Monthly Archives: July 2010

TTMI~Radio “The Waiting”

TheThirdManIn~Radio “The Waiting”
Thursday July 29, 2010 ~ e.46 ~
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Chris Block and Dieter Kurtenbach of Blackhawks Examiner review all the latest news including the Antti Niemi arbitration hearing, Stan Bowman’s conference call, new contract signings and the Cristobal Huet “era” in this edition of TheThirdManIn~Radio.

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TTMI~Radio returns this Monday, August 2nd @ 8pm (central) to review the fallout in the wake of the Antti Niemi arbitration verdict, as well as all the scoop from the Chicago Blackhawks Convention (which we won’t be attending).

For anyone who is heading out to the Convention, we’d like to hear about your experience or anything of note that wouldn’t be evident on internet videos or reported by mainstream media outlets.  You can send those to us at TheThirdManIn @ sbcglobal.net.

Discussed in today’s show:

– Niemi’s arbitration hearing
– A conference call about nothing
– Niemi’s potential realistic, and non-realistic contract awards
– Blackhawks value 3rd line centers higher than #1 goaltenders
– Block’s Niemi mea culpa
– How Corey Crawford impacts Hawks’ play on Niemi
– Jose Theodore = Huet version 2.0
– Rumor Niemi $4.0M demand: Outrageous or about right?
– Theodore/Turco won’t play for free
– Niemi Numbers & where major publication ranks him vs rest of league
– Hawk fans talking 2010 Cup run for granted?
– Misconception that Huet’s contract hurting Hawks
– The Huet “era”
– Dirk Graham and Ted Lindsay celebrating life
Jack Skille, in fact, takes a paycut
– Stan Bowman OWNS Bryan Bickell’s agent
– The future of Nick Leddy
– AT&T & I-55

…. and much, much more.  And as always, thanks very much to all who take the time to listen. 

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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Setting the Leddy record straight

– Before we get started, as a reminder, or for those who don’t know, the NHL Network tonight will be airing Game 4 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins at 7pm central time.  This is a continuation in the network’s Raising the Cup series.  At the time, this was the greatest game I had ever seen live and still would rank in my top 3 or 5.  This is the Dirk Graham hat-trick game.  Pittsburgh shut out the Hawks 1-0 in Game 3 at Chicago Stadium two nights prior.  Again, tonight, 7pm, NHL Network.  It replays at 12:30am Thursday, and again at 8am tomorrow morning.

– Look for the next edition of TTMI~Radio with Dieter Kurtenbach and myself late tomorrow.  It appears we’ll be in Antti Niemi/arbitrator waiting mode by that time, but there’s much more for us to discuss.

– Antti Niemi’s arbitration hearing is tomorrow.  No progress, apparently, has been made in talks between the Hawks and his agent to elude this process.  The Hawks can only afford to give Niemi so much under their current salary cap constraints.  Anything more than $2.5M would trigger another trade.  While its true the Hawks will have cheaper options in free agency should the arbitrator’s decision come down in Niemi’s favor, letting your rookie Stanley Cup Champion goaltender walk without receiving any compensation in return is a tough sell to 90% of the fan base.  Its possible a ruling could come as early as Friday, which would mean a decison on whether to accept the arbitration reward would have to come down before the convention closes.  Letting Niemi walk is not a good way to climax John McDonough’s sacred creation.  And for that reason and a few others, I just don’t see it as a real option.

Nick Leddy leaves Gophers, signs contract with Blackhawks

On Tuesday, news broke that Blackhawks prospect Nick Leddy would be leaving the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers as he has signed a professional contract with Chicago.

The contract Leddy signed is a standard three-year, entry-level contract that would pay him at a rate of $900,000 with the Blackhawks, or $67,500 while in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs. Read more »

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Bryan Bickell and other things, like Hugh Jessiman

While the team hasn’t officially acknowledged this, the Blackhawks have re-signed left-side power-winger Bryan Bickell to a three-year, one-way NHL contract.

According to a report by Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bickell will earn salary dollars of $500,000, 525,000 and 600,000 over the next three seasons respectively, while his “cap hit” (the average payout of the contract which comes down to total dollar value divided by length) will be $541,666 for each season.

Bickell, 24, who was a favorite of head coach Joel Quenneville in his limited opportunity with the club this past season and playoff, will become an un-restricted free agent at the end of the contract, summer of 2013.

It’s interesting Bickell’s agent would pin his client down to such a low figure for the next three years when Bickell has a big chance to play an integral role with the Hawks going forward.  The deal is a steal for Stan Bowman.  At worst, he has an affordable third and fourth line guy, salary-wise, being as cheap as they come.  Enthusiastically, we could come to know Bickell as one of the bigger “bargains” in the National Hockey League two and three years from now.

