Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The dog days of summer plod on... the hockey world awaits a Shane Doan decision.

Yup, it's been over five weeks since Doan became an unrestricted free agent. As of now it's been reported that he will either re-sign with Phoenix or sign with one of three teams--Philadelphia, Vancouver and the "favorite," the NY Rangers.

Although Pittsburgh was not mentioned, I highly doubt they are completely out of the running. Why would any player of Doan's age and talents shun a perennial Eastern Conference powerhouse with two of the games best centers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

Buffalo seems to be out of the Doan race, even thought it's rumored that they are the team that offered him a 4yr./$30M contract. The free agent had visited NY, Philly and Vancouver, but not Buffalo.

GM Darcy Regier pretty much conceded when he said, "No, we have not met with [Doan], and I don’t know whether we will meet with him. We’re monitoring the situation, and I’d leave it at that."

Regier, supposedly, is still trying to work out a deal with Anaheim for Bobby Ryan. Rumors are flying with that one--like the Ducks want Tyler Ennis as a centerpiece, or, now, Thomas Vanek--but there's nothing concrete as of yet.

Meszaros injury turns Flyers away from Doan and Ryan

It's said that Buffalo is in the mix for the Ducks' Ryan and their stature should be a bit higher as the Flyers will probably be dropping out now that defenseman Andrej Meszaros is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season with a torn achilles.

It's yet another setback for GM Paul Holmgren as Philly's been striking out all summer. You can go back to the Stanley Cup as former captain Mike Richards and former top-six forward Jeff Carer both were a part of the Cup-winning LA Kings after being traded from the Flyers last season.

UFA's Ryan Suter and Zack Parise were in Homer's sights, but signed with the Minnesota Wild. Columbus traded Rick Nash to Philly's arch rival, the NY Rangers. He made an offer-sheet for Preds restricted free agent Shea Weber that was massively front-loaded and thought to be unmatchable, but Nashville matched.

They opted not to sign Jaromir Jagr up-front and Matt Carle on the back end with the latter's departure for Tampa Bay dropping an above average defense down a notch to merely average at best.

Holmgren kicked off the off season by trading from a position of strength in top-six winger James Van Riemsdyk to get bottom-pairing d-man (with top-four potential) Luke Schenn from Toronto to shore up the back end.

After striking out so many times this summer, which is very uncharacteristic of the Flyers organization, Holmgren still could have made a splash, as he likes to do, and rumor had it that he was heavily in on the Doan sweepstakes. Ryan was also on their radar.

But Meszaros going down pretty much squashes any plans to woo Doan or trade for Ryan. Their d is now in shambles without Meszaros, something we saw during the playoffs last season.

Chris Pronger is expected to go on long term injured reserve and it's quite possible his career is over. Brayden Coburn is a legit top-pairing d-man and so is Kimmo Timonen, but the latter is getting up there in age and has battled injuries as of late, and it will be quite difficult for him to log top-pairing minutes over the long-haul.

After that, they have Schenn, Nicklas Grossman, Bruno Gervais and Andres Lilja rounding out their top-six.

With a line-up like that on the back end it's pretty safe to say that the Penguins and Rangers, among other teams, are licking their chops. One would also assume that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is falling deeper into a cosmic, zen-like state to find his happy place.

It bodes well for the Sabres, though. They have an excess of d-men should Philly come knocking. Jordan Leopold would add short-term (one year left on his contract)stability. Andrej Sekera has top-four, minute-eating, puck-moving credentials and is signed for three more seasons. The Sabres also have TJ Brennan who's out of waiver options on a team with nine NHL-quality d-men should the Fly-boys be looking for youth.

Although any trade scenarios with Philly would not include the likes of Claude Giroux or Sean Couturier, a player like third-line center Matt Read or even winger Wayne Simmonds might be a realistic.

One can probably forget about former Sabre and fan favorite, Daniel Briere. He may be a sentimental choice, it'd be far-fetched for him to leave Philly.

Holmgren has proven he never sits on his hands, so you can expect him to make a move soon, even if it's only signing a band-aid d-man like Jaroslav Spacek or Carl Colaiacovo.

But a Read or Simmonds for a Leopold or Sekera and/or Brennan and/or whatever else is necessary to make it a hockey trade would be good for the Sabres.

The Sabres sign Kaleta are working on Ennis

Regier recently re-signed uber-pest Patrick Kaleta to a 3-year deal at $1.275M per season.

The Angola native will be joined this season by Steve Ott and the two should be wreaking havoc on the ice for a good portion of the game.

As for Ennis, he, like Kaleta, was qualified by the team to prevent an offer-sheet poaching, but they remain apart on a deal.

And things may have gotten a bit complicated as of today. Carolina re-signed 20 yr. old center Jeff Skinner to a 6yr./$34.35M extension.

Although Ennis is not regarded as a talent on Skinner's level, the price none-the-less probably just went up.

Ennis may have been on track to sign a Drew Stafford-like 2yr./$3.8M contract. He had a solid rookie season (20g, 29a) and expectations were high before a slow start and an injury took away a good chunk of his sophomore year.

He did come on strong, though. He finished with 15g and 19a in 48 games last season with the majority coming after he was moved to center.

Ennis, Stafford and rookie Marcus Foligno formed a potent line that almost single-handedly propelled Buffalo into the playoffs last season.

But, there are too many question marks abound for Ennis. Were his 25 games at center an aberration? Will that line pick up where it left off? Will injuries be a part of his future? Will he be able to reach his potential at 5'10" 160lbs.?

A two to three year contract would benefit both sides, and an annual salary of $2.5-$3.25M would probably be about right for both player and team as well.

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