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AROUND THE BOARDS: Early trades flare up

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 
AROUND THE BOARDS: Kelley's look at the NHL

Looking at the Friday trades

We told you earlier this week that the Vancouver had a "situation" with forward , but they made a deal with Carolina because they were struggling, especially at home, and needed a defenseman to replace , who left via free agency. In sending Druken, a center, and winger to Carolina, for defenseman and winger , the toughen up on both the blueline and the wing. Malik is big (6-6, 235) and tough and will help keep teams from running in on goaltender . Langdon isn't the scorer that Hlavac projects to be, but the have enough scorers; they needed the grit and attitude that Langdon can bring. As is usually the case, this was a deal borne of necessity. The 'Canes have a surplus of NHL defensemen, but they've been struggling to score goals and Hlavac has multiple skills. He does, however, need to grow up. This is his fourth NHL team in two years and he's being passed around because he hasn't yet learned how to put forth a consistent NHL game. Druken was a scorer in junior hockey, but he's still considered a prospect and had dropped out of the Vancouver center-ice rotation and refused to report to the minors on a "conditioning stint," pretty much forcing the to trade him. The winner: If potential plays out to form someday, it's Carolina, but for right now, we like Vancouver. They get the grit and tenacity they need up front and on the blueline for two players that really didn't fit their system. Meanwhile, the Washington sent veteran winger and unsigned restricted free agent to Chicago for center , a third-round pick in 2003 and a conditional third-round pick in 2004. This is a house cleaning trade for Washington. They couldn't sign Nikolishin (the already have) and they were discouraged with the play of Simon, who has struggled mightily in recent seasons, especially this one. Simon is a good blend of toughness and some scoring ability, and even though the scoring side of his game is dropping, he is still among the most feared players in the game. Chicago needed that. Nikolishin replaces Nylander, who had pretty much lost his role on the team due to the improved play of rookie . And the winner is: Nobody, this is largely an exchange of bodies. The do fill a toughness need, but only if Simon gets interested in being a tough guy for a new team.

It's a numbers game

Here's the rock and a hard place the Boston — and virtually any other team trying to save a buck or two — will find themselves up against, even when they do dial one of those 10-10 numbers in the off-season. The Boston won the Northeast division and the Eastern Conference last season, but they made some cuts after being ousted in the first round of the playoffs last spring. They decided not to pay the $9 million he would command on the open market. They decided not to pay free-agent prices for their goaltender, , opting instead to let him sit (which the rest of the NHL has done, as well). They offered no raise to defenseman , who opted to holdout and, to this day, remains unsigned. The payback for saving all that cash is to lose all the savings earned. The , who returned to the FleetCenter after a spectacular run through the West, played at their home rink Thursday with an announced crowd of 9,941, their smallest crowd in 20 years. Veteran watchers who were in the building that night claim there were no more than 4,000 in their seats when the first puck dropped and that the crowd maxed out at no more than 6,000-7,000. The knew they would take a hit for their fiscal conservatism, but they did come to the game with a 6-0-2 unbeaten streak and a well-publicized (and televised) hot start. Fans, however, chose to stay home, giving a pretty strong indication that the team's season ticket base is in the same low range as the ownerless Buffalo , the fiscally challenged Ottawa and a great many NHL teams that are struggling at the gate whether they are playing well or not. The don't announce season-ticket figures, but the thinking in Boston was that the club had some 12,000 season-ticket holders last season. Thursday's 9,491 figure would indicate that the base could well be below 9,000 (assuming some of the people in the building bought their tickets at the ticket window at game time). That's going to scare a lot of people in the NHL. If you can put a winner on the ice and still have people stay home in droves, it's a clear indication that the public doesn't like either your product or what it costs. If the had spent the money to keep all their players, they would have lost millions. It appears by not signing them they've done the same.

In case you thought otherwise

While we're on the topic of the , be advised that the club is in no hurry to trade McLaren. The may have finally realized that moving quickly to dispatch players who no longer wanted to play for the club (a common occurrence the past few seasons), sent the message that a player need only hold out to get his early wish. Given that the are off to a good start, there's no pressure to trade McLaren right away or even anytime soon. The will trade him when they feel they get an offer that represents not fair, but good value. Until then, they are likely content to let him sit and lose some of the money he felt he would be pocketing by now.

Fuggettaboudit

Shelve all those rumors you're hearing about Nashville general manger David Poile firing coach Barry Trotz or that Poile himself is in danger because of the team's poor start this season. A source tells FOXSports.com that the rumors are totally unfounded and little more than pure speculation on the part of media. That's true. That doesn't mean that Trotz might have to go if things don't turn around, say, by the Christmas selling period, but he's not in any danger now and the fact that his team is struggling but hasn't quit on him means he's likely safe for some time to come.

