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Morning Skate: Growing Pains

Dan Pennucci

Dan is a former sportswriter and English teacher. He has been covering hockey for Rotowire since 2002. Supports the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC.

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Subject: Back In the USSR
Who is this Kovalchuk bloke everyone is complaining about? Calling him a lazy, typical, selfish Russian....

I can get upset but there's no use. It's not going to change the fact that Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the Devils and bolted back to the Motherlandfor bags full of untaxed dollars. It would have been nice if he'd filed his retirement papers in the days prior to July 5, with free agency opening the next day. Kovalchuk's contract was an albatross for the Devils in terms of roster space and also in their ever-worsening financial situation with various groups inquiring about ownership.

Kovalchuk's defection can be seen as a victory for the KHL I suppose but I'm wondering what to what extent it will further exacerbate the bias toward Russian players. If you're a Russian player without a team presently and you see an icon like Kovalchuk return home, why not do the same yourself (I'm looking at you Ilya Bryzgalov and Mikhail Grabovski).

It definitely leaves a hole in the New Jersey lineup as Kovalchuk is one of the top 10 offensive players in the league and one of the best skaters in the world. The Devils will have to get creative with acquiring new players to fill the Kovy void in the aggregate, but I'm not too worried. It's refreshing to have the cap space, although one can make the argument that Kovalchuk did cost the Devils Zach Parise.

Onto free agency - please give your take on the players listed after mine.

-Mike Ribeiro to Phoenix: Are they sure about this one? It's not exactly Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green he'll be passing the puck to. Also, where's this money coming from?

-David Clarkson to Toronto (7 yrs, $5.25 per): Leafs fans will love this guy. Bred in the GTA, Clarkson will bring some grit to the team. However, he's not the most fluid of skaters and can disappear for stretches of games at a time. Leafs definitely overpaid for him...come this fall in your drafts, be cautious not to do the same.

-Stephen Weiss to Detroit (4 years, $4.9 per): Undervalued player in Florida, but he's horribly inconsistent for owners. He binges for a few games, then vanishes. Still, when healthy, he's a steady playmaker that can help a team. Great value considering Tampa Bay paid 5 years at $5 mil per for Valteri Filppula.

I'll let you handle Filppula. Let's also hear what you have to say about:

-Daniel Alfredsson leaving Ottawa?
-Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe to the Devils
-Jarome Iginla to Boston

Any other ridiculous signings you wish to mention, feel free.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Subject: Alfie, Don't Go!
The KHL is starting to become a legitimate place for mid-grade Russian and European players. The league has teams outside Russia, the money is good and so is the home cooking. Why come to North America to toil on the third or fourth line when you can stay at home (or awfully close to it) and play on the second line? Two words -- Leo Komarov

I think the best Russian and European players will still come to the NHL -- there IS a significant difference in the caliber of the two leagues. But the lesser lights will stay home and the composition of the NHL is going to continue to morph courtesy of the KHL.

So I take it you think the Mike Ribeiro signing is hogwash? It's actually a natural fit -- Ribeiro had his best production while skating in a Dave Tippett system in Dallas. I'm certain that's his motivation this time out. He'll be fine.

Did the Leafs really overpay for David Clarkson? His hard-scrabble personality is going to be the biggest attraction since Tie Domi, Darcy Tucker and -- heaven forbid the reference -- Wendel Clark. It's not going to matter if he disappears offensively every once in a while. One big hit and the fans will forget it all. But I do agree with your assessment from a fantasy perspective. I think he's going to throw the body too much, just because of the system, the coach and the fans, and it's going to hurt his point totals. 

Steven Weiss? He is a great value at under $5 mil per season. Yah, there's the injury history, but the Wings' system will insulate his weaknesses and give him space to flourish. And he doesn't have to be the top dog in Detroit. There's a lot to be said about a measure of anonymity.

Filppula? I sure hope he pans out. But that's way too much cash and those weaknesses that were insulated in the Wings' system will be exposed in the Bolts' system. It's not going to be as bad as, say, Marek Svatos outside Phoenix or Josh Johnson outside Miami (sorry, the Jays are sucking right now), but he's not going to develop into a star in Tampa Bay.

