While it’s often tough to forecast a busy or casual summer for most NHL franchises, there tend to be a few who almost always find a way to captivate the hockey world with their bold moves. (The Philadelphia Flyers rank among the most aggressive traders around draft time, for example.)
One of the league’s most daring GMs is Toronto Maple Leafs executive Brian Burke, an outspoken team builder with the credibility of law degree. When you combine Burke’s candid nature with a rabid hockey market like Toronto, it’s not surprising that his words often carry a lot of weight around this time.
Maple Leafs fans want results – especially since the team hasn’t made the playoffs since the lockout ended – which puts the onus on head coach Ron Wilson (who must be sweating a bit after the team shuffled members of his coaching staff) and Burke to get things done. Who knows how much Burke can really get done considering the general perception that the 2011 NHL Entry Draft might not boast the talent of previous years, but he’s certainly talking a good game so far.
Appearing on the Bryan Hayes Show on TSN Radio on Monday, Leafs general manager Brian Burke made it clear that everything from current players to draft picks to cap space will be on the table if he can add to the roster for next season.
“We intend to use these assets and whatever assets are available on July 1 to improve our hockey club,” said Burke. “We do not intend to be an idle bystander on either day.”
However, if nothing can be worked out on the trade front, Burke is confident he can stockpile for the future in a draft where the Leafs currently possess the 25th and 30th overall picks. While many are talking about the likes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog, Burke feels the talent pool is deep this year.
“Once you get through that group, there’s a good pile of players that goes well past 50,” said Burke. “So if we keep those picks, we think we’ll get good prospects. It’s a deep draft that lacks star power but there’s plenty of talent there.”
An expected $64 million salary cap ceiling will give the “rich” teams like Burke’s Maple Leafs some interesting leeway this summer. Who knows if Toronto will use all of the $22+ million of cap space they currently own on a big-time free agent (*cough* Brad Richards *cough cough*). Don’t put it past Burke and his flair for the dramatics, though.
The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.
Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.
The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).
“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”
Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.
Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.
Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.
The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.
The first day of the playoffs is April 13.
Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made
Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.
This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.
“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”
Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.
Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.
Vigneault felt the hit was late.
“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.
Beleskey was not suspended.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.
From the NHL:
Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.
Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.
Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.
Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse