Change and unequal cycles of it are a constant in the NHL. The vogue for over a decade was to draft goalies in the first round, sometimes even very high or first overall. Drafting for need is now frowned upon. And in the last decade we’ve not seen more than two or three major trades. But that trend was almost certainly broken when Ilya Kovalchuk went north.

Since last summer two of the major names from “the golden draft” were traded by one team. One of them was traded a second time. Now the rumor mill is swirling around names from border to border and coast to coast. Jay Bouwmeester is one of the best (and most misused) defensemen in the NHL. There are four defensemen who I’ll accept flat statements of defensemen being better than him, and another four or five who with a different tool set are as good, no more. He’s likely the odd man out on the Calgary Flames roster.

The Nashville Predators have not traditionally been big spenders. A year ago they went to arbitration with one of the best defensemen in the game. This year if they don’t sign him long term it is quite likely he’ll disappear over the horizon next summer. On top of the very real possibility of losing this year’s (and last year’s) rightful Norris trophy winner Shea Weber, their other franchise quality defenseman has decided to test the free agent market. If the Predators can’t find a way to keep both they may just decide a radical rebuild is in order and trade their captain while they can still get something for him instead of letting him walk as a free agent for no return. Without Weber and Suter the Predators would be lucky to win 20 games, and that’s with Renne stealing at least six or seven. With one of them if they manage to get some help up front and a passable replacement they arguably have the balance to go far.

Jordan Staal has more rumors swirling around him than a Hollywood starlet the morning after an serious bender. Most of them are Hurricane shaped rumors. But given the 23 year old stars prowess, even the denial of his availability by Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Ray Shero probably won’t do much to dampen the rumors. As long as those rumors persist, the 30 goal scoring “defensive forward” is going to generate a lot of attention. If there are two teams in the NHL that don’t at least kick the idea of adding him to their roster around their warroom, I’d be saddened greatly.

With all the excitement around the fresh chum in the water its almost possible to forget the #Ranson4Rick saga is entering its sixth or seventh month. Rick Nash is unarguably a high end talent who had the misfortune of being drafted by a team with nearly a thimble full of clue. Some might say he’s been stewing in organizational failure so long he’s never going to have that extra juice to be successful in the playoffs he’s seen exactly once in nine seasons. Depending on who you disbelieve least, the rumors have him going anywhere and everywhere including the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, and a couple of basement dwellers not much better than the Blue Jackets.

 There are conflicting reports on the truth of Evander Kane refusing to sign in Winnipeg, but honestly how many rugged, physical, 30 goal scoring 20 year olds come across the trade market? On a sign and trade there’s no conceivable way he’d fetch less than two first round picks or a pick and player. A team like the Los Angeles Kings who may lose some bodies to free agency could certainly slide him into the mix and improve themselves. The Anahiem Ducks would likewise become a much more formidable opponent. As for the Phoenix Coyotes with the aging core that they have been built around, a youngster who has a similar rugged playing style to Captain Shane Doan and more offense isn’t a bad way to pass the torch. If the ownership situation is resolved there I’d be shocked if there were no major moves in the first few months.

So is this the summer scribes across the continent get to write about things that have or are happening? Will we see more posts on how lineups project and a reordering of the standings than on fighting or contracts that are too long? Maybe just maybe the hockey media will stick to hockey and not TMZ like personal life stories of players? Could we get a trade or two that redefines the next decade of hockey? Please??

If you listen to Red Wings fans this is clearly the dirtiest play in history.

After all a team that employs Bertuzzi knows a thing for fifty about dirty. It got two minutes as the period was winding down at the end of game one. It was called roughing. It deserved a roughing. Two minutes is well earned by the Predators Captain.

Given the Red Wings ever accumulating age, and their highly justifiable and long standing reputation for playing soft a reminder that their are rough men on the ice is very notable occasion. In terms of game play it was unneeded. If it was calculated it was brilliant gamesmanship. The Predators have home ice against the most dominant team of the last quarter century. That team is currently in decline, and had a bad road record this year. Making the trips to Bridgestone Arena an even more unpleasant thought for Detroit’s heroes is absolutely a legitimate way of assisting the teams advancement to the next round.

