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So, there was a little emotion in that USA/Russia game Saturday, eh? I have to admit, I’m a little surprised at the reaction to a preliminary game in a sport that most of the citizens of the United States couldn’t care less about (allegedly). But, I guess that’s part of what makes the Olympic Games special.
Judging by the reaction on both sides of the world, the Cold War isn’t completely dead.
The United States and Russia played a fantastic hockey game. It was complete with world class skill, incredible goaltending, controversial officiating, sudden death overtime and the theatre of the shootout (which I hate). The supposed underdog Americans taking on the offensive firepower of the former Iron Curtain in a rematch of 1980 with the Russians seeking revenge!
Now, I didn’t quite buy the revenge angle because the former Soviets did win three consecutive gold medals in hockey after losing in 1980 but, it seems like I was in the minority. The game had just a hint of hate and there was definitely a subtle tinge of political undertone.
All of that provided for great watching but, most importantly, the play on the ice didn’t disappoint. The skill that was on display was incredible. The speed was mind boggling. And the game was truly world class. And although I personally hated the ending, it certainly provided one of the great moments of the 2014 Olympic Games.
TJ Oshie became a household name in the United States in a matter of minutes. The shootout specialist was exactly that.
The game gave the Americans a win in their toughest test of the games. It also may have been exactly what the American team needed as a confidence booster. Not to say that the USA didn’t have confidence but a win like that could become a turning point if the USA goes on to win gold.
The Americans haven’t played the two best teams in the tournament yet. Sweden and Canada are best teams in the Olympics, in my opinion, but they did beat the team I picked to win bronze. It answered the biggest question facing the Americans heading into the Olympics; could they defend against the faster teams on the big ice? The answer was a convincing yes.
After the USA’s victory today against Slovenia, they’ll go into the elimination rounds undefeated. They’ll also get a bye in the first round. They’ve set themselves up for a medal run as best they could. This doesn’t quite feel like 1980 yet but, unlike 1980, there is no reason to think that the Americans can’t win gold.
Expect the Red Wings to inquire about Thomas Vanek from the Isles as a rental.
— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) February 1, 2014
That is the tweet that was heard/seen around Red Wing nation yesterday. Chris Botta, who covers the Islanders for a variety of New York outlets, sent that innocent little tweet shortly after the Wings/Capitals game concluded and it set Red Wings fans in motion. Botta is a very tied-in guy. He has very good sources and has been around the Islanders for the better part of 20 years. I have no doubt that by tweeting this, he’s heard from a high enough source that Ken Holland has already called Islanders GM Garth Snow and let him know that Detroit would be interested if the Islanders move Vanek prior to March 5th.
The speculation around the Islanders lately has been that the organization would like a definitive answer from Vanek prior to the Olympic break on if he intends to re-sign with NY or test the free agent market. He is set to become a UFA this summer. Most expect Vanek to hit the market this summer as he will be highly sought after and the top free agent scorer available.
He’s a talented goal scorer, albeit very streaky. He scored 40 goals in 2008-09 but hasn’t cracked 33 since. I think some of that can be contributed to always being the only real threat in Buffalo and being blanketed by opponents. Vanek has seemingly found his offensive touch again this season with 19 goals and 47 points in 54 games between the Sabres and Islanders. He’s been productive in NY playing alongside John Tavares and not being counted on to be “the guy” every, single night. While I don’t think Vanek can be the top scoring threat on a team, I do think he’s a very good “second guy” in the right environment. In other words, all things are point in the right direction for Vanek to get a very nice contract this summer from somebody.
With that in mind, Vanek will most likely be available as a rental at the trade deadline. And, as we’ve seen in recent years for the top guys available, the price will be very high. Remember when Paul Gaustad fetched a 1st round pick in 2012? Factor that in with Garth Snow usually getting some kind of value back in the trades he makes and the bidding for Vanek should get very high. My best guess is that Vanek will cost a team a roster player, a mid-level prospect and a draft pick. The draft pick could be as high as a 1st rounder and I wouldn’t expect lower than a 4th.
So, can the Red Wings do it? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes and no…it’s a little complicated.
Before I explain, let me say that Johan Franzen is the biggest variable in any and every scenario for the Red Wings. His injury status will dictate what the Red Wings can do at the deadline and how much they can add in terms of salary. Stephen Weiss is a non-factor in my reasoning because he is expected back after the Olympic break and is already skating again. Let’s concentrate on Franzen and his $3.95 million dollar cap number.
First, let’s understand what the Red Wings roster looks like when it is healthy. When fully healthy, the Wings have too many skaters and are $3.78 million dollars over the cap. That’s no good so, some players are going to have to move around in order to add anyone at the deadline or simply comply with NHL roster rules.
In this scenario, Johan Franzen is placed on LTIR for the remainder of the regular season. The Red Wings then save his salary cap hit which gets them just under the cap’s limit. To ease the roster crunch, Jurco, Eaves and Emmerton are sent back to Grand Rapids to get the NHL roster back down to 23.
With this adjusted roster, the Red Wings have a little flexibility but, still can’t add Vanek without giving up a roster player. Thus, scenario one is the best case for Detroit, I believe. Detroit trades Kyle Quincey to the Islanders along with a prospect and a 2nd round draft pick for Thomas Vanek and a 3rd round pick. In this deal, I think the draft pick could end up being a conditional 1st round or could elevate to 1st rounder of the Islander agree to retain some of Vanek’s salary (Draft pick conditions could include Vanek re-signing with the Red Wings).
