As draft passes, focus shifts to free agency

As draft passes, focus shifts to free agency

As draft passes, focus shifts to free agency

It didn’t take long for things to get squirrely at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Pick number two brought the first curveball of the day as the Florida Panthers opted to select Sasha Barkov second overall behind Nathan MacKinnon.

That selected bucked the assumed train of thought of MacKinnon and Seth Jones being the first two players off the board. Jones actually fell all the way to the fourth pick and will land in Nashville thanks to his mini-drop in the first round.

Vancouver finally solved their goaltending issues – although it felt like they may have taken the easy way out – and a handful of other players, picks and prospects changed hands throughout the day.

The 2013 draft was touted as being incredibly deep and upwards of seven of the first round selections are expected to be capable of stepping onto an NHL roster immediately, marking the further evolution of talent being selected in the draft lately.

Now that the draft has passed, many contenders have begun to position themselves for a strong offseason through the trade market and unrestricted free agency. With the free agent market set to open on Friday, there is bound to be some massive contracts offered despite the relatively weak class that is set to hit the market.

The new wrinkle in the CBA that allows teams to meet and speak with players prior to the market opening on Friday should help re-create some of the excitement from the 2007 free agency opening day when so many teams went crazy with big contract signings. Given that teams will be able to negotiate and bargain with players over the next couple of days, it should make for an exciting start to the official free agent period.

The strength of this free agent class is on the wings. David Clarkson, Nathan Horton and Ryane Clowe are just a few of the pending free agents who all effectively patrol the right wing. They all share another similar trait; a physically imposing offensive game.

As the league continues to evolve and the premium on talented power forwards grows, players like Horton will be in high demand. Based on the teams who are looking to add offense and girt, I’d expect all three of those players to sign healthy offers on Friday.

Another player bound to cash in will be Pascal Dupuis. He benefitted greatly from playing on a wing with Sidney Crosby and probably earned a massive raise thanks to an incredibly productive year. I’m guessing someone throws at least $4 million at him on Friday in hopes that he can continue to produce despite being centered by someone other than Crosby.

If there’s any one player to be cautious about, it has to be Dupuis. I’ve been a big fan of his game for a long time. He’s a very effective two-way forward who can chip in well offensively. However, he’s not a scoring winger but is about to be paid as one. While I know he will be a quality contributor no matter where he goes, I’m certain that he will struggle to justify the terms of his contract.

For fans hoping their team will go out an snag a quality center to build around, understand that the market is fairly thin. Vincent Lecavalier will garner plenty of interest along with Mike Ribiero (who had a monster year with Washington). Tyler Bozak is set to cash in on a massive payday as many expect the Leafs to go in a different spending direction once free agency opens.

Bozak is someone on my radar along with Stephen Weiss. They’re both quality top-six forwards who should not only receive hefty raises but will bring improvement to the clubs which sign them this week.

The one position (outside of goaltending) that is really thin is at defense. Andrew Ference and Rob Scuderi are ready to hit the market but there aren’t any flashy names or major contributors going to market this summer. Free agency isn’t going to be an option for teams looking to find an instant upgrade along the blueline.

Even with a relatively light free agent class, it appears as if there will be some fireworks coming on Friday. Either way, I’m going to make sure I have a good seat for the action.

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On the Ice: Bauer IMS 9.0 helmet

Bauer IMS 9.0 Hockey Helmet

Bauer IMS 9.0 Ice Hockey Helmet

One very interesting development this year was Bauer’s acquisition of the Messier helmet line. The agreement brought the Messier line’s groundbreaking SEVEN technology to an already well received family of Bauer helmets.

In addition to the IMS 11 and IMS 7.0, there are fingerprints from the Messier line all over Bauer’s new helmets. The new technology and introduction of Poron XRD foam into the RE-AKT and IMS 9.0 are great new additions and have really separated the Bauer line into a league of their own.

I recently picked up an IMS 9.0 for trial on the ice and I’ve had a few icetimes with it since getting it. There aren’t many things wrong with this helmet.

