For NHL, August a Month to Forget

Suffocating humidity and thunderous storms make it difficult to think of hockey at the end of July. But it's a good thing. When you follow a sport that lasts as long as the NHL season, the summer can be a welcome refuge from fantasy teams, playoff races, and endless sports columns droning on, unoriginally, about the demise of the NHL's popularity. The playoffs don't end until June, the free agent market opens in July, so August is the best month of all — a buffer month that allows fans to forget about hockey just enough to welcome it back in September.

But this summer seems to be busier than most. Player movement has sparked nods of approval, fierce scrutiny, and, in one instance, bred a sparring match between competing GMs in the Western conference. And a pair of brothers from the most talented gene pool since the Sutters were arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Beer slugging Canadians? Shocking.

In a soap opera-like spat, Anaheim Ducks' general manager Brian Burke ripped Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe for his team's absurd offer sheet to free agent Dustin Penner. The Oilers offered Penner, whose 2006-2007 salary was a paltry $450,000, a five-year, $21.25 million deal. Burke, who learned of the offer while awaiting induction to the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame, called the move "gutless."

"I have no problem with offer sheets," Burke said. "My fear is that it's the second time this year, in my opinion, Edmonton has offered a grossly inflated salary for a player. It impacts on all 30 teams," quotes the Toronto Globe and Mail. Burke's hostility stems from Lowe's timing and lack of notification that an offer sheet was pending.

Many teams avoided salary arbitration by reaching agreements. Most notably, standout goaltender Ray Emery inked a new contract with the Ottawa Senators that will pay him an average of $3.2 million each of the next three years ($2.75 million next season, $3.25M in 2008-09, and $3.5M in 2009-10). That makes Emery the 18th highest paid goalie in the NHL — not bad for a guy who took his team to the fifth game of the Stanley Cup Finals on $925,000 wage. Both parties avoided arbitration by agreeing to the deal, a move that may have saved Ottawa from shelling out roughly $4 million a year.

And in true youthful fashion, Jordan, 18, and Eric, 22, of the Staal brothers' clan were arrested in Minneapolis, MN for disorderly conduct and obstructing justice during Eric's bachelor party. Jordan was also cited for underage drinking. It's worth noting that he was also breaking Canadian law, where the drinking age is 19. It appears the Staals were merely partaking in what some consider that most authentic offseason activity: drinking.

There were a variety of other free agent signings and contract renewals absurd offers, but now that August is approaching, let's forget about that until we see all those new faces in their new sweaters when camps open in September, or in front of a county magistrate on charges of throwing beer cans at passing cars at your older brother's bachelor party. Relax, you'll need it, those 82 games plus playoffs are sure to keep you busy in the months that follow.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site