With the NHL draft this weekend we know three things a: There will be trades 2: there will be “off the board” picks and d: all bets are off on sane prices being paid to get starting goalies and top four defenseman. Some of the names being talked about are Scott Clemmenson of the Panthers, Cory Schnieder of the Canucks, and Rich Peverley of the Bruins as trade bait. Your guess is as good as any on which move where.

What We Know (by the new divisions)

Division A:

Anaheim: There are more rumors surrounding the Ducks and Bobby Ryan going to at least 41 other NHL teams than in at least a year. Capwise they can probably afford to keep him, in reality they need a 2nd line center, to resign Palmeri and of course the Ducks aren’t a cap ceiling team.

Calgary: While we’re all sympathetic to the flood devastation in the Flames home arena, it might just be considered a metaphor for what ownership and management have been doing to the team for a decade. Free agency will likely bring one or two more contracts like Wideman’s. They do have a good deal of cap space, and if the move Cammalleri, they’ll gain six million more. What they’d get in return is a mystery but based on recent trades…

Edmonton: They desperately need a viable defense, which is why they’ve been linked to every goaltender on the planet. With the 7th pick of the first round a player like Darnell Nurse would be a great find, if history holds true expect a forward to be drafted. Unfortunately the UFA market doesn’t hold much hope of pulling in a blueliner or two that would help, and the best name linked to Edmonton in rumors is Braydon Coburn.

Los Angeles: They need to get faster, and their cap hit needs to get slimmer. They have 10 forwards and 5 defenseman signed, and only six million in cap space. It’s likely several of he free agents like Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi, Brad Richardson and one or two of the RFA’s have played out there string. With Martinez, Muzzin, and Lewis as yet unsigned and the Kings having no first round pick, a trade or two might be a solid solution for cap and talent reasons.

Phoenix: The more I watch this saga, the less convinced I am the Glendale city council wants a sports team in town. Four picks in the first three seventy five gives a solid chance for moving the roster forward, no matter what happens to the franchise.

San Jose: As the only one of the California teams not to have won a Stanley Cup the pressure on the franchise has to be mounting. With their aging core, leadership should be mighty nervous. They really need to find a way to move a big contract or two, and get back some younger, cheaper talent in return. Talent that doesn’t wilt in the playoffs would be a bonus. It is not unfair to say that if the Sharks don’t extend Couture in the immediate future that they are playing with fire and someone is likely to end up yajibuka.

Vancouver: Never a dead or a dull quiet moment in Canuckville. In addition to the ever present rumors of Luongo being traded or bought out, Cory Schneider’s coffle has been dragged to the auction block as well. With the Sedin’s aging poorly, Kesler unable to stay healthy, only 17 players signed for next year and $47,222* in cap space, this team is ready to be fleeced.

Division B

Chicago: While the celebration continues in the streets, the corner office has to make some tough choices. They have seven million in cap space and no backup goalie, no Bickell, no Kruger, no Stalberg and neither Leddy or Rozsival signed there’s likely to be turnover. It doesn’t project to be as deep at four summers ago when less than half the championship roster returned to the ice in October, but some big names and fan favorites might be pulling on another jersey this fall.

Colorado: Despite deep and pressing needs at defense, the team has said they would not take Seth Jones at number one. This could mean they intend to trade down and take him at 2-4, or it could just be another case of not having a clue. Cap wise the team is one of the few in an enviable state with 22 players signed and over $11 million in space.

Dallas: With three picks in the first forty, it is possible the Stars will find a center to go with high end wingers Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, and maybe just maybe a solid young defenseman to play with Alex Goligoski. They too have a lot of cap space if they are able to spend higher and could end up doing quite well in trades against some of the teams feeling the cap crunch.

Minnesota: The Wild have been rumored up and down the Twittersphere to be moving iconic hit maker Cal Clutterbuck this weekend. Having finally reached the playoffs after a long layoff, the team is loaded with talent, and also high end contracts. They have less than 3.5millon in cap space. Clutterbuck’s qualifying offer would be less than two million, but he’s unlikely to sign for less than 2.5 in my book.

Smashville Nashville: To call last season a disappointment is a bit of an understatement. After making themselves a playoff fixture, the team took two steps back and ended up in the lottery. If the fates are kind, or the general managers ahead of them smart, they will get a much needed dynamic forward in the draft. Respectable centers are needed for the top two lines, and some goal scoring. A trade that saw them land a center for an immediate push back towards contention would be a savvy move for the general manager of team USA and the Nashville Predators, might such a trade involve a Team USA veteran and a cap strapped western rival?