First things first, it has a perfect mix of soft, conforming padding in specific areas that mixes well with the harder HD foam in high-impact zones. I’ve found that the HD foam on many top end models make the helmet somewhat uncomfortable and the softer, more traditional set up that is so popular in the NHL doesn’t have the varied protection that I value. The IMS 9.0 finds that happy medium.

Poron XRD is supple by design. There are two large panels on either side of the helmet to help with side impact collisions. The Poron XRD actually wraps around the entire helmet (giving 360 degrees of protection) but is plainly visible just behind your temples. In addition, the brown and the back of the head have soft pads that keep the helmet snug against your head. The key here is that it’s not just a pillowy pad. It’s closer to the heat molding memory foam that still offers excellent protection.

The Poron XRD plays very well with the Vertex Foam that takes the place of traditional EPP foam that is found in such helmets as the 5100 and 4500.

The single adjustment location on the crown of the helmet is somewhat unusual, but it doesn’t work any differently from the old double wing adjustment from past Bauer helmets. One super awesome feature is that the mounts for the j-clips or visor on the side of the helmet have been embedded into the temple pads. This keeps those pesky little pieces of hardware in the same spot and makes switching out cages and visors much easier.

The only adjustment I have had to make it to the height of the helmet. I was previously wearing a 5100 which sat low on my head and brow. The 9.0 sits higher on my head, thus feeling a little different than my old 5100. This wasn’t a surprise for me, however. The construction of the helmet indicates that the 9.0 (and likely the RE-AKT) would rest a little higher on a player’s head than some older helmets. The beauty of this is there isn’t a decrease in how safe I feel in the helmet.

In all, I love the feel and I haven’t expressed any doubt over the protection of this helmet. It’s definitely worth a serious look the next time you’re considering a new helmet.

Industry Q&A: Keith Perera – Warrior Hockey

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

For this Q&A we have tabbed Keith Perera from Warrior Hockey. Keith handles the stick business for Warrior and can be found on Twitter @warriorstickguy. His Q&A gives some very cool insight to his role with Warrior, some interesting pro requests and where Warrior’s unique graphics and nicknames come from.

Great Skate:  Your Twitter account says you’re the “Warrior Stick Guy”. More or less that sounds like just about every hockey player’s dream job. Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day work.

Keith Perera: Stick Guy is a moniker I stole from an old colleague at Mission Hockey.  He actually had “Stick Guy” on his business card!  I was the “young skate guy” at the time, so I always remembered it.  My day-to-day in simple terms is planning out the product line for future global releases, working with the development team on future technology, crafting the story behind every technology and informing the sales and marketing groups on our stick product and direction.  PMs also work closely with our dealer base and players to come up with new products or technologies that are not currently met in the market.  Making better products to make players better is our main objective.

 

GS: As a guy born in Montreal, raised in LA and now working in Michigan, what type of hockey background do you have?

 

KP: I have a very unique hockey background.  I was born in Montreal where my passion for hockey developed.  I moved to LA at a young age, a couple years after the Gretzky trade, and experienced the hyper-growth of our game through ice and roller hockey.  I started working in a hockey shop at 16yrs old, managed it through college, and got a job at Mission Hockey’s Warranty Department after college.  Worked my way up the ranks to Skate Product Manager (PureFly) and had a short stint in the golf business before landing at Warrior where I began as PM for Sticks/Protective/Goalie.  It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors along the way.  Our industry is a great one.

GS: Lefty or righty?

KP: Right Handed but I shoot Lefty.

GS: Pattern?

KP: I’m using an old Toews Pro pattern…like if E28 and W03-Kopitar had a baby.  When using retail pattern, I float between Kopitar and Kovalev…I’m not very good, so I always blame my sticks :)

GS: Flex?

KP: 85

GS: Velvet Grip, Nipple Grip or basic finish?

KP: I’ve always been an Innovative guy, from the beginning when we used to sell them in our store …so I love the old Polarfibre grip feel.  But these days I use a Matte clear finish with diamond texture (have I mentioned yet that I love my job?).

GS: Do you work with NHL professionals too? If so, what are some of the crazier requests you’ve gotten from the pros you work with.

