Andrew Raycroft On Waivers

This might sound cruel, but getting put on unconditional waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs just might be a blessing in disguise for goalie Andrew Raycroft.

Listening to the sports radio call in shows, a majority of the die- hard Leaf fans use the words ‘washed up’ and ‘terrible’ in describing this former 1998 Boston Bruins draft choice who two summers ago was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

First of all, I don’t think that at age 28, one can be considered washed up and over the hill. Also in regards to all the criticism he received, I think has drastically affected his confidence and that this Belleville native is still capable of being an above average first string goalie. In the Ontario Hockey League, Raycroft earned Goaltender Of The Year with Kingston in 1999/2000 and in that same campaign where he won 33 games was also selected for the First All Star Team.

In his rookie season with the Boston Bruins, Raycroft burst onto the scene in 2004, by winning 29 games and winning the Calder Trophy and was selected to the NHL First All-Star Team.

Two seasons ago, when Raycroft became fatigued late in the season, and suffered the wrath of the fans, his coach Paul Maurice had to share some the blame for what happened. For some un- explained reason, Maurice didn’t trust his backup so he burned out Raycroft by playing him for 72 games, which was by far the most amount of games he ever played in a season. Despite tying the franchise high for wins in that season with 37, fans still talked about how former general manager John Ferguson Junior made a terrible deal with trading blue chip prospect Tuukka Rask to the Bruins in exchange for Raycroft.  While the Leafs might end up to regret the trade in the long run, hearing about how Toronto got the wrong end of the stick and being reminded of that deal over and over again by reporters I believe had a negative mental affect on Raycroft that affected his play.

This past season, Raycroft not only lost his starting job with the Leafs but was also booed whenever his name was announced to the crowd. Despite playing a career low 19 games and winning only 2 games, he showed what kind of person he is by never complaining and used humor with reporters when discussing either his tough situation of losing the number one job between the pipes or when discussion turned to the Leaf fans who often sarcastically cheered whenever he stopped an easy shot. “He’s a year away from winning 37 games, it’s not like he woke up one morning and forgot how to play,” said his agent Jordan Neumann. “He is looking forward to his next opportunity and a new challenge.” Here is hoping that next year will end with Raycroft lifting the Stanley Cup over his head as a first string goaltender. 

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Oren Koules puts New Lightning into Tampa

The new Tampa Bay Lightning ownership group headed up by Oren Koules has shown a lot of guts and strong determination in trying to make the necessary moves to make the team a serious contender. Since taking over the reins of ownership earlier this summer, Koules who promised to make the necessary moves has hired an experienced coach in Barry Melrose who has a great reputation for working with kids. They also locked up their franchise player in 28 year-old forward Vincent Lecavalier, who agreed to a nine- year deal worth approximately 77 million dollars.

Tampa, who had a dismal campaign last season and finished in last place, gambled late last week when they sacrificed a fourth round pick in next year’s draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the exclusive negotiation rights to 42 year-old banger Gary Roberts and scorer Ryan Malone. “We said earlier this week we would be aggressive in our pursuit of free agents in order to win and compete,” Koules said last week. “This trade doesn’t guarantee anything, but we believe it gives us a leg up on our attempt to sign these two impact players.”

In signing Roberts, who said he’s now taking it year by year, the Lightning are looking for some experienced leadership who will help their youngster such as their number one overall draft choice Steve Stamkos adapt more easily to the rigors of the NHL. Prior to making the deal, Tampa acquired former Pens player Greg Malone to be Tampa’s head pro scout. Even though Greg is Ryan’s dad, it doesn’t guarantee anything as the younger Malone expressed his interest to test the market on July 1, and see who is interested. If Malone does sign with the Bolts, then the Penguins who have a lot of decisions to make o their free agents, will receive Tampa Bay’s third round next summer. Coming into a new city and trying to get hockey back on the Florida map, it was definitely a high- risk low reward move. Both players played a major role in the Penguins run to the finals last season, and if you really think about it, a fourth or third round pick isn’t much to sacrifice.  

 

$56.7 Million Payroll Maximum

NEW YORK/TORONTO  The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association announced today that the Team Payroll Range established for the 2008-09 League Year, pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, provides for a Lower Limit of $40.7 million, an Adjusted Midpoint of $48.7 million and an Upper Limit of $56.7 million.

NHL Suspends Aneheim Ducks Owner Henry Samueli

  NEW YORK  Commissioner Gary Bettman today announced that Henry Samueli, owner of the Anaheim Ducks, has been suspended indefinitely from any involvement with the Ducks and the National Hockey League.

 
            On Monday, Mr. Samueli pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sentencing by the U.S. Federal District Court is scheduled for August 18. Following sentencing, the League will review Mr. Samueli’s status and will finalize the duration of his suspension as well as any other action that may be deemed appropriate.
 