If it wasn’t calculated, that sort of recklessness is just stupid. Either way, no apparent harm to Zetterberg, the two minutes was worth it. Some people think Weber will be getting a call from the NHL’s discipline czar. It is worth noting that Henrik Zetterberg shared a locker room with Brendan Shanahan for three full seasons before the latter moved on to the Rangers and Devils.

As of today, the Montreal Canadiens have twelve players and just under $44million committed for next season. This is hardly the worst cap situation a team has ever been in, but if the cap should go down, or key players demand more than management has budgeted things could spin out of control and get even uglier than the current season.

The biggest issue facing the Habs heading into the off season is who isn’t signed. The bad contracts currently on the payroll are there and just need to be accepted if they aren’t assigned to the minors or don’t miraculously spend the whole of next season on the injured reserve. Hal Gill was just jettisoned for what is potentially an overpayment.

Of the up and coming players Lars Eller and Alexi Emelin are arguably (not that it’s a good argument) at the bottom of the list. Emelin is in his first season in North America but brought with him a level of punishing physicality that can’t be understated. Lars Eller is likely to double his rookie seasons numbers and with a hot streak might just hit the 20 goal mark. Both are guys who performed admirably against a variety of opponents. It’s unlikely that the two will be moved or cost a great deal as both are at the end of their entry level contracts, but it is hard to imagine either signing for no raise or a cut in pay.

Next on the list is Andrei Kostitsyn. While his name was mentioned more than once in trade speculation (as it has been for years running) he’s also sixth on the team in points this season, despite missing some games. They will need to replace his goals, something that probably won’t come from their farm system and even if they are lucky enough to win the lottery and draft Yakupov, they haven’t shown a great deal of faith in the ability of rookies to produce in the NHL at a young age. The free agent market will likely have Alex Semin on the list but Semin has made six million each of the last two seasons. Other offensive upgrades are likely to top the reasonably $3.25m Kostitsyn is taking home now.

Raphael Diaz is another player who’s importance is magnified with the cloud of uncertainty that is Andrei Markov’s health on the table. He’s blocked a ton of shots, contributed offensively and not wasted a lot of time in the box. Better still he’s contributed points shorthanded as part of an effective penalty kill, and on the powerplay too. With Gill gone the defensive aspects of his game take on even more importance than his offensive ones.

And then there are the big guns. P.K. Subban and Carey Price. The two are by almost any measure the two most skilled players on the team. Price as a goalie is still maturing and despite playing behind a lackluster defense that was breaking in two rookies as regulars he’s still turned in a .916 sv%. He’s reportedly seeking compensation similar to Pekka Rinne, which would put him in the $7mil a year range. Subban after a rough start is with Josh Gorges one of just two regular defensemen with a positive +/- this season. Add in his offense, which no one thinks was at it’s peak this year, and you’re probably in the four million range.

If either of these players holds out of demands a trade that is an enormous hole in the roster. With a fairly weak free agent market it is unlikely they will fill the holes, retain the right players and put themselves over the top all this summer. Price and Subban have to be signed if they intend to win now. If they intend to win in the future, signing Price and possibly trading Subban for a needed piece like a top center or one or two forward prospects might be the ideal.

If they are going to wait out the Gomez’s contract, and want to retain as many pieces as possible, swapping Subban and or a pick or prospect that will be less expensive now or more valuable in the future. It is possible that a swap for one of the top picks of this draft like Dumba or Murray or Faska, or even a top pick from a recent draft like Brodin or Hamilton. Having two high end young defensemen come in together and help stabilize the team identity as did Keith and Seabrook or Suter and Weber could be an enormous asset to the team for a long time.

The post I wrote because I refuse to speculate about trades today. Sorry Rick Nash fans.