KP: I do work with Pros sometimes.  Warrior has an amazing team of Pro Reps that have the relationships and are very skilled at figuring out what a pro player needs for their sticks.  Most of my work is done from the standpoint of guiding the Pro Sales Team on direction for what we showcase in pro to help promote our new retail sticks at any given time during the season.  Craziest request: Without a doubt – Ryan Smyth asking us to make a graphite blade “look like wood”…I call it “flesh blade”- it’s kinda gross.

GS: Who is/was your favorite NHLer to work with? Who was the toughest?

KP: It’s a tie: Best two guys ever… Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne for skates.  Selanne is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met and Lidstrom is purest form of class.  Toughest…no comment.

GS: What struggles, if any, have you dealt with working for a company that – when Warrior first jumped into hockey – may not be considered a “traditional” hockey manufacturer?

KP: Great question.  The biggest challenge for Warrior, is what I call, the “post-launch hangover”.  We blew out the doors with an amazing marketing buzz and on-ice product recognition (bright colors/crazy graphics) and it really helped us become the fastest growing hockey brand in this industry’s history.  After that, Dealers and Consumers wanted more from us and needed a reason to buy Warrior for performance and less for standing out in a crowd.  In the last two years, we have been working very hard to give that reason to the consumer.  Our product line has become very focused, very simple, and very high in performance.  Gone are the Dragons and Kroniks.  I can honestly say that Covert and Dynasty lines of product are the very best Warrior/Innovative have made in relation to performance, game-improvement and durability – ever.

GS: Warrior has two very cool sticks on the market, the Covert and the Dynasty. Which suits your game best, and why?

KP: I know this is a total bail-out move, but I like both for very specific reasons:  The Covert’s low kick is ideal for me since I take mostly wrist shots in my beer league.  I love the feel of the True1 construction.  I like the Dynasty’s AxySym since I can really feel the recoil power on slap shots during our company morning skate.  In a more relaxed environment, I have the time to wind up for a slap shot and it feels amazing.  Again, I’m not a very skilled player, so I need all the time I can get!

GS: Both stick lines are full of groundbreaking features, which stood out to you the most during the development process and now that it has hit the market?

KP: Dagger Taper for me is probably the tech that stands out the most.  It’s a very simple visual and tangible concept that takes advantage of our manufacturing ability to achieve the very best performance gains for a player.  True1 allows Dagger Taper to really flex down in the area where, in the past, fuse joints used to be.  We took that “dead flex area” and made it active and lively which most players need.  Dagger allows flex with very little effort; a true game-improvement feature that we were fortunate enough to get a patented.  The feature that is the most “under the radar” is probably TwinSpar.  Adding those two carbon structures to our blades has made huge improvements on our blade durability and pop-life…it’s a great under the hood feature that most people enjoy the benefits of but rarely actually see.

GS: I personally love my Dynasty AX1, what has been the type of feedback you’ve been getting on both the Covert and Dynasty?

KP: The Covert has been a joy.  The performance benefits to players and the quick-release has been awesome to see, especially for players using DT4 and DT5.  The Dynasty was a huge surprise for me.  I honestly didn’t expect so many people to love the feel of the mid-kick and how smooth the stick is to load and release.  It’s really a great time at Warrior.

GS: I noticed Mikhail Grigorenko of the Buffalo Sabres using a white Covert. Will more colors be available to the retail market, or is that a custom option only?

KP: More colors will be available in our retail line with the intro of our New Covert later this year (more info to come later).  Right now, an all-white stick similar to Grigo is available on the customizer.

GS: Going back to the Dolomite and some of Warrior’s earlier stick models, you guys have always had some cool nicknames and artwork for the features you develop. Who comes up with the taglines and logos for these?

KP: It’s a collaboration between myself and our stick designer, Isaac.  He has been with Innovative/Warrior since the beginning of both companies and has been amazing to work with…he’s a technically and aesthetically creative force.  We are both a little quirky and it certainly shows in some of the graphics we worked on in the past.  Our graphics now have become a little more simplified from far, but if you still look closely we always sneak some unique details in there (mid kick logo is a great example).  We are Warrior, always will be…so we embrace being different and having fun all the while building legitimately high performing product and technology.

