Yes, I've been away from the keyboard* for quite a while, so there's certainly some catching up to do:
- The Boots Del Biaggio saga is now entering the Long Slog, a period of time in which both a bankruptcy and a criminal investigation will take place. I suspect it will take months before the whole tangled web gets unwound, but as John Glennon points out in his Tennessean blog today, the signing of Ryan Suter shows that the Predators aren't standing still. It does appear that operationally they should be able to proceed as planned.
- Speaking of Suter, 4 years at $3.5 million per might seem on the high side, but take a look at this list of NHL defensemen making between $3 million and $4 million next year, courtesy of NHLSCAP.com. While Suter certainly still has rough parts of his game that need to be filled out (as in, quit hanging onto the puck for so long in your own end!), he fits quite comfortably in that group. He's a legit Top-4 NHL defenseman, and contributes on the power play as well.
- Back to the Del Biaggio story; there are many out there jumping on Gary Bettman and the NHL for failing to perform due diligence and getting caught looking foolish, but if you go back to the initial stories in this drama, you'll see that Del Biaggio's brokerage is being sued right alongside him. While we have to wait for all the facts to come out in court, the appearance is that the lenders were trying to independently verify Del Biaggio's collateral claims, and received documents that, while appearing genuine, where in fact falsified by an employee there. The responsibility lies with the guilty parties here, folks, not the victims.
- When it comes to re-signing free agents in Nashville, the next one in line would appear to be defenseman Shea Weber. I've said before that 4 years, $15-16 million seems about right for Weber, who had a disappointing 2007-8 campaign. Perhaps that figure will rise a bit given the figures that Ryan Suter earned, but I'd certainly choke on anything above $5 million/year.
- The last major free agent to be dealt with is goaltender Dan Ellis. His play down the stretch lifted the Predators into the playoffs, and his effort against the Red Wings was among the best goaltending performances in the entire postseason, but whether he can carry that forward as a regular NHL goaltender is an open question. Even without being the main guy throughout the season, Ellis had difficulty maintaining his playing weight, an issue that became an even larger concern during the playoffs. How would Ellis survive the entire 82-game regular season, let alone considering the fact that opponents now have a decent amount of game action available to scout him with? Since Chris Mason is just entering a two-year contract extension at $3 million per year (read: untradeable), and Pekka Rinne would have to clear waivers to head back to Milwaukee this year, it would appear that the only realistic situation keeping Ellis in Nashville is to see Rinne traded and Ellis accept a playing time split with Mason, something relatively close to 50/50. My bet is that he'll wait until July to play the free agent market, and sign as a backup with a contending team for a decent sum ($2-3 million).
- That said, a depth-for-quality trade might be just the solution for a Predators squad that already has 8 NHL-level defensemen with more rising through the ranks, and a 3-way shuffle in goal. With no indication as of yet that Steve Sullivan will return anytime soon from his back troubles, the obvious need on this team is for an offensive threat up front. Is Patric Hornqvist, or any of the other Predators prospects, ready to step into that role this fall? Probably not quite yet, so a trade would be the logical option.
- Congrats to Glenn Anderson and Igor Larionov for their selection to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
- Expect a blogroll cleanup and site redesign over the next couple weeks; I've got quite a bit of pruning to do, and may well remove the blogroll to its own page in order to free up more space for article content.