In the west:

1: Detroit Red Wings vs 8: Calgary Flames

  • This clash would be interesting primarily because Iginla, Bouwmeester and Kiprusoff would have done the near impossible: drag a team without a legitimate top center, and limited depth at wings into the playoffs. Neither the team is especially good on the road. But guess what, this matchup won’t happen. Why? The Calgary Flames will be higher in the standings when all is said and done. Also interesting is that neither of these teams is all that good on the road. The reason the Flames will be a position or two higher? 15 home games remaining and only 8 road games left.

2: Vancouver Canucks vs 6: Phoenix Coyotes

  • If I had to pick a matchup for an upset, this is the one.  The goaltending and defense are a dead heat. With Mike Smith’s confidence riding high, I might even give the edge to the Coyotes in that regard, but hey when your lowest save percentage in a month is .914% you can be a little confident. The Coyotes are a lot more physical than the Canucks as well, and that was the Canucks downfall against the Bruins in the Cup finals last year. The Canucks might escape this matchup before it happens, with less than half their remaining games against playoff teams they could edge the Red Wings and Rangers for the Presidents Trophy.

3: San Jose  Sharks vs Chicago BlackHawks

  • This serious could go either way, and Canucks fans would be cheering for the two teams to lay waste to each other. Chicago’s got the better offense, but the Sharks are a better balanced team. The Sharks can win on the road, the Blackhawks are a bit challenged in that regard. This would likely end up the western series with the most offense per game as neither team has spectacular goaltending.

4: St Louis Blue vs 5: Nashville Predators

  • This all central division matchup would by any reasonable expectation be the lowest scoring of the first round, and probably the entire playoffs. But that’s no excuse to miss Erat, Weber and Suter of the Predators rolling into the playoffs with their new running buddy and Stanley Cup Champion Hal Gill (@Skillsy75) . The chance to watch TJ Oshie teleport across the ice, see David Backes run a few people over and pot a few goals while Alex Pietrangelo shows how well he can put points on the board against Rinne.

 

Assuming the top UFA’s to be like Suter and Parise are not available at the dead line, here’s a look at the best teams in the NHL and what could be done to put them over the top.

New York Rangers:

The Rangers lead the east in total points,Lundqvist is a beast and the team is in sync. What the could use is a little nitrous in the offensive tank. Of all six division leaders only the Panthers have less goals. The highest scoring left wing on the team is rookie speedster Carl Hagelin, making Ray Whitney a solid pick to slide in as an offensive upgrade who’s played well in a system that requires a defensive accountability. Better he’s old enough John Tortorella won’t hate him on sight.

Detroit Red Wings:

As always a well balanced team, but a look at the minutes played by defensemen says there is a clear divide between the guys Babcock and company trust and everyone else. A veteran defenseman who can contribute to the system is the item to covet.  Jaroslav Spacek would slide nicely into the 5-6 if he get’s some powerplay time at worst he’ll provide a different look than the crew that has them 16th in the NHL.

Boston Bruins:

It’s hard to tweak the defending champs when they have the best goals differential in the NHL, and have strong special teams. That said they’ve suffered some serious brain cramps lately, and Nathan Horton’s outlook is rather murky. Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli have a near fetish for depth on defense, and Marek Zidliky could almost certainly be talked into waiving his NTC, and there have been hints about Chris Stewart of the St Louis Blues being available. As short term stand-in for Nathan Horton he’s intriguing.

Vancouver Canucks:

Statistically this team is very similar to some of the Red Wings teams of the past, but I don’t see the same mental makeup. Those teams could deal with other teams playing a more gritty style and still win, I’m not sure this team can. Someone who combines enough skill to be on the ice fairly often, and enough composure to roll with the punches as they come up against imposing teams. Bryan Allen might be an  option, he’s likely to throw the body, and can eat up some of the PK time in the playoffs.

Florida Panthers:

While many aren’t quite ready to put the word “contender” on the board next to their name, they’ve led their division most of the season. Upgrading a 23rd ranked penalty kill going into the second season is never a bad idea. For that Hal Gill could be a their savior. Offensively there are a number of players who could help them climb a bit closer to the top offensive teams in the NHL.