GS: Both the Dynasty and Covert unveiled some very cool features to the stick world. What can we expect from Warrior in the coming months and years?

KP: I was just saying this to one of our sales guys…it’s a very very exciting time at Warrior.  We have built an amazing product foundation with Covert and Dynasty.  We have learned a lot along the way for what our consumer expects from us and how we can deliver product that will always challenge that.  Our company was started in a Princeton University dorm room, by a kid from Michigan who thought that the Lacrosse industry was too old and “too set in their ways”.  He made a Titanium shaft that shook the industry and changed the game…that spirit lives in everything we do.

Twenty years later the Bauer Reactor is back

Bauer Reactor 4000 Sr. Goalie Pads

Bauer Reactor 4000 Sr. Goalie Pads

Back in 1994 goaltenders wearing Bauer goal pads were all wearing the Reactor line. Big names like Dominik Hasek and Mike Richter were sporting the equipment and leading the NHL in the gear. 20 years later Bauer has come back to the Reactor.

Serving as an extension and evolution of the Reflex line of goal pads that was developed when Bauer and Itech merged, the Reactor is a pro-style butterfly pad that is specifically designed for a hybrid style of play. Unlike the Supreme TotalOne line which is a true butterfly style, flat-faced pad, the Reactor is more of a hybrid style pad. Bauer even gave the style associated with the Reactor a buzzword in their 2013 catalog: Battlefly.

That seems like an appropriate way to describe the pad and the style of the goaltenders that would wear this type of pad. Just looking at some of the players around the league wearing them now (Brian Elliott and Ilya Bryzgalov), they employ a butterfly-first mentality but use various pieces of other styles in their repertoire.

These are flexible pads that introduce a triangle outer roll which puts a slight pitch on the outer roll of the pads. The 6000 Pro Custom pads also come stock with a double knee break but different break options are available on the pad.

Beyond the 6000 Pro model, the 4000 and 4000x offer top-end performance without needing a custom build. The 4000x actually utilized the myFlex feature that is prevalent throughout the TotalOne line. This is a piece of technology that allows the goaltender to determine what kind of flex option they wish to have on their pads.

The newest introduction to the Reactor line is the Pro Core insert. This serves as the “brain” of the pad that is designed to give a soft feel to the pad but maintaining the firmness needed to maintain a proper S-shape and limit the pad from breaking down over time. Combined with the triangle outer roll and the reintroduction of the Flexx Darts gives the Reactor pad a phenomenal blend of traditional construction that creates a flexible lightweight pad that is conducive to a number of different styles.

In terms of the eye test, the Reactor passes with flying colors. Bauer built off the Reflex pattern while extending the graphic upwards. This creates a dynamic, linear graphic that looks good in a number of styles.

Looking at the overall construction and appearance of the pad, this reminds me of what the Velocity was when it was first introduced. A soft, reactive pad that allows a goaltender to play a number of styles.

There are three models in the Reactor line; the 6000 Pro, 4000 and 2000. The 4000 and 2000 each have a senior model with the 2000 covering junior pads. The glove and blocker aren’t too far removed from the Reflex line in design and use. Both draw their lineage to the flexible leg pads by offering flexible cuff options that will react well when used with your chest & arm protector.

The catch glove is a single-T pocket construction with skate lace for the pocket lacing. Skate lace is more durable than regular twine lacing but can be more difficult to keep in shape. As for the blocker, the one piece thumb and outer hand protection really stands out. It is not obtrusive and has a good looking construction in terms of offer complete protection and coverage.

As someone who counts the original Reactor line amongst my favorite goal pads of all time, I’m glad to see this equipment make a comeback; particularly in a style that suits the kind of game I try to play.

Industry Q&A with Mike Mountain about the new Easton VSeries sticks

Easton V - Series Composite Hockey Sticks

The Easton V – Series Composite Hockey Sticks. coming soon to Greatskate.com

A new feature for the blog, we will be sitting down with professional hockey players and industry professionals for a series of Q&As. For our first Q&A we were granted an exclusive opportunity to as Mike Mountain of Easton Hockey a few questions about their newest stick line, the VSeries.

