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Darren - This week I was really surprised to read your tweet saying that any team making a claim for Marty Turco on waivers could not play him at all! How does this scenario differ from that of the Nabokov move the Isles made last season?
A: Randall, as they say, timing is everything and that definitely applies to this comparison. Turco was lured back to the NHL by the Bruins after the Feb. 27 trade deadline, which introduces a number of restrictions...starting with Turco being ineligible for the playoffs. And because of his post deadline signing, while Turco had to clear waivers to join Boston, had he been claimed, he would not have been able to play a single game with the team that claimed him...all because he agreed to the contract after Feb. 27.
Nabokov was originally signed by Detroit as a free agent after being released by SKA St. Petersburg. He too had to clear waivers to return to the NHL, but because his agreement in January 2011 was reached before the trade deadline, he was free game on waivers and was subsequently picked off by the Islanders.
Waivers rules and how they are managed is complicated business and I've probably over-simplified the process, but suffice it to say had Turco signed before Feb. 27, there would have been fewer playing restrictions.
Brian Burke was pretty peeved last week mentioning the post-trade deadline four call-up rule and he's gotta be fuming after all four were burned off this week! Why was the rule put in place and are other GMs just as weary of this rule?
A: Troy, this question comes up every year at this time. The rule was collectively bargained and it's believed the NHLPA pushed for the rule in support of veteran players who may lose ice-time to call ups late in the year. Optically, the PA also has some concerns for fans who attend games to watch regular NHLers, not to mention the financial impact some of these players might face shuttling back and forth from the NHL to AHL.
Historically, the NHL has repeatedly asked the PA to eliminate the four call-up rule and the union has shown a willingness to do so, provided the players received some form of concession in return.
With CBA negotiations expected to heat up in the coming weeks, this issue will have its place on the list of changes the league hopes to address at the bargaining table.
Undoubtedly, Burke will raise the topic at the GM meetings in Florida as he did last year, but change will only come when a new CBA is introduced.
It should also be noted, the rule only applies while the AHL affiliate team is in play and expires as soon as their season ends.
For Toronto, that's a problem, given the strength of the Toronto Marlies.
Being that I don't get to see many Blues games, aside from their goaltending, what do the Blues bring to the table? Do you think they have what it takes to make it in the playoffs against the Western Conference powerhouses?
A: Jason, Ken Hitchcock says he believes there are three main components to playoff success.
1) You have to be great 5-on-5.
2) Able to play long stretches with the lead (Not easy in the playoffs).
3) Need a goaltender to win games, especially early in a series.
Because the St. Louis Blues are the new kids of the block and still learning what it takes to be a contending team, we're not sure whether they meet the criteria of the three above elements.
Goaltending in St Louis is solid, the team is getting timely offense and expects one or two of its injured forwards back next week. Hitchcock has his team competing hard, and believes when healthy, this group has another gear, but there's no way of determining how playoff ready they are until they get there.
With Hitch at the helm, the Blues will be as prepared as they can be and his postseason experience makes this team a very real threat.
Darren, remember the good old days when NHL GM meetings were held BEFORE the trade deadline? Anyways, what are the general managers going to be talking about next week?
A: Dayton, by now you'll likely have a good idea of what will be discussed as we've identified a couple of the main agenda items on TSN this week. There will be a lengthy discussion on the CBA and the NHL will educate its teams on some of the cap related twists and turns we might see this summer and going into next season. The league will provide an overview of what to expect when the negotiations commence. Most of this will be pretty basic and little of it will be dispensed to the media as the commissioner's office limits how much CBA information teams are allowed to provide.
Discussions on the return of the red line will take place. There seems to be support for this among the GMs for a variety of strategic and safety reasons.
The NHL-NHLPA's never ending quest to develop a streamlined, protective and less damaging shoulder pad will also be updated. Both sides say progress is being made, but manufacturers haven't yet come up with a prototype that addresses all concerns. That said, there is hope this new pad may be introduced to the players to consider for next season.
The league will also discuss the concussion issue with a number of the sub-topic discussions likely to focus on changes that could help reduce the number of head injuries in the NHL.
A number of general managers often show up at the meetings with a list of concerns, or concepts they want input in to, so while the agenda for these meetings has its primary items, sometimes it's the secondary topics that generate the headlines.
It's a major dogfight in the Western Conference for the last few playoff spots - which team is under the most pressure to get in and go far, the Sharks, Kings or even the Avs?
A: Derrick, wow, what a battle in both conferences. It's difficult to identify one team because all teams feel the pressure to compete for a playoff spot. For me, L.A., S.J. and Calgary are three teams desperate to make the playoffs. San Jose never seems to get the respect deserved for a team that has an impressive postseason record. However, fans of the Sharks expect more, so missing the playoffs this year could be devastating. The Kings have made trades, handed out big contracts and fired coaches over the years, but can't seem to find the right formula. GM Dean Lombardi knows his job may be on the line if the Kings don't finish in the top eight. In Calgary, there's a sense of urgency, although not as intense as it is for their pacific division rivals. The Flames have a number of expiring contracts this summer...a perfect platform to embrace a significant offseason renovation. However, this renovation may shift to an all-out rebuild if things stay the same as they are not and Calgary fails to qualify - again.