Ok, let's start with the trades. I've been out working all day, but let's just say that I think a few teams have made a few mistakes. Needless to say, there were some major names on the move today, and parity seems to be levelling the playing field yet again.
First, the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to shore up their goaltending situation. The San Jose Sharks traded goaltender Vesa Toskala and winger Mark Bell for a conditional first-round pick, a second-round pick in 2007 and a 2009 fourth-round pick.
I think the Leafs made an average move. In 78 career NHL games with San Jose, Toskala compiled a 65-28-10 record, a 2.34 GAA and .914 save percentage with eight shutouts. Mark Bell was a bust in San Jose, but has performed well with Chicago, and the Leafs will be looking for that kind of production out of Bell this season. The addition of Bell also provides the Leafs with another potential scoring winger, something they sorely lacked this past season. If he doesn't perform, he is a very expensive role player at $2 million per season.
The Sharks do have an abundance of good, young wingers so moving Bell isn't a huge problem. Replacing Toskala might be, but Nabokov is the man in San Jose, and finding a quality back-up shouldn't be that hard. Getting the draft picks will certainly help.
Tomas Vokoun, the goaltender who has carried the Nashville Predators from also-rans to Stanley Cup contenders, is on his way to Miami. The Florida Panthers traded a first-round selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, a second-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and a conditional second-round selection in either 2007 or 2008 for Tomas Vokoun.
Vokoun was 27-12-4 with a 2.40 GAA and .920 save percentage in 44 games with the Predators last season. He missed some time with a thumb injury, and in his absence, Chris Mason put up stellar numbers with 24-11-4 record, a 2.38 GAA, and .925 save percentage. As the cheaper of the two options, Mason will be staying in Nashville while Vokoun will be going to toil for the Panthers.
While this is a good deal for the Panthers in that they get an established top-tier goalie, the Predators continue to deal away their stars. After jettisoning Timonen and Hartnell earlier this week, Vokoun is now gone. And that leads me to...
... Jim Balsillie. Current Predators' owner Craig Leipold advised the NHL to no longer consider Jim Balsillie as a prospective owner of the team. Leipold told the league the absence of a finalized sale agreement and Balsillie's desire to move the franchise to Hamilton are the reasons for his decision, although he will consider Balsillie the owner if a binding agreement is put in place.
Seriously, what is with Balsillie? Enough is enough. This guy should not be allowed to approach the league for a team ever again. EVER. He screwed around the with Penguins for a few weeks, and then pulled his bid when he was told he couldn't relocate the franchise. Now, he's done the same thing with the Predators. If I'm Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors, I'd tell this guy to take all his money for a long walk off a very short pier. Stop screwing around with teams. This is not some toy store; it's a professional hockey league.
Find a hole somewhere and die, Balsillie. You've screwed around in this league two times too many. Kansas City seems like a better fit than Hamilton anyway.
As for another trade, Adrian Aucoin waived his no-trade clause for a chance to be re-united with "Iron Mike" Keenan. The Blackhawks traded his $4 million salary and a seventh-round pick in 2007 to the Calgary Flames for defenseman Andrei Zyuzin and prospect Steve Marr. Calgary acquires a big, immobile defenseman with a monsterous salary for what reason? What is going on in Cow-town? Has Mike Keenan hypnotized Darryl Sutter? Who is running this team?
Good luck, Calgary. Enjoy your top 10 draft pick in 2008. 'Nuff said.
Here's one of the highlights of draft day. The Washington Capitals unveiled their new jerseys earlier today, and I think they're nothing special. Not bad, but not good. The Capitals went back to their red, white, and blue colour scheme, and that's a good idea, but it doesn't feel like the Capitals. Anyway, thanks to the miracle of computer technology, I've managed to grab a couple of images from the Caps' online press conference.
Here are the front views of both the home and road jerseys as modelled by Capitals' players. The font on the rear of the jerseys are easy to read and simple, making the font one of the good things about the jerseys.
