Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kostitsyn enigma solved in Winnipeg?

When looking at the Winnipeg Jets roster I see a need for a RW to play with Alexander Burmistrov and Evander Kane . The addition of a scoring winger would compliment the slick passing Burmistrov and power game of Kane giving the Jets a potent 2nd line. My perusal of NHL rosters gleaned a possible solution to the issue that also solves a rumored Jets issue. I suggest the Winnipeg Jets trade Nik Antropov to the Montreal Canadians for Andrei Kostitsyn and MB born prospect Brock Trotter.

Why Montreal does it: Kostitsyn has been inconsistent with the Habs since they drafted him 10th overall in the 2003 draft. His time there has been frustrating for both Coaches and fans with him showing flashes of brilliance combined with sporadic effort. Montreal did not make a long-term commitment to him by signing the RFA to only a one year deal for $3.25M, not a raise, giving him UFA status after this coming season.

Three weeks later Montreal signed FA RW  Erik Cole to a four year deal at $4.5M a year giving them six top-six forwards under contract for at least two years, five with no-trade clauses. This effectively bumps Kostitsyn out if the top six forwards indefinitely if not (barring teammate injury) permanently. This demotion could lead to his being available, perhaps at his newly appraised (depreciated?) value as a 3rd liner?

Do you think it is a discouraging situation for the 26 year-old, being devalued coming in to his contract year? Lowered ice-time, playing with third line players and less PP minutes (if any) in his UFA season. Do you think it might lower his production and therefore his stock just a wee bit? How much will it cost him in the future if this is how his season in Montreal plays out? Keeping him as injury insurance for the top six forwards isn't very considerate treatment to their former 1st round pick. It may be best if they were to move him prior to training camp since he is indeed disgruntled with his current status. See this article from TSN today expressing his displeasure.

Antropov fits in Montreal well as he can play all three forward positions and brings his 6'6" 240 lb. frame to the rink. The Habs have the smallest group of top-nine forwards in the NHL with five players under 6' tall, adding his size to the line-up would be a welcome addition. They have historically put up similar offensive numbers so there would be little change there. Antropov has two years left with a cap hit of $4,062,500 each year with a salary of $4.25M + $4.75M.

Brock Trotter recently signed a two-way one year deal after a year in the KHL. His departure to Russia for a season might indicate a fresh start in a new organization is in order.

Why Winnipeg Does it: Antropov doesn't fit in with the youth movement in Winnipeg as his ice-time will be scaled back as the young Jets mature. There are also rumors that he's not interested in playing in Winnipeg. If true, he must be moved before training camp and the Habs seem to be a good fit. Trotter is a Manitoba boy that would bust his ass to try to make the Jets. Kostitsyn might benefit from a move to a team with ice-time and PP time available aplenty. His contract status and an opportunity to secure a top-six forward position should be enough motivation to see some more consistent play from him.

With a smooth set-up man like Burmistrov and a gifted bruiser like Kane patrolling the other wing, could Kostitsyn flourish and turn into the 40 goal man Winnipeg desperately needs? Is a new environment all that he needs to find his groove and deliver consistent results? Is trading the versatile Antropov worth it to take a chance Kostitsyn may finally realize his high potential?

Worst case scenario is he doesn't improve and is traded at the deadline or walks away at seasons end. Best case is he gets serious about his game, lights the lamp for 40+ goals and re-signs with Winnipeg long-term. That situation can happen if he realises this is the season he has to shake the enigmatic label he has acquired or he could wind up in the KHL. Simply put, given the Jets need for scoring, would trading a short term asset in Antropov for a winger capable of scoring 30+, maybe 40 goals in Kostitsyn be a good idea? I have to say yes, gifted scorers are rare and Winnipeg wins huge if Kostitsyn decides to man-up and play hard consistently.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weber to Winnipeg? Hmmm... Weberpeg?