Great Skate: Easton has always managed to raise the bar with each stick they release. What about the new stick line, that you can share, will raise the bar again?

Mike Mountain: The VSeries is really a product of a couple years working with premier shooting instructors and getting a better understanding of shooting mechanics.  We wanted to understand what makes the best goal scorers and then build a product that works with that technique better than anything out there.  We learned that the best players are loading the blade and shooting the puck off the toe.  Our engineers then created the patent pending Hypertoe construction.  It is a series of tapered ribs in the toe of the blade to create additional stiffness and response.

 GS: The Art of Speed is the tagline Easton has been using on the new gear coming out, including the new Mako Skates. Is it safe to say the new stick line will build on the Art of Speed legacy?

MM: Speed is at the core of everything we do.  In sticks we are focused on velocity.  How you achieve it is to create load and release in both the shaft and blade.  Everything that went into the line from patterns and flex’s to coatings and stick lengths are done to create load and release for a maximum velocity.

 GS: Is it correct that the V9E will be the flagship of the new stick line or will there be another model to accompany it?

MM: The V9E and V9 will headline the VSeries.  Both sticks will have the Hypertoe construction in the blade while the V9E will have the elliptical profile and the V9 will have a tapered profile.

GS: It has been cool to see various NHLers using prototype sticks this season without any logos. What can we expect with the V9E color and logo scheme?

MM: You will see those same players transition to the new look in the first round of the playoffs.  We wanted them to truly feel the difference of the new construction and not be swayed by graphics.  The response we got was great in terms of a noticeable performance advantage.

GS: Will the VSeries carry the matte look that the Stealth line has popularized?

MM: They will, we have also added a textured shaft coating that goes along with it.

 GS: In addition to the elliptical profile on the V9E will there also be a model with a traditional taper too?

MM: The VSeries will include a V9E, V5E and V1E with an elliptical profile as well as a V9, V7 and V3 with a tapered profile.

GS: What’s your favorite feature or addition about the new line?

MM: We have added a new pattern to our line, the E36.  It is a lie 5 mid curve with a dual lie and slightly open face.  Like the E28, this pattern forces your hands in the correct position in front of the puck while positioning the heel slightly off the ice in order to load the blade.  The junior version has been engineered specifically for younger players with the curve slightly towards the toe to provide better control.  So far the reception to this pattern has been phenomenal with players.

Round Two Predictions

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

As round two begins I’d like to offer my prognosticating skills up to you all once again for the four series that will set the stage for the Conference Finals. After missing only two series in the first round (ignore that I lost both of my Cup predicted teams) I fully expect to go 0-for-4 with my second round predictions.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

The Penguins sudden issues in goal have made them quite vulnerable. Their six-game triumph over the Islanders only lasted that long thanks to the stumbling play of Marc-Andre Fleury. While Tomas Vokoun provided enough stability to close out the series, he can’t be instill all that much confidence in Penguins fans.

Ottawa rolls in off a five game drubbing of the Canadiens in which they received brilliant goaltending and timely scoring from all over their lineup. They face a scary, deep, talented Penguins team which creates matchup nightmares on both sides of the puck. I don’t expect the Alfredsson line to be nearly as effective as they were against Montreal, nor do I expect the Senators to be able to effectively shutdown Pittsburgh’s scorers. However, Craig Anderson provides a decided advantage in net. Penguins in 6

Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

Fresh off a pair of grueling six-game series, both of these teams will be fighting some major fatigue in the second round. One interesting thing to watch will be the durability of each team’s top defensemen. Zdeno Chara was run well over 60 minutes over the past two games out of necessity while the Rangers trot Dan Girardi (and Ryan McDonagh) out for a million minutes by choice.

This series will be all about who is conditioned better and who is capable of surviving beyond another physically grueling series. Goaltending will play a major role here and I like Henrik Lundqvist better than Tuukka Rask. However, I think the Bruins have more firepower than the Rangers and that might just give them the edge. Bruins in 7

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

The second Original Six showdown of the second round pits a pair of heated rivals against one another. This is a nice treat for hockey purists as the Wings will be heading east next season and severing many of their former divisional rivalries.