I find it hard to believe Bickell couldn’t have negotiated a better deal.  Two-years on a one-way for the same money he agreed to could have landed him in a position to enroll in the arbitration process in 2012, one year short of his UFA year (as it sits now in the current CBA, for players with expiring contracts who are 27 or older).  As it looks now, Bickell could stand to earn a million or considerably more after the next two seasons should he see good minutes and continue to progress.  While Bickell hasn’t shown near the same scoring touch, he’s not all that far behind Troy Brouwer in terms of iimpact he can make with this club.  Specifically with the departure of Dustin Byfuglien, Quenneville needs all the size he can get, and thus Bickell will see a lot of important minutes if he can carry his level of performance over from the past spring.  This is after all the same Bryan Bickell who fit in nicely in spots on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  That said, this deal could wind up more regrettable for Bickell should the new CBA push the UFA age back, or forward, a year or more when the new bargaining agreement is drawn (hopefully) prior to the 2012-13 season.

This is the kind of contract a young Canadian kid thinks is great when he first signs it.  Then he changes agents two years later when he realizes he wasted a chance to make a lot more money at a young age.

Great deal for Stan Bowman.  For Bickell, we’ll wait and see.

Evan Brophey, Blackhawks 3rd round pick (67th overall) in the 2005 Draft, re-signed a 1-year deal on Thursday.  This also hasn’t been acknowledged by the Hawks.  There is a method to these things that go over the heads in hockey operations. Read more »

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Hawks shed more salary, Trade Reasoner to Tallon

Today, general manager Stan Bowman afforded himself a little extra breathing room under the salary cap by trading centreman Marty Reasoner to the Florida Panthers in exchange for minor-league forward Jeff Taffe.

The transaction marks the first between Bowman and his prior mentor, Dale Tallon, new GM in Florida.

Our Blackhawks depth chart and salary cap tracker have been updated.

As it turns out, Reasoner, who was acquired in the June 23rd trade with Atlanta which sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and 2007-2nd round draft choice Akim Aliu to the Thrashers, will leave the Hawks having never played a game with the organization.

Reasoner is scheduled to earn $1.15M this season and his cap hit of $1.2M is now off Chicago’s books.

The interesting part of the deal comes in the terms of Jeff Taffe’s contract.  Taffe played 61 of his 82 regular season games, while with the Panthers’ organization, with the Rochester Americans in the AHL.  In the first year of his two-season deal with the Panthers, Taffe was paid at a rate of $105,000 in the AHL (figures provided by CapGeek.com), and $500,000 in his 21 games with the NHL club.

For the 2010-11 season, however, Taffe’s contract calls for him to be paid $600,000 whether he plays in the NHL or the minors.

Taffe posted 1 goal and 1 assist in those 21 games with the Panthers as a fourth line forward mostly.

In Reasoner, the Panthers get another dependable, versatile forward.  Tallon has focused on improving his depth up front since the draft and does further with this trade.  Reasoner, 33, is also a veteran with an expiring contract.  Reasoner will cost the Panthers $600,000 more than Taffe, however, Reasoner is a NHL-er, while Taffe isn’t likely to scratch an NHL ice surface aside from possible stints as an injury replacement.

Today’s trade served purposes on both sides.  The Blackhawks cut a few dollars under their salary cap in hopes of fitting new contracts for Antti Niemi, Bryan Bickell and Jordan Hendry under the cap maximum, while the Panthers cut salary expenses aimed for their AHL team.

As noted here before, the Blackhawks right now are concerned with two CBA related salary cap encumbrances – the $59.4M salary cap they have to be under prior to opening night of the 2010-11 season, and the $65.34M summer ceiling (the cap max + 10% summer cushion).

Per our calculations, the Blackhawks now have approximately $60.5M allocated to 17 players for the upcoming season.  This includes Cristobal Huet and Kyle Beach.  Without Huet, the Hawks are at $54.875M and have roughly $4.525M to spend on the last six open roster spots.  Or, $754,000 per available roster spot.

In some shape or form, Huet will come off the cap before opening night.  However, he cannot be assigned to Rockford until October.  Thus, his $5.625M cap hit does figure into the salary cap equation until his situation is resolved.  Hence, the Blackhawks currently have $4.84M of that “summer cushion” to play with and stay within the constraints of the CBA.

For the sake of argument, let’s stick to the non-Huet scenario.  The Hawks have $4.525M available to spend on six roster slots.  One being the second goalie position.  If Niemi signs with a cap hit of, let’s pick a number, $2.25M, this would leave $2.275M with five spots open.  That’s an average of $455,000 per player and since the league minimum is $500,000, the numbers still don’t add up.  Corey Crawford‘s cap hit alone is $800,000, and he will replace Huet’s vacated roster spot.  If it comes down to it, the cap could be Crawford’s nemesis yet again.  Hannu Toivonen is a quarter of a million more affordable at $550,000.

