– The Thrashers have traded F Ilya Kovalchuk, D Anssi Samlema and a second-round pick to the Devils for F Niclas Bergfors, D Johnny Oduya, F Patrice Cormier, a first and a second-round pick. The Blackhawks, Bruins, Flyers, Flames, Kings and Rangers were also in the mix. Kovalchuk, a UFA at season’s end, is still looking for a 10-12-year/$120M deal that will see him make the league-maximum $11.2M annually. With the uncertainty of whether the cap may go up or down, it’s hard to believe any team will pay that. And as good as Kovalchuk is, he’s no Alexander Ovechkin who is the league’s highest paid player at $9.3M. It is likely just a contract demand in order to weasel his way out of Atlanta. Kovalchuk recently rejected a Thrashers extension worth 12-years/$101M.
Bergfors and Cormier were two of the Devils top prospects and the price may prove to be a little tough to swallow for a rental player, but there’s no doubt that the Devils chances of winning the Stanley Cup just got a whole lot brighter. In Kovalchuk, Jersey is getting one the NHL’s best and most consistent goal scorers to compliment a team that doesn’t need to score many goals to win games. They should be considered a serious Stanley Cup contender, but whether or not they can lock up Kovalchuk in the offseason remains unknown. He may be more flexible when negotiating an extension with a franchise that has a long track record of success. Stay tuned.
– According to TSN, the Leafs and Oilers could be working on a deal. The Oil, among many other teams, have expressed interest in F Alex Ponikarovsky, and it’s believed that Toronto will move him in order to try and re-acquire some of their lost draft picks. Ponikarovsky, specifically, is expected to bring back a second-round pick. D Garnet Exelby and F Lee Stempniak have also been the subject of trade rumours.
Like Ponikarovsky, Stempniak and Exelby are scheduled to be UFAs this summer, but both still carry hefty price tags. Stempniak is making $3.5M this season ($2.5M cap hit), while Exelby is on the books for $1.7M ($1.39M cap hit), so moving these players isn’t a simple process.
TSN reports that the Oilers are pushing hard to move out bodies, but Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini hasn’t reached a point of desperation where he’s willing to sweeten the pot to make a deal. The Leafs would likely move either Exelby or Stempniak for Oilers’ captain F Ethan Moreau and a draft pick in order to compensate Moreau’s $1.75M contract ($2M cap hit). Stay tuned, as Leaf land is going to get active soon.
– TSN reports that Oilers’ D Sheldon Souray is down to six teams that he’d waive his no-trade clause for. Souray’s broken hand, however, might make it difficult for the Oil to move him at the deadline. The list is expected to consist of the Ducks, Stars, Kings, Capitals, Rangers and Flyers.
– The Hurricanes are working on a trade that will send D Niclas Wallin to the Sharks. Wallin, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, was not in the lineup when the Hurricanes played the Flames in Calgary on Wednesday as the final details of the deal are still being worked out. Stay tuned.
– The Bruins have begun actively shopping F Michael Ryder. Ryder, 29, has 12 goals and 20 points in 54 games with the Bruins this season. Ryder signed a three-year/$12M contract with the team in 2008.
– Leafs’ D Mike Komisarek (shoulder) will undergo season ending surgery. He will sit out for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
– The Hurricanes have placed F Tuomo Ruuto (UBI) on the IR.
– The Islanders have placed D Brendan Witt on waivers.
– The NY Post reports that trade talk between the Suns and Nets regarding F Amare Stoudemire is dead. Stoudemire reportedly may remain in Phoenix and exercise his option, making him a UFA after next season rather than this season. The Suns are believed to be working on one more deal before trying to move him at the deadline. Stay tuned.
– According to DallasBasketball, the Mavericks could deal F Josh Howard by the February 18 trade deadline. The Mavs are saying it he won’t be moved, but those close to Howard are supposedly saying he’s headed to the Raptors or Heat. A lot of teams are apparently interested in Howard, but don’t likely have the pieces that the Mavericks would like in return. The Mavs are unhappy with their play of late, and it’s believed that a trade could be coming, whether it involves Howard or F Drew Gooden or F Erick Dampier. Stay tuned.
– Hornets’ G Chris Paul (knee) will be out about four-to-six weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday. Paul will start rehabilitating immediately and be on crutches for two or three weeks. If he spends two weeks on crutches, it still seems a bit optimistic that he would be able to return two weeks later in game shape. Of course we’re early in the process, but the “six week” side of that timeline seems to be where they should realistically target.
– Yahoo! Sports reported that before the Clippers relieved Mike Dunleavy of his coaching duties, they told other teams that they would keep F Marcus Camby if they were contending for the playoffs, and they would move him if they were not. This sounds like common sense, but it does give us a more definitive idea of what they plan to do with him.