My previous post detailed why I believe Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators is on the trading block. Most G.M.s in the NHL will be making contact with Nashville to gauge their interest in opening negotiations on the movement of Weber. There will be some very attractive offers of quality players, maybe some prospects and/or draft picks. Nashville will be looking to maintain their low-budget philosophy and not take on a large, lengthy contract.

Here is where the tough part of my proposal comes in. Packaging the right Jets assets to acquire Shea Weber without decimating the team or it's future to get him as well as fitting Nashville's specific needs. So without further delay, here is my proposal.

The Predators send Shea Weber and the rights to prospect Zach Budish to the Jets for Zach Bogosian, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a 1st round pick in 2013. Before you scroll down to comment and berate my idea, please allow me to explain why this is a good trade for both teams.

Why The Predators do it: Zach Bogosian is a 21 year-old potential star D-man who could be a cornerstone piece in Nashville for years to come. Playing strong on both ends of the ice he could mature in to a top-line defenseman making the Weber departure bearable. He is presently a RFA likely looking for a contract in the $4M+ range which looks like a bargain compared to Webers $7.5M.

Johnny Oduya is a top four D-man that can play major minutes this season as Jonathon Blum and Ryan Ellis mature. Oduyas contract has one year remaining for $4M with a $3.5M cap hit which has three benefits. The first is Nashville is presently just over the salary cap floor with no one left to re-sign on the roster so his cap hit combined with Bogosians will keep them there. The second is he could be valuable at the trade deadline if the youth development on D progresses well enough this season. Third is the possibility of a reasonably priced extension if they decide to trade upcoming UFA Ryan Suter.

Patrice Cormier is on his rookie two-way contract (two years left) giving Nashville economical depth at C/LW. Cormier is a highly thought of future 2nd or 3rd line two-way forward with strong defensive skills that will score some goals. First round draft picks are always welcome assets in a deal.

There are reasons I believe this offer might be more attractive than others even though you may be thinking "Not enough star power going to Nashville for Weber ". The acquisition of a "star" player usually means a big money contract with multiple years left. The Preds have historically been a low spending team and may be adverse to receiving a long expensive contract in trade. Ryan Suter (3.5M) and Pekka Rinne (3.4M) are UFAs next summer and will command healthy raises in Nashville. With the Preds refusal to pay top dollar for one of the leagues best D-men, what does their future hold?

Bogosian has the potential to be a star D-man in and could be signed for a few years at a fraction of Webers $7.5M. Oduya fills in nicely on D and on the salary cap. Cormier is considered a strong prospect and with the Preds having six FA forwards next summer his depth is likely welcome. The Preds get a potential replacement for Weber, another top 4 D-man, depth at forward, no big contract, a 1st round pick and their cap issue covered.

Why Winnipeg does it: It's freaking Shea Weber! To acquire one of the best defensemen in the NHL as he is hitting his prime would certainly make a massive statement in Winnipeg for the new ownership. Weber is a dominating force on both ends of the ice putting up 16 goals and 32 assists for 48 points (5th overall for D-men) while playing over 25 minutes per game last season. His dynamic play, strong leadership and character make him a great addition to the roster for years to come.

The Jets defense is instantly upgraded and we would have the highest point producing top four D-men in the league. Pairing him with Dustin Byfuglien would make them the biggest, hardest hitting and shooting 1st D pairing in the NHL. Playing them apart would probably balance out our top four D better and make them one of the leagues upper echelon groupings. The loss of Bogosian and Oduya on D would not be felt with Webers play.

That is why a player of Cormiers worth and the 1st round pick need to be included to complete this trade for this All-Star player. The first round pick in 2013 should be in the late teens or in the 20's (30th = Woo Hoo) since the Jets expect/hope to be a strong playoff contender by then.

Prospect Zach Budish is a 20 year-old 6'3" 223 lb. RW playing at the University of Minnesota. He tore his ACL seven games into last season and has fully recovered from surgery. He plays complete game with a scoring touch and has the potential to make the NHL in the future. I also like getting a Zach back for a Zach.

