Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sittin' at the end of the bar...

- Much has been made about President Barack Obama's remarks in Moscow expressing pleasure about the contributions of a certain Russian to American -- and specifically Washington -- culture. Well, here's a nod to Alexander Semin (98 goals in his last three seasons) and Semyon Varlamov (11-6-1, 2.49, .918, two shutouts in his combined inaugural regular and playoff season), a couple of up-and-coming Russians in D.C. We're pleased to have them here, too.

-- What's with the contracts for defensemen? First, Tampa Bay gives Mattias Ohlund a seven year deal (he'll be 33 years old on opening night). Now, the Flyers have given Chris Pronger a seven year contract extension ($34.7 million) that will keep him as a Flyer property until Pronger is 42 yearsold. And, the deal is front weighted. Seems the NHL has finally learned the NFL trick of adding useless years to the end of contracts to smooth the cap hits on big deals.

-- So Joe Sakic is hanging up his skates. We've always thought of him as sort of the Cal Ripken of hockey. If you see him once, you might be inclined to ask "what's all the hype about?" Flash has not been his stock in trade over a 20-year career. But if you see him often enough, you get it. His is the attention-to-detail and understated skill that wins hockey games and championships. He is, in the best sense of the word, a "winner." And, like Ripken, he's done it with one franchise, an unheard of accomplishment in this day and age. Your hall of fame plaque is waiting, Joe.

-- And if you're wondering what a Caps "plan" looks like when it matures, look at Detroit (which has been doing it for more than a decade -- an argument for patience). Guys are up for big contracts, but if they're not part of the core, the Wings wave goodbye. Ken Holland locked up Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Daysyuk, and Johan Franzen, who will be teammates at least through 2013-2014, when Datsyuk's deal expires. But Marian Hossa (12 years/$62.8 million with Chicago) and Mikael Samuelsson (three years/$7.5 million with Vancouver) are allowed to walk to make way for young guys coming through the system. Even Ty Conklin, a more than serviceable backup goalie (two years/$2.6 million with St. Louis), is bid adieu. To replace him, the Red Wings will see what Jimmy Howard can do, a goalie who has served a 187 game apprenticeship in the AHL awaiting his chance. And the Wings will see what guys like Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader can do with more responsibility. The Wings don't rebuild, they reload.