– RB LaDainian Tomlinson said Thursday that he’s come to terms with the fact that he won’t be back in San Diego in 2010. “I’m not coming back. I’ve accepted it.” The future Hall of Famer said of his time with the Chargers that the “the football part is fun, but the business part sucks.” LT doesn’t know when he’ll be released, but his agent will likely call the team to “expediate the process.”
– Beat writer Mike Triplett calls the report of a new contract for Saints’ QB Drew Brees “a bit premature.” Triplett does expect Brees to get a new deal “at some point over the next two years,” but he points out that the sides have held no serious discussions on a contract. The Saints are expected to open talks this offseason, but “nothing is imminent.” Brees has two years remaining on his original six-year/$60M deal.
– Free agent QB Chad Pennington (shoulder surgery) “has decided to make it his priority to stay with the Dolphins,” according to the Miami Herald’s Jeff Darlington. Pennington is willing to back up QB Chad Henne, and the Dolphins will “entertain the possibility” only after they see him throw — specifically a 15-yard out route. His shoulder was discovered to have only damage to the labrum and the shoulder capsule, leading to expectations of a full recovery. If Miami opts against re-signing him (QB Pat White and QB Tyler Thigpen are under contract), the Cardinals are believed to have interest in Pennington as veteran insurance behind Matt Leinart
– Broncos’ WR Brandon Marshall said Thursday that he’s open to playing for the Broncos next season. “Last year I handled things totally wrong. I just looked at the business side of things and took things too personally.” Marshall is attempting to repair his image, but the Broncos would clearly prefer to trade him this offseason. Perhaps Marshall’s agent has finally made it clear that his best way to get a contract extension is to play the role of the good soldier.
– The Mariners are set to re-sign LHP Erik Bedard to an incentive-laden deal starting at one-year/$1.5. Bedard, 30, underwent shoulder surgery last August and is expected to miss the first few months of the season, though there is nothing confirmed on that end. The Mariners are still shouldering his medicals bills and have kept close tabs on his progress. According to Kirby Arnold of the Everett Herald, who was linked in the piece by Street, Bedard is expected to begin a throwing program in Arizona shortly.
– The Tigers have officially signed RHP Justin Verlander to a five-year/$80M extension. The new deal buys out his final two years of arbitration and his first three years of free agency. Consistent with the competitive spirit of Verlander, his contract beats out the five-year/$78M deal the Mariners gave RHP Felix Hernandez last month. It’s hard to argue against him. Verlander, who turns 27 later this month, has quickly emerged as one of the game’s top workhorses, leading the AL with 240 innings pitched, 269 strikeouts and 19 wins last season. He has logged at least 200 innings in each of the last three seasons and is just tapping into his considerable potential. The term “ace” is thrown around pretty liberally, but Verlander has shown that he can be a true leader of a staff, even at a young age.
– The Twins have signed 2B Orlando Hudson to a one-year/$5M deal. Hudson, 32, is expected to take over starting second base duties in Minnesota. O-Dog hit .283/.357/.417 with nine home runs, 35 doubles and eight stolen bases in 551 at-bats last season and should provide a nice spark at the top of the Twins’ 2010 lineup.
– According to the Boston Globe, Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer said trading 1B Adrian Gonzalez is not a foregone conclusion. “The team’s position with regard to Adrian has not changed at all. We are excited to have him under contract for the next two seasons. He is a great player who fits our city, team, and payroll remarkably well. We have had, and will continue to have, dialogue with Adrian’s representatives about keeping him in San Diego long-term. It is still early in that process and attempting to draw conclusions in the middle of any negotiation is an inexact science.” Hoyer assessment is more optimistic than that of team CEO Jeff Moorad, who said on Wednesday that “early signals” are that Gonzalez will be too rich for the Padres.
– Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic hears that the Diamondbacks and 3B Mark Reynolds are working on a contract extension. Reynolds, who turns 27 this season, batted .260/.349/.543 last year with 44 home runs and 102 RBI in 578 at-bats. He was the only player in the majors to compile at least 40 homers, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases in ’09, and he’s set to earn the league minimum this season. The D’Backs are expected to make him a long-term offer by the start of spring training.
– 1B Nomar Garciaparra told WEEI.com on Thursday that he is not ready to retire. This contradicts earlier reports from the San Francisco Chronicle that stated Nomar is “widely expected” to call it quits. The 36-year-old free agent has drawn little interest on the open market this winter, but he informed WEEI’s Lou Merloni that he “feels better now that has in quite some time.” Garciaparra had a .281/.314/.388 batting line in 160 at-bats for the A’s last year and will be lucky to find anything greater than a minor league contract.
– Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that RHP Edwin Jackson and the Diamondbacks appear to be headed for an arbitration hearing. Jackson filed at $6.25M and the team offered $4.6M when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. According to Piecoro, the Diamondbacks have approached Jackson about a two-year deal that would buy out his remaining arbitration years, but a hearing is still the most likely scenario.