St. Louis: The Blues are in need of more offensive minded and able forwards. They presently have arguable the best defense in the conference, certainly top 3, but just can’t score enough. Vladimir Tarasenko should help the offense, but priority one for this team this off season isn’t the draft or any forwards, it is locking up Alex Pietrangelo for as long as they can. Simply put he’s one of the two or three best defensemen under 25 with  complete game, and his best years ahead of him.

Winnipeg: The Jets need depth. Depth at center, depth at wing, depth at goal, depth in warm winter coats. The honeymoon phase of the midnight train from Georgia is pretty much over and the fans are going to expect production. With both roster spaces and almost thirty million in cap space, the Jets are in good position to exploit the trade and free agent markets for what they possess. The Dustin Byfugelien trade rumors continue which makes zero sense at this point even if he’s stated he will never sign another contract there.

This summer look for my series on increasing NHL scoring without sacrificing fundamentals of the game.

 *According to Capgeek

The Philadelphia Flyers have made no secret of their ability to spend money. They’ve made free with the funds for years. This year they are the top spending team, next year they are the top spending team. This is a problem because with 19 players signed for next season, and the cap set to decline sharply, they will have $2,225,119.00 to sign the needed bodies. As things stand, they will need to add two forwards and a netminder. Of course if if you can get all three for league minimum of $550,000 each, you can rest easy with three fourths of a million left over. Well, you can rest easy if there’s no injuries in an 82 game season, no one misses a game due to illness or personal issues and of course everyone gives their all skillfully everynight and no one needs the motivation provided by the view from the press box.

So what is the problem? They overpaid their goaltender. A guy who has won nothing, has a spotty playoff record, and who had never played in the more skilled Eastern Conference.  Yet they signed him to a nine year contract with a cap hit higher than the two most recent Vezina trophy winners at the time it was signed. To make matters worse they gave him a full no movement clause.

Chris Pronger’s contract is not only a 35+ contract, it has a full no movement clause. Sure, Chris Pronger was a top 15 defenseman at the time he was signed, but he’d had several injuries even then. His injuries include time off the ice due to; knees, wrists, ankles, shoulders. Those are pretty important parts of the body to any player. To a defenseman who relies on hard hits and bad attitude to patrol the ice, they are doubly important. Add to that his suspension history, and the fact he was over 35 at the time and you have to wonder what exactly Holmgren thought he was doing when signing Pronger to a seven year contract to a guy over 35.

Kimmo Timonen is a favorite of a lot of NHL fans and proud son of Finland. He’s been there and done that in his time in the NHL. Unfortunately Timonen will be 38 years old in less than three weeks. His goal scoring has already slowed down. And guess what? Even without Pronger and with a real and desperate need for defensive prowess, Timonen’s ice time is down year over year every year. Not surprisingly his goal production is down. Because I have such bright readers I’m sure you will have figured out that yes he to has a full no movement clause.

As Frank Seravalli let us know, Danny Briere has no interest in waiving his no movement clause. This despite interest from two teams with much better chances of winning the Stanley Cup in the next two years than the aggressively mediocre Flyers. Briere unlike Pronger who isn’t playing at all, or Timonen who is declining could contribute to another team and get a good return. With just two years left on his contract if he stays healthy he could be back in Philly in two years when whatever return he nets the city where his heart is cold be contributing to the lineup.

These four players all have or had at least the potential to be in the top 10 or 15% of the of players at their position in the league. If they were the only ones who could put the kibosh on a trade I wouldn’t be writing this post. Unfortunately Brayden Coburn who is overpaid by about 30% has a no trade clause. Grossmann who is overpaid by about the same amount also has a no trade clause, and he’s barely fourth in TOI/G for Flyers defensemen. Scott Hartnell who has highly variable contributions year to year has a no trade clause, Ruslan Fedetenko does as well. All of these add up to a staggering $37,385,714.00 in cap space this season. It does not take an astrophysicist to understand that’s over 50% of this years cap space in contracts that are either impossible to move or can only be moved by going back on your word.

Not only does this stratospheric stack of handicaps make the team harder to improve through trades for roster players, because of who doesn’t have no trade or no movement clauses you can either shuffle third and fourth line players and 6-8th defenseman, or deal important roster players like Giroux or Simmonds who you might not want to move, but who you might not have any choice but to part with. With the current roster configuration the team can’t even afford to call up players on entry level contracts to fill in. Ones things for sure, someone in the Flyers power structure is going to spend the next three or four years cursing these deals as they will almost certainly be left with two equally unpalatable choices; sit idly by and let time solve some of the problems, or trade away talent for pennies on the dollar and hope against hope the farm system can fill the voids.