The Red Wings aren’t going to re-sign Quincey this summer. Instead of losing him in free agency for nothing, sending him to the Islanders makes sense. The Islanders could use another established NHL defenseman and I believe Quincey would be open to re-signing there. But, the main attractions for the Islanders to make this deal would be the prospect and draft pick.
Adding Vanek in this scenario gives the Red Wings a very different look in their top six forwards and maintains their emerging bottom six of young players assuming that Cleary and Bertuzzi remain as scratches. Keep in mind, Franzen would also be allowed to return for the playoffs if healthy because the salary cap only pertains to the regular season.
Keep in mind that any player or players with a similar cap hit could be substituted for Quincey in this scenario. Quincey simply works as the best option.
This scenario is one that would require multiple deals to get under the cap or require NY to retain a portion of Vanek’s salary. Here, Franzen returns to the lineup and adding Vanek becomes much more difficult. The first steps would be demoting Sheahan, Glendenning and burying Dan Cleary in Grand Rapids. Cleary still counts against the cap at a reduced rate but his roster spot is cleared. By doing so, the Red Wings would carry just 21 players and would need the Islander to retain at least $1.32 million dollars of Vanek’s salary. That variable alone could push the surrendered draft pick to a 1st rounder.
Unfortunately, in this case, the demotion of Sheahan and Glendenning removes the emerging youth element from the roster. But, the allure of Vanek’s offense could make this a plausible scenario for Detroit. Those players could be recalled for the playoffs due to the lessened roster restrictions and salary cap.
There you have it. Anything is possible if Detroit is willing to make it happen. Of course, Ken Holland’s track record in recent years lends us to believe it won’t happen. In fact, in all likelihood nothing will happen at the deadline for the Wings…nothing substantial anyway.
I’m not saying that these scenarios will happen, are likely to happen or anything like that. I’m simply pointing out that if they really wanted to, the Red Wings could find a way to add Thomas Vanek prior to the deadline. Everything depends on Ken Holland and if the organization thinks adding Vanek would equate to a long playoff run. As bad as the Eastern Conference is this year, simply getting into the playoffs could mean a shot at the Cup. The formula is pretty simple for the Red Wings…
Get In + Get Hot = Make a Run. Nobody in the East is unbeatable.
The latest edition of End to End is now available on iTunes or the link below. Sorry it took so long. In other news, I need a better laptop.
Not so fast.
It’s easy to look at Saturday night’s win over the Los Angeles Kings and think the Detroit Red Wings may have finally “turned a corner.” While it’s true that the Red Wings have been playing a better brand of hockey lately, it’s hard to forget the feelings of “back to square one” after Thursday’s showing in San Jose.
Jimmy Howard made 44 saves and looked to be as good as ever, but he looked the same a week ago in Dallas and his follow up performance was downright ugly. Howard acquired a suspected hip-flexor injury Saturday night, but if he’s OK to back up Sunday’s game in Anaheim it’s probably fair to presume he starts in net Thursday against the New York Rangers (Unless of course the Wings are playing with fire, and just don’t want to fly a goalie out to California for a game that’s already less than 24-hours away). If he does in fact start on Thursday, that’s the same amount of time off he got between starts last week, meaning Thursday’s game against the Rangers could be the real measuring stick as to whether or not Howard is “back.”
Don’t dust over the fact that the great games Detroit has put together lately have all come on the road, where they have one of the best records in the league.
The Wings will still need to conquer home ice (6-10-7) to prove they’ve turned the corner, and they’ll get a chance to do just that. After Thursday’s game with the Rangers the team will be on home ice for its next five games, four of which are against playoff teams, including the Kings, Blues, and Blackhawks.
You see, the Red Wings have put a couple of games like this together through out the first half of the season. The problem has been consistency, and while it appears they’re trending toward consistency, it’s still not enough to say a corner has been turned. In two weeks we’ll know where the Red Wings really are. One game is great, but until it’s hard to declare a team revived until you see them do it over time.
Tomas Tatar continues to impress..
A guy who is starting to show consistency is Tomas Tatar, he’s got a goal in his last three games and seems to have earned the complete trust of his head coach. Writing that he has a goal in his last three games sounds great, but it probably doesn’t do the goals he’s scored much justice. A week ago in Dallas he did his best Pavel Datsyuk impression making Dallas defensemen look silly on his way into a beautiful break away goal. In San Jose he pulled the puck out from behind the net, found a sliver of space and roofed a backhander right in the face of a helpless (and stick-less) Sharks defenseman. Then Saturday he scores a game-winning goal a day removed from his father’s passing.
Say what you will about the way the Red Wings develop players, or the fact that Tatar was leading Grand Rapids to a Calder Cup when he could have contributed to the Red Wings 2013 playoff run.
The run with the Griffins helped him as a player in a way I’m not sure a 2013 run with the Red Wings could have. It might be a stretch to say him being leaned on last spring is contributing to him being leaned on now, but the way guys play has so much to do with confidence it is not far-fetched to think some of this is the benefit of being put in a position to be “the guy” last year.
Goaltenders: Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith
Defense: Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Dan Hamhuis, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, PK Subban, Marc Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber
Forwards: Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews
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