Daniel Alfredsson leaving Ottawa seems ungodly -- the fans are still reeling. But he doesn't have to be the top dog in Detroit and there's something to be said about it. I still think it would have been better to ask for a trade at the deadline. The fans would have accepted it the way the Bruins' fans accepted the Ray Bourque trade. 

Michael Ryder and Ryan Clowe? Sorry, my friend. They're passengers, not drivers. I don't have much faith -- your Devils don't have any drivers unless you think Travis Zajac does that task. I'd argue with you if you told me that malarkey.

Jarome Iginla? I just don't know. He looked like a fish out of water in Pittsburgh ... is the Boston system that much of a better fit for him? But I think he's the best bet of this sorry lot. Still, buyer beware -- he's a notoriously slow starter, so file that away for future reference.

So ...
- what happens to Ilya Bryzgalov? NHL or KHL? Tim Thomas?
- what does the Olympic break do to fantasy teams this year? 
- do Jaromir Jagr and Wade Redden have NHL jobs this season?

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Subject: Jagr Gets a New Shirt

Greetings, I could not agree more about the Ryder and Clowe signings, not a fan of the money dished out. Also, both looked a bit better when Kovalchuk was still Stateside. No, Zajac does not fit the definition of a driver, he's a solid two-way center that won't hurt you defensively and can chip in with 45-50 points in a good year.

I'd forgotten about the Tippett factor when I mentioned Ribeiro heading to the desert, or wherever the Coyotes will end up in a few years. I don't like the money for the age of Ribeiro and I can't see him being a point-per-game player. That said, I have him in a favorable position in my keeper league where he could make sense as a retention, but he looked a lot better in DC on that potentially lethal power play.

I can easily see Clarkson becoming a fan favorite and with his declaration of wearing the reverse Wendel Clark jersey, that will help endear him as well. Guy always did great work with the community in New Jersey and he's a guy who appears more thankful than other NHLers for where he is. He always credited Peter DeBoer with a lot after DeBoer coached Clarkson at Kitchener.

Iginla isn't a bad signing I think, just I can't see him being hugely productive in Boston. The Bruins spread out their scoring more than most top teams and I'm wondering where he'll fit? Horton's replacement with Lucic and Krecji or do you put Loui Eriksson there and slot Iggy on with Marchand and Bergeron? He'll have the opportunities to score, but he'll be the perennial buy low candidate he is every year, just with Boston's system I can't see him being an impact scorer.

If I'm Bryzgalov and I saw one of the icons of Russian hockey return home, I'd have to think about going back to the KHL. You have to figure Bryzgalov will be one of the goalies for Russia at Sochi, but who takes a gamble on him and his flighty persona in the NHL? Edmonton? Calgary? It's not like Bryzgalov will likely accept being a backup somewhere as he's still a talented netminder. I have to think he'll get an offer from an NHL team, but if it's a matter of saving face and ego, he might sign with a KHL team on a one-year deal and come back next season.

Thomas I can still see being signed by someone, although the distractions will abound with Thomas in town.

Wade Redden...if he'll accept a third-pairing role, I can see a team signing him on the cheap. At worst he's an experienced player, albeit a shell of his old self. Honestly though, it wouldn't surprise me if Redden goes unsigned into training camp and gets an invite somewhere. I don't think you can guarantee him a regular spot in the lineup at this point in his career.

Not to bring up the Devils, again, but the Jagr signing has been one of the biggest stories of the past week. One-year deal worth $2 million with an extra $2 million if he plays more than 45 games. I'm wondering what Jagr can deliver at this point. He can't skate as well as he used to, he doesn't score as much anymore. He can still dish the puck and create space for his teammates while holding onto the puck, but I'm not sold. He's a better option than other things that were out there, but by how much?

