Bellll-fouuur, And Other Hockey Notes
The Florida Panthers are on the verge of signing Ed Belfour to a one-year deal. TSN speculates that it could be worth as much as $1.5 million, which, give or take a million dollars, is right in the range of what you should be paying a 41 year old with serious back issues. As the link points out, this fits with Keenan's trend of sticking with players he knows well; you have to think that a phone call to Stephane Matteau's agent isn't far behind. You would think that they see Belfour as the backup to Alex Auld, and wouldn't expect him to play more than 25 games, but regardless, there are better goalies left on the market. Manny Legace is at worst a serviceable part-time goalie, and at best, an underrated, steady, starting goalie. Unfortunately for him, he's taken the blame for the Red Wings first round loss this season, and is getting next to no interest. Meanwhile, if Keenan prefers to stick with players he knows, he should have perhaps given more thought to signing the guy who used to be Belfour's backup in Chicago. He's certainly no more (or less) of an injury risk than The Eagle is.
I love the Scott Walker trade for the Carolina Hurricanes. He's coming off an injury, but he has proven to be a good two-way player, and is signed for one year at the relatively inexpensive cost of $1.5 million. With his speed and skill, he's a great fit on the 2nd or 3rd line for the 'Canes, depending on how much he can produce on offense. In any case, all it cost Carolina was Josef Vasicek, a young forward who had fallen out of the regular lineup; he played only 23 regular season games, and a mere 8 in the playoffs. Walker may not make a huge impact, but picking him up is exactly the kind of move that teams have to make to be successful in the salary cap era. Even if he fails to make a huge impact, he's only costing them 200k more in salary than the player they traded for him.
One move I don't like is Eric Lindros' move to Dallas. Big E is finished as an impact player, and while there weren't a lot of other options for the Stars, they still could have done better. Jason Allison would have been a better gamble, since he provides more offense and is more likely to play a full season. Aside from the Jeff Halpern signing, I don't think Dallas had done anything to help themselves this off-season - replacing Arnott with Lindros is a step down, and trading Niko Kapanen for Patrick Stefan and Jaroslav Modry (who replaces Willie Mitchell) can be generously considered lateral moves. Stars fans better hope they have a lot more young Fins on the way, or else things are about to go downhill fast in Texas.
If you haven't been following the Islanders saga, you're missing one of the most compelling, and astounding stories of the off-season. Is there a worse franchise in the league than this? At least the other bottom-feeders, such as Pittsburgh and Washington, have franchise players to build around (Crosby and Ovechkin, respectively), and Chicago at least drafts well, and could be on their way to respectability soon. The Isles have a clueless owner who insists on being hands on, an albatross of a contract owed to Alexei Yashin for the next handful of years, and no top-end young talent on the way. It's going to be a long 5-10 years on Long Island, if not longer, before they turn things around. Just a bad time to be an Islanders fan, you can't help but feel bad for them.
With Belfour apparently on his way to Florida, that leaves Detroit as the biggest remaining goalie mystery. They currently have Chris Osgood under contract, and Jimmy Howard and Stefan Liv (just signed from Sweden) on the horizon. However, the former is no longer capable of being a regular goalie, and the latter two still have developing to do. So what should/will the Wings do? Odds point towards a short-term deal with Dominik Hasek, or the once unthinkable move of resigning Manny Legace. Unless Buffalo is ready to trade Martin Biron, their only other option would be to deal with either San Jose or Anaheim to acquire Evgeny Nabokov or Jean-Sebastien Giguere. This may have been Ken Holland's initial strategy, to try and wait out the market, but he should make a move soon. The free agent route might be the way to go, since according to Grabia's cap projections, neither the Sharks nor the Ducks are hurting for cap space, meaning he'll have to pay full value for a goalie in a trade. Though it might not be the best PR move, I think that bringing Legace back for a low-budget, one year with an option deal is the best move. He's less of an injury risk than Hasek, and I don't believe that the Nabokov and Giguere are that much better than him that they justify giving up players/draft picks and paying an extra few million in salary to acquire either of them. I'm curious what our readers think, should Detroit:
1. Stick with the status quo of Chris Osgood, and hope either Jimmy Howard or Stefan Liv can contribute right now.
2. Sign Dominik Hasek.
3. Resign Manny Legace.
4. Trade for Martin Biron, Evgeny Nabokov or Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
5. Other (please specify).