San Jose Sharks:

The 26th ranked penalty kill isn’t something any team wants going into the playoffs. Mark Eaton is a UFA to be, and currently plays a good bit of time shorthanded on the Islanders 8th ranked PK, so is Steve Staios.

Philadelphia Flyers:

A defensive upgrade is a must. If they want more than a rental, or someone who’s not discussed here it probably mean sacrificing a roster player like Briere or Schenn. Having given up the most goals of the top four teams in each conference they’ll be lucky to escape the first round without some sort of fix. If the Wild become sellers or swappers, Clayton Stoner might be a good fit, likewise if the Stars sell Souray could be on the table.

Nashville Predators:

Pekka Rinne has been huge for this team, and Weber and Suter have put in their normal performances that earn superlatives like at rate similar to Scott Gomez’s dollars per point.  What the team needs is a skilled goal scorer. They aren’t desperate for goals at 12th in the league which is one behind the New York Rangers, but they are led in goals by Hornquist and Fisher who each have fifteen goals. They very quietly have the 2nd best power-play in the NHL but as we saw last year special teams don’t always decide championships. Cap space not being a serious issue, taking a flyer on Alex Semin might not be the worst idea ever, but for a player who can add some playoff experience, Jason Blake has some attractions, as does Ray Whitney.

I’d guess that at least half of the people writing about sports have their dissection of their sports All Star game half written or more before it pulls over the event horizon. Which is fine. They are awful. They don’t resemble anything like the real sport. They fuel the pinkhats to ever more ludicrous criticisms of the regular season and even post season game. Sponsors give tickets to people who can only (sorta) name the three or four most marketed players. Big names who are injured or have a “sick” grandmother don’t take part in the event. The list of things wrong with the All Star concept is longer than what is right with them.

But that’s probably for the best. This NHL All Star weekend features enough payroll to get about six teams over the cap floor. Either team could mow down any team in the NHL with a week of practice and without having to wear themselves out. But that is the point, these are the cream of the crop. By definition if you are at the All Star weekend, you are one of the two or three most important players (or most marketable, which are sometimes the same thing) for your team. Never heard of Jamie Benn before he was added to the roster? That’s ok, The Dallas Stars fans love him. John Tavares is on a team that sucks? Big deal, he’s still an absurdly talented player. You live in the southeast and have never even seen the Calgary Flames play? Jarome Iginla’s a future hall of fame inductee, get on the phone with your TV provider and pickup the Center Ice package, he’s a treat to watch. Logan Couture went last, he can’t be any good can he? Yes, yes he can. He was 2nd in voting for best rookie last season.

While the deepest teams in the league can get by without one or two studs that’s maybe five or six teams. There is also the not so subtle difference between “get by” and “thrive”. Not many people could make the argument that the Philadelphia Flyers would be a worse team with Chris Pronger int he lineup with a straight face. Even fewer would actually believe it. Chicago has been without Patrick Sharp for several weeks, and had been in first when he went out with an injury. Both are teams at the top of the depth and quality charts. But take Jamie Benn or Jarome Iginla off their teams for a month and there’s no joy in Mudville. Brian Campbell and the Florida Panthers have had a hell of a ride this season, but if he were to miss ten games with a groin injury suffered in this meaningless marketing event the chances of Sunrise hosting even the minimum two home games is dramatically reduced, and with it the team can wave goodbye to millions in revenue.

Another important aspect of the All Star weekend is that because it is meaningless, except for the goalies and other crazies who can’t turn off their competitive nature ever it’s fun first to last. Patrick Kane’s Superman shootout routine was superb. Carey Price goaltending backwards was absolutely hilarious. Scott Hartnell taking questions about and even promising to contribute to HartnellDown is just a great thing. For me as a dedicated fan, this has been one of the most enjoyable weekends in a longtime. Without the two stars the media has embraced most, we get to see more of the stars of the other twenty eight teams in both conferences and all six divisions. Luke Adam (@LukeJAdam) of the Sabres. Shea Weber of the Predators both got more face-time with the media and potentially sponsors who might want to do regional advertising than they would have had the guy from Pittsburgh and the guy from D.C. been on site. Hell, Craig Smith could become the first star of the historically faceless Nashville Predators forward group while Justin Faulk (@JustinFaulk27) provided looks at a guy other than the one who has been the face of the Carolina Hurricanes franchise for the last decade.