Stay tuned.  Today won’t be Bowman’s last rotation of the cap-shredder.  Whether Niemi stays or not is ultimately irrelevant to the bigger cap solution.  Unless Bowman resolves to defend the Stanley Cup with a Crawford and Toivonen as his goaltending tandem, another significant contract has to depart.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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Hossa Marries, Skille Signs, Smitty Splits, Niemi Notes and movie star supports Blackhawks

Marian Hossa was married in Slovakia on Saturday.  Story and pics here.  (thanks to reader Dave for link) 

– While the Blackhawks have made no official announcement yet, Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times reported Thursday that Jack Skille has agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him $600,000.  This is roughly a 29% pay decrease from his entry-level contract.  We talked about this on Thursday’s TTMI~Radio. 

Skille received a qualifying offer (standard 1-year offer at 110% rate of prior year’s salary) in late June but chose to negotiate down to give himself a more cap-friendly contract.  Because of it, Skille is now an odds-on favorite to make the NHL club.  His speed and shooting ability still make the 23 year old an enticing prospect, but he’s never shown an ability to apply those tools in the NHL, the way he has in the minors.  Before Viktor Stalberg‘s arrival, Skille was the natural replacement for Versteeg.  Skille can throw his weight around, but its not his strength and he’s been overwhelmed going that route when with the Hawks.  He figures in as a third-line guy, which means he has to score.  Trouble is, as a shooter, he’s predictable and one-dimensional.  To be successful, he must go into the danger areas and score dirty goals.  He did a better job of that last year than ever before, when he was mostly a perimeter player.  Depending on how close Stan Bowman cuts his roster under the cap, training camp may still wind down to a battle between Kyle Beach and Skille for that third-line spot.  Skille isn’t a fourth line player and Beach will start in Rockford if he cant win a spot with the top three lines.

– According to published reports, and also still unannounced, Russian winger Igor Makarov, 22, signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Hawks last week.  His cap hit (unconfirmed) is said to be $552,000.  Makarov needs a little work and will start in the AHL with Rockford.  He was an exciting prospect, but his progression has been stunted in limited playing time in the KHL the past two seasons.  Makarov will turn 23 in September.  In the times I’ve seen him, he’s shown to have a great shot and reasonably quick release.  There are a lot of politics involved in who does and who doesn’t get ice time in Russia, but you’d think if Makarov’s talents were at the level of an NHL-er or at least a top prospect, he’d have been given much more playing time. Read more »

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TTMI~Radio “One Year Gone”

TheThirdManIn~Radio “One Year Gone”
One-Year Anniversary Show ~ Right-Click to download here
recorded Thursday July 15, 2010 ~ 4:30pm (central)

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http://www.BlogTalkRadio.com/TheThirdManIn

That’s right.  It has been one year now since we’ve started this audio dealie.  Almost fifty in the can already and looking forward to the next fifty or more in the coming weeks and over the 2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks season.

This show isn’t much of a celebration.  There was an attempt on my part to pull a HUGE guest.  Came close, but still another epic fail in the end.  I’ll add it to my collection.  Not many people are allowed to come on this show.  About as many are willing.  Maybe I should, but I don’t take it personally.

Anyhow, its great to be back in the swing of things and we’re looking forward to some special guests to help us bridge the gap between now and October.

On this show, officially our 45th (three or four others were quickly shelved or deleted due to intense technical drama), the “Superstar” returns from his two-month long hiatus to discuss a variety of topics, including, but not limited to:

– Steve Smith’s heavy lumber
– The Jack Skille Experience coming to an NHL Arena near you?
– An amateur, imitation Blackhawks writer – habitual kleptomaniac
– Igor Makarov leaving his Mother Russia
– Blackhawks seriously lacking in “little geeks willing to get their asses pounded”
– Colin Fraser, Danny Richmond sign new deals with Canadian teams
– Kyle Beach prefers to beat on smaller guys
– Puke on ice
– “Blackhawks Night” at the Cell
– “Mullet-style” music – whatever that’s supposed to mean
– White Sox organization debasing the Hawks and their fans cleverly
– Mike Modano slams a nasty rumour
– Slamming Wisconsin
– The passing of Bob Probert
– The real story behind his Blackhawks’ career
– Angry folks
– Superstar evidently makes a great point, but Block is not listening
– Niklas Hjalmarsson is a bad man
– Antti Niemi isn’t going anywhere
– What the Blackhawks have really lost off the Cup-winning roster?
– Viktor Stalberg: The next Great Swedish Superhero?
– And much, much more…..

