This off-season provided plenty of puzzling moves, so the Anaheim Ducks’ perceived indifference toward bringing back goalie Ray Emery didn’t really stand out all that much. That shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Ducks are being surprisingly cavalier about their goaltending situation, though; with little in the way of updates regarding Jonas Hiller’s troubling vertigo issues, you’d think they would have given more thought to bringing back Emery (aka the guy who helped them complete their playoff push).
It could be that the Ducks simply don’t expect Emery’s injury issues to clear up, though. Either way, the Chicago Blackhawks continued their off-season of shrewd, low-risk moves by inviting the eccentric netminder to their training camp on a tryout basis according to ESPN’s Scott Burnside.
While the Blackhawks’ No. 1 starter clearly is Corey Crawford, the team has some questions behind him. There are many (including PHT’s own Joe Yerdon) who speak volumes about the moxie of their odds-on backup Alexander Salak. That being said, Salak is unproven at the NHL level, with just two games of experience with the Florida Panthers in 2009-10 (0-1-0 with six goals allowed on 40 shots).
Some might undermine the importance of a solid backup, but the Blackhawks’ renewed hopes of returning to legitimate contender status in 2011-12 could be dashed with a Crawford injury if Salak isn’t up to snuff. That’s why it’s a wise move for the team to take an inexpensive look at Emery. Perhaps the goalie could impress but acknowledge his limited options by signing a two-way contract?
Don’t get me wrong, Salak is still the clear frontrunner to backup Crawford. He even has a one-way contract, which means the Blackhawks will pay him the same amount of money if he’s in the NHL or AHL. Then again, the Blackhawks aren’t exactly shy about paying a goalie not to play on their team if it increases their chances of winning (see: Huet, Cristobal).
If nothing else, we should root for Emery to stick with the team for at least a little while. Just think of the stories that might come from Emery partying with Patrick Kane … (Hide the roaches.)
The last few seasons represented a long, winding road for New York Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger.
Eminger was drafted by the Washington Capitals (12th overall in 2002), where he enjoyed solid stability playing parts of seasons from 2002-03 to 2007-08. Eminger bounced around the NHL like a pinball after he left DC, though. Eminger was traded three times in the following season as he played 12 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, 50 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and nine with the Florida Panthers in 08-09. He then played through the 09-10 season with the Anaheim Ducks before being traded to the Rangers last off-season.
Considering that whirlwind of activity, it’s probably reasonable that the journeyman defenseman was willing to take a pay cut to stick with the Rangers for another season. The team re-signed the blueliner to a one-year, $800K contract today, which is a considerable downgrade from his recently expired two-year, $2.25 million pact.
Jesse Spector points out that Eminger is the only Rangers defenseman with at least 400 games of NHL experience and describes the other things that he brings to the table.
Eminger’s versatility, along with his physical style, knowledge of the Rangers’ coverage systems and familiarity in the locker room, made him the ideal candidate to bolster a defense group that includes Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer and Marc Staal in the top four. The Blueshirts’ hope is that Michael Del Zotto will rebound from a rough second season, and that Tim Erixon will be able to contribute as a rookie, meaning that Eminger could shuttle in and out of the lineup. Last season, he proved comfortable with that kind of role, enduring some significant stretches as a healthy scratch but hardly wavering in his form.
With Eminger back in the fold as a depth/lower-pairing defenseman, it becomes that much clearer that the Rangers’ last bit of business revolves around retaining spirited winger Ryan Callahan. Naturally, the negotiation process will be a lot stickier than it was with Eminger, who is probably just relieved that he can keep the same street address.
While there is an undercurrent of semi-decent deals, the New York Islanders still seem like a franchise that’s capable of just about anything. GM Garth Snow seemingly began the “lifetime contract” movement with a thud by signing Rick DiPietro to that ill-fated deal. There’s also that whole fiasco with Chris Botta from a media standpoint and the fact that the team’s future hangs in the balance of a vote for a new arena to keep the hockey world entertained.
The Islanders apparently didn’t reach their “weird” quota yet during this off-season, however. Dmitry Chesnokov passes along word from Sovetsky Sport that Alexei Yashin’s agent Mark Gandler said that they are negotiating with the Isles and they are “seriously considering their offer.” Chesnokov reports that Gandler didn’t elaborate any further.
As we discussed earlier this week, it’s quite possible that Gandler is using the dangling carrot of an NHL return as a negotiating ploy to drive up his client’s value in the KHL.
That being said, it’s widely known that Islanders owner Charles Wang is quite fond of Yashin from his previous stint with the team. (Even though they eventually opted to buyout his monstrous contract in 2007, a decision that carries more than a $2 million cap hit for the next four years.)
Yashin acquitted himself reasonably well in an injury-shortened final season in the NHL, scoring 50 points in 58 games in 2006-07. The mercurial Russian forward was productive in his time overseas too, scoring 187 points in 220 regular season games and 40 points in 43 playoff games.
Of course, Yashin has a reputation for affecting teams negatively in ways that aren’t as obvious as the simplest of hockey statistics. Then again, some of those issues probably resulted from the baggage related to his comical contract and other money-related disputes. If his “second” paycheck with the Islanders would be reasonable, perhaps he would be able to get something close to a clean slate in Long Island.
It’s unlikely that hockey humorists will cut him or the Islanders a break, though. If this far-fetched situation actually ends up coming to fruition, it should be equally entertaining whether Yashin succeeds, fails or falls somewhere in between. We’ll guide you through the twists and turns along the way.