The NHL’s silly season – a.k.a. the kickoff of unrestricted free agency – begins on Sunday. THN.com will have all signings analyzed by yours truly, Ken Campbell and Ryan Kennedy. But for now, let’s use this week’s mailbag to deal with questions on off-season roster changes as well as some other topics. Do I thank you for all your questions? I do.
Hey Adam, A few questions about the Caps. One, based on Evgeny Kuznetsov's reluctance to come to North America, should they trade his rights to avoid another Justin Schultz situation? Two, do you think Alex Semin will return to Washington at a discounted price, or bolt for the KHL? Three, how do the Caps replace Dennis Wideman on the blueline?
Ron Watkins, Severna Park, Md.
That’s a lot of questions, so I’ll give you relatively quick answers.
1. Kuznetzov’s situation is not like Schultz’s at all and he won’t be moved by the Caps – at least, not right away. Schultz leveraged his situation as a collegiate player and unsigned draft pick to make himself an unrestricted free agent. Kuznetzov’s rights, on the other hand, belong to Washington for the foreseeable future. He’ll play in the Kontinental League for the next two years – and of course, for his homeland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics – and at that point, the situation will come to a crossroads. But with his kind of talent, there’s no chance he’ll be given up on without something considerable coming back to the Capitals in return.
2. Virtually no possibility Semin returns to Washington. I think he’ll take a huge KHL payday and perhaps return to the NHL a couple years from now.
3. I expect Washington to look to internal solutions to make up for the loss of Wideman and the 23:54 of ice time he averaged last season. They’ll likely spread Wideman’s time among Mike Green, John Carlson, Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov and Jeff Schultz.
Adam: I have heard and read nothing about NHL realignment for 2012-13. Just did a search online and came up with stuff from last year's aborted plan. I know the Sharks have released their schedule for next season. Is alignment still off in the misty future (beyond next season)? Thanks.
Dick Estel, Clovis, Calif.
Yes, you can expect realignment in the 2013-14 campaign. With the lack of certainty regarding the collective bargaining agreement, the league couldn’t draw up a new order for this coming season, but its clear interest in doing so isn’t going away simply because the NHLPA used its leverage to quash it for the short-term.
That said, you could easily see a different type of realignment from the one that was initially unveiled. Regardless, I think the league recognizes it’s time for a better setup. The only question now is defining what “better” means.
Hey Adam: Has the Hockey Hall Of Fame induction committee forgotten about the female players who deserve to be in there? Will they ever consider voting for women again?
Paul Persin, Regina, Sask.
It’s certainly been noticeable that, two years after the HHOF finally dragged itself into modernity and inducted its first two female players (Angela James and Cammi Granato), we’ve yet to have a third despite such worthy candidates as Geraldine Heaney, Fran Rider, France St-Louis and Cassie Campbell-Pascall.
In my mind, the Hall could induct at least one female player or builder each year for a very long time and not run out of possibilities. But in my mind, legendary coaches Fred Shero and Pat Burns should have been honored HHOF members a long time ago and they still aren’t.
The overarching problem with all these situations is the induction committee’s complete lack of transparency. For years, many (including me) have been demanding the Hall make its decisions available for public scrutiny, the same way the Baseball Hall of Fame does when its honorees are named. But the people on the HHOF’s committee clearly have no desire to do so. Until they do, the hockey world will have to live with their occasionally baffling decisions.
Hey Adam! The Panthers have Jose Theodore signed for another year. Scott Clemmensen has certainly played well enough to deserve another one-year deal and Jacob Markstrom is knocking on the door for an NHL job. Why doesn't Dale Tallon end all this Roberto Luongo drama and simply say “we’re not interested?” Seriously, with two dependable veterans and a goalie-of-the-future in waiting, why would Tallon want to take on Luongo's contract? And with the goalie market getting smaller every day, how can Luongo be so picky? Could you foresee the Canucks pulling a Wade Redden and burying Luongo in the American League if a deal can't be struck? Cheers,
Steve Dicker, Paradise, Newfoundland
I couldn’t agree more regarding Luongo and the Panthers. There’s no doubt the goalie would love a return to the franchise and the area, but there isn’t a great hockey fit for him there. To me, it’s Maple Leafs or bust for Luongo.
Of course, Mike Gillis has the option of sending Luongo to the AHL. However, that would be as much about punishing the player for a dumb contract offered by management as it would be about not trading him for below what’s perceived as “market value.” The Canucks killed Luongo’s market value with the length of the contract (12 years); the least they can do is come to terms with the reality of the situation and accept freed-up salary cap space as the prized return in any trade (rather than looking to land top-line NHLers or prospects/draft picks).
Hi Adam. Could a Marc Staal for Jeff Skinner trade work? It would be a good storyline for Carolina, the non-traditional hockey market.
Terry Nicholson, North Vancouver, B.C.
I get where you’re coming from on the storyline front, but I don’t see a Staal-for-Skinner trade working for a number of reasons. Firstly, Skinner is still only 20 years old and, given what he’s already shown in his two NHL seasons, the Canes will be loathe to give him up before he’s even come close to peaking as a player.
As for Staal, it undoubtedly would be great for him to join his two brothers in Raleigh, but this is someone who missed half a season with serious concussion issues. If Carolina is going to give up a potential superstar in Skinner, it won’t be for someone who is a health risk.