As many of you have been hearing there are lots of rumors about Michael Nylander being traded by the Caps and the reports flying around yesterday had him going to Chicago. I found this quite surprising given the horrible salary cap situation the Blackhawks are in right now so I exchanged some texts with a Western Conference scout to get his take on the rumor and the possibility of #92 going to Chicago. The scout said he did not see Chicago being able to take on Nylander and his $4.875M cap hit unless they moved a goaltender. Currently Chicago has both Nikolai Khabibulin ($6.75M) and Cristobal Huet ($5.625M) signed to high dollar contracts. The rumors also had the Caps getting defensemen Brent Sopel in return for Nylander. When I asked the scout how much Sopel made/cost against the salary cap he responded with “whatever it is it is 100% too much.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Blackhawks defensemen who was scratched again tonight against Toronto (and that likely has a lot more to do with his poor play then some imminent trade). By the way, Sopel costs $2.333M against the cap. The other rumored player mentioned in the deal was Dustin Byfuglien, who is signed for 3 more years at a cap hit of $3M per season. However, Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon apparently said Byfuglien would not be involved in any deal.
As for Nylander, anyone who read my blogs last year knows that I was not a fan of this signing at $4.875M averaged over 4 years. I ripped him heavily the first part of last season because of his poor play but some came to his defense because he was playing injured (he ended up having season ending shoulder surgery). Well he is healthy now and he is still terrible. He is being paid first line money but is not producing and only playing 12 to 15 minutes a game. His best years were with Jaromir Jagr and the moody #68 is in Russia now. Nylander is -6 in November and the Caps have played very well this month so clearly they don’t really need him. The hard part is finding a taker at the salary he is commanding. I still think Vancouver is about the only destination that makes sense given that GM Mike Gillis likes Nylander and the Canucks are $9M or so below the cap. At this point, any deal Caps GM George McPhee could make to unload him, even if they got nothing in return, makes sense to me because it would clear cap space that could be used to get another defensemen or bring up defensemen Karl Alzner from Hershey, who would count around $1.7M against the salary cap.
It appears that Brent Johnson will be in net in San Jose tonight and Mike Green and Alexander Semin are still out of the line-up. The Caps are expecting to get Sergei Fedorov back tonight from an ankle injury. The Caps have lost 10 straight games to San Jose. I have seen San Jose play several times and they are the best team in the league right now, in my opinion. They can skate and Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Devin Setoguchi are on fire. If Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov isn’t ready to return from his groin injury tonight then the Caps will likely face Brian Boucher and catch a break. The Sharks have been off since Monday’s game in Nashville so they will be well rested. I have a hard time seeing the Caps winning in San Jose tonight.
Dallas Stars forward Brendan Morrow tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. This is a huge blow to the Stars as Morrow is their heart and soul leader. This could cost Dallas a playoff spot.
When the New Jersey Devils lost goalie Martin Brodeur for 3 to 4 months they lost 5 of their first 6 games but they are now playing well again having won three games in a row while relying on Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes in goal. The return of defensemen Paul Martin to the line-up after an injury has helped the Devils. He is their top defensemen and typically logs the most ice time.