scoring.
The post-lockout market for UFA centres was set by Travis Zajac, who signed an eight-year, $46-million US extension with the New Jersey Devils (salary cap hit is $5.75 million). I'm not sure what Tallon's going to offer Weiss, but you have to figure Zajac's numbers are at least in the ballpark.
Zajac will be 28-years-old; Weiss will be 30. Their career points-per-game averages are close, with Zajac at .599 in 431 NHL games and Weiss at .612 in 641. Both play against the opponent's top lines.
There are seven prospective free-agent centres, including Weiss, who could, in theory, centre a No. 1 line next season:
(Let's exclude Ryan O'Reilly because he is restricted).
All of these teams are in the same situation as Florida. If these guys go, they've got to be replaced. Not always easy.
If all seven hit the market, that's good for the buyers. But the more who sign (like Zajac), the better it gets for those who wait. We all know the Anaheim Ducks will do everything shy of abducting Getzlaf. Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News reported that the Dallas Stars are beginning talks with Roy. Would Elias, who all but signed with the New York Rangers in 2006 only to change his mind, leave New Jersey?
Conventional wisdom offers three choices: re-sign the player; trade him; or keep him and take your chances. The problem with the middle option is that trading a guy mere weeks before freedom usually hurts the trader's leverage.
It will be interesting, then, to see if any of these teams re-signs its player with the intent to trade him. Maybe the argument is if one of them has some term (and a manageable contract), you can get more, perhaps even a centre in return.
1. Speaking of centres, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau is giving Bobby Ryan the chance to become one. Anaheim just finished a perfect 3-0 homestand -- beating the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks -- with Ryan getting some time at centre. He had five points in three games and occupied the puck a great deal. The Ducks like Saku Koivu on the third line, so if this works, it's a big bonus behind Getzlaf. Ryan's faceoff numbers haven't been great as he learns, so Boudreau protects him from defensive-zone draws.
2. As much offensive talent as the Ducks have, one scout noticed a key defensive change. Boudreau used a 1-3-1 system before, but he's playing 1-2-2 in Anaheim. It makes sense as the Ducks defence isn't the most mobile, but it is very competitive and makes it hard to gain the blue-line. So far, it's working well.
3. I don't know if this has ever happened before, but on Saturday night, the Phoenix organization posted shutouts in three different leagues. The Coyotes beat Dallas 2-0, the AHL's Portland Pirates blanked Albany by the same score and the ECHL's Gwinnett Gladiators won 3-0 over South Carolina.
4. Milan Hejduk played his 1,000th NHL game Monday night in Colorado. You forget how great his resume is: Stanley Cup; Olympic gold medal; Rocket Richard Trophy; 372 career goals. When he came over in 1998, the Avalanche had no other Czech players and Hejduk barely spoke English. It was Mark Miller, now the team's head equipment manager, who helped him learn the language. Big night for both of them.
5. The referees are taking a beating after a rough weekend, but it's important to remember none of them worked during the lockout -- the second time in seven years that they refused to take anyone's job during a stoppage. The one thing they must start doing more of, though, is asking each other, "What did you see?" For example, take the Ottawa Senators' erased score in Montreal last Sunday. There was no conference -- and in a situation where the four officials are allowed to discuss it.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs fans didn't like this one from Monday. I generally don't like that call, either. But every time I have this debate, someone points out that, after Clint Malarchuk and Richard Zednik, they don't want kicking motions around the unpredictability of the net. It's a legit argument.
7. Last year, approximately 22 per cent of the NHL's goals were scored on the power play. This year, it's closer to one third. The Nashville Predators had the league's best power play in 2011-12 at 21.6 per cent success. It's early, but that number would be 13th right now.
8. The Pittsburgh Penguins put their top unit on the ice at the end of their 6-3 win at Washington on Sunday, scoring the final goal of the game with eight seconds left. Normally, that would be frowned upon, but Hockey Night's PJ Stock had a good take on it. Lockout, no exhibitions, little practice time. It justifies Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma giving them some work.
9. The Washington Capitals admit one of their biggest problems is getting used to their "new" defensive-zone coverage. Last year, they played man-to-man. Now rookie head coach Adam Oates, a former Devils assistant, wants them using New Jersey's "overload" style, which basically means you try to outnumber the other team. A few Capitals said they made mistakes due to old habits.
10. Alex Ovechkin's even-strength goal totals the last eight seasons are 25, 25, 37, 36, 43, 30 and 28. The middle three numbers were league-leading totals. This year, he has zero in nine games.
11. Early scheduling victims? The three teams (Columbus, Dallas, Philadelphia) that opened with seven games in the first 10 days. They were a combined 6-13-2. Watch that kind of stretch for your team, both in terms of results and injuries. The Flyers were decimated.
12. Early in the season, Hockey Night's Kelly Hrudey was saying how the Flyers looked like a team that didn't believe in its goaltender -- and he wasn't the only one who thought that. I was going use it in an earlier blog, but then Ilya Bryzgalov made this save to preserve a win over the Rangers on Jan. 24. Since that night, he's got a .929 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average.
