BLACKHAWKS WIN DRAFT LOTTERY.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Bob Foltman reports the Blackhawks won the NHL entry draft lottery yesterday, securing the right to select first overall in the upcoming draft. Foltman narrows down the potential choices to four: " One of them is Buffalo native Pat Kane, who, despite being just 5 feet 10 inches and 160 pounds, had 62 goals and 145 points for the London Knights of the Ontario League.
Czech-born center Jakub Voracek, who plays junior hockey for Halifax, is currently the top-ranked player according to the International Scouting Service. Voracek, 6-1, 188, turns 18 in August. Kane is ranked second by the ISS. Other candidates are Burnaby's Kyle Turris, 17; and James vanRiemsdyk, who plays for the U.S. under-18 program."
Spector's Note: Unlike the last couple of drafts there's no clear-cut "franchise player" in this year's draft, but of course that doesn't mean whoever they draft won't become one. GM Dale Tallon also admitted he'll probably get a lot of phone calls about the pick and hasn't ruled out the possibility of shopping that pick, but I would imagine the asking price will be steep. I think there's a better chance of the 'Hawks retaining the pick than moving it.
DENIS TO SIT OUT START OF PLAYOFFS.
TAMPA TRIBUNE: reports Lightning goalie Marc Denis, who started the season as the club's number one goalie, won't be dressed when the Bolts open the playoffs. Having lost his starter's job to backup Johan Holmqvist, he's now lost the backup role to third stringer Karri Ramo.
Spector's Note: The Tribune wonders if Lightning head coach John Tortorella is sending a message or lost faith in Denis. I think it's the latter, given that Denis's salary ($2.8 million) is a lot to scratch just to "send a message". Denis inconsistency has cost him the confidence of his coach, and one has to wonder if that might result in his getting shopped in the off-season if this persists throughout the Lightning's playoff run, however long or short it may be.
MORE CANADIENS NEWS.
RDS.CA: reported Tuesday Montreal Canadiens team president Pierre Boivin indicated the team will have the resources to pursue a top level free agent player this summer.
Spector's Note: The Canadiens biggest need is a top scoring centre, and the three biggest names in that regard could be Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, but if they hit the market the Habs could find themselves in a bidding war for their services. Failing to land a top UFA player will further reinforce the belief that Montreal isn't a choice destination for marquee free agent talent.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey yesterday reports defencemen Sheldon Souray and Andrei Markov and forward Mike Johnson hope to re-sign with the Habs this summer. All three are unrestricted free agents. Hickey also reported today that it appears Alex Kovalev will be retained but Gainey will either try to trade or buy out Sergei Samsonov.
Spector's Note: GM Bob Gainey admitted during his press conference yesterday that he wants to retain Souray and Markov. Some disgruntled Habs fans believe Gainey shouldn't waste time with Souray as he'd be in their eyes too expensive. Some pessimists suggest all three will be lost this summer. It won't be easy but the Habs will have the cap space to retain them. Much will depend on their contract demands. Should be an interesting couple of months.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey also reported forward Alex Kovalev wasn't happy with his performance this season but dismissed the notion that he'd let his teammates down. Teammate Chris Higgins, however, wished that Kovalev would show more determination in his game. "It's hard to get inside his head. He plays his own game. People don't realize how strong he is and you wish he would just bury his head and go to the net instead of stickhandling around guys, but he's pretty good at that, too."
Spector's Note: Ladie and gentlemen, the future captain of the Montreal Canadiens has spoken, and he's absolutely right. Kovalev has the talent but he just doesn't turn it on as much. I've had a theory that Kovalev only plays well when he's got a superstar on his line, as he did during his career years in Pittsburgh when Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux were his teammates and linemates. When he's expected to be the go-to guy, he just doesn't seem to deliver. GM Bob Gainey suggested in yesterday's press conference that he want Kovalev to remain a part of the team. Who knows, maybe if they can land that elusive marquee UFA forward, that might bring out the best in Kovalev.
