Posted on: June 20, 2011 3:11 am
Edited on: June 20, 2011 2:09 pm

Report: NHL salary cap to rise nearly $5 million

The NHL’s salary cap will reportedly rise by nearly $5 million next season.

Clubs and agents were told the upper limit of the cap will have a ceiling of $64 million and a basement $48 million, TSN reports. The cap for the 2011-12 season is a major factor on affecting how teams approach the NHL Entry Draft later this week as well as the free agency, which begins July 1.

The newly crowned champ Boston Bruins are already over the new cap number, according to NHLnumbers.com. (The NHL and NHLPA refuse to put out official cap information, so these are only estimates.) New Jersey and Vancouver would be right up against it.

As we get further from the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, the battle against the cap seems kind of silly. Sure there are no guarantees, but the cap has gone up each season since a $39 million cap was instituted in 2005-06 --- a few of those in recession years no less.

And there’s no going back; even Don Fehr has been tapped as the new chief of the NHLPA. In this regard, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners were correct in sticking to their guns. The game is better for it. Still, it’s just too bad it cost the fans and those who worked for the teams (including the players) a season.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 16, 2011 12:08 am
Edited on: May 16, 2011 2:56 am

Torres sells elbow, keys Canucks' Game 1 win

Raffi Torres sold it better than (enter the name of a has-been actor here) pushes reverse mortgages on your grandparents.

The Vancouver Canucks forward -- who plays on and often over the line -- acted as if the elbow of Sharks forward Dany Heatley was encased in concrete as the two battled along the boards in the third period of Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday night. Torres flailed to make sure the referee didn’t miss it, which he didn’t as an elbowing minor was called.

Henrik Sedin scored on the ensuing power play as the Canucks came away with a 3-2 victory at Rogers Arena. Torres wasn’t on the ice for Sedin’s second goal of the playoffs, but give him an assist anyway.

Here’s a link to the collision, which can be found 2:56 in.

You wouldn’t think Torres would get the benefit of many of those sorts of calls. He was suspended the final two games of the regular season and the first two contests of the playoffs for a hit to the head of Edmonton Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle. Torres' collision with Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook in the first round was also looked at by the league, but NHL officials decided not to suspend him.

Torres wasn’t called for a dive on Sunday, but teammate Maxim Lapierre -- who is no stranger to flopping -- took the minor. He went off for two minutes as he embellished a hold by Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, who also went to the box.

In total, the Canucks got four power-play opportunities to the Sharks’ one. Maybe it was a good indication of how the night would go for the Sharks in the call department as captain Joe Thornton was tossed out of the circle on the opening faceoff.

The Detroit Red Wings had complained that Thornton was jumping the faceoffs in their second-round series. Apparently, the Canucks were the beneficiary of those gripes.

-- A. J. Perez

Posted on: April 28, 2011 3:03 pm

Octopus thrower enters not-guilty plea

The Detroit Red Wings fan who was arrested after he tossed an octopus on the ice pleaded not guilty and asked for a jury trial earlier this week. 

Charlie Graves, a resident of Farmington, Mich., was arrested at Game 1 of the first-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes on April 13 after he tossed the octopus onto the ice, a tradition for Detroit playoff games that stretches back decades. He was fined $500 fine and was charged with disorderly conduct.

Police said afterward that the NHL had requested them to clamp down on octopi tossers.

A defiant Graves, who was in court on Tuesday, explained to WDIV-TV why he pleaded not guilty:

"It is a 50-something-odd-year tradition," Graves said. "I feel the city of Detroit takes pride in their tradition, and if the (NHL) commissioner thinks we are going to go down without a fight, he is wrong."

Graves said he will fight the charge in support of the tradition. .

"I pleaded not guilty, of course," Graves said. "I'm going to fight for this tradition. And so, I have to come back in July for a trial, and I'll be lawyered up."

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:23 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:59 pm

Luongo back in Vancouver net for Game 7

There’s likely something wrong with Roberto Luongo

Mentally. Physically. Luongo, the Vezina Trophy finalist who has been the cornerstone of the franchise for a while, isn't right. Not that it matters. He's getting the nod for Game 7, at least that's what Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. 

“Yes, Roberto is starting,” Vigneault told reporters (via The Vancouver Sun). “Positive. Wouldn't lie to you. I'm not kidding. Does this look like the face of a kidder?”