To be Frank, the Blackhawks are nearly impossible to matchup against and they’ve been getting steady goaltending along the way. While the Wings have been riding a nice wave of positive momentum, the Blackhawks are a much different beast than the Ducks were. While Jimmy Howard has been sensational, I’m not sure the Wings will be able to insulate him the way they did against Anaheim. Blackhawks in 6

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

A nice little regional matchup that pits a perennial playoff disappointment against last year’s Cup champs. The Sharks have flown under the radar this year but have opened plenty of eyes after sweeping the Canucks. While they have plenty of question marks around them, San Jose has two solid scoring lines and have gotten great goaltending from Antti Niemi.

The Kings scrapped their way through the first round and will need to find some more offense if they hope to get back to the Conference Finals. Jonathan Quick has been stellar yet again and Los Angeles did a great job stifling the Blues. I wonder how they’ll deal with an impressive offensive lineup like the Sharks boast, however. Sharks in seven

Composite Mini Sticks

Bauer Vapor APX Mini Stick

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

 

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

Knee hockey is one of the numerous things that makes hockey what it is. Not many sports have a portable, miniature version that can be played just about anywhere.

Just think back to travel tournaments and the countless hotel hallways you were expelled from when playing knee hockey. Knee hockey just happens to be a portion of hockey culture that makes our sport so incredibly unique.

Not unlike the full size version of the sport, knee hockey has seen a number of advances in recent years. Manufacturers now make miniature nets (not necessarily a new development) which inevitably saves desks, tables, chairs and hallway radiators from the beating that comes along with the game. In addition, the days of dipping your straight-blade plastic stick in boiling water to create a curve are over. Now you can choose a mini stick from a plethora of choices that are near mirror images to the full size sticks made by hockey’s biggest manufacturers.

Warrior, Bauer, CCM, Reebok and Sher-Wood all have created their own composite mini sticks complete with curves and identical design patterns to that of the full size retail sticks you use on the ice. What these sticks do is add a little style and extra performance to a rec-room or travel tournament classic.

Reebok not only has a mini composite version of their new 20K stick, they also introduced a composite goal stick that is patterned after the 11K composite goal stick that is being used throughout the NHL – this follows previous miniature versions of the O-Stick and A.I.9. CCM also produced a mini composite of their premier stick with a mini RBZ. Like the 20K, the mini RBZ also sports the same markings and art that the top model does – although it doesn’t provide some of the technological advances that the full size stick does.

Both CCM and Reebok have their own net models as well which can be set up in your basement or rec room to add even more of an ice element to each knee game.

Bauer actually has a Vapor APX and TotalOne NXG for you to choose from while Sher-Wood’s collection spans the entire NHL. So, for those of you who are nostalgic for the straight plastic, team-branded sticks of the past, perhaps the Sher-Wood team models would provide a nice transition.

While I can’t attest if the composite mini sticks can add performance to your knee hockey game as their full-size cousins do for ice hockey, I can say they bring a cool wrinkle to a game that you should never need an excuse to play.

I, for one, am seriously considering setting up a knee hockey rink as part of my man cave in the very near future.

NHL Trade Deadline looms with big names on the table

NHL Trade Deadline Looms with big names in play

NHL Trade Deadline Looms with big names in play

One of the most exciting and interesting days of the hockey season is nearly upon us. With just seven

days until the deadline, general managers all over the NHL are positioning themselves to deal a number

of assets before the deadline passes next Wednesday.

 

The trade deadline hasn’t been the firework filled affair that it was a few seasons back, when teams

would swap assets willingly, but rather a day of measured decisions that has been impacted by in-

season deals.

 

Thanks to Ray Shero’s brilliant maneuvering, the Penguins managed to add a trio of well-seasoned

veterans to a roster that was already teeming with talent. As a team expected to be a major buyer,

the Penguins haven’t disappointed. Even after acquiring Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray last

week, Shero managed to pull an 11th hour deal for Jarome Iginla to polish off a roster only found on the

memory of an Xbox or Playstation.

 

Things may shift significantly with Iginla off the market. Since the deadline’s biggest name has already

moved, there may only be ancillary trades made for most of the day next Wednesday. That isn’t to say

that there won’t be any shocking deals – there always is – but the expectations will certainly be lower

than they were before the Iginla deal went down.

