Canada closing in on final roster; latest on Marty Turco, David Booth

December, 20, 2009

Team USA's management team brainstormed earlier this week in Pebble Beach, Calif., before the NHL's board of governors meetings. Now, it's Team Canada's decision-makers' turn to get together for a crucial session.

Canadian GM Steve Yzerman and his staff of Kevin Lowe, Doug Armstrong and Ken Holland were slated to meet Sunday morning in Chicago, along with coach Mike Babcock, in a gathering that will likely produce some very important decisions regarding the final 2010 Olympic roster.

It's the final face-to-face session before the group heads to Saskatoon on Dec. 28, when it meets the next day to pick the team once and for all ahead of the Dec. 30 announcement at the world juniors.

One player Yzerman has scouted closely over the past two weeks is Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who was not at Canada's orientation camp this past summer. He's on the bubble right now.

Scott Niedermayer
I was surprised when I spoke with Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer on Thursday night in San Jose and heard just how harsh he was on himself for his play of late. It's interesting, if for no other reason than he's likely going to named captain for Team Canada. But if anyone believes the Canadian management team is having second thoughts on him, don't bother. He remains a lock. Let's face it, because of the way the rest of the Ducks' blue-line group is playing, coach Randy Carlyle is forced to overplay Niedermayer. I also think Niedermayer is trying to do too much to get the last-place team going. Once he's on the ice with a star-studded roster like Canada, it'll be the Niedermayer of old able to do his thing.

Stars and Marty Turco
The Stars had a short chat with Marty Turco's agent about a month ago, but it appears the team will likely ride out the season before deciding what to do with the impending unrestricted free agent. I think Turco controls his future. If he has a huge second half and gets the Stars into the playoffs, maybe the front office offers him an extension. If he's average and the Stars miss the playoffs, he's likely gone. If the Stars aren't in a playoff spot come the March 3 trade deadline, they could possibly dangle him. I'm still a big believer in Turco; if the veteran goes to free agency July 1, he'll have a few very interested suitors.

Lack of trades
The NHL's holiday trade freeze went into effect at midnight ET Saturday and runs until midnight ET Dec. 27. Why bother with the freeze; there've barely been any significant moves so far this season, anyway.

"It's really frustrating," one NHL GM told on Saturday. "Burkey's idea is a good one and needs to be seriously considered."

"Burkey" is of course Leafs GM Brian Burke, who has pushed in recent years for the league to change the collective bargaining agreement (which would require NHL Players' Association approval) and allow teams to retain some salary in trades in order to facilitate moves. The league has resisted Burke's idea and believes it's an item it can discuss with the union during the next CBA talks. But Burke will likely bring this up again at the next GMs meeting in March.

In the meantime ... crickets.

"My phone has actually been ringing more frequently lately," said another GM on Saturday. "But it's just so hard right now with nobody wanting to take on salary."

As we get closer to the March 3 trade deadline, you'll see more moves because the cap hit is smaller with each passing day on the calendar.

"I think you'll finally see some moves starting next month," said one GM.

As I wrote earlier this week, the NHL governors I spoke to in Pebble Beach were not impressed by the idea of Phoenix playing games in Saskatoon next season if the Ice Edge purchase goes through. I e-mailed Ice Edge investor Daryl Jones about this Saturday and here's what he had to say:

"We haven't done a survey, but the comments made to you don't surprise me," said Jones, who also stressed the fact his group has immense respect for the board of governors and its concerns. "It is a unique idea that is out of the box and the criticisms are fair. For us, it is part of a multi-part business plan that gets us closer to break even, and thus is important to our proposal to buy the team. More than that, though, it is part of what we call our 6,000 kilometer grass roots plan ... which is that there are 6,000 kilometers in Canada from Toronto to Calgary and Montreal east which don't have access to NHL hockey on a regular basis.

"We think those regions of Canada should [have] access to hockey of this level, and the combination of an AHL team in T-Bay and five games in Saskatoon goes a long way in fulfilling that. No doubt, though, the burden of proof is on us to prove to the BOG that is a good idea. As a former junior hockey player from Saskatchewan, I have no doubt this idea would be received warmly in Saskatoon and would be an on-ice success, but it would require the BOG and others to get out of their comfort zone."

Panthers and David Booth
There is finally some encouraging news for star winger David Booth (concussion). The Florida Panthers star winger is finally back on the ice. He has skated every day since Tuesday, including Saturday, with no setbacks so far. If all goes well, there's some hope he could be back by mid-January, but obviously any kind of small setback would push that date further back. Let's cross our fingers for him.

Wild fire update
The Minnesota Wild were able to play their game Saturday night in Ottawa despite a fire in their equipment truck Friday that destroyed some players' gear. After some initial concern about whether they could go ahead with the game, all was well.

"Our equipment staff [Tony Dacosta, Brent Proulx and Matt Benz] did an unbelievable job," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told in an e-mail Saturday morning.

I leave you with this funny one from Sharks backup goalie Thomas Greiss, who will likely be the starter for Germany in the February Olympics. I asked him Thursday about his efforts to convince German-born Dany Heatley to play for Greiss' squad instead of Canada.

"I'm doing everything I can," said Greiss. "I even offered him our great German beer and sausages. How can you refuse that?"

I know I wouldn't.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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