The Sergei Zubov mystery and other intriguing players
He's exactly what every NHL team needs: a veteran defender with years of experience in the No. 1 role; a silky smooth skater, as adept at leading the rush as he is capable of racing back to break up an enemy attack; a quick-thinking, no-panic puckhandler who delivers that first pass as well as anyone in the game today; a special teams threat who can QB a power play and chew up minutes on the penalty kill.
And, given a chance, he'll probably work for pennies on the dollar.
So how is it exactly that
To borrow the memorable phrasing of former American defense secretary
No one questions Zubov's talent. The question is whether he can utilize it. Surgery on a sports hernia and a hip limited the defender, who turns 39 next week, to 56 games over the past two seasons with the Dallas Stars; just 10 of them in 2008-09. He last played on November 28, and while doctors have said he'll be ready to go for the upcoming season, they have in the past erred on the side of optimism with Zubov.
Still, in a league where
The thinking appears to be that if the team that's most closely monitoring the situation hasn't dipped a toe in the water (the Stars have yet to even discuss a contract, according to GM
If the right NHL deal doesn't materialize, Zubov told
It's smart to maintain the deepest possible pool of bidders, but don't take that quote at face value. Zubov has yet to receive any offers from the KHL. He may come at some point, but honestly, it'd be a surprise if the naturalized American returned home to finish his career. All things being equal, he'd probably prefer to stay in Dallas, his home for the last dozen seasons after he was stolen from the Pittsburgh Penguins (wherefore art thou,
But would he take something in the neighborhood of
Is the door completely shut? No. But it's a good bet that Zubov will be wearing a new sweater come October. He won't get much in the way of term elsewhere --two years, tops -- but he'll probably find someone willing to lay out something like $3 million per as the summer draws to a close. That's a clip off his 2008-09 salary of $5.35 million, but still a sizable risk on the part of his new team.
Of course, if he returns to his 2006-07 form, Zubov could turn out to be the most impactful signing of the summer.
The Stars might have made one of the most important, albeit least heralded, moves of the off-season by sending a sixth-rounder to the Senators for goalie
A comfortable Turco -- the version seldom seen since the 2008 playoffs -- can be one of the game's best netminders. But he's struggled with consistency and technical issues over the last couple seasons, and since Tippett had no faith in rookie
In Auld, Dallas is getting a top-end backup goalie. His six teams in six years might not inspire confidence, but Auld has proven himself as someone who can step in every third or fourth game or carry the mail for a stretch if needed. His numbers (.911 save percentage and 2.48 GAA) also were significantly better than those of Turco (.898, 2.81). That doesn't mean he'll challenge for the No. 1 job, but Auld's presence should ensure Turco's workload drops from 74 games to something in the 55-60 range, and a rested Turco may do more for the Stars' fortunes than any high-priced free agent . . .
How long are the memories of Edmonton fans? We could find out on March 9, when the Oilers host the Senators. That's assuming, of course, that
The Sharks would love to move
Another minor move that could pay dividends: the Flames plucking winger
The Blues were disappointed to hear that
Cole is taking summer classes and hopes to finish his degree early. He'll make a strong push to jump directly to the Blues next season. One player who might not have to wait: Danish forward
The Devils still have to sign RFA center