 

If you’re holding out hope that this deadline will have some fireworks, pin your hopes to the fact that

the salary cap for next season is dropping and there will be teams looking to get out from under heavy

contracts. If a team is desperate enough, there might just be some big names moved.

 

Down at one Seymour H Knox III Plaza, Darcy Regier is likely working the phones on a handful of hockey

trades. Local media (and some national media) have wondered if Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller or even

Thomas Vanek could be on the block as the Sabres look to hit the reset button on their roster.

 

I, for one, think that Regier could find solid value for Pominville and Miller. However, he may be better

suited to shop that pair in the offseason as the league’s general managers have a better idea of how

they will settle into next year’s cap situation.

 

Maybe Regier will managed to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade that ships out one of the team’s

core leaders before the clock strikes midnight on the third. However, I expect to see at least three trades

come from the Sabres. Two will be to ship out potential rental players (see: Regehr and Leopold) while

the third will be a textbook hockey trade.

 

Regier made a brilliant move last year when he sent Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani to

Vancouver for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer. While Sulzer was a pleasant surprise, Hodgson has

blossomed into a dynamic scoring center. It was a trade that benefitted both organizations and went a

long way in addressing a primary need that the Sabres had. The same could be said of the deal he swung

to acquire Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. The Sabres gave up something, but also obtained pieces that can

be used now and in the future.

For a team in desperate need of a fresh start in a number of places, don’t be surprised to see Regier

swing a trade that not only improves the roster, but that you didn’t expect to see come through.

There are some names that keep cropping up in trade rumors, here are a few thoughts on each:

 

Ryane Clowe: Now that Iginla is off the market there isn’t necessarily one single pending UFA who could

be considered the gem of the deadline class. Clowe is one of those players that every team wants. He is

a gritty forward who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty while adding a significant offensive touch. Granted,

he has gone a long while without scoring a goal this season, but he still has the type of intangibles that

playoff teams value.

 

Reports point to Clowe’s pricetag as a first round pick and a prospect. That is an awful lot to pay for a

rental who hasn’t scored a goal yet this season. However, for teams who are desperate for depth on the

wing, Clowe will be an attractive option.

 

Robyn Regehr/Jordan Leopold: For those fans in Buffalo, this hits a little closer to home. Both

defensemen have playoff experience, are upcoming free agents and are playing for a team that has been

said to be selling on everyone. Regehr has been connected to a number of Western Conference teams,

namely the LA Kings while Leopold has also had his name crop up in a number of circles.

 

While many fans may scoff at the idea of Regehr or Leopold fetching any sort of return, remember

that Regier managed to snage a first round pick for Paul Gaustad last season. While neither of these

defensemen would be worth that much, don’t be surprised if they bring back more than many were

expecting.

 

Derek Roy: Here is a name that has only been mentioned recently as some reporters have indicated that

he and the Stars haven’t been able to reach an agreement on a new contract. Aside from the fact that

the Steve Ott trade would look that much better for the Sabres, Roy could certainly be worthwhile on

the trade market.

 

Roy does have some limited playoff experience and is a gifted playmaker. He is also an adept faceoff

man who can kill penalties if need be. He is a valuable asset and could certainly fetch an impressive

price tag if the right team came calling. Considering that the Blackhawks and Kings missed out on Iginla, I

could see them kicking the tires on Roy.

 

Valterri Filppula: Filppula is one player who I don’t expect to get moved. While he is a pending free

agent, the Wings will likely look to keep him on board for this season’s playoffs and for the long-term as

they will soon see some of their world-class mainstays skate into retirement.

 

While Filppula would be a tremendous asset for any team to add, I’d also expect the asking price to be

high. One scenario I could envision would be a team looking to rebuild offered a number of pieces to the

Wings in exchange for Filppula (with the hope of re-signing him) and picks. While it might be unlikely,

that’s probably the only way he is moved.

 

Even if Iginla is the only name on this list who is traded next week, it will mark the biggest name moved

at the deadline in a number of years. Just for that alone, this will be a fun deadline to keep track of.