If anything should convince you of how dangerous the game could be with the pressure of some sort of standings impact or season impacting value its probably the hardest shot competition. We saw three different players shooting over 100mph , with the highest hitting 108.8 (175 kph) there are a number of guys who sport huge bruises off shots in the 80s, and Ryan Callahan, and Chuck Kobasew can both tell you that Chara’s shot will break bones if it hits you in the wrong spot. The game is meaningless, and as long as you don’t try and think of it as real hockey it can be fun, more importantly the players who don’t mind the media let loose and give a fun interview or two and go home healthy.

Yesterday afternoon the Bruins front office set of a wave of speculation. All they had to do was let the hockey universe know they were going to be holding a press conference today at 6pm. No one I’ve seen, or heard knows anything and the lines of speculation are both long and distinguished. Some of the more plausible ones include:

  • A trade, either major along the lines of acquiring a number 2 or 3 defenseman, or goal scorer to help finish when on the powerplay. Or just a shakeup move or shuffling of excess and or disappointing parts .Andrew Alberts and Chuck Kobasew were all traded early in the season under Chiarelli. Peter also pulled off some last years key trades well in advance of the deadline, so a settling in period is clearly part of his philosophy.
  • A contract extension for someone in management. I could be his, or someone else.
  • A change in parts of the coaching staff.
  • Injury updates: Marc Savard being the most discussed, but some have pointed out Krejci and Mcquaid’s injuries as cause for concern as well questioning the extent to which Rask is recovered.
  • Others have wondered about health of off ice personnel and management.

Trade talk has focused on a few specific people, without the overwhelming, ridiculous, and flat out wrong push given in notable quarters to the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle. While that doesn’t mean this won’t be a major trade, it is entirely possible the trade won’t be for who is most speculated.

  • Ryan Whitney of the Edmonton Oilers is a big contributor from the backend. He’s been in the 40 point range most seasons, and peaked at 59. Points wise that lines him right up with Zdeno Chara, he’s also a 28 year old Boston native with a four million dollar cap hit this year and next.
  • Daniel Alfredsson is one of the more interesting players speculated. Age and injury history make the amount of time and money left on his contract risky, but the fact he’s still up to playing over 19 minutes a game which is comparable to Patrice Bergeron who is more than a decade younger is solid counter balance. Add to that Chiarelli’s days in Ottawa, the fact he was worn the C even through all the nastiness the last few years there, and that he is well known to Chara and Kelly and you bring the appeal a bit higher. He was a big part of the Senators “golden years” when they were crushingly dominant, but at 38 has still not won a Cup.
  • Rene Bourque (no relation) of the Calgary Flames has his name floated about in trade talks about as often as Michael Ryder did after his first season here, and for similar reasons. When he’s good, he’s damned good, when he’s not he’s almost invisible. His cap hit is reasonable considering he’s produced two straight 27 goal seasons on team with questionable centers.

Those are the three most reasonable and frequently speculated trades. Some others possibilities exist, and are at least to me more interesting.

