Bluelines: Sabres Prospect Camp, New Hope In Nassau, Rangers and Devs Moves
Sunday, February 26, 2017
By Stan Fischler
• The Sabres' prospect camp running this week features five first-round picks, including center Cody Hodgson, who’s slated to be either a first or second-liner for Buffalo. Fans also are getting their first looks at center Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemus Girgensons, taken 12th and 14th overall in this year’s Draft. Right wing Joel Armia (2011) and Mark Pysyk (2010) are other first-rounders at the camp.
• Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano appears quite serious about putting together a plan that would include either a new or completely upgraded Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The buzz I get from behind-the-scenes is that Nassau politicians realize that it would be extremely detrimental to the county on several tallies to lose the Islanders, whose lease expires in 2015. Isles owner Charles Wang nobly fought for years to get help in building a new arena. Mangano’s blueprint calls for a “master developer” for the Nassau Hub property; some of the most valuable in the Metropolitan Area. The general idea is to have an arena as part of overall land development. We’ve heard this song before but it appears that with the Isles lease-ending coming into closer view that the politicos will find a way to satisfy both the hockey club and the taxpayers.
• The all-quiet on the Rangers' front does not mean that there have not been active, off-the-headlines chats going on between Glen Sather and an assortment of his colleagues. Ditto for Lou Lamoriello, who has to fill the gap created by the Zach Parise move. One suggestion -- made by the Star Ledger’s Rich Chere -- is that the Devils bring back Canadiens’ captain Brian Gionta, who would team with brother Stephen. That, of course, would require a trade, and who says that Lou wants to make that move? As for Alexander Semin, there’s a report that he can get a big, fat contract in Russia, which would be used as a negotiating ploy with an NHL club.
• Based on reports from East and West, more teams are “interested” in Shane Doan than there are cacti in Arizona. But the Coyotes’ captain -- one of the last of the truly “loyal” NHL skaters -- wants to remain in Phoenix. Trouble is, the on-again-off-again-on-again “sale” of Shane’s favorite team remains in a state of suspension, and Doan doesn’t like that. As a result, there’s every possibility that sooner than you can say, “Go East, Not-So-Young-Man,” Doan will declare himself “free” -- as in, really free agent -- and play the field. His agent, Terry Bross, has already made it clear that he’ll be fielding offers for his client. Well, we know one team without a captain and its home is Prudential Center.
• Runner-up in the Rumor Derby remains Rick Nash, who has now become the subject of “sightings” at the Columbus Airport. What’s fascinating about a possible Nash movement is the number of individuals who will have to pass on it, should a deal be made. For starters, John P. McConnell just happens to be the majority owner and governor of the Blue Jackets, and he has the supreme veto. While Scott Howson is the general manager and the man talking to about a dozen different teams, the shadowy figure who’ll be most influential is Craig Patrick, the ex-Rangers GM (among many other NHL roles) who now happens to be “senior advisor of hockey operations.” By my calculations, that means that Patrick will be as significant in ruling on a Nash deal as Howson, if not more so.
• My insightful buddy, Gus Vic, sees the trade-free-agent winds shifting to the East. Apart from Doan and Nash, other marquee names likely to be moved include Roberto Luongo and Bobby Ryan, each of whom could be seeing more of the Atlantic Ocean than the Pacific. Assuming Luongo will be unloaded -- no guarantee, as the Panthers seem conspicuously uninterested -- it leaves Vancouver counting on Cory Schneider to make like Jonathan Quick. And you know that will happen when the mountains of British Columbia disappear. Pal Vic says the Canucks will be treading on thin ice if they move Luongo and believe Schneider will produce lots of schneis; as in, shutouts. “The window in Vancouver,” says Vic, “is one or two more years before they recede back into mediocrity. Perhaps not of the Orland Kurtenbach Era, but close!”
• The Minnesota Wild has displayed a lot of flash, dash, and cash, but the question really is: How much better will the club be with the addition of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter? After Parise, the Wild depth chart up front starts with Mikko Koivu and ends with Dany Heatley. Koviu is a top-flight center, but Heatley is fading fast. The defense, after Suter, is thinner than what you get on a cheap salami sandwich. Goaltending—Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding—is not an issue, but it sure didn’t get Minny into the playoffs. Plus, there’s another issue with the coach. Mike Yeo, who entered as a shaky rookie last year, is hardly in the Scotty Bowman class and his job will be on the line when it comes to melding Parise-Suter into winners. Reminder: Zach finished the regular season in New Jersey with a minus-five; and in the playoffs—minus-eight!