One thing that could be in the Jets managements favor is that other than Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler, they haven't made any commitments to the supposed core of the team. The fanbase also hasn't had the opportunity to get very attached to the players yet so the trading of a core player wouldn't hurt player or fan relations. Winnipeg Jets fever would go through the roof with the acquisition of Weber and the statement it would make about wanting a cup.

There are several questions surrounding the possibility of this trade working:
  • Does Nashville receive a proposal better suited to them than the Winnipeg offer prior to training camp?
  • Deep-pocketed True North has been disciplined in their spending since purchasing the Jets, does paying $8M a year for the best D-man in hockey fall in their line of thinking?
  • I sincerely hope they would spend appropriate big dollars on a worthy player developed in Winnipeg, why not for Weber just hitting his prime?
  • The fact that Bogosian remains a RFA this late in the summer fuels the rumors that he is being shopped by the Jets, perhaps because he doesn't want to play in Winnipeg?
  • If true, wouldn't trading him for the high character leader that Weber has proven himself to be fit in the team philosophy? 
  • Would Weber sign a long term contract in Winnipeg believing the ownership is committed to winning and the team has the goods to become a cup contender? 
Shea Weber has seen the passionate Winnipeg hockey fans before. Jets Captain Andrew Ladd played with Weber in the WJC in 04-05 winning gold and those pre-tournament games were in Winnipeg. I bet he would put in a good word for playing hockey in the 'Peg as he has spoken positively since his arrival. The Jets may or may not have serious interest in getting him, and only Shea Weber can answer if he would play in Winnipeg. I sure hope the Jets management do their due diligence by at least asking him if he's interested.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shea Weber on the trading block?

The Shea Weber situation has been apparently been resolved in Nashville with him under contract for this upcoming season. Now they can look forward to the year ahead with optimism after last years playoff run, right? Don't believe it for a second, I will now explain why one of the leagues premier D-men is now available to the highest bidder.

The Weber arbitration hearing is over and he won being awarded $7.5M for a one year deal. The arbitrator decided on that number after hearing arguments justifying the Nashville low-ball offer of 4.75M and the Weber inflated counter-offer of 8.5M. That's a healthy $3M raise from last season for the First Team All-Star.

The Preds started this by tendering RFA Shea Weber a qualifying offer removing the possibility of an offer sheet from another club. This means an arbitration hearing is scheduled and the team has until then to work out a deal with the player. Most teams sign their RFA's prior to the hearing (22 of 24 this year) since the process tends to widen the rift between team and player which frequently leads to a trade of the player.

The Preds offer removed the possibility of a big payday in the form of an offer sheet with a long-term deal from potential suitors. His one year deal awarded by the arbitrator means he will be a RFA next July 1st without the possibility of arbitration. Teams can then submit an offer sheet for Weber that would compensate Nashville with four 1st round picks if he leaves. Signing a one-year deal before July 1st will allow Weber UFA status the following summer.

The arbitration process is harsh as teams rip players for their flaws to try to lower the dollar value of the to-be-awarded contract amount. The players agent praises the accomplishments of the player to get him the highest dollar value he can for his client. The player gets to sit there listening to what his team truly thinks of his past play and future potential as well as what another team out there might think of him. This conclusion to the lengthy and ultimately futile contract negotiations leads to the vast majority of players traded sometime the season following arbitration.

The conference call with Weber and Nashville President/G.M. David Poile was thick with sports cliches. They both must remember the scene from "Bull Durham" when Costners character coaches Robbins on what to say in an interview as they really put a positive spin on the ordeal. History shows that all this presentation that all is well on the home front is a farce. Teams traded 9 of the last 10 RFAs that went to an arbitration hearing that season and the other player went the following year.

The Preds can buck the trend but they would have to convince Weber they committed to winning and that means the contract extensions of teammates Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. Both of these players are UFAs so if they walk at seasons end there is no compensation for Nashville. The signing or trading of these two would have to occur prior to the trade deadline to alleviate that risk. Will they pay the 11, 12 or even 13M a season long-term to keep these two... and then sign Weber for 7.5+M for a long-term contract as well? Nothing in Nashvilles low-budget history would lead me to think they would spend almost a third of their cap space on three players.  

