Welcome to the “Let’s Make A Deal” edition of The Buzz Between The Boards. This weekend of course was the 2010 NHL Draft and many teams had been building towards it for weeks not just for drafting, but also for trading and moving salaries. It started last week with Halak being moved to the Blues, Hamhuis going over to the Flyers, and then Arnott ending back up in New Jersey. But the “heat” was up high all this week as it seemed like there were rumors around every single team heading this week. What got bad is that it was hard to tell what was just completely false speculation or guessing, and the real discussions that were going on. Some names we expected like Spezza, Ribeiro, Nabokov maybe out of San Jose, Horton, and a few players out of Chicago. So let’s look at some of the moves this week and what may happen now to a few names that have not been moved yet.
The first move for this week was the Boston Bruins st arting to try and improve their weak offense by getting Nathan Horton for the Florida Panthers. It is no secret that new GM Dave Tallon was going to change the build and look of the Panthers. He traded one of their better players in the 25 year-old RW for the 15th pick this year, a 3rd rounder next year, and a good defenseman in Dennis Wideman. Wideman put up some points last season, and had a great postseason with the Bruins. So Florida may be losing a young top-6 forward, they did get back picks and a defenseman who has shown he can play on the powerplay and will get lots of minutes with the Panthers. Then last night during the 1st round of the draft, the Panthers moved defender Keith Ballard and his $4.2 million a year contract to the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks sent over two former first round picks in the 25 year-old Bernier and 22 year-old Grabner along with their 1st round pick for Ballard and prospect Victor Oreskovich. In both moves Tallon losses something but got young talent back and got to draft 3 guys in the first round last night. In 2-3 years we could look at this week and off-season as the start of what changed the Florida Panthers franchise. A couple former 1st rounders, drafting 3 this year, and getting a top-4 defenseman back. Busy, but in my opinion successful, week for the new GM.
Also the Chicago Blackhawks did make a move to trade away one of their forwards. But while many hoped it would be Versteeg and some thought it could be Sharp, it was playoff star Dustin Byfuglien that was moved. “Big Buff” was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers along with Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and prospect Akim Aliu. In return the Blackhawks got back the first and second round picks belonging to New Jersey originally, prospect Jeremy Morin and bodies in Marty Reasoner and Joey Crabb. With all the talent the Blackhawks have, there are a few bad contracts that have put them in the situation there are now in. This deal reportedly saves them about $5 million and they are probably still not done. If they could find a way to dump Huet’s contract or get rid of it, then maybe the Blackhawks will be okay. But if not then they may still have to move Versteeg or Sharp. For Atlanta, they receive a top-6 young forward and a usable defenseman back. It works for them as they need some offense with the space left from the departure of Kovalchuk, and they got a face that now draws some interest back to the franchise. It works for both teams, as Chicago would have liked to keep Byfuglien but it was not possible for them to keep their core together and resign Niemi.
So what about Kaberle? Ribeiro or Spezza? With all the build-up that has happened over the last few weeks, other then those 3 moves it was just another NHL Draft. Some small moves, teams switching picks, and some buzz and rumors. Hamhuis was moved again, or at least his rights were, but he still may hit the open market. But this looked like it would be a huge weekend and in the end many of the general managers were willing to wait or just pass on what they could get. As a few people said last night, with the cap the way it is and the economy as such it is becoming harder to make some moves. I still believe Tomas Kaberle will be moved at some point this off-season, it just appears that Toronto GM Brian Burke is not fully enticed by some of the offers so far or may be waiting to see what he can get. Kaberle is still very movable and his value may go up even more if a couple of the good defenseman heading to free agency sign with new teams quickly. There is almost always a market for a good 2-way defenseman and I think Burke is set on moving him when he gets the offer he likes. It appears Jason Spezza probably will not be moved now. His contract is huge, and it would have to be a good offer from Ottawa to move him. He may want out, but it looks like they want him back. GM Murray said, “there’s not going to be at this point in time” when he was asked. He has a big roster paycheck coming next week I believe, and once that check comes then I do not see them moving him this off-season. The talks were apparently happening, according to many sources, but Mike Ribeiro is still in Dallas for the moment. It was well known Dallas was listening to offers on him and is willing to move him, but they kept repeating that they would not move him for the sake of doing such and would be fine with having him back next season. While I completely agree with that, as a Dallas fan I just think at some point a move has to be made to help one of the shakiest defenses in the league. And who better to move then Ribeiro, who’s contract is big but not huge and in the right system he will be worth the $5 million a year price tag. There are still rumors and speculation about Ribs for Kaberle or moving Ribs to Minnesota or Philadelphia. Only time will tell, but I do think at some point Dallas makes a move for a defender either this off-season or before the trade deadline this coming season.
Alright, next up is free agency. This week I will be building my list of some of the top players at each position and will try to put that up before the start of free agency Thursday, along with discussing movements and signings next Saturday. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and have yourself a good time.