If you think the job market is tough on regular shmoes, here’s a sign that it’s tough on pro hockey players.
Craig Rivet started last season as captain of the Buffalo Sabres and after spending all summer looking for a new NHL job after not being re-signed by Columbus, Rivet has found another hockey job… In the ECHL.
The Elmira Jackals signed Rivet to play at the NHL’s version of AA-level hockey and expect him to be in the lineup this weekend. It’s not the first time we’ve seen NHL players take a job with another league. We see guys jump to the KHL or other European pro leagues all the time. Taking a job with a low-level minor league team, however, is rare.
For Rivet it shows how quickly things can go off the rails. After all, the guy was playing in the NHL just last season. Granted he was playing for the Blue Jackets, but that’s still NHL-level talent to keep up with. It’s a dramatic fall out of the top league but for Rivet, it’s a chance for him to keep playing and stay in shape in hopes of getting another look from a NHL team.
If you handicapped who you thought would end up wearing the captain’s “C” in Buffalo this season, where would you have Jason Pominville in your rankings? We didn’t have him as a thought at all when analyzing the vacant captaincy last month but that just goes to show we’re a bunch of jerks hammering stuff out on a keyboard in our mother’s basement.
While Buffalo is kicking off their season in Europe, they announced that Jason Pominville will be the team’s new captain. The Sabres’ previous captain was Craig Rivet last season before Rivet was waived out of town. Helping Pominville shoulder the load and the expectations in Buffalo will be four alternate captains: Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Paul Gaustad, and Derek Roy.
All five players have been with the Sabres their whole career and given what they’re trying to do in Buffalo now with Terry Pegula’s money helping attract new blood, the stakes are higher than ever in Buffalo and the fans are eager to see the Sabres run deep into the playoffs.
Pominville’s best leadership can come to Buffalo by getting back to being a 30-goal threat this season. Five seasons ago, Poinville potted 34 goals. Since then he’s been a steady 20-25 goal per season guy. Getting those goal numbers to jump would go a long way to helping the Sabres succeed. With the crew of forwards Buffalo has, however, scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem this season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are dropping plenty of hints that the organization is going to shake things up. One of the most recent hints, albeit not surprising, will be changes to the roster. Pending free agents Ethan Moreau, Chris Clark, and Craig Rivet have all been notified by the Blue Jackets organization that they will not be returning to the team next season. Each of the (now former) players were brought in by Jackets management with the intention of bringing veteran leadership. In fact, each one of these players was the captain on their previous team. The announcement that each of the players will not be offered contracts could signify a change in philosophy for the team who only has one playoff appearance in franchise history.
The announcement is only the latest move that is making headlines around the league. First, the team announced they were firing their director of pro scouting and their assistant general manager. Next, they have been publically linked to rumors that have them acquiring Jeff Carter from Philadelphia in a salary dump move for the Flyers. Now we hear the team is shedding themselves of the majority of their (perceived) veteran leadership.
The change isn’t simply for the sake of change. Aaron Portzline from the Columbus Dispatch explains exactly what the Blue Jackets stand to gain by letting the veterans go:
“… but it frees up $8.13 million in salary cap space and roughly $7.75 million in actual salary. The Blue Jackets are expecting to be aggressive in free agency, but it’s unclear if GM Scott Howson still feels as if the dressing room needs a veteran voice to steer the youngsters.
The word around the league is the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be active participants in the free agent market. The mandate from management is to start winning more games so the team can limit the $25 million in losses they incurred last season. Instead of simply slashing payroll to save cash, the Blue Jackets are expected to make acquisitions and put a more competitive product on the ice to bring in the fans. From a fan’s perspective, you can’t ask for anything more from an ownership group.
For the veteran trifecta, it could mean the end of the road for all three. While all three have made a name for themselves around the league as great locker room guys, their productivity on the ice last season left plenty to be desired. Waiver wire pick-up Ethan Morrow was on the shelf twice with various injuries. Craig Rivet was acquired via re-entry waivers, played 14 games for the Jackets and still managed to post a minus 7. Chris Clark only managed 8 goals and 20 points in 89 games since being acquired from the Washington Capitals.
Never say never as the offseason always provides plenty of surprises. But unless there’s a team out there willing to sign a guy strictly for leadership qualities, we may have seen the last of all three players.
There was a notable amount of activity on the waiver wire this afternoon. To get you up to speed, we will break it down by players who were claimed (this post) and then those who were placed on waivers (the next post).
Marco Sturm claimed by Washington Capitals: I must admit, my first reaction to this was: “Don’t the Capitals realize that Sturm is broken?” Yes, the Caps need a player like Sturm … if he could actually stay on the ice for an extended period of time. Sturm makes Ales Hemsky look like the Cal Ripken Jr. of hockey. The injury prone winger is in the final year of a contract that registers a $3.5 million cap hit, with a little under $810K remaining.
Columbus Blue Jackets pick up Craig Rivet: The Buffalo Sabres were forced to place Rivet on re-entry waivers (and therefore take on half of his salary), but they got rid of their captain-turned-stiff when the Blue Jackets made a claim. This is the second over-the-hill captain waiver addition made by Scott Howson & Co. this season, as he also claimed Ethan Moreau from the Edmonton Oilers. Rivet also has $3.5 million about $810K left on his deal, so both teams will take an approximate $405K hit from this move.
Philadelphia Flyers claim Nick Boynton: Finally, the Flyers made up for the loss of Oskars Bartulis by claiming Boynton from the Chicago Blackhawks. Boynton keeps bouncing around the league but is a cheap, veteran option at $500K for the year or about $116K for the rest of the season.
The other fun side of the trade deadline coming up is the effect it has on teams and what they do to either move guys in and out of their lineup or to help clear out salary space. Waivers plays a big part in that and today we saw yesterday’s waiver players Mike Smith and Steve Bernier both clear. Smith was called up by Tampa Bay and he’ll now join a different goaltending logjam of sorts with Dwayne Roloson and Curtis McElhinney who was acquired from Anaheim yesterday. Bernier could suit up for the Panthers again tonight.
Hitting the waiver wire today are a couple of big names going through on re-entry waivers. Sabres defenseman Craig Rivet and Blue Jackets defenseman Mike Commodore are both coming through on the half-price discount waivers so their teams can try to get someone to take them off their hands for half the cap hit they’d be worth. For Commodore, he’s been through this already this season with no takers. He’s been playing for AHL Springfield since being demoted earlier this year.
Rivet, the Sabres captain, was just waived the other day and now that he’s being put through on re-entry waivers the Sabres are hoping to both be free of him and to give him the chance to play elsewhere this year. Rivet is in the final year of a deal that pays him $3.5 million against the cap. That amount pro-rated works out to be virtually nothing and he could provide a veteran presence on the blue line for a team in need.
Other guys hitting the wire in the regular way today are Kings forward Marco Sturm, Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton, Predators brawler Wade Belak, Rangers forward Kris Newbury, and Caps minor league goalie Todd Ford.
Sturm being waived comes as a surprise given that he was acquired from Boston earlier this year to give the Kings offense a lift. He hasn’t done that to GM Dean Lombardi’s liking and injuries have continued to make him ineffective. Boynton has been forced out of the mix in Chicago thanks to the play of youngster Nick Leddy.
Newbury is going through waivers so he can be sent back to the AHL while Belak is likely out of the mix in Nashville now that Jordin Tootoo is back. About all we can tell you about Todd Ford is that he’s got a really bad-ass goalie mask.