Under these circumstances the team usually doesn't get full value in trade since other teams are well aware of the need for the player to be moved, but not this time. There are 29 other teams that would love to acquire this Norris trophy candidate D-man. That will be easier sooner than later as teams will be more willing to pull the trigger on a major deal that could shake-up their team prior to the season. Moving Weber before training camp will allow the team to move forward without the distraction of "when will he be traded?" discussions. Do the Preds even want him at training camp telling the twelve free-agent teammates about how he spent his summer vacation?

Trading for him would be contingent on his re-signing with the acquiring team. He wants to be the highest paid D-man in the league and he could be worth it. He may be the best defenseman in the NHL for the next decade. That means $7.5M+ and at least five years for the about to be 26 year-old is the contract the team acquiring him would need to prepared to pay. There are several teams that would do this in the blink of an eye, but do they have the right assets to to get him as well as keep him? Weber wants a championship so his believing in the organization and his teammates is crucial to his signing.

Now the chaos begins as teams across the league are dialing Nashville saying "can we talk?". David Poile will sift through the offers looking for high value and low costs. High dollars with a long term aren't likely to go over well given the frugal approach shown throughout team history right up to this summer. Only time will tell which NHL G.M. will put together the right offer and he will likely have to win a bidding war to do so. Shea Weber will be moved, it's just a matter of when.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Limited time offer...

        Here is a proposed trade that would have to be done pronto because of the status of one of the principles. The Winnipeg Jets send Ron Hainsey to the New York Islanders for Blake Comeau (RFA Hearing August 4th), a conditional pick and the rights to Kirill Petrov.                      

        Why the Islanders do it: They need a durable D that can play big minutes while their youth on D matures. Hainsey can play those big minutes and has only missed 3 NHL games to injury in 8 seasons. Last season no Islander D played in 65 games so his ability to play the L or R side would come in handy. He was a +3 over 82 games on a porous Atlanta team last season and spent only 24 minutes in the penalty box. He looks like a great fit on the Island.

        New York has an issue being $5,949,834 below the cap for next season and the UFA pool doesn't give them any serious options. Hainsey is a 4.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons with a salary of 5 million in year one and 3 million in year two. Hainsey would have to agree to the trade since he has a no-trade clause, but given his reduced role in Winnipeg as well as the chance to be a top four D-man again, he may not have a better opportunity.                                  

         Ron Hainsey Age: 30 Date of birth: March 24, 1981 Place of birth: Bolton, CT        Ht: 6-3 Wt: 210 Shoots: Left.  Salary: $5,000,000 NHL Seasons: 8 Drafted by Montreal in 2000 (1/13).

Regular SeasonPlayoffs
1997-98U.S. Junior National TeamUSHL30000----------
1997-98U.S. National Under-18 TeamNAHL40471116
1998-99U.S. Junior National TeamUSHL485121745----------
2000-01Quebec CitadellesAHL41010-310000
2001-02Quebec CitadellesAHL6372431261630000
2002-03Montreal CanadiensNHL210002-1----------
2002-03Hamilton BulldogsAHL332111326-2231101120
2003-04Montreal CanadiensNHL1111243----------
2003-04Hamilton BulldogsAHL54724313514100556
2004-05Hamilton BulldogsAHL689142345-341120
2005-06Hamilton BulldogsAHL223141719-10----------
2005-06Columbus Blue JacketsNHL55215174313----------
2006-07Columbus Blue JacketsNHL809253469-19----------
2007-08Columbus Blue JacketsNHL788243225-7----------
2008-09Atlanta ThrashersNHL816333932-16----------
2009-10Atlanta ThrashersNHL805212639-6----------
2010-11Atlanta ThrashersNHL8231619243----------
NHL Totals48834135169238

      Comeau had a 24 goal season which could potentially win him as much as 3 million+ in arbitration, and he'll likely get over 2 million in a loss. The Ralston acquisition had Comeau drop to the 4th line which means the Isles are likely to walk away, win or lose rather than pay that much cash to a 4th line guy. The pick is based on if the Jets get Comeau signed by Thursday, August 4th. Like I said... limited time offer. The Jets get a 5th if he is signed before becoming an UFA, a 3rd if he goes free. This gives New York the chance of getting some value for a player that no longer fits with the team instead of just walking away with nothing.

