Due to the time demands of starting up my new daily (M-F 1-3 PM ET) show ‘Top Shelf’ on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio and the Web Sports Media Network, I’ve been way too silent here over last couple weeks. Apologies on that and as I settle into this new work schedule on air, I’ll do my best to write more. But the good thing is instead of maybe writing some regrettable and knee jerk reaction to all that’s happened since the NHL Entry Draft and the beginning of free agency, I’ve had time to digest. So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on all that’s transpired over the last seven to ten days in the NHL:
— The Anaheim Ducks may have gotten that final piece up front with the acquisition of Ryan Kesler and created a heck of a 1-2 punch up the middle. I love their blue line as well especially with the addition of 6-foot-4, 216-pound bruiser Clayton Stoner. But while Frederik Andersen and John Gibson provide loads of skill and potential between the pipes, come playoff time they may need more than Jason LaBarbera if one of the youngsters was to struggle or get hurt. However, that is a problem that can be solved in season and for now, the Ducks have joined the Blackhawks and Blues as legit threats to dethrone the Kings next spring.
–As for other contenders, add in the Stars, Wild and Av’s. Not only do I love the new 1-2 punch of Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza up the middle in Dallas but you could even say a 1-2-3 punch with the underrated Cody Eakin likely the pivot on the third line. Spezza could be in for a huge pay-day next season should he be an unrestricted free agent come July 1, 2015. He could have his best season ever with the opponents fixating their focus on Seguin and Jamie Benn. Let’s not forget Ales Hemsky will likely ride shotgun with Spezza once again in Dallas too.
The addition of Thomas Vanek obviously brings some much-needed scoring to the pesky Wild but go take a peek at the core of youth general manager Chuck Fletcher and his crew have created there in the ‘State of Hockey’. Let’s not forget these young lads gave the then defending Stanley Cup champions a run for their money, pushing the Blackhawks to six games in a very tight six game series in the opening round! As I discussed with Wild Assistant GM Brent Flahr on ‘Top Shelf’ this past Friday, this is a team on the rise and they could rise quicker than expected. Another positive note from that interview is that Flahr told me goalie Josh Harding — who battles MS — is expected to be healthy and ready for training camp.
Another young and rising team is the Colorado Avalanche who finished a top the Western Conference standings under the leadership of Jack Adams Award winner Patrick Roy. The additions of veterans Jarome Iginla and Brad Stuart will not only help them score more goals and boost the power play but bring veteran leadership to the young core. They will miss Paul Stastny though and regardless of Iginla being a work-a-holic don’t expect another 30-goal campaign in Denver. He will struggle in the tougher Western Conference and with the speed of the young Av’s. He had a better chance at finally winning that Stanley Cup in Boston next season than in Colorado so as I discussed with former Av and 2001 Stanley Cup winner Dave Reid on ‘Top Shelf’ last Wednesday, can we please stop with the Ray Bourque analogies? Thanks!
–Hard to believe if they couldn’t find a way to keep Iginla, the Bruins were really in on Radim Vrbata eh? The feel here is that was leaked by a Bruins source to ease the fans’ pain that their team is handcuffed by the salary cap and Iginla’s bonuses from last season. Also for those reasons and the fact they signed Niklas Svedberg to a one-way, one-year deal, the Bruins were NEVER suitors for Martin Brodeur. But hey, tis the silly season!
— Speaking of silly, it would be silly of a team like the Dallas Stars — who according to a team source are looking into shedding Sergei Gonchar‘s $5 million cap hit — to not take a look at 24-year old UFA puck-moving defenseman Michael Del Zotto. That same source indicated that they are and you can expect other teams to as well. As NHL Network host and analyst EJ Hradek pointed out to me on Twitter Saturday, DZ could benefit from the tutelage of Larry Robinson in San Jose. Del Zotto will join me on Monday’s edition of ‘Top Shelf’. I’d keep an eye on the Red Wings, the Islanders, the Devils and Maple Leafs as teams maybe interested in helping Del Zotto get back on track and fulfill his potential.
— Finally Habs fans can rejoice that there will be no offer sheet and no holdout with P.K. Subban filing for arbitration Saturday. But while sources tell Murph’s Musings the Canadiens and Subban are both in tune on the term of a long-term contract for the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, they’re far a part on the money. The arbitration filing is an indicator Subban wants to remain and Montreal and is willing to give the Habs more time on the money, but they best not let him reach unrestricted free agency in 2016.