The logo is designed with three stars above the team name to represent the state of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and the state of Virginia. The logo harkens back to their early logo, and I like that. The numbers are very easy to read, as I stated above, and Pierre Maguire of TSN says that the Capitals no longer look like "postal workers". The new secondary logo also harkens back to a previous logo in that the Capitals brought back the eagle. The raised wings make a "W" that stands for Washington, the lower portion has the shape of the Capitol building, and the eagle sports the colours of the Capitals.
The Blue Jackets also unveiled their new jerseys tonight, and they look pretty good as well. The Blue Jackets did away with the insect logo and the CBJ logo, replacing them with the alternate flag logo. I don't like how the Jackets removed the big horizontal hemline stripe that is common on current hockey jerseys, but the new jersey avoids messy and complicated which is good. The rear font didn't change and is still very readable, and that's good. The military shoulder patch looks good too.
All in all, I think the new jerseys look pretty good, with Boston and Washington going back to traditional elements of which I am a huge fan. Washington's home jersey could have used more white and blue to offset the red, but they're ok. The Rbk Edge Uniform System hasn't limited teams in their design thus far, and I am anticipating good things still to come for the rest of the NHL.
Ok, on to the 2007 NHL Entry Draft:
1. Chicago Blackhawks - RW Patrick Kane (London - OHL)
2. Philadelphia Flyers - LW James Van Riemsdyk (US Under-18 Team)
3. Phoenix Coyotes - C Kyle Turris (BCHL)
4. Los Angeles Kings - D Thomas Hickey (Seattle - WHL)
5. Washington Capitals - D Karl Alzner (Calgary - WHL)
6. Edmonton Oilers - C Sam Gagner (London - OHL)
7. Columbus Blue Jackets - RW Jakob Voracek (Halifax - QMJHL)
8. Boston Bruins - C Zach Hamill (Everett - WHL)
9. San Jose Sharks - C Logan Couture (Ottawa - OHL)
10. Florida Panthers - D Keaton Ellerby (Kamloops - WHL)
11. Carolina Hurricanes - C Brandon Sutter (Red Deer - WHL)
12. Montreal Canadiens - D Ryan McDonagh (Cretin-Derham HS - US)
13. St. Louis Blues - LW Lars Eller (Sweden Jr. League)
14. Colorado Avalanche - D Kevin Shattenkirk (US Under-18 Team)
15. Edmonton Oilers - D Alex Plante (Calgary - WHL)
16. Minnesota Wild - C Colton Gillies (Saskatoon - WHL)
17. New York Rangers - RW Alexei Cherepanov (Russia)
18. St. Louis Blues - D Ian Cole (US Under-18 Team)
19. Anaheim Ducks - C Logan MacMillan (Halifax - QMJHL)
20. Pittsburgh Penguins - C Angelo Esposito (Quebec - QMJHL)
21. Edmonton Oilers - C Riley Nash (BCHL)
22. Montreal Canadiens - LW Max Pacioretty (USHL)
23. Nashville Predators - D Jonathan Blum (Vancouver - WHL)
24. Calgary Flames - C Mikael Backlund (Sweden)
25. Vancouver Canucks - C Patrick White (USHL)
26. St. Louis Blues - LW David Perron (Lewiston - QMJHL)
27. Detroit Red Wings - D Brendan Smith (OPJHL)
28. San Jose Sharks - D Nick Petrecki (USHL)
29. Ottawa Senators - C James O'Brien (NCAA)
30. Phoenix Coyotes - D Nick Ross (Regina - WHL)
So that's the first round. There were 10 American-born players selected, which tied an NHL Draft record, and, for the first time ever, two Americans were selected first and second overall.
If you're the Penguins, Rangers, Blues, or Wild, you have to be happy with your selections. If you're the Oilers, it appears that Sam Gagner is your Sidney Crosby. If you're the Thrashers, Islanders, Sabres, Stars, Lightning and Devils, you didn't get much airtime in the first round. Good luck to those teams as it is apparent in the "new" NHL that draft picks play a huge part in your franchise's overall success.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!