Caps' future and our Ducks-Leafs trade advice

October, 31, 2009

Just who is running the ghost ship that is the office of the NHL Players' Association? Well, for now, it's Mike Ouellet and Rolland Lee.

Sources confirmed to on Saturday that the four-man review committee (Rob Blake, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom and Mark Recchi) has asked Ouellet, the union's chief of business affairs, and Lee, NHLPA associate counsel, to run the NHLPA office until the executive board (30 player reps) can reconvene and name an interim executive director and interim general counsel.

Contrary to some reports, Ouellet has not been named the interim executive director, he's just running the office along with Lee until the player reps next meet.

The next executive board conference call is critical. Right now, it's scheduled for Nov. 8 or Nov. 9 (light NHL schedules on those days). I'm told the board will vote on naming an interim executive director and interim general counsel on that call.

The four-man review committee will soon hire outside counsel and a forensic firm, which they need in the process of investigating the firing of former executive director Paul Kelly and the manner in which it happened.

A trade that makes too much sense!
In my opinion, if there's a trade that just makes too much sense, it's Jean-Sebastien Giguere to Toronto. Clearly, it makes sense for Anaheim, which wants to cut itself from the goaltender's contract ($6 million this season and $7 million next season). But I also think the Maple Leafs should give this some serious thought (I think they have, at least a little bit).

The Leafs are one of the few teams on Giguere's short list (he has a no-movement clause), he would be reunited with goalie coach Francois Allaire and he could mentor rookie Jonas Gustavsson, much like he did Jonas Hiller in Anaheim. Let's face it: Vesa Toskala (UFA July 1) is probably beyond repair in Toronto, where the fans have turned on him. The Leafs, meanwhile, could rid themselves of some excess baggage in the Giguere deal, perhaps sending a forward or two the other way, a guy like Alexei Ponikarovsky, for example.

The Leafs will have some extra bodies up front when Phil Kessel makes his much-anticipated return. And, by the way, Giguere might help the Leafs win a few games over the next year and a half, which isn't a bad thing considering Boston holds both of Toronto's first-round picks. It's just my own speculation, but I just think it makes too much sense.

Capitals, and cap issues
The Chicago Blackhawks' salary-cap issues have been well-documented as they attempt to sign Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith to extensions. To me, the Washington Capitals are a mini-version of that cap crunch in the East.

Star winger Alexander Semin and star center Nicklas Backstrom are both slated for restricted free agency July 1, and preliminary contract talks have already been held in both cases. I don't think Backstrom will be an issue. But I'm hearing things aren't going great on the Semin front.

What makes his case interesting is he's just another season removed from unrestricted free agency (July 2011), so a one-year deal for Semin bridges the gap to UFA land. Of course, the Caps would want to sign him to more than a year. There is also the fact there are the usual rumbles out of Russia that the KHL has a few suitors interested in a native son come July if he's still unsigned.

Now, defensemen Brian Pothier ($2.5 million) and Milan Jurcina ($1.375 million) come off the books after this season (unless they are re-signed), so that creates some cap space. Michael Nylander loses his no-movement clause after the season. Even though he has one more year left on his deal, the Caps could either stick him in the minors or buy out; but either way, his $4.875 million cap hit will no longer exist next season.

And what of Jose Theodore? The veteran goalie is earning $4.5 million this season and becomes a UFA July 1. If he walks, there's more cap savings there if the Caps go with the youthful Semyon Varlamov-Michal Neuvirth duo in goal. Or, perhaps, Theodore continues his great season and the team decides to keep him.

Just like Chicago, the Caps have some interesting cap decisions to make over the next 10 months. Stay tuned.

Latest on Ilya Kovalchuk
Thrashers GM Don Waddell met with Ilya Kovalchuk's agent, Jay Grossman, this past week and the two plan to meet again over the next 7-10 days. The clock is ticking as Kovalchuk is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Thrashers won't let this drag on all season.

Latest on the Hurricanes
Carolina is trying to make trades, but not necessarily for the reasons you'd think. They're not giving up on this season this early. The Hurricanes still believe in the core of this team. But because the Canes have nine contracts up at the end of the season and are currently one of the oldest teams in the NHL, it's believed GM Jim Rutherford is trying to acquire some youth. Keep an eye on the Hurricanes.

2010 NHL draft
It's likely headed to Los Angeles. The Kings are the leading bid right now, although the league still hasn't signed off on it. Los Angeles makes total sense with the NHL awards likely going back to nearby Las Vegas the week before. It would make things a lot easier logistically for everyone that has to be at both events, including me!

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?