As we creep closer to the opening of camp, a few items to pique your hockey interest:
Zherdev Update -- Lyle Richardson at The Hockey News offers the following update on Z:
Nikolai Zherdev became an unrestricted free agent when the New York Rangers exercised their option to walk away from his one-year, $3.9-million arbitration award, but he will find it difficult to find another NHL suitor. Zherdev has undeniable offensive skills, with 119 points over the past two seasons split between the Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, but he’s considered a lazy, one-dimensional player unable to elevate his game in pressure situations. Most reports about him involve clubs that aren’t interested in signing him, including the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. A report in New York Newsday cited a rumor out of Toronto claiming the Maple Leafs might have interest in Zherdev, but his style of play certainly doesn’t make him a Brian Burke-type player. The Leafs are in the market for more scoring depth, but it’d be shocking if Burke signed Zherdev. Newsday reported Zherdev’s agent has suggested his client could sign with a Kontinental League team if there was nothing available for him in the NHL.
Sounds like a "fool me once, shame on you -- fool me twice, shame on me" deal. Thank you, Scott Howson . . .
Another defenseman on the market? Richardson also reports that Hurricanes' defenseman Anton Babchuck might be available:
Teams interested in a defenseman with offensive skills might want to get in touch with Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, who recently told the Raleigh News & Observer of his plans to shop Anton Babchuk. A restricted free agent, Babchuk was unable to reach an agreement on a new contract with Rutherford. The defenseman posted good numbers last season with the Hurricanes (16 goals, 35 points, plus-13 in 72 games) and could be a good addition for teams seeking a puck-moving defenseman. Babchuk earned $1 million last season and will undoubtedly try to use his numbers to land something in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. If Rutherford fails to trade him before the start of this season, Babchuk could opt to play in Russia, which he did in 2007-08 during a contract dispute with the Hurricanes.
That is an interesting possibility, given that he is an RFA, depending upon the price. 25 years old, right-handed shot, 6'5", 212 lbs -- rated a top 4 defenseman by THN-- sounds plausible. A bit concerned about his departure for KHL in 2007-2008, due to disagreements with Carolina management -- don't want another Zherdev around here. Certainly worth kicking the tires. Scott?
Raising Kane . . . Gotta love Patrick Kane being arrested for assault, robbery and theft of services in a dust up with a cab driver in Buffalo over . . . 20 cents. Hey, Pat -- ever heard of tipping??? Smells like maybe an adult beverage or 12 were involved in this one. With the other major leagues getting fairly aggressive in coming down on conduct detrimental to the image of the game, wonder where Bettman will draw the line. Sure, he stepped up on the Sean Avery deal, but in the personal conduct area, that is analagous to letting all the murderers go except Charles Manson. There must be a line that is crossed far short of Avery's antics. . .
Meanwhile, the waiting game continues, as teams search for the magic formula to clear some cap space and predict what the next few years will hold. Heatley, Marleau, Kessel -- the list is pretty long. Likely to be a quiet week this week, but I think things will pick up after that, as we get inside the 30 day mark left before training camp. Fun to watch!