– FOXSports reports that LHP Jarrod Washburn is leaning towards retirement. Washburn is saying he’ll retire unless he gets a decent offer, but he’s limited himself to the Twins and Mariners, the teams nearest his Wisconsin birthplace. He went 9-9 overall with a 3.78 ERA with 100 strikeouts. Washburn will need to broaden his horizon if he wants work.
– The Cubs have re-signed RHP Carlos Marmol to a one-year/$2.125M deal and 1B Kevin Millar.
– The Mets are targeting C Rod Barajas.
– The Tigers have reportedly cooled in their interest in OF Johnny Damon. Damon is now seeking a two-year/$11M deal.
– The Dodgers have signed RHP Jeff Weaver to a one-year/$800K deal.
– Blue Jays’ RHP Dirk Hayhurst (shoulder) will undergo exploratory arthoscopic surgery. His timetable is currently unknown.
– On Superstars, WWE confirmed reports that the new brand will be known as WWE NXT with a 10-second promotional spot hyping the new show. The show was called “Revolutionary” and we got a first look at the new NXT logo. WWE is setting the bar high for this new show. Based on what we’ve heard, the show will be be a hybrid of pro wrestling and reality TV, similar to WWE’s Tough Enough and UFC’s Ultimate Fighter series. WWE NXT ill feature almost exclusively young talent from WWE’s developmental system, with the possibility of veterans appearing on the show to teach the young guys. WWE really is hoping to introduce the next generation of Superstars to fans in a whole new way, allowing us to get to know the wrestlers in and out of the ring. Whether the wrestlers are competing for a title or a WWE contract remains to be seen, but at least they’re trying something new. As for what happens to ECW, expect to see most of the talent wind up on Raw and SmackDown. The ECW title will likely be put to rest in the near future as well.
– WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross has updated his JRsBarBQ.com blog. Some highlights:
The End of ECW: “I will always have great respect for the Original ECW because of the passion and work ethic of all involved. Paul Heyman had great vision for what he wanted to create and his talents bought into that vision. I bring this up because the letters “ECW” will leave weekly TV in 3 weeks and will be replaced with a new, WWE produced program. Anxious to see what they come up with for Sy Fy.
His Health: “I am excited about the future primarily because I’m feeling so much better physically and am presently in a great place mentally.”
His Future: “Must be lots of new rumors on the ‘net about my future. If any of you get some concrete info on what I will be doing for a living in the coming months, years, etc, please let me know because my status, goals for the future, etc are the same as I have repeatedly stated for months … I have actually been discussing some projects totally unrelated to the wrestling biz which are intriguing.”
– As reported here earlier in the week, WWE superstar Gregory Helms was found with a Soma pill (a schedule four narcotic muscle relaxer) in his bag when arrested with Chris Jericho. Helms was unable to produce a prescriptionfor the pill at the time of arrest, but it did not get him into any trouble with the police.
If Helms didn’t have a prescription for the drug as he told police, WWE would be forced to suspend him for 60 days on his second Wellness violation. WWE’s current policy says that every prescription a wrestler has is supposed to be filed ahead of time with Dr. David Black. All prescriptions are supposed to be written by the company doctors who travel with the WWE crew. Helms has a previous violation against him for his name coming up in the Signature Pharmacy scandal in 2007 and has never failed a WWE drug test.
There has been a lot of talk backstage regarding Helms’ future with WWE after the incident. It’s estimated that Helms missed out on a $5K payday when he was pulled from the Royal Rumble PPV days after the arrest. Helms was said to be apologetic to WWE officials for the incident. He appeared on this week’s ECW show, getting beat down by Ezekiel Jackson and William Regal after they talked about his “rough week.”
– Despite the positive spin he’s putting on TNA in media interviews, Hulk Hogan has been complaining to friends that he’s frustrated with several things in TNA. Hogan feels pressure to push people he does not believe in – namely, some of the TNA originals. Word is that Dixie Carter doesn’t want the TNA originals to be buried by Hogan’s buddies, but there are some TNA originals that Hogan sees nothing in and wants to get rid of. Hogan is said to be a big fan of Abyss as well as Tomko, saying at least both men look like wrestlers.
– Eric Bischoff is still intent on bringing Jim Ross into TNA as an announcer. After many months of speculation as to what he’d do when his WWE contract expired, Ross signed a short-term extension back in December and is expected to be with WWE through mid-2010. That said, the face of the pro wrestling industry is sure to change this year, with TNA likely going to Monday nights at some point, so who knows what the future holds.
– Email – email@example.com
– Twitter – @VoiceofValeri
– Facebook – facebook.com/thecanadianrage