Are you surprised that young mega-stars Steven Stamkos
and Drew Doughty
have been on the restricted free agent market for 15 days (and counting) without either getting a single offer sheet from another club?
Well, you shouldn't be. It hasn't happened yet and it isn't going to.
Despite all the odd rumors, these two won't be relocating in the fall. Eventually, Stamkos will ink a new deal with Tampa and Doughty will do likewise in LA.
Why am I so confident? Why am I so certain? Why, you ask, wouldn't a team -- any team -- come forward with an astronomical bid (within CBA guidelines) for one of these wildly talented 21-year-olds?
It's simple. It would be a senseless act. The Lightning and Kings both have rock-solid ownership with the financial wherewithal to match any offer sheet. It was that way on July 1. It's that way today. And it will be that way when they sign their respective names on the dotted lines sometime before opening night.
According to Forbes (as of March), L.A. owner Philip Anschutz's net worth is approximately $7.5 billion dollars, placing him among the 40 richest people in the United States. Do you think Anschutz loses a wink of sleep over another owner making a big play for Doughty? Heck, he's not even thinking about it. He's left that to GM Dean Lombardi.
In Tampa, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik doesn't have Anschutz's financial power. Judging by the figures, not many do. Still, the hedge fund magnate who has put the franchise back on solid ice in less than 18 months has more than enough dough to scare off anyone from trying to steal Stamkos. It's just not going to happen.
In the interim, Kings and Lightning fans can worry if they wish, but I don't see a scenario where either player changes his current address. It may take a little while -- complicated deals sometimes do -- but these two guys are staying put.
In Philadelphia, however, Flyers fans might have a little reason for concern. On Wednesday, top defenseman Chris Pronger
told TSN Radio that he doesn't think he'll be ready to join his teammates when the club opens training camp on Sept. 16.
"I would guess that I would not be starting camp, based on the mere fact that I haven't been able to work out at all yet," said Pronger, who underwent a surgical procedure (discectomy) to remove a herniated disc in his back on May 12.
Based on recovery timetable he received from his doctors, Pronger says he's three or three-and-a-half weeks away from being able to begin real training. To date, his activity has been limited to walking on a treadmill.
While doctors expect Pronger to make a full recovery, I would imagine there's a certain level of apprehension shared by both the player and the team. After all, Pronger missed 32 regular season games due to knee and hand injuries and he dressed for just three of the club's 11 playoff contests; not to mention that he turns 37 on Oct. 10.
If, for some reason, he can't return and play at the high level that we've grown accustomed to during his Hall of Fame worthy career, the re-modeled Flyers -- for all their interesting offseason moves -- will have a hard-to-fill hole on their blue line. Actually, I think it would be more like an impossible-to-fill hole. Pronger remains that good.
Several exits north on the New Jersey Turnpike, a much-less heralded defenseman, Michigan native Matt Taormina
, is coming back from his own injury woes.
Last fall, the 24-year-old rookie earned a spot on the Devils' blue line out of training camp. In the midst of the team's dreadful start, the former Providence College star was a bit of bright spot, putting up three goals, two assists and playing to a respectable (given the circumstances) minus-2 rating in 17 games.
In mid-November, however, he suffered a high-ankle sprain -- including some torn ligaments -- during practice. Taormina rehabbed the injury and he felt things were moving forward. He tried to skate in December, but there were moves that he just couldn't make. By late January, he had to have surgery to repair the problem and he was done for the year.
Now, Taormina is back at work, participating in the club's rookie camp. He says he's 100 percent and ready to go. He has looked it, too. The 5-10, 185-pound defender is a smart puck-mover who can hammer it from the point.
While I like his game, he'll face a tougher challenge to make the NHL roster in Jersey this time around. Anton Volchenkov
, Henrik Tallinder
and Andy Greene
have three jobs locked down. Long-time Devils D Colin White
, in the final year of his contract, likely fills a fourth spot.
After that, the Devils' new coach -- if they have one by then -- could be looking at veteran Bryce Salvador
(who missed all of last season with a concussion), third-year man Mark Fraser
, sophomore Mark Fayne
, the club's top prospect Adam Larsson
(the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft who's also participating at the club's rookie camp) and Taormina to fill out the unit.
The competition figures to be tougher -- but, from what I've seen, Taormina seems like the kind of guy who's up for the challenge.