  • The New York Rangers are sputtering. They may have beat the Jets last night, but through seven games they’ve only scored fourteen goals. As much as they like having Dubinsky and Callahan are very similar players playing on the same line and it is possible a different player might be what is needed to give the team some mojo. Neither is playing particularly well, both play center and wing, often alternating during the game. Both were recently signed, but Sather and company can’t have too much room left on the leash after the way the team has ended the last couple seasons.
  • Kyle Turris is frequently named in speculation since the Phoenix Coyotes and he have yet to reach an agreement, but I don’t find this likely given how many times the GM has said he’d rather let Turris sit the year than trade him.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets have just about flatlined. They have 1 point in eight games, have allowed more goals than any team in the league, and spent a lot of money in the off season specifically so they could see more teams below them in the standings than above them. Of the players they might be willing to move, R.J. Umberger is former Flyer with a lot of playoff experience who has the center/wing experience that the Bruins management favors, I suspect going back would be defensemen and maybe a goalie.
  • The Nashville Predators have a lot of big decisions to make both as management and players. Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter will be UFA’s if not signed by July 1, Shea Weber will be an RFA with arbitration rights. Weber has indicated he only wants to stay if they are committed to winning, I can’t imagine Suter and Rinne have said or done anything different. While I don’t expect we’d land any of them, a couple draft picks from a team that might finish outside the playoffs in exchange for parts of our system that don’t fit could be win-win for both teams.
  • Another team that for the sake of it’s long term survival, and recent change in ownership can’t be ignored in any trade speculation, especially given how much change there was in Buffalo when Pegula took over is the Winnipeg Jets. They aren’t an expansion team, but they might as well be, and they will need to to keep the fan base very satisfied with such a small building to draw revenue from.

The Western Conference has quite a few storylines to keep the NHL’s scribes busy this year, most on the ice, some off. Ownership issues reign supreme in Coyote territory, the Blues and Stars are likely to change hands soon, and several major players are entering their walk year.

Northwest Division:

The northwest is pretty clearly divided between the haves and have-nots, of all the western divisions I expect my predictions here to hold up best.

Calgary Flames. As long as Iginla is healthy this team always has a shot. If they somehow managed to get some scoring depth the sky is the limit. They’ll likely finish second in the division.

Edmonton Oilers, still a so young the squeak. They will win about any game that their opponent allows to become a track meet and shootout, and lose any time they have their perilously thin backend exposed.

Vancouver Canucks. While not as talented as last season, two of the additions bring a higher level of mental toughness than was seen on the ice from this team last year. Marco Sturm and Byron Bitz probably don’t have a shot at the Conn-Smythe next June, but they can sure as hell support whoever of their teams leading lights gets closest to it. They should win the division again, for what it means.

Minnesota Wild. Unless one or more of their prospects turns out to be a stud this season they appear to have shuffled the deck chairs and done little else this off seasons. The trades weren’t bad but did they address the problems and not create other problems just as pressing? A bubble team that could as it stands finish anywhere between 7 and 11.

Colorado Avalanche. Fans in Denver and surrounding area should take advantage of the opportunity to watch Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog play without the pressure of making the playoffs. This team drafted well, but the current defense and likely penalty kill will drag this team into the lottery abyss.

Central Division:

This is honestly the  most interesting division in the west to forecast.  You can make a reasonable argument for any of the five teams to win the division. Unfortunately for the teams in the division this isn’t because any has an overwhelming strength at all positions.

Chicago BlackHawks, like the Wild, they did a great deal of deckchair shuffling to questionable effect. Having had the opportunity to watch Steve Montador and Sean O’Donnell, not to mention Jamal Mayers live and over the course of several season I’m not sure how they push this team over the top or even nearer it. On the other hand the cup hangover should be long over for the talented young core who are still hungry. Probably in the playoffs.

St Louis Blues What has been a combination frat party and hospital ward for the past two or three years could turn into an uptempo hard checking playoff team if it can tone down either of those aspects. Talented yes, focused, sometimes, healthy, in spurts.  If you really want to know where the team will finish, pull out your d30 and roll it a few times that should be just as accurate as anything anyone else can tell you.

Nashville Predators. Same Preds different year. Great defense, top notch goaltending and a giant question mark about where the goals will come from. This year there is the added question of which if any of Suter, Weber and Rinne will return next season. Fun times in Music City.  Almost certainly a playoff team, and possibly the division winner.

Columbus Blue Jackets. What an interesting off season. They imported a sniper. They imported a powerplay quarterback, and they (in theory) lowered their overhead. If things gel, and certain new defensemen can avoid multiple suspensions they too have the weapons to make the post season.