13. I was asked on Calgary 960 Radio about the Flyers being interested in Jarome Iginla. The big question is, 'Would Iginla be interested in them?' If he goes anywhere, he's going to take a run at the Stanley Cup. Ninety-nine years out of 100, Philadelphia is in that race. This just might be a case of awful timing for both of them. You can see the opening in the Penguins lineup, though.
14. I was fortunate enough to have a lengthy conversation during last season's playoffs with Lou Lamoriello of the Devils. One of the things he said was, as a GM, "If you have time, use it." I think of that now with the Vancouver Canucks. People say, "They've got too much money tied up in their goalies." It will be an issue next year, for sure, and it could be an issue this year if the Canucks want to add something. But until you have to do it, Lamoriello's advice is to be patient because you never know when your circumstances will change. Plus, the two of them do a great job of handling it.
15. Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider does not have no-trade protection in his new contract. But if you think Vancouver asked a lot for Luongo -- and don't forget that, seven months ago, both the team and Luongo thought it was best to separate - Canucks GM Mike Gillis can't change the plan unless both sides are 100 per cent comfortable with it. And it's certainly possible Luongo is playing so well now because he's relaxed.
16. A question we'll never know the answer to: If Luongo was traded before Jamie Benn re-signed with Dallas, would we have seen an offer sheet?
17. Undoubtedly, the Gillis/Laurence Gilman eastern excursion was to scout potential trade partners and free-agent targets. The two conferences don't see each other this season, so you don't get that close-up look if you stay home. Don't forget, the Canucks pitched Cody Hodgson to Washington last season for John Carlson. Hard to see Capitals GM George McPhee parting with the young defender, even with that new hairstyle.
18. Another goalie without no-trade protection is Miikka Kiprusoff. His ran out July 1, but it sure doesn't mean Calgary is in a rush to move him.
19. Calgary's 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks was an absolute crusher. When a team is trying to change its identity, like the Flames are, it needs victories over good teams to convince everyone, especially the players, to give "total buy-in." You're within two seconds of getting it and lose in the shootout. Telling your players, "We're so close, hang in there," is so much harder when you're 1-3-2 and have to eat one like that.
20. Chicago's A-level guys look fantastic, especially Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. If Toews and Hossa reveal anything, it's that it probably takes even longer than we realize to be fully ready following a concussion. You can see, though, that the Blackhawks are going to need some "heavy" players -- one defenceman and a forward or two -- because teams are going to start grinding them.
21. Last week, the NFL announced that, beginning next season, independent neurologists will be on the sidelines to monitor concussions. Apparently, the NFL proposal is considered "light" on details at this time, so the NHL and NHL Players' Association are still waiting for more information about the protocol. What's interesting is that they've discussed something similar for hockey and both are uncertain about it.
22. Why? Both the league and the players are uncertain if a doctor who is at games but doesn't know a player's "baseline" health has a proper perspective of determining readiness. As one source said: "Could the 'independent' physician be at a disadvantage compared to the regular team physician who is familiar with the player/patient's medical history?" The doctor would probably have to be more involved, including attending training-camp physicals and testing. I do think both sides will continue to investigate this, but they seem to agree that, aside from good PR, they're not sure if the quality of care is actually any better.
23. Last week in San Jose, Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers takes a penalty at 3:45 of overtime, but he is still allowed to participate in the shootout. I'd love to see the IIHF rule. If you're technically still in the penalty box, you don't get to shoot.
24. Teams are looking for defencemen and the Buffalo Sabres have eight. But Sabres GM Darcy Regier says he's told teams, "Give me a reason to trade one." So far, he feels he hasn't received a good enough answer.
25. Regier's got to be unhappy right now, though. The Sabres' 2011-12 was ruined after they wilted against the Boston Bruins. Last week, they stood up to them physically, then came back to win after falling behind 3-1. But the weekend -- blown out in Montreal, beaten by Florida at home -- was such a disappointment. All of the momentum was destroyed. They got good return for Paul Gaustad last year, but have to replace him. Buffalo is the worst faceoff team in the league.
26. Martin Biron tells a great story about walking into the Buffalo room for the first time, seeing large photos of Rob Ray, Brad May and Matthew Barnaby posing as boxers and thinking, "What the heck is this?" It'll never be like that again, but the team is really trying to re-establish an edge. That's why they got Steve Ott and John Scott. It's why Marcus Foligno's development is so important. But they lack it on their blue-line. Teams are walking through their zone.
27. One opposing executive on white-hot Thomas Vanek: "He has Alexander Semin's skill without Alexander Semin's inconsistency."
28. Perfect time for Carolina Hurricanes teammate Eric Staal to race to Semin's defence: "That's a guy who gets a bad rap."
29. A surprising amount of optimism that, despite the words of new Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, a new lease can be worked out to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. Interesting thing about Coyotes captain Shane Doan. No Atlanta Thrasher had a no-move contract when they went to Winnipeg (there were some no-trades). Doan has one. Could he argue, if the team moves, that he should be a free agent? The other clubs who chased him would love that. It probably doesn't get that far because if the Coyotes relocate and he wants a trade, you can bet he'll get it.
30. Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs didn't make a lot of friends over the lockout and delivered an astonishingly tone-deaf diatribe at Boston's home opener. But I'll say this for him, the Bruins had no layoffs and no pay cuts to staff for the duration of the insanity.
Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC
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