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Staal tatics

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

I’m suspending standard operating procedure for the next 7-10 days, mainly to put the finishing touches (as well as the halfway-through touches) on a new book for THN.

But if a couple of those days wind up with more soaking up of sun and suds than editing and writing, I vow to somehow carry on and live with my conscience.

Keep the questions coming, though, as my workmates will answer your queries in my absence May 29.


Why doesn't the NHL just introduce two new teams into the league and make them both Canadian to stop this annoying news about Jim Balsillie and the group from Hamilton? Introduce two more teams and a new game format – I have the perfect one.

Kaelan Fraser, Belleville, Ont.


Wait – you think the NHL should have more teams? Are you an NHLPA plant or related to a team owner? Do you think the league didn’t water down its product enough during the last round of expansion? Or do you harbor a deep grudge against the American League for reasons as yet unknown? Those are the only explanations I can come up with.

If it were my league, I’d wait to see how many more teams will make like the Coyotes due to the worldwide economic downturn, then decide how many new markets would best sustain the 30 teams currently in place. Expansion may not technically be a four-letter word, but every time I say it, I feel like I should apologize immediately afterward.

But my compliments to you for ending your submission on such a suspenseful note. End the mystery, already, and fess up about your flawless concept, because I’ve got an appointment at the copyright office coming up real soon and don’t want to have to make two trips.

PS – I hope your idea is as entertaining as THIS.

Dear Adam,

I agree with many things you say, so I am counting on you. What is the difference between restricted free agents and unrestricted ones? And, who is your favorite NHL team? Bye and I really like your columns,

Cameron Boileau, New Liskeard, Ont.


Thanks for those very kind compliments. I enjoy my columns, too.

A restricted free agent is a player whose contractual rights are controlled by his team – either because of his age or the number of NHL games he’s previously played – and who can only accept an offer from a rival team if the team that holds his rights accepts a degree of compensation (draft picks) that is based upon the contract being offered by the rival team.

The player’s original team can also choose to match the offer and keep him in the fold; if that happens, the team trying to pluck away the player winds up with nothing.

An unrestricted free agent, on the other hand, is free to sign with any team, with no compensation if he leaves his previous squad.

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions before, I don’t have a favorite team. Since I grew up in Toronto, I’d love to see my shamefully partisan buddies rewarded with a Maple Leafs Cup victory someday, but other than that, the only cheering I do now is for specific players, coaches, GMs and other upstanding hockey people I’ve met over the course of my career.

And when those people are on teams that play against each other, I begin to understand what Ma(a) and Pa(a) Staal are going through.


I have heard the occasional rumor about Jaromir Jagr being interested in playing for the Oilers. How interested is he and do you think he can still make a big impact in the NHL?

Paul Hamilton, White Fox, Sask.


Jagr has a contract with Omsk of the Kontinental League that runs through the completion of the 2009-10 season. That ought to preclude him from returning to the NHL for a year, but most people believe he’ll still have something to contribute when he’s 38 years old, even if that contribution may resemble Sergei Fedorov’s current role in Washington.

As for whether his talent gets brought to Edmonton – or perhaps just as likely, the Pittsburgh Penguins – I don’t think anyone can say with complete slam-dunk authority.


How is it that through this entire Gary Bettman/Jim Balsillie thing so far no one seems to be mentioning ‘Boots’ Del Biaggio and the other shady dealings that have happened during Bettman’s watch?

Dave Russell, Holmes Beach, Fla.


First, a brief note to grammar sticklers: ‘Boots’ Del Biaggio is in fact a human being and not a Watergate-style label for backroom skullduggery.

As for your question, I can assure you Mr. Del Biaggio’s name and acceptance into the NHL has been cited on many a recent occasion here in hockey-obsessed southern Ontario.

Bettman still has enough support among team owners to survive the current meltdown in Phoenix. But nobody is certain that support will last if four or five more franchises become insolvent and the league is unable to carry them the way they’ve been carrying the Coyotes since last fall.

In other words, is the NHL set up to fall like a pattern of dominoes or will Bettman’s vision stand like Stonehenge against the test of time? I’d tell you if I knew, but I don’t, so I can’t.


At what point do the Penguins have to trade Jordan Staal, or should they? He is a third line center making $4 million next season and given that he can't produce on the top two lines, should the Penguins trade him for a young winger?

Taylor Siwik, Pittsburgh


In my estimation, Staal’s future in Pittsburgh depends partially on the Penguins’ current playoff run.

If the Pens finish off the Hurricanes and upset the Red Wings – their likely opponent – in the Cup final, Staal sticks around at least through next season. If they don’t, there could be real internal pressure on GM Ray Shero to slightly, but not insignificantly, shuffle his deck.

It would shock many to see Shero deal Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin; therefore, since the Penguins have to find money to extend Kris Letang’s contract and re-stock the forward department, Staal will be a natural target for any team doing business with Pittsburgh.

But who says you have to trade him for a young winger? That’d be nice, but maybe you convince Jagr or another productive veteran to sign for a song; Staal then could be moved to help your blueline or bring in top-end prospects who will provide much-needed cheap labor for the future.

There are many ways to skin a cat. Even though you ought to have the men with the big nets (and I don’t mean hockey nets) over for a visit if you actually have skinned, are currently skinning, or are planning to skin any cats.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on Proteau also answers readers' question in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show every Friday from 3-4 p.m. EST on XM Radio channel 204. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau 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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