It’s a fine line between creativity and stupidity.  It’s TheThirdManIn~Radio.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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TTMI~Radio sings the Versteegian Rhapsody

TheThirdManIn~Radio “Versteegian Rhapsody”
Wednesday July 14, 2010 ~ e.44  Right-Click to Download Here

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TTMI~Radio returns with our first post-Stanley Cup thoughts with Dieter Kurtenbach of the Examiner.com and HereComeTheHawks.net.

We’ll return in a day or two with our 1st Anniversary show which my usual side-kick Superstar and I will be recording hopefully tomorrow.  Our first show first official show on Blog Talk aired live the day of Dale Tallon’s firing, July 15, 2009.

On our next show we’ll discuss Bob Probert’s career and unfortuate passing.  Also, more on the most recent Blackhawks’ prospect camp, Kyle Beach and more on how the Hawks will comply with this year’s salary cap.

On the docket for today’s show:

– Personal reactions to the Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory
– Debauchery and let-downs
– Liars, Deceivers or just full of it?
– Stan Bowman walking around with foot in mouth
– Niklas Hjalmarsson offer sheet
– Hjalmarsson’s “worth”
– Doug Wilson’s objective – ulterior motives?
– Annual summer tradition of Hawks wiping egg off their faces
– The Bowman myth
– Another BIG trade forthcoming
– Stan Bowman: Denis Savard of general managing?
– Dustin Byfuglien goes to Atlanta
– What did the Hawks really lose?
– What happens now with Antti Niemi?
– How Marty Reasoner fits
– Dieter Kurtenbach HATES the Kris Versteeg to Toronto deal
– Surprise young prospect Dieter has pencilled in on Hawks 3rd line
– Blackhawks would be better off signing Bon Scott
– Dismissing prospect rankings and “performance” charts
– Dylan Olsen
– Lalonde’s big chance
– What would’ve led to Hawks walking away from Hjalmarsson offer sheet
– Johnny’s Ice House
– Dave Bolland: A $3.375M third-line center
– Where Marcus Kruger stands
– Kent Simpson feels shame

All this and so much more on this edition of TheThirdManIn~Radio.  Enjoy.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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Doug Wilson, Sharks Swoop in on Hjalmarsson

Today, one of the Chicago Blackhawks all-time great defenseman, and current San Jose Sharks general manager, Doug Wilson offered restricted free agent blue liner Niklas Hjalmarsson a 4-year, $14 million dollar offer sheet.  The Blackhawks defenseman signed and accepted.

What happens now is the Blackhawks have a week to match this offer of 4 years at an average cap hit of $3.5M a season.

This is a no-brainer for Stan Bowman and his superiors.  The Hawks must match.  Should they not, the return is a San Jose 1st round draft pick as well as a third.

The trouble with that is this situation is completely different than the one the Boston Bruins benefited from last fall when they dealt Phil Kessel (who Bruins teammates felt was addition by subtraction) to the Maple Leafs and found themselves with the #2 overall pick and Tyler Seguin on 2010 Draft Day.

With Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle it’s highly unlikely the Sharks next 1st rounder winds up in the Draft Lottery.  Any return on the Sharks next draft pick would likely be 2 to 3 years away from competing in the NHL.

A cap hit of $3.5M a year is a hard pill to swallow and could possibly result in a sign (match San Jose’s offer sheet) and trade or the end of Antti Niemi.  Another option would be putting Dave Bolland or Patrick Sharp on the trade market.  The Hawks were hoping to lock Hjalmarsson down at around $2M a season, or no more than $2.5.

One thing to consider when figuring the Hawks off season spending option is their ability to spend and carry up to 10% over the salary cap ($5.94M over the $59.4M upper limit).

While most everyone anticipates the Blackhawks will hide Cristobal Huet’s $5.6M cap hit (two more seasons) in Rockford this fall should they not find a willing taker in a European league, they cannot assign that contract to their AHL affiliate until October.  So, if Rockford winds up as Huet’s only option, this could prevent the Hawks from signer a key player before the first week of October.

There are limited options currently should Hjalmarsson wind up in San Jose.  Kim Johnsson (UFA) would be a good fit at a greatly reduced rate (more like $2M for a year or two), but his impending retirement won’t allow this.

Losing Hjalmarsson is probably not an option if you’re standing in Stan Bowman’s shoes.  The organization clearly made their long-term commitment to Duncan Keith this past off season.  Brian Campbell’s entering the third year of an 8-year $57M contract and he’s going to be tough to move at any point, but certainly before year five or six of that deal.  With Shawn Lalonde and Nick Leddy in the pipeline, Campbell’s successor is already on board.

This offer sheet may have the biggest implication on Brent Seabrook’s future.  Dylan Olsen, on display at this weekend’s prospect camp, is a good bet to takeover for Seabrook in 2011-12 if Seabrook’s financial demands are too much for the Blackhawks to bear in the end.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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