Rookie Cory Schneider was the surprise starter in Game 6, putting Luongo and his $64 million contract on the bench. This came after Vigneault told reporters, evey different way, that Luongo would be in there. After Sunday's 4-3 OT loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, Vigneault said he “went with the gut.”
That stint in a ballcap for Luongo -- who allowed 10 goals on 40 shots when he was yanked in Games 4-5 -- ended in the third period after Schneider went down awkwardly on a penalty shot by Chicago’s Michael Frolik. Schneider, who had let in three goals on 20 shots he faced, was helped off the ice. 

"I just lost my legs and I seized up and couldn't do anything after that," Schneider told ESPN Chicago.

Luongo -- who's rumored to have hurt something, likely his arm, in Game 4 -- made 12 consecutive saves after he entered before rookie Ben Smith scored in overtime. Luongo made the initial save on a shot by Niklas Hjalmarsson, but the rebound squirted over to Smith who shot the puck over Luongo.

The Vancouver Sun details some of Luongo's postseason struggles, which go far beyond letting the Blackhawks come back from 3-0 in this series:

Luongo may have handled the big Olympic stage but he hasn't been able to handle the Blackhawks in any of the last three playoff years. His win-loss record against Chicago is 7-11. His playoff record, dating back to 2007, is 13-9 against the rest of the league. Overall, Luongo is a pedestrian 20-20 in his post-season career, all with the Canucks.

The issue of Tuesday’s starter became a comical one Monday when Luongo, who met with reporters prior to Vigneault's daily press conference, attempted to stick-handle around the question.

“I am getting ready as if I'm playing,” he said.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 24, 2011 11:22 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 11:24 pm

Selanne one of few questions for Ducks

Teemu Selanne wasn’t about to discuss whether his 18th season would be his last in the NHL after the Anaheim Ducks were eliminated by the Nashville Predators on Sunday.

Selanne, who turns 41 in July, tends to let these kinds of decisions linger well into the summer -- if not longer.

“No,” was his simple answer to a reporter’s question on if he had a timetable for a decision after the Ducks lost, 4-2, in Game 6.

Ducks GM Bob Murray doesn’t have a ton of work ahead of him this summer. All his Stars are under contract and his goalie situation --- which could easily be blamed for the Ducks’ first round exit --- will likely be worked out if Jonas Hiller gets healthy this offseason. Hiller, who was having a Vezina Trophy-type season at the All-Star Break, missed all but one of the Ducks’ final 24 preseason games and didn’t get a minute of playing time as he battled dizziness linked to vertigo.

That left the job in net to Ray Emery (unrestricted free agent) and Dan Ellis (signed through 2011-12). Neither were spectacular in net, although Emery did show, after more than a year on the shelf after hip surgery, that he could at least serve as a viable backup somewhere.

The only other cogs in the Ducks’ lineup who is unrestricted is grinder forward Todd Marchant and defenseman Andreas Lilja.

As far as coach Randy Carlyle goes, it’s doubtful he’d get the boot. Murray received an extension in February when the Ducks were out of the top-8 in the Western Conference standings and Carlyle --- whose contract runs two more seasons --- guided Anaheim to an admirable finish despite losing Hiller in arguably the toughest division in hockey.
-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:44 am

Niemi stumbles, yanked for second time in series

Antti Niemi at least mixed in a save before his latest playoff letdown.

The San Jose Sharks goalie who allowed the first two shots on goal get to the back of the net in Game 3 earlier in the week stopped one of the first three shots he saw in Game 5 Saturday night. Niemi eventually allowed three goals on four shots and was pulled after 8 minutes, 42 seconds.

While he was solid in Game 4 and he’s one of two goalies in the playoffs with a Stanley Cup title to his credit (Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury is the other), Contra Costa Times columnist Gary Peterson writes that it’s time for a change in net:
Instead of being able to shrug off Niemi's bad night by extolling his ability to rebound from adversity, coach Todd McLellan is faced with a decision that was unthinkable five games ago.

He needs to switch goalies.

Yes, Niemi was nails in the last half of the regular season, playing at the top of his game, and playing almost every game. Yes, he was helping the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship last year at this time.

That's old news as of Saturday night, when Niemi turned in his third sketchy effort in five starts.

"We came out, and we (stunk) from the start," Logan Couture said. "That's as simple as I can put it. Everyone made mistakes. You can't pin it on one guy."

That's what a good teammate says. But the brutal truth is, one man's mistakes stood out.