Detroit Red Wings, will this be the victory lap for Lidstrom? Who knows. The odds of this team making the playoffs come down to a flip of the coin. They have some huge talents, huge liabilities and huge unknowns.

Pacific Divsion

Far and away the strongest division in the conference it honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see the conference finals come down to two teams in the division.

Phoenix Coyotes. With the departure of Bryzgalov in the off season they are the weakest link. Not a playoff team, and possibly a lottery team.

Dallas Stars. With last seasons renaissance in goal, a mostly stable roster, a team that learned to play without a superstar forward, and the infusion of a seemingly rejuvenated 30+ goal scorer they might be the sleeper in the conference to make it to the post season. I’d be surprised if they didn’t flip positions with the Coyotes and make it in to the playoffs over them.

Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks had their most important player move happen when Jonas Hiller came off the injured reserve. With a full season under his belt and having managed to be a plus player in the post season after 75 games in the red Cam Fowler should be an even more important piece of the roster. Devante Smith-Pelly may end up in the Calder conversation. Oh yeah, they’ve got these guys named Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf up front who are supposed to be pretty good too (if anyone can confirm this leave a comment) to play with Vishnovsky. All this will likely lead them to third in the division.

LA Kings. If this team can gel as a unit and put up more goals they are likely to be finish around the 110 point mark.

San Jose Sharks. This is one of those teams that seams to own the regular season without even a signed offer sheet on the playoffs. They have a very good chance of winning the division if they can keep their goaltenders from having to be any better than average.

I have to wonder what possesses some of the roster moves and non moves that NHL teams make each year. Some of them are just screwy, some prove to be amazingly shrewd and most are unremarkable.

Sean Avery is out of an NHL job, but Matt Cooke has one? Did I stumble into bizzaro world? Even if the Rangers want nothing to do with him, he can be a valuable player. He’s been consistently able to get under the skin of high end goalies, middle of the road wingers and premiere NHL players for years and years. The thought of him being unleashed against a young and inconsistent team like the St Louis Blues or the Colorado Avalanche just brings a grin to my mischief loving face. What sort of devilry he’d get up to against a team like the Canucks is probably unholy. If Brad Marchand could wind up the Canucks and do so without ever targeting Luongo, just imagine the head games Sean Avery could play against the twins and Bobby-Lou? For that matter, adding him to a team like the Lightning or the Flames only adds to the chances you’ll get a powerplay, something both teams are pretty decent at exploiting.

Chris Clark had a long audition here in Boston this preseason. I think it was weeks too long. Bruins Brass said they weren’t specifically interested in replacing Recchi’s lost leadership. Given that the 35 year old, injury prone winger has offered little but leadership in the last two seasons, it is a bit surprising that he was kept dangling on a tryout so long. The Bruins are well stocked with prospects in the AHL and CHL that could contribute all the last several seasons have said can be expected of Clark on ice.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery the Vancouver Canucks have gone the extra mile to pump the tires of the Boston Bruins this off season. Ryan Kesler followed in the foot prints of Zdeno Chara right into the ESPN the Magazine body issue. And of course they also added or retained Andrew Alberts, Marco Sturm, and Byron Bitz to their roster, all former Boston Bruins.

If the Nashville Predators were having trouble convincing the best defenseman of his generation they were serious about winning, why not extend some of the other core players as a good faith effort? Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne are both heading towards a seat across the negotiation table from the Preds GM. I can’t imagine the team losing any of the three and holding onto a playoff spot, even trading one for a different high end piece might backfire. Also of discordant note in music city was the lack of even a token free agent signing for some offensive talent.

Just generally speaking since there’s at least a half dozen teams that could be called out is the recent spate of older players being signed to fill roster spots. The number of guys who are 35+ added to teams this year is just baffling. It would be better if these guys were still producing at their former levels, but I can’t help but wonder if some of the moves are made so the coaches on the team can have someone to speak to who doesn’t tweet, own a smartphone or worry about still being in the NHL in five years.