One final thought

If you're looking for yet another player likely to move, look to Calgary and . The oft-times disgruntled player is again in coach Greg Gilbert's doghouse. Gilbert has been using Savard sparingly and sat him out completely in the 3-0 win against Buffalo Thursday night. The coach is ragging on the inconsistency of a player who has twice asked to be traded. The buzz around the NHL is that this time, his request will be granted.
Who's he?
Chicago center is the NHL Rookie of the Month, but that doesn't mean we don't like him, too. Fact is, we liked him at the start of the preseason as a serious Calder Trophy candidate and he hasn't done anything to get us to change our mind. For one thing, the young center is getting so much ice time that he made No. 2 center expendable as a part of the deal. Arnason also plays in more of the key situations. He's strong on the puck, comes out of the corners well and appears to be very smart in that when he does step out of the corners, he knows what to do next. He scored the game-winning goal with 6.2 seconds left Tuesday in a win over Columbus and he forced a tie with the Los Angeles (1-1) with a goal with 35 seconds left in regulation play. He later drew a penalty that eventually produced 's game-winner in overtime against the . There are veteran players in this league who never learn to play like that. Prior to his NHL career, he was rookie of the year in the Manitoba Junior League. He earned First All-Star Team honors in the USHL (Fargo-Moorhead, 1997-98), was named All-Rookie in the WCHA (St. Cloud State, 1998-99) and captured the "Red" Garrett Trophy as the American Hockey League's top rookie with Norfolk last season. Arnason's father, Chuck, played in the NHL from 1971 through 1979, skating for eight clubs (Montreal, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Colorado, Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington). Few players ever win the award in both leagues, but this kid has a chance. He had four goals and four assists in his first nine NHL games.
Five things you should know
1. Yes, that was , the Atlanta scoring star, benched in the 3-3 tie with Toronto Thursday. Seems coach Curt Fraser is not going down without a fight and Fraser is fed up with Kovalchuk's refusal to even hint that he's willing to even try and play defense. Kovalchuk was a minus-3 in Tuesday's loss to Los Angeles and posted a league-worst minus-13 in the team's first nine games. That is difficult to do. 2. It's going to take a while given that he plays in Carolina, but can't be held off the superstar bandwagon much longer. The gifted but unheralded forward took a 10-point scoring streak into the weekend and has 13 points in 11 games. If his name were Lemieux, he would have been player of the month. 3. Chicago goaltender is another player who gets no respect. He notched his 200th NHL win Tuesday, the seventh-youngest player to get to 200 in NHL history (he's 27 and nine months). Consider the people who got there ahead of him: Terry Sawchuk (25 years-10 months), Harry Lumley (26-0), Grant Fuhr (26-4), (26-11), (26-11) and (27-1). Nice company. 4. The Dallas are 6-2-2-1, but they think they should be doing better. They've blown third-period leads on several occasions (and they've been more than one-goal leads). It's not the goalie's fault. The have decent goaltending and have beefed up the offense, but the defense is often looking old and slow and that's costing them points. 5. You say you can't understand how Nashville has just one win and it came against Stanley Cup champion Detroit? Don't be shocked, Nashville is 5-5-2 all-time vs. Detroit, 2-0-2 in its last four. Why? Two reasons. The don't take them seriously and Nashville is a very good skating team.
Thug Watch
We're outside the usual category here, but we couldn't leave this one alone. After Dave Babych won a partial victory in his lawsuit against the Philadelphia team physician (see ), general manager Bob Clarke leveled him with a verbal shot to various body parts. Said the Clarkemiester: "Something like this is probably going to lead to more players coming out of the woodwork now," Clarke said. "Babych was a very average player. He's getting money for nothing. He didn't miss one day of training camp the following year. He was an old, slow player and he was that way before (the injury). It wasn't like his play deteriorated; it's just other guys got better, that's all. "It's horrible what Babych did to a top doctor. For a guy like Babych to do something like that to him is just horrible. "You never tell a doctor what to do. They tell us if the player is injured or if he can play. We don't get into it at all. Babych was a very average player. He wasn't going to make any difference. We could easily replace a guy like that. We wouldn't force a guy like that to play. We wouldn't force anybody to play." We'll leave that determination up to you. We're still trying to figure out how the got themselves dismissed from the suit. The team doctor is an independent contractor?
In the next 48 hours
  • Atlanta pretty much needs to beat the Florida Saturday night to allow Fraser to keep his job. The team is 0-8-1-1, but getting a tie Thursday night in Toronto was considered a step in the right direction. Still, this deep into the season without a win has the Fraser watchers on full alert.
  • Rookie finally got his chance to look good in an Ottawa uniform with an assist and a goal in his first two games, but it will be his next two starts that determines whether or not he remains with the big club or goes back to the minors when returns from a chest injury. The hockey department would like to keep him, but money is an issue. The team is doing poorly at the gate and Speeza makes in excess of $1.13 million as an NHLer and a mere $87,000 down on the farm.
  • Look for to make his debut with the St. Louis this weekend in place of the injured .
  • F.Y.I.
    So what's wrong with the Phoenix ? Well, 4-7-0-1 represents one of the worst starts for the franchise all-time. They're averaging only two goals per game. Their big off-season acquisition, , is working hard but not scoring goals. They've faced the most short-handed situations of any team in the league so far. They have six regulars, including goalie and team MVP , out with injuries. They can't seem to find a third (or fourth) line center as is not performing as management hoped he would. Bright young prospect Krys Kolanos continues to have long-term concussion problems. Look for this team to get into the market for a center as early as next week.
    Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
    Tagged: Bruins, Flames, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Hurricanes, Kings, Stars, Devils, Senators, Flyers, Avalanche, Blues, Canucks, Capitals, Coyotes, Panthers, Jets, Blue Jackets, Kyle McLaren, Bill Guerin, Marc Savard, Michael Nylander, Jocelyn Thibault, Tony Amonte, Marek Malik, Martin Brodeur, Radek Bonk, Keith Tkachuk, Dan Cloutier, Chris Simon, Sean Burke, Tyler Arnason

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