The 45 games thing has me quizzical as well. Pessimistically, this is looking like if the Devils are out of it halfway into the season, he's being traded as the team's financial situation could dictate not paying someone $2 million simply for being in the lineup (given, $2 million isn't a huge chunk for a pro hockey team, but it might look different when the owner is trying to sell the team.) Conversely, if Jagr has a resurgence and the Devils overachieve and make a run at the playoffs, or at least the "wild-card spot" for lack of a better term, keep him around and it could look like a value. Best case I see Jagr around 50 points with splits of about 15-35-50 and some power play production. I'm still not sold on this though.

How do you see Bobby Ryan fitting in in the nation's capital? Ottawa gave up a lot for Ryan, but it has to be good for him to get away from Anaheim. Conversely, what impact do you see for Jakob Silfverberg in Orange County?

Tyler Seguin in Dallas....buying or selling? How do you see him meshing with Jamie Benn?

Sorry the Jays have been awful of late.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Subject: Iggy Plays Guitar

I think Iggy slots onto the line with Lucic and Krejci. Iggy matches Lucic's north-south approach, although it feels a bit odd with the two together. Eriksson feels like a better match with Bergeron and Marchand -- each man has a specific role with little to no duplication. It's a trio that could really dominate. 

Jagr can still play, but he's not the stud he once was. I view his signing as a "save face" kind of move -- his former star status might take a bit of the glare off that formerly retired sniper. What was his name again? I think it starts with a hard consonant ... Seriously, though. I am looking forward to seeing a Patrik Elias -- Adam Henrique -- Jaromir Jagr line. Henrique can already play with studs and he helps guys look better than they actually are. Your Devils are going to roll a couple of sturdy, yet unspectacular lines, and I think they'll vie for a spot in the nine to 12 range in the East. Sorry.

Bobby Ryan is going to explode in Ottawa, in large part to prove everyone wrong ... particularly the Anaheim brass. There will be plateaus and flat lines for sure. But I'm curious to see how he fits with Jason Spezza and that Erik Karlsson guy. Silfverberg is the heir apparent to the Teemu Selanne spot on the second line. He's not going to explode offensively this season -- he's Swedish after all and they tend to want to prove their all-round mettle first; ultimate team guys. He'll be good and maybe even great some day. But who'll ever know? Those who toil on the left coast are often overlooked.

Tyler Seguin is an interesting guy. I do not like him in Dallas -- not one little bit. That city might just be the favorite party city for NHL players (or so I have heard again and again). It could be a nightmarish partnership. Up here, both of his parents have stood up for their little boyand his daddy says his boy is just doing what young guys do. Two words: shut up. He's a big boy now. He needs to grow up and honestly, look after himself. But don't the stories add an interesting backstory to the Kessel trade? 

Up here in the shadow of the CN Tower, there's plenty of speculation around a shrinking cap and the need to sign Nazem Kadri. The Leafs probably need to trade someone to re-sign him. How much does he get? And what do you make of Roberto Luongo changing agents? Pat Brisson is known as a tireless advocate for those he represents and he represents the very best. Does this mean Bobby Lou blames Gillies Lupien for his current predicament?

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Subject: Bobby Lou and Seguin Too

Yea, I've heard the stories about hanging out in Dallas from some writers and the more candid interviews you get to read with players about life on the road. I've been out in Dallas, it's a fun town.

You can't blame Seguin's parents for speaking out on his behalf, but it does no good. In Seguin's defense, I'm sure he's the only young, rich hockey player to have a beer and do some community outreach at local pubs. That said, he'll have to grow up quickly because he's too talented. I'm sure Leaf fans will still find a way to tie Kessel back to Seguin if and when Loui Eriksson continues his quietly consistent ways.

Considering what the Leafs gave Tyler Bozak, I can't see Kadri getting much less. Prices are dictated by the market and Kadri can benefit.

Luongo can blame whomever he chooses for his staying in Vancouver, but I can't imagine how awkward it's going to be heading back into that dressing room. He's been treated poorly by the Canucks and blamed for many of the team's problems, so it seems he did need new representation. Whether Vancouver will still trade him, I doubt it considering they dealt Schneider, but stranger things have happened and I'm sure Pat Brisson will battle for his new client.

Question of the week: Who are your best and worst signings of the summer thus far?