            During his suspension, Mr. Samueli may not be involved in Club matters or activities. Michael Schulman, current alternate governor, will serve as the Club’s governor and will be responsible for managing the operations of the Club, reporting to the Commissioner. In the event Mr. Schulman determines that the Club needs financial assistance from ownership, or raises any other issue that might need ownership involvement, he shall communicate that need to the Commissioner, who then will make the appropriate arrangements.
 
            “While Mr. Samueli has been an exemplary owner, we hold NHL personnel to the highest standards and this plea requires the imposition of discipline under League rules,” Commissioner Bettman said.
 
            Mrs. Susan Samueli, co-owner of the Ducks, has advised the League that, in support of her husband and to avoid any possible improper appearance, she intends to abide by the terms of her husband’s suspension.
 

Kyle Wellwood is a Vancouver Canuck

 

Looking to add more scoring and speed down the middle, the Vancouver Canucks made an off-season splash on Wednesday when they took a gamble in claiming Kyle Wellwood who was put on waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

New Canucks general manager Dave Nonis, selected a player in Wellwood who is a former 100 point scorer in junior and at 25, still has potential to be an impact player if he can overcome his battle with the dreaded injury bug. Last season, he was projected to be the Leafs number two center, but due to a lingering sharp groin injury, was able to play in only 59 games where he struggled mightily with only 21 points. A year beforehand, this Windsor native didn’t dress for 33 games due to sports hernia surgery.

While many around the hockey world weren’t surprised to see struggling Leafs backup goalie Andrew Raycroft go on waivers, Wellwood because of his youth and his vast potential was a bit of a shock. Still, unlike his teammate Darcy Tucker who was disappointed when he heard that he wouldn’t be back in the blue and white, Wellwood is looking forward to his next hockey challenge. “I was really excited,” this forward told CKNW radio in Vancouver. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and what other teams in the NHL would think of me, but for Vancouver to take a chance and pick me up, I’m really happy.”

If Wellwood is healthy next season, this could be a decision that the Leafs might regret. Only time will tell.

 

 

Boston Bruin Want Hossa

With less than a week remaining until the Free Agent market opens up, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has made no secret of his strategy to aggressively go after a top notch goal scorer such as Marian Hossa who played a vital role with the Pittsburgh Penguins last spring in the post season. To make this kind of impact signing, Chiarelli knows that he will have to make some available cap space as veteran forward Glen Murray will be owed 4.15 million, and goalie Manny Fernandez who was injured most of last season is owed 4.3 million. Meanwhile according to various rumors, the Bruins are willing to free some money by dealing promising third year forward Phil Kessel and veteran checking forward P.J. Axelsson. “It depends on how the market is going and what impact that player will have and what the demands of that player is on July 1,” said Chiarelli when asked about how many free agents he plans on signing.  “We do have some commitments out there, contractual commitments that put us at a cap number that we can’t go after a 10 million (a year) player.” “In that sense, if we decided to go after a 10 million player, we’d be in trouble.” “I’m not feeling squeezed but we’d have to move some money around to go after a really, really marquee player.”

The Bruins, who under their former general manager Harry Sinden had a reputation of not being active on the free agent market, made some news on Wednesday when they re- signed their 2003 first round pick Mark Stuart. This 24 year-old defenseman who had 8 points last season was thrilled and showed no hesitation in signing back with Boston. “I was surprised how quickly it came together,” Stuart said. “I wasn’t really expecting to much to happen to fast.”   If they really want to sign Hossa, they will have plenty of competition as it’s rumored that quite a few teams such as the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins will be aggressively going after this scoring stud.

Wade Redden… A Free Agent

With less than a week remaining until the magical free agency period begins, names such as Mats Sundin, Brian Campbell, Ryan Malone and Markus Naslund are just some of the prominent star players that teams will be furiously bidding for.

One player however who hasn’t gotten a lot of ink but can easily be the wild card on the open market is former Ottawa Senators defenseman Wade Redden. This ten year veteran, who posted a whopping +35 back in 2005/06 to win the NHL plus minus award, has seen his stock take a slight hit when he suffered through an average at best campaign last season that saw him score 38 points and a +11 rating. Once considered one of the more popular Ottawa players, this Lloydminster native found himself in a very tricky situation with the team last season when general manager and coach Bryan Murray tried to talk the defenseman into revoking his no trade clause at last year’s deadline. In his storied career with Ottawa, Redden registered an impressive +159.

Excited about going through the free agency period, Redden joked on Tuesday that he is going to connect a backup phone so that he can be prepared to know what’s going on in terms of updates from his agent Don Meehan. “I’m going to be back at my dad’s place in Lloydminster,” said Redden. “It’s (July 1) quickly approaching and it’s going to be interesting to go through it all for the first time.” “I’m eager to find out what’s going to come and what we’re going to do.”

Redden has admitted that for weeks he has been looking at team rosters to see where the best fit for his style of game might be. Meehan gave him some key advice. “The one thing to expect is to expect anything,” Redden who was taken second overall by the New York Islanders back in 1995 said about the advice given to him by his agent.