And before any of you wise guys make cracks about the amount of vacation I have, it remains 3 weeks. 1 in late June, 1 in mid-July, and 1 at Christmas. Most decide to use one in the spring time, but for some reason, that has never appealed to me. I am a summer vacation guy, especially in that gap between the NHL/NBA Finals and the start of NFL camps. Incidentally, NFL Camps approach, and I am ready to roll already. I plunked down my $8 on the Sporting News NFL Preview Issue the other day, and I am certainly ready to roll with football thoughts. But, I shall save that for another day.
Now, on to the bigger fish that we have before us:
First, to the Dallas Stars, and their off-season of odd developments:
Word this morning is that the Stars have inked two forwards, Matt Barnaby and Jeff Halpern …
Barnaby is a physical winger who is not afraid to showboat. He is an agitator and could be placed on a line with Steve Ott to give the Stars serious grit at the bottom of the lineup. Barnaby had eight goals and 20 assists in 82 games with Chicago last season. He had 41 points and 36 points in his two previous seasons with the Rangers and Colorado.
The Stars have offered him a one-year contract for $625,000 and offered Halpern a four-year deal around $2 million a season, according to a team source.
Halpern gives the Stars another option at center. He has played six seasons with the Washington Capitals and has moved from second line center to checking line center. Halpern (6-0, 198) had 11 goals and 33 assists in 70 games last season and had 19 goals and 27 assists in 2003-04.
Like Barnaby, he can be an agitator.
With the acquisition of Halpern, the Stars now have five potential center icemen in Mike Modano, Stu Barnes, Halpern, Ott and Patrik Stefan. With about $5 million left in cap space and eight defensemen under their contractual control, the Stars now have the ability to make a trade for a top-line offensive player. There are also still some talented scorers available in free agency, including Anson Carter, Sergei Samsonov and Brendan Shanahan.
If you remember, I was actually campaigning for getting Barnaby (or Dallas Drake or Tyson Nash) in here before the trade deadline back in March. I thought the Stars have very little agitation in their ranks aside from Steve Ott. Well, they have evidently grabbed Barnaby and to a lesser extent Halpern to fill that role. You have to be tough to play against, and the Stars are losing skill, so they better be more abrasive.
Halpern is a player I have always liked, but I would be lying if I told you that he was the player I had in mind to anchor that 2nd line center spot that just got freed up when Arnott was allowed to go. I think that he is a fine candidate to grab the 3rd line checking center role, but I also thought that Stu Barnes would work there. So, regardless of what they might say, it appears they may have 5 centers, as Mr Heika wrote, but 4 of them are perfect for the 3rd or 4th lines. Needless to say, the NHL is not quaking in their skates after these signings.
Do they have more in mind? I would hope so, because they still need another Top 6 forward to score enough goals at this point. They are $4.5 million under the cap, but no one wants to get much closer than within $3 million, so you would expect a trade could be on the horizon.
Overall, I want to wait and see what else the summer brings, but at this point, there has not really been enough change from a team that has underachieved the last 3 playoffs, and still has not made any substantial trades or firings to show that what has happened is unacceptable. Instead, there have been extensions for many key players, and the staff has been kept around.
I like these guys. So it pains me to say this, but if you bring Turco, Zubov, Modano, Morrow, Lehtinen, Tippett, and Armstrong all back after the messes of 2003, 2004, and 2006, how can hockey fans feel that this coming season will be different? That is your core, and you can blame the guys who come and go each year (Audette, Turgeon, Guerin, Arnott, etc) but how long until you shake up the real core of this organization in the post-Gainey/Hitchcock era? I am not saying blow it all up, but I am saying shuffle the deck a bit. The sacred cows need to be downgraded on account of this now being 7 summers since the Cup. And let’s not forget many of the sacred ones had nothing to do with the Cup. They were just lucky enough to be part of the organization from Day 1.
Honestly, I just can’t believe they extend Turco before making him prove it in the playoffs. Now the dude has a freaking no-trade clause!
On to Arnott leaving, The Nashville paper offers insight on his exit …
Arnott liked what he heard about the Predators from former and current players. He also liked what he hard from Poile and Predators coach Barry Trotz.
“They answered everything I wanted to know without me having to ask,” Arnott said. “Nashville was where I wanted to be. It is the time in my career to move on. I want to be the go-to guy. I want to be the horse on the ice. I am going to try to do everything I can to help bring a Stanley Cup to Nashville.”
“The speed, the talent and the wisdom of these guys makes them difficult to play against,” Arnott said. “Nashville has always been a very hard team to play against with the speed and skills of players like Kariya and Sullivan. Now with the size up the middle we have a great recipe for winning in Nashville.”
In Dallas, Arnott has been playing on the second line behind center Mike Modano. In his 13 previous seasons in the NHL, Arnott has not had the chance to be the No. 1 center on a team.
“Regardless of how good Jason Arnott was, he was always going to be the No. 2 center in Dallas,” Poile said. “He is coming here clearly to be the No. 1 center. Instead of playing behind Modano he will be playing against him, and that is the kind of match-up we have been looking for since day one.”
So, there you have it. More years, and more ice time. You can tell me that he is not worth it, but I think he has been your best center for the last 2 seasons. Now what?
In the NBA, the league has been rocked by Big Ben Wallace moving to Chicago. Does this spell Detroit’s demise? Does this make the Bulls a contender again? Chad Ford has more …
In this moment of franchise tragedy, Pistons fans are asking the obvious question: How could this happen?
Wasn't Wallace a lock to re-sign with the Pistons five months ago? Didn't the Pistons trade Darko Milicic, in part, to free up cap space to re-sign Wallace?
Wasn't this starting five like family, a family that could never be broken up?
Five months ago, the answers all seemed to be pointing firmly toward "yes."
Wallace had fired long-time agent Steve Kaufmann and insinuated that he didn't need an agent to negotiate his deal. Dumars sounded confident that a deal would get done and that Wallace was his first priority.
Milicic was traded at the February deadline. The explanation was twofold. He wasn't going to get into the rotation as long as Ben, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess were on the team. He had a large salary for the upcoming season, and the Pistons needed to free up some room (they also traded Carlos Arroyo for salary cap reasons) to get more space.
And don't forget that the Pistons were on pace to win more games than anyone since the Bulls won 70 games. We expected them to roll through the playoffs, dismiss their Western Conference challenger and win a second title in three years.
But then things changed. Wallace started going public with his criticism of coach Flip Saunders. He hired superagent Tellem to negotiate his contract. The Pistons had their lunch handed to them by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
Kobayashi Rules Supreme …
A 160-pound wonder from Japan set a new record by devouring a sickening 53 3/4 frankfurters in 12 minutes to win the annual Independence Day hot dog eating competition on Coney Island.
The feat earned Takeru Kobayashi, 27, his sixth straight title in the event, held at the original Nathan's Famous hot dog stand on Brooklyn's seashore.
He broke his own record of 53 1/2 hot dogs, set at the same competition two years ago.
Down Goes Germany! Italy 2, Germany 0 …I think France will meet them on Sunday, but we will find that out today…
Did you hear about the streaker at Wimbledon, yesterday? Youtube has it! …Move to 7:55 of the cut to see it….Gay…
Stephen A Smith is heckled somewhat at the NBA Draft …
Even more Youtube greatness, the beatdown …
We are on 10-3 on Wednesday, so if you missed us, we talk for a while longer today.