Goalie Equipment Topic

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

With some interesting topics being discussed at the GM meeting (coach’s challenge) there have also been a number of no brainer topics floated by the league’s general managers. One in particular, goalie equipment, is something they should seriously consider.

Based on reports, adjusting the size of goaltending equipment appears to be the second most likely topic to move forward beyond cocktail napkins and off-hand conversations. Compared to the debate over grandfathering visors, the rules behind adjusting goalie equipment would be more difficult to fight.

Although there isn’t much room for sweeping change, I think adjustments to what goaltenders can wear could be made. More importantly, these changes can be made without sacrificing the safety of those in net.

After the last lockout, goaltender’s pads were reduced from 12 to 11 inches in length to go along with restrictions to the size of the glove and blocker. Additional restrictions cover internal portions of the pads (knee and calf wings) along with chest protectors. One recent development with chest protectors addressed the build of certain units. The rule states that the chest guard must be anatomically proportional to the goaltender wearing it.

Anatomical restrictions are where I think the league has some room to work when considering new rules to enact.

As it stands now, the league has a rule that stipulates a Limiting Distance Size for each goaltender based on specific measurements that determine the size of goal pads. This requirement ultimately determines the specific height that determines what size pad a goaltender can wear. This basically prevents goaltenders from wearing the largest pad manufactured to maximize blocking area.

While you can’t get much more anatomically correct than that, the rule doesn’t necessarily prevent goaltenders from adding length to the top of their pads. Ironically that is the specific area Kay Whitmore said they could target.

Not all humans are made equal. One 6’1” individual may be top tall and have shorter legs than another person of the same height. Because of this, different goalies wear different sized pads. For example, I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’ and 6’1” and I fit quite well into a 36 inch pad.

Specifically, the pads I wear now are 36+2 – an extra two inches on the standard thigh rise – and they fit quite well. However, that actually makes my pad 38 inches in total. If I tried to wear a traditional 38 inch pad I would swim in it. However, the advent of the thigh rise extension allows my pad to fit me perfectly while still offering the coverage of a longer piece of equipment.

Without getting into the tangled history of goal pad design, the thigh rise extension began picking up steam in the professional and retail world about seven or eight years ago. Adding length to the thigh rise of a pad adds additional five-hole coverage without affecting the overall performance of the goaltender. If the NHL were to limit the size of a goaltender’s thigh rise, I think you would see a number of goalies with significantly different equipment next season.

A couple of goalies who immediately come to mind are Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury. Both are phenomenal goaltenders who also happen to use a fairly significant thigh rise on their pads. While the rise they use on their respective Bauer and Reebok pads wouldn’t completely disappear, it could be limited by a new rule. This wouldn’t affect how their pads fit in anyway, it would only alter the amount of net the pads cover when each goaltender is in the butterfly.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either would see their play altered by this change, but if they were reliant on the coverage provided by the thigh rise on their pad, there could be a slight adjustment period.

Luckily this isn’t a change that will be felt by amateurs playing travel or in local adult leagues. Unlike the sweeping change to 11 inch wide pads, there will be little change (if any) to the pads you will be purchasing. Retail models of pads would never be affected by such a rule (even if it is reflected in lower levels) which means that the only difference you will see is from the masked men you watch each night in the NHL.

What needs to be determined is if this will actually result in any sort of change in goals scored. I doubt there will end up being any sort of significant change. There will be a few more pucks that find a way through the five hole, but ultimately you’re still talking about the exact same butterfly goalie getting his pads on the ice.

Ultimately I very much doubt that this change would bring about a change in goal scoring, which would be the prime motivation for enacting such a rule. However, when you talk about providing goalies with even a little less room to stop the puck, some change could come about.

Get in to win a free pair of Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skates

Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skate

Get in to win a free pair of Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skates

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As mentioned, the fit of these skates gives a full range of motion to the foot, ultimately maximizing the Art of Speed and natural movements. Easton took the time to alter the skate this season in hopes of increasing the range of motion for a player while also maintaining the comfort and protection that has been an hallmark of these skates for sometime.

You can come into Great Skate and try on a pair and feel the difference for yourself.