Almost all the stories in this game were answered in the first period.  The Bruins jumped on the board 30 seconds in, and then thirty three seconds later the game winner was scored. Chara and Krejci lit the lamp to open things up and the Flyers never managed to look like a playoff team. Odd as it sounds Boucher and Bobrovsky were the two best players on the ice for Philadelphia all night.

Jeff Carter played a lukewarm 19 minutes, with four shots and an abysmal 17% faceoff showing. McQuaid and Pronger as most expected did not play and probably had just as much positive impact on the game as two thirds of the Flyers roster.  There was little effort up and down the lineup as evidenced by Mezaros and O’Donnell being the two most visible Flyers skaters all night. After Horton had his goal and assist O’Donnell was kind enough to provide Horton with the clincher for his Gordie Howe hat trick where Horton controlled space and got the take down.  Mezaros kept his team from shutout, but not much else can be said for the Flyers.

Nathan Horton and Daniell Paille both scored to in the second to send Brian Boucher back to the bench. Bobrovsky didn’t see much rubber but was kind enough to let the Bruins score on a 5 on 3 after his teammates took not one but two senseless, bushleague penalties with less than two minutes left in the game. The first was hauling Bergeron down from behind just half a step before he would have had a clear shot on the empty net, the second was a mugging of Marchand by Coburn in the corner that got entered in the books as a cross check.

Zero effort from the Flyers leads to owning zero wins after three games.

The series is guaranteed to be very different for both teams than than their first round matches. Both teams are physical, both reply on their physicality, and their opponents to key their emotions, and sharpen their play.  Here are the key story lines to series.

Missing in action:

Milan Lucic and Chris Pronger will each be looked to for greater input on this series than the last. While its unlikely we’ll see the two of them throwing the body at each other, neither will pass up the opportunity to make an impact on the scoreboard or someoness body.

Net math 3 != 1

Tim Thomas is not Tukka Rask, nor is he one of the three goalies to start for the Flyers in the first round, or the fourth guy who got dressed. Tim Thomas will need to match or better his first round .926 2.25 numbers to get to the conference finals. The platoon of goalies in Philadelphia will have to step up just to compete.

A-wristed-development

Neither Mike Richards, nor David Krejci has had the impact of the formers hit on the latter in the playoffs thus far. Krejci has more goals, with just one, and Richards has more points. With depth being what separates contenders from champions, these two will need to kick the dust of the spurs and get into it this round.

After the giants

Pronger and Chara are two of the most imposing and impressive men ever to play their position. But this series will not be decided by them, it will be Seidenberg, Ference, and Mcquaid dueling with Timonnen, Mezaros, Coburn. How these guys stand up to their opponents is probably the single most interestting subplot of the series.

Is it really a power play?

Neither team had a useful power play in the first round, if either team can ignite theirs this could be a tipping point in the series.

 

Entering last season as the Bruins ironman Mark Stuart was poised for a breakout season. The previous spring he’d been the best defenseman on the ice in the Boston-Carolina series. He’s always brought his desire to win, his focus and his ferocity. Not known as a goal scorer he is shut down defensive force who is fairly similar to the Flyers Brayden Coburn.

During the first month of the season he was a +2 with three points as the Bruins mostly spun the wheels. Later in the season he would break his sternum early in a game, and continue playing while dishing out more hits. Later after delivering a clean, devastating hit

on Anze Kopitar, is forced to defend himself against a visored Wayne Simmonds, breaking his hand in the process.

This same hand would come back to haunt him later taking a second month out of his schedule and limiting the big, physical bruiser who has been dubbed “the Caveman” for his strength, to just four games against the Flyers.

Having been resigned to a one year contract that will leave him an unrestricted I have to wonder how much he really desires to play here in the future. Andrew Ference who has only once played a complete NHL season and was a veteran when he arrived in the middle of the 2006-07 season, has played less games in that time than Stuart who was rookie and broke in that year. Ference in his time with the Bruins is a -16, and managed just three goals in that time, is somehow being paid half a million more. Stuart in that time has been a +29 with only his rookies year, in which he played 17 games being a minus year with a -1. Stuart also has 12 goals in that time.

To all appearances, a +/- differential of 45, three times the amount of NHL goals scored, and sixty nine more games played across five years is good for a $575,000 surcharge on your salary. Also of note is that the game differential is more games than Ference has managed to acquire in any one season with the Bruins and is more games than he’s played for any team in all but three seasons stretching back to his rookie year in 99-00.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Brayden Coburn a draft year mate of Stuart just reupped with the Flyers. Coburn is very comparable to Stuart with a touch more offense but less grit, and both play behind one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Coburn’s two year deal is for $3.2 million per season on an equally cap strapped team. Coburn now in his second NHL organization is a career +15.

I’m afraid it might just be time for this: