Tag: unrestricted free agency

Zach Parise, Derek Stepan, Martin Brodeur

Brodeur, Parise focus on Florida series, not future


With an extra day in between Games 5 and 6, one couldn’t totally fault Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise if they started pondering their future beyond the 2012 playoffs. After all, a first round loss to the Florida Panthers might just increase the chances of one or both cornerstone players turning the page on their days with the New Jersey Devils. Tom Gulitti reports that both are focused on the more immediate future instead.

First, let’s start with Brodeur, whose playing future is as much in question as his days in a Devils uniform.

“Career-wise, I don’t feel it’s going to be the last of it, but I think opportunity-wise, you never know,” Brodeur said. “Regardless of what the future will bring me, that’s irrelevant for me right now.”

While Brodeur is aware this might be one of his last chances – if not the last chance – Parise has more control of his situation. At 27 years old, he’ll get to experience the sensation of being courted in the unrestricted free agent market – if he chooses. Yet like Brodeur, Parise isn’t elaborating much on those thoughts.

“It’s blocked out,” Parise said. “I don’t think about it. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

Perhaps both prominent players are just providing lip service, but the Devils really could face a golden opportunity for a deep run. Favorites are dropping like flies, so if they can win the next two games, anything can happen.

Martin Brodeur isn’t “100 percent sure” about playing next season


One of the great subplots of the New Jersey Devils’ ascent back into playoff relevance is that Martin Brodeur has gotten his game back together – at least a bit.

To be honest, the Devils are probably guilty of sentimentality when it comes to their starting goalie choices. Johan Hedberg’s numbers are better across the board – far better record, superior save percentage and more shutouts in far fewer starts – but his last name isn’t “Brodeur.”

Yet as much as it seems like New Jersey’s decision making is based off of nostalgia, it’s hard for some to accept the idea that this might be Brodeur’s last season – either with the Devils or in the NHL. The future Hall of Famer is included in that group, as you can see in this Associated Press story.

“We’ll see if they’re going to take me back,” Brodeur said. “”I’m having fun. It’s been a great year so far. But I’m not 100 percent sure what I want do to yet.”

The “if they’re going to take me back” part is the key. Brodeur’s contract expires after this season, and with Zach Parise as the obvious priority to re-sign, it’s hard to fathom the legend getting anywhere near the money he’s being paid right now. With that and his declining stature in mind, the question was posed: would Brodeur play for a different team to keep it going?

Brodeur watched the Manning saga play out from afar and hoped he would never have to consider wearing another team’s sweater. How would Brodeur look in turquoise blue shoulders and black trim?

“It’s a little tricky,” Brodeur said. “The passion for the game is there. But sometimes, organizations are going to go a different way. It happened to the best quarterback in history. It could happen to anybody. It’s a possibility, but it’s unlikely, for me to really have a feeling about thinking about going somewhere else if this team still wants me around.”

Parise’s decision is the most pivotal for the Devils franchise this off-season, but one could argue that Brodeur’s future is just as fascinating – and maybe even more up in the air.

Wild woes continue as Niklas Backstrom leaves game

Niklas Backstrom, Evander Kane

There was already an instinct to stick a fork in the Minnesota Wild’s playoff hopes upon hearing that Mikko Koivu will miss at least two more weeks, but now their other big-money cornerstone might be on the shelf.

Pricey No. 1 starter Niklas Backstrom needed help getting off the ice after injuring himself while making a save in tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. Obviously it’s early in the process, but various testimonies seemed rather negative.

Ultimately it’s really only good news for one person: backup goalie Josh Harding. The pending unrestricted free agent has a lot to gain if he plays well – especially if this ailment sidelines Backstrom for a lengthy amount of time.

Predators hope busy deadline wins over Suter, Weber

Suter and Weber

When “Moneyball” hit theaters and somehow translated a great but niche book into a big-time money maker, it was hard for hockey people to avoid comparing the Nashville Predators to the Oakland A’s of those days.

The crux of Billy Beane’s radical re-thinking of that franchise revolved around finding a new way to do business after the loss of stars like Jason Giambi, but Predators GM David Poile is taking a different approach. Instead of accepting life as a smaller market hockey team that needs to scrap year after year, the humble old Predators are pushing all their chips to the middle of the table this time around.

Poile doesn’t want to see his slugger Shea Weber or fellow defensive stud Ryan Suter go, so the Predators tried to “court” the duo with a bevy of moves. Poile wasn’t trying to play coy about his motives, either, as you can see in this NHL.com article.

“Obviously, we hope the moves today show Ryan and all of the players on our team that the ownership is committed,” Poile said. “We’ve had plenty of talks with Ryan and it’s been unfortunate that our — I think we’ve done a good job here in Nashville of building our team and the franchise and you can see the building’s getting more full on a regular basis, but unfortunately, from a budgetary situation we’ve had to let some of our better players go from time to time.

“Hopefully, we can stop that. Obviously, signing Ryan Suter would be a huge sign for our whole franchise and our fans … that those days are over and, hopefully, a good playoff run will get Ryan signed up.”

No doubt about it, this isn’t the measured approach usually displayed by Poile. Sure, they’ve gone bold before with the ill-fated Peter Forsberg trade, but that was still a rental. Everything about this run feels different; the big contract for Pekka Rinne, a heavy cost for Paul Gaustad and other stakes-raising moves show that the Predators aren’t going to sit idly by.

Of course, the flip side is that if Suter leaves anyway, Poile & Co. must clean up that mess with a deficit in picks and some prospects. Honestly, I’m not so sure that breaking from the franchise’s script is the best idea, but it’s hard to blame Poile for his urge to pause the cycle of growth and loss.

What do you think, then? Are these gambles worth it or will these acts of desperation come back to haunt them?

Mikhail Grabovski’s value is tough to define

Toronto Maple Leafs v Pittsburgh Penguins

The New York Islanders took underrated forward Frans Nielsen off the unrestricted free agent market today, so it only makes sense that a somewhat similar* player was the topic of discussion elsewhere.

It’s strange to define a Toronto Maple Leafs center as underexposed, but if any player fits that description, it’s Mikhail Grabovski. The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle believes that the versatile Russian pivot’s value might be tough to determine as contract talks loom.

Fellow Leafs center Tyler Bozak gave Grabovski rave reviews.

“I don’t think I can do half the stuff he does,” Bozak said. “Those Russian guys have some pretty nice tricks up their sleeves. He’s got some moves, and he’s got a lot of patience. It’s just fun to watch guys like that.”

Grabovski has been a productive producer even though he hasn’t enjoyed the luxury of lining up with prolific wingers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Mirtle points out that he’s tied for eighth among centers when it comes to scoring goals with 47 in 128 games, placing him ahead of high-wattage stars such as Eric Staal and Anze Kopitar.

The word is that the best comparables for Grabovski are Tomas Plekanec ($5 million cap hit) and Patrice Bergeron (also $5 million).

Such a price tag might be tough for Brian Burke and the Leafs to stomach, but could he be worth it? If not, what kind of deal would be appropriate? Share your thoughts in the comments.

* – Grabovski is far more explosive, mind you, but both seem to slip under the radar to some extent.