Antero Nittimaki didn’t allow a goal as he faced 18 shots in relief as the Kings earned a 3-1 victory Saturday. (He also earned the victory as he replaced Niemi in Game 3 as the Sharks posted a four-goal comeback to win 6-5 in OT.) But CSN Bay Area (and CBSSports.com contributor) Ray Ratto reports that McLellan didn’t sound as concerned as who’s in net as the skaters in front of them:

“The first one (by Wayne Simmonds) comes off a hell of a deflection,” McLellan said, reviewing the nails in his team’s crest. “The second one (by Kyle Clifford), he makes a great save off a 2-on-1 that shouldn’t exist (turnover by Dan Boyle), and the third one (by Dustin Penner), he’s a little deep in his net, and he knows that.”

But then he added a subtler but more damaging assessment, one that can’t be fixed by exchanging a Finn (Antero Niittymaki) for a Finn (Niemi).

“We have six (defensemen) dressed who are better than they showed tonight,” he said. “I probably don’t have to tell them, but I will remind them of that.”

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: April 23, 2011 2:03 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 2:42 pm

Tootoo, Smithson deliver Preds historic victory

ANAHEIM --- Jordin Tootoo is a grinder not known for his pretty passes. Jerred Smithson was a player Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said was “disposed of” by the Los Angeles Kings

Those were your heroes for as the Predators clawed out a 4-3 victory at Honda Center Friday night --- Nashville's first Game 5 and playoff overtime victories in franchise history. 

“We battled through a lot of adversity throughout the year,” said Tootoo, who set up Smithson’s game-winning goal two minutes into OT. “Guys understand those situations. It’s great to battle through those and come out on top tonight. This is a big win for our organization. We’ll enjoy this one tonight and regroup.”

While the Preds have suffered through the usual injuries and other travails like most teams, Tootoo had his own battles. He missed January after he entered the NHL/NHL Players' Association Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. 

“He’s playing great hockey right now,” Smithson said. “He’s leading by example and doing the hard things: going to the net, drawing penalties and creating scoring chances. For him to get the success is great to see.”

Tootoo’s first assist -- both of the game and the playoffs -- came midway through the first period as he faked a shot then moved the puck over to Kevin Klein, who beat Ducks goalie Ray Emery.

“He was hard to handle,” Trotz said. “He was making plays and making really good decisions. It was a really good game for Jordin. It was a big part of the victory.”

The Preds third line stepped in to fill the some of the void left by Martin Erat, who missed Game 5 with an upper-body injury. Not deep at forward already, the line provided contributions that put the Preds a game away from advancing to the second round for the first time in franchise history. 

-- AJ. Perez
Posted on: April 23, 2011 1:49 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 1:57 am

Bobby Ryan's highlight reel goal wasted

ANAHEIM --- David Legwand, as the Nashville Predators defenseman stumbled down the ice like he was immersed in a bad dream,  got to see something the Anaheim Ducks were missing the last couple games: Bobby Ryan

Ryan -- forced out of Games 3-4 due to a suspension -- swiped a lazy cross-ice pass from Legwand, then turned the defender inside out a couple times before he schooled Preds goalie Pekka Rinne with a deke to his backhand. The tally 40 seconds into the third period gave the Ducks one of their two leads of the night, but the Predators wound up with a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 5 of the first-round series at Honda Center on Friday. 

“I just tried to duck and dodge him a few times,” Ryan told CBSSports.com. “It might have been more luck or skill, but I’ll take it.”

Sure it wasn’t the game-winner, but Ryan scored the goal of the playoffs --- at least so far. Ryan, however, was hardly in celebratory mood. 

“I guess it’s a moot point when you drop the game and you don’t come through with a series lead like we should have tonight,” Ryan added. “It was a nice goal, but I will probably try and forget it.”

Predators coach Barry Trotz said it won’t be so easy for Legwand to put out of his mind. 

“He knows it wasn’t a smart play,” Trotz said. “I won’t have to talk to him. It will be on all the highlights on every station across North America. He’ll be able to see it a lot.”

Ryan was suspended two games for stomping on the foot of Preds defenseman Jonathon Blum as the two fought for position along the boards in Game 2. Ryan said before the game that the first suspension of his career wasn’t going to change how he approached the game. 

Ryan was physical (three hits were credited to him) and he put four shots on net. 

As Ryan returned, the Ducks were this time without the services of Jarko Ruutu. He was suspended one game for his hit on Preds winger Martin Erat that the league determined was too late. Erat did not make the trip out here to Southern California and he’s questionable for Sunday’s Game 6 with a an upper-body injury. 

-- A.J. Perez
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com