      Blake Comeau: Age: 25 Date of birth: February 18, 1986 Place of birth: Meadow Lake, Sask, Canada Ht: 6-1 Wt: 207 Shoots: Right Salary: $800,000 NHL Seasons: 5 Drafted by NY Islanders in 2004 (2/47).    

Regular Season Playoffs
2001-02Kelowna RocketsWHL300040----------
2002-03Kelowna RocketsWHL545182377111921320
2003-04Kelowna RocketsWHL71102333123131742623
2004-05Kelowna RocketsWHL6524234710810246121834
2005-06Kelowna RocketsWHL60215374851512491322
2005-06Bridgeport Sound TigersAHL------------70330
2006-07Bridgeport Sound TigersAHL6112314346-8----------
2006-07New York IslandersNHL300000----------
2007-08Bridgeport Sound TigersAHL314151930-9----------
2007-08New York IslandersNHL518715221----------
2008-09New York IslandersNHL537182532-17----------
2008-09Bridgeport Sound TigersAHL194151922420000
2009-10New York IslandersNHL6117183540-2----------
2010-11New York IslandersNHL7724224643-17----------
NHL Totals2455665121137

        Kirill Petrov was a 3rd pick in 2008 and has been in the KHL since. He played little in 08/09 + 09/10 but played 47 games in 10/11 after Kazan traded him to Khanty-Mansiisk for a 5th round pick in the KHL draft. He is under contract there until after the 11/12 season. The Isles have an abundance of young forward prospects that would make it difficult to crack the roster... perhaps enough discouragement to consider staying in the KHL.            

         Kirill Petrov Age: 21 Date of birth: April 13, 1990 Place of birth: Kazan, USSR (RUS) Ht: 6-3 Wt: 198 Shoots Left. NHL Seasons 0-R Drafted by NY Islanders in 2008 (3/73).         

Regular SeasonPlayoffs
2006-07Kazan Ak-BarsRussia9112830002
2007-08Kazan Ak-BarsRussia4746105481120
2008-09Kazan Ak-BarsKHL610121----------
2009-10Kazan Ak-BarsKHL80004-330110
2010-11Kazan Ak-BarsKHL200000----------
2010-11Khanty-Mansiysk YugraKHL478111920362248

         Why Winnipeg does it: They need scoring and Hainsey is a victim of the youth movement on the Jets and last season was relegated to the 3rd pairing on D. The Jets now have Mark Stuart as the 5th D-man and signed UFA Randy Jones for an economical 6th member of the D. The Jets have a few good choices in the system for a 7th D-man so Hainsey and his salary become highly tradeable.                    

         Blake Comeau is a prairie boy that could get major minutes in the 'Peg if he shows that scoring touch of his is for real. He did score 19 even strength goals last season playing with a variety of line-mates moving between the 2nd and 3rd line. He has size, he hits and his ability play RW or LW gives gives the Jets options to get him on the ice.                    

        Winnipeg offers Petrov a better chance of making an NHL club than the Isles or a lot of other teams. One look at their lack of scoring punch among their prospects in the system says why. He wants to play in the NHL after this season, Winnipeg could be his best chance. If he is to succeed in the Show, he needs to play defence to compliment his scoring touch.                    

        Would Comeau take an offer from Winnipeg for say... two years at 2.5 million a year to play close to home and get real opportunity for meaningful minutes? By Thursday? Does he believe he will get more if he were to go to free agency? Would Hainsey wave his NTC to go to New York? These questions would need answering very quickly to assess if this trade could work.