Jamming the Crease: Isles fans putting bag on; Quebec can wait; more notes
Let's warm up with a few quick notes before we hit a couple of meatier items:
• Islanders fans are brown-bagging it for Saturday's game against the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum. A group that originally hoped to orchestrate a walkout now plans on wearing bags over their heads and organizing chants of "Wang must sell!" and "Snow must go!" among other catchy slogans. This, no doubt, will end well.
• If Jarome Iginla wants to remain with the Bruins past this season, he'll have to take a significant pay cut to make it work. The B's already have more than $62 million committed to 17 players for 2014-15 and RFAs Reilly Smith and Torey Krug are due hefty raises that will eat up a good part of what's left. If the cap only goes up to $68 million or so, that won't leave much room for Iggy and a backup goalie. Depth defender Matt Bartkowski might be on the way out and Boston won't re-sign '09 first rounder Jordan Caron. His size (6-foot-3, 204 pounds) and pedigree will earn him another shot elsewhere, but he has nothing of consequence to contribute at the NHL level.
• I dug up some old transcriptions while doing some research and found this 2011 quote from an OHL executive about soon-to-be-drafted forward Boone Jenner: "Heart of a lion. Fearless ... relentless ... makes others around him better. He'll make a team into a winner someday." Jenner is doing a good job of that right now for the Blue Jackets.
• If, as rumored, Avalanche goalie J-S Giguere is skating into the sunset after this season, it won't just be the end of a terrific career, it will sever a link to hockey history. Giguere is the last active NHL player to have skated for the Hartford Whalers. Maybe Colorado's game-night staff will do us all a solid and play Brass Bonanza just one more time.
• The Wild tried to arrange a deal with the Flames at the trade deadline to send Dany Heatley (and the remainder of his $7.5 million cap hit) to Calgary in exchange for a draft pick. Interim Flames GM Brian Burke was willing, but Minnesota couldn't work out a companion deal with him that would have set the transaction in motion.
Le strange bedfellows
Quebec City will have a beautiful, NHL-ready arena in 2015 to go along with an avid fan base that is more than ready to support a new franchise. But that town can forget about the league returning any time soon. As long as Pierre Karl Peladeau is involved in the city's expansion/relocation effort, that effort will be a non-starter.
It wasn't long ago that Peladeau was heralded as a savior for Quebec's hockey fans, a man with the passion and the pocketbook to bring their beloved Nordiques back to town.
That all changed last weekend when Peladeau announced that he would run as a member of the Parti Quebecois in upcoming provincial elections. Nothing wrong with being a politician -- the NHL has dealt with worse. It's what the PQ represents: The longstanding goal of the party is to see Quebec separate from Canada and be recognized as a sovereign nation.
It's hard to understand why someone with Peladeau's financial clout would even want to run for office. It's probably easier for him to influence 100 votes with his money than it is to earn one from the stump, but if public office is where his heart lies, then good for him.
The problem here is that separatism is not only a thorny and very emotional political issue for Canadians, but it also comes with deep and far-reaching financial implications, including what many see as an inevitable destabilization of the Canadian dollar. And that right there would be a disaster for the NHL.
It's no secret that a strong loonie makes for a prosperous league. When the C-dollar sags, it hits the league hard. We've already heard whispers about the impact the recent decline will have on hockey-related revenues and next year's salary cap. Imagine if the loonie dropped to 85 cents or 80 against the U.S. dollar (it's currently at about 90 cents) ... likely scenarios if world markets pull back from the Canadian buck in the event of a separatist referendum. The impact of an actual secession would be even more devastating.
So why would the NHL climb into bed with someone whose primary interest is setting events into motion that are contrary to the health of its business?
There are no current plans for expansion, but the addition of two teams in the next five years is highly likely if for no other reason than the Original 30 owners won't leave those hundreds of millions of dollars on the table forever.
Some of that cash will come from Seattle, a clear favorite to get one of the eventual new franchises. There's no telling now where the rest will come from, but you can bet on a second team being awarded to Arizona before the league deals with Peladeau in Quebec City.
Peladeau's money is as good as anyone's, but his politics, at least in this case, aren't.
Kids in play
There are still 10 whole weeks to go before the June 1 signing deadline for 2012 draft picks, but there are a couple of interesting names worth keeping an eye on:
• Goalie Oscar Dansk (No. 31, Blue Jackets) starred for Sweden at the World Juniors and is the backbone of a strong Erie Otters team in the OHL. No chance he slips away from Columbus.
• Defenseman Ville Pokka (No. 34, Islanders) doesn't have ideal size (6-foot, 196 pounds), but with 24 points in 47 games for Karpat of the Finnish league, he's got the offensive touch that New York needs.
• Left winger Pontus Aberg (No. 37, Predators) is a good bet to sign with Nashville, which is desperate for anyone who can create in the offensive zone.
• Center Lukas Sutter (No. 39, Jets) was in the midst of a disappointing season when it was ended suddenly last month by reconstructive shoulder surgery. A 28-goal, 59-point scorer in his draft year, he has just 23 goals and 47 points in 117 games since. Winnipeg may decide to pass.
• Speedy center Mike Winther (No. 54, Stars) has played just 29 games this season (and scored only six goals) for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. It could go either way with him.
Big Mantha in Detroit
Like Chuck Berry sang, it only goes to show that you never can tell. I remember scouts knocking the consistency and effort of Anthony Mantha ahead of last summer's NHL draft, but less than a year later the big winger looks like a potential top-five value for the Red Wings. He's run away with the QMJHL scoring race -- despite missing 10 games while playing at the World Juniors -- with 56 goals in 56 games thanks to some of the softest hands in the junior game. If he continues to progress, his selection will be a huge win for Detroit. The Wings usually does their best work in the later rounds, and they haven't had a true impact first rounder since Niklas Kronwall in 2000. Mantha, who was the 20th pick, is on the verge of ending that slump.
Mueller time again?
Center Peter Mueller is making noise about an NHL comeback after spending this season in the Swiss league. Drafted No. 8 by the Coyotes in 2006, Mueller went 20-19-39 in 46 games for Kloten this season, good for third in the NL-A scoring race. More importantly, he stayed healthy, and while that league isn't known as a physically challenging environment, it's still an achievement for a guy with durability issues. Mueller could return immediately, but any NHL team that signs him would have to expose him to waivers. It's more likely that some team will ink him during the summer to a one-year, low-dough deal that minimizes risk for the team while giving the 25-year-old a chance to prove he can still contribute.