First and foremost here, I have to thank Sammy Pahlsson, Travis Moen and Kent Huskins. Chris Kunitz fits in this group too. They were a part of something special here. It was a very difficult decision to move forward with this group, but the time had come. I’d like to thank them from the organization and from me. The one thing is, they won a Stanley Cup together. Nobody can ever take that away from them. I wish them all the best. To Brendan Morrison and Steve Montador, they played very hard. It was a tough year for Brendan coming off that knee surgery. He never got it going correctly, but he tried to work his way through. He never quit. Steve Montador was a warrior and played his heart out.
What did we try to accomplish here? Over the last few years here, chasing another Cup, we’ve let assets get away from us and got nothing for them. That had to stop now. We’re out of the playoffs today and we could be in the playoffs tomorrow. Another point here is everybody will say you sold off players.
I fully expect this team to run for a playoff spot here. I don’t think with this defense, I don’t think we’re anywhere near out of it. I expect our players to make a good shot at it. I see no reason why they can’t. If I sense in any way, shape of form that some of our players think we’ve sold and they quit, well there is two times in a year when you get to do things with your team. One is the trade deadline and the other is at the draft. If I sense these players throwing in the towel, the draft is not that far away and we’ll rectify that situation.
We just couldn’t let these unrestricted guys go and not get anything for them. In talking to these guys, it’s tough. You talk to Travis, Sammy and Husky. They love it here and wanted to stay here, but they all look at you and say, ‘I’ve got to try free agency’. The contract negotiations were going nowhere. It’s just the way the game is. They all want to get to that free agency and I understand that as a former player. They understand that I had to do what I had to do going forward because it would have been totally irresponsible of me to not get the best I could for these unrestricted guys.
Talking about the players we got now, I’ll go in order of the way they happened today. Petteri Nokelainen is a 23-year-old center and right winger from Finland
. He was a first round draft pick from the Islanders years ago. I’ve been watching him since he was 15. He’s a hard-on-the-puck type player, has some skill and competes hard. He has a little bit of everything. He needs an opportunity and is going to get one here. He went to Boston
and ended up behind some good players there and never really got his chance. He’s going to get his opportunity at center ice here to blossom. I’m happy about that. We need centers and some young players here.
After that, you have the Chicago
deal. James Wisniewski is a 25-year-old defenseman and a heart-and-soul guy that competes. He played 20 minutes a game this year and played a lot last year. He plays hard and competes hard. He does a little bit of everything, power play and penalty kill. He is our type of player. I wouldn’t have done Sammy there unless I got him out of there. As you’ll see, we’ve re-tooled the defense as I said we were going to start doing here. We brought in Whitney and now James. We’re starting to get a look at the defense going forward with whatever happens with Chris and Scotty.
deal with Christensen, he is a skilled player and can play center or left wing. He has pure skill and can move the puck, handle the puck. He needs to play with good players. He had 18 goals with Pittsburgh
a couple of years ago playing with good players. I think he’s the type that can play with good players and we have good players here on our top two lines. He needed that opportunity and he’ll get that opportunity here.
Probably the one that people will not understand or are going to complain about is the deal with San Jose
, but what you have to understand is we think we got one of the top young prospects in hockey, a 21-year-old center Nick Bonino
. He’s playing at Boston University
and one of the best college players in the country right now. We have to get some help at center. There is no way I’m dealing with Doug Wilson unless I get this guy. I can’t emphasize enough how good we think this player is. I talked to Nick earlier. We’ll meet later and decide if he’s coming out next year or the year after. BU has not played in the playoff yet, so I didn’t want to put too much pressure on the young man yet. Centermen, defense, that is how the game is played and then goaltending. We picked up a good, young prospect in Timo Pielmeier from San Jose
. San Jose
always really drafts well when it comes to goaltending. They do an outstanding job and we got the pick of their good, young players. They have four good, young ones not in the pros yet and this is the one we wanted, so we got him in the deal also.