News Blog: Quite a racket

I’m not the most fervent tennis aficionado on the planet, but watching the Wimbledon men’s tennis final between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer was a privilege for any sports fan. It also showed why so many associated with the NHL – and not just Sergei Fedorov and Sabres owner Thomas Golisano  – are unabashed appreciators of a game that uses its netting quite differently.

Most impressive to me was the typically steely resolve of Federer. Is there any athlete more unflappable in any sport? If you held the man at gunpoint and asked him to flap, would he be able to do it? I remain skeptical.

Whatever the case, somebody has to get Federer to face Devils GM Lou Lamoriello in a heavyweight, steely-resolve-off showdown for a pay-per-view special. We’ll sell you the seats and it’s possible you might only use/need the edge, but it’s probable you’ll want to settle in comfortably for a lengthy evening.

• Along those same lines: wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall for the contract negotiations between Flames GM Darryl Sutter and Jay Bouwmeester? Here’s my estimation of how the conversation went:

Sutter (in typical Ben Stein mode): You wanna play for us?

Bouwmeester (in typical H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey mode): Yes. Yes I do, Darryl.

Here’s to certain non-recorded aspects of the NHL experience remaining non-recorded.

• If you’re an L.A. Kings fan, there are a lot of good reasons to be pleased with the trade that brings former Avalanche and Oilers left winger Ryan Smyth to California. He’s someone who every player on that roster would be smart to emulate – in all areas except for hairstyling.

That brings me to an important question: How long is Smyth’s world-renowned mullet going to last in Southern California? Don’t they have laws there punishing crimes against hair? Isn’t he going to get tired of having scripts for Joe Dirt sequels offered to him day in and day out?

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• Finally, 20 restricted free agent NHLers – including Detroit’s Jiri Hudler and Rangers winger Nikolai Zherdev – opted for salary arbitration over the weekend.

Recent history indicates that no more than one or two of any summer’s arbitration-bound group actually follows through and completes the process, with most signing in the days or hours preceding their appointment with an arbitrator.

However, this year might prove different.

In cost-cutting moves, a number of teams already have chosen not to tender qualifying offers to some of their RFAs, allowing them to become unrestricted free agents. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that belt-tightening mentality is going to push more teams and players into nasty boardroom confrontations whose repercussions may linger not only with the athlete, but with the teams that could be forced to alter their rosters to comply with the arbitrator’s decision and remain under the salary cap maximum.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has hinted that any RFA offer sheet presented to Boston winger Phil Kessel may not be matched if he deems the contract unreasonable.

If that cold-blooded, bottom-line attitude extends to the arbitration process, teams may choose to walk away from arbitration rulings and allow players to become UFAs.

That hasn’t happened, at least in large numbers, prior to this year. But there’s a first time for everything – and that time may be upon us.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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