THE LATEST OILERS NEWS.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson recently reported the Oilers might make a pitch for Ottawa Senators defenceman, whose contract with the Sens expires July 2008. "If the Oilers want Redden -- they wanted to sign him as UFA last summer -- they'd have to give up a good young D man and a forward. I'd say the Sens would be looking at Jarret Stoll."
Spector's Note: Some folks in Ottawa (not associated with the Sens) are unhappy over Redden's performance this season, even though he missed 18 games due to injury, and that's given rise to some speculation that he might be available. While anything's possible, I doubt Redden get dealt.
EDMONTON SUN: Robert Tychkowski reports one of the Oilers off-season priorities will be to find a scorer for playmaker Ales Hemsky. Tychkowski also reports GM Kevin Lowe expects to add as many as eight new players to their roster for next season via trades and free agency.
Spector's Note: As maddening as Hemsky can be to Oilers fans who say he doesn't shoot enough, there's no question he's a great playmaker. Landing a sniper for his line could make a major impact on the Oilers offensive attack next season.
THE LATEST ON THE LEAFS.
THE GLOBE & MAIL: David Shoalts yesterday reported Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr expects to have a new contract in place for team captain Mats Sundin by June 15th. "Sources say they are working on a two-year deal for about $5.75-million per year", reports Shoalts, who also reported Ferguson saying goalie Andrew Raycroft will return next season but indicated he may spend more for a backup who can play 25-30 games.
Spector's Note: Evidently the supposed implications of the Leafs rejecting the club option for Sundin to re-sign him to a new, affordable contract isn't a factor as previously believed. No surprise about Raycroft. For all the blather of late out of Toronto about the Leafs need to dump Raycroft and bring in another goalie realistically that wasn't gonna happen. Also sounds like "JFJ" will be back for another season, as anticipated, which should give his critics an entire summer to come up with all kinds of reasons why he should be fired.
TORONTO SUN: Mike Zeisberger yesterday reported Jeff O'Neill may not be returning with the Maple Leafs next season. His contract expires making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. O'Neill said he'd love to return but sees the limited ice time he received this season as indicative that it won't happen. He's also made no decision on retirement.
Spector's Note: O'Neill scored 20 goals this season but was a streaky scorer and that saw him benched down the stretch. He may not return to Toronto but it's possible he may land elsewhere as a UFA.
THE LATEST FLYERS NEWS.
CAMDEN COURIER-POST: Chuck Gormley yesterday reported Flyers forward Simon Gagne and head coach John Stevens aren't ruling out the possibility of former Flyer Peter Forsberg re-signing with the club as a UFA this summer. The Flyers missed out on the first overall pick in the draft lottery and will draft second, but GM Paul Holmgren hasn't ruled out shopping that pick, perhaps to trade down in the draft. Holmgren also said it wasn't out of the question for Forsberg to return to Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Tim Panaccio reported yesterday Flyers GM Paul Holmgren will have to rework the defence, suggesting Denis Gauthier could be the odd man out on the Flyers blueline. Panaccio also suggested forward Geoff Sanderson may be on the bubble.
Spector's Note: Interesting that the Flyers haven't ruled out bringing back Forsberg, although they were talking like that when they trade him to Nashville. A lot will depend, however, on how they fare in this summer's UFA market.
WHAT ARE THE CAPITALS NEEDS?
WASHINGTON POST: Tarik El-Bashir reported Sunday Capitals owner Ted Leonsis won't divulge how much he intends to spend on team payroll next season, but a significant amount will go toward addressing the club's needs. "On the shopping list is a veteran center, a right wing and two quality defensemen", write El-Bashir, also citing that the club hopes to sign 2006 first round pick Nicklas Backstrom.
Spector's Note: The Caps have less than $19 million committed to payroll next season, after committing just over $30 million this season. If Leonsis should increase payroll to between $37-$39 million that'll give Caps management plenty of space to retain their key players and to be serious bidders in this summer's UFA market.