Hope you’re having a great holiday weekend as the fall weather has clicked in.  Going to check in on Argonauts/Tiger-Cats this afternoon and then after kids are in beddy-bye, a fantastic and intriguing college football game with Boise State having easily their toughest test of the season on their cupcake schedule by having to go to Blacksburg and battle a potentially returning-to-great Virginia Tech program.

Next week on Monday, Centre Ice w/ Kypreos, MacLean, & Brady debuts on The Fan 590.  Noon-1pm.  To say I’m pleased and excited to get this going is an understatement.  Still getting to know the guys and obviously, it was a bit of a topsy-weird summer with everything coming together as it is, but I think we’ll be a consistently entertaining and informative show.

I naturally had very mixed feelings leaving where I was previously, and especially given that Leafs Lunch was a show that I worked on quite a bit in a hosting capacity with Bill Watters when Darren Dreger or Brian Duff (ouldn’t do it over the nearly three years I was there.  I’d still much rather there were two hockey shows on at noon in this town, because that provides opportunities for broadcasters, and options for listeners, and I certainly am both of those things.  Either way, Nick and Doug and I will be eager to charge out of the gate, with great topics, great guests, and lots of interaction via phone/email/twitter.  So that’s that, next Monday — it gets going as the Leafs and other teams are in the middle of their rookie camps leading to regular camp.

Meantime, some squads still with some considerable financial trickery to swing — www.capgeek.com still notes that six squads are over the cap (including the Maple Leafs!), with the Rangers just over, and the Red Wings just under.  All other squads have at least 600k of wiggle room.

Colorado, Atlanta, and the Islanders have the 30th, 29th, and 28th-highest payrolls, respectively.  Boston has some work to do to get back under, but obviously most of the talk is about what the New Jersey Devils will do, following the approval of the Ilya Kovalchuk 15-year contract.

First off, it was described to me by one who would know, as “comical” the notion that the Devils would even consider dealing Travis Zajac.  Zajac has played every game the last three seasons, keeps improving offensively and is extremely reliable in his own end as well, and has a 3.9M cap hit, it’s not ideal – but it’s a lot more reasonable than many other Devils contracts.

People who’ve described the Kovalchuk deal as not stemming from Lou Lamariello’s great desire to keep Kovalchuk are probably quite accurate.  The owner has a building in dilapidated downtown Newark to fill and as we all know, despite the Devils’ great successes, they’ve always had a tough time being more than “cult heroes” on the New York/New Jersey sports scene.

Having said that, there’s bad deals galore on the Devils right now which Captain Lou must consider dumping, and the only way he can do that is to include prospects and/or draft picks.

37-year old Brian Rolston has $10 million owed to him over the next two years, and though he scored 20 goals last season, his best years are long behind him, though he did catch fire and become a 30+ goal scorer during his Minnesota Wild run of things.  Rolston has some value for a contender to add depth, like a Ray Whitney, but again, the Devils may have to take a less-than-desirable deal back to make that happen.  A $2.5/3 million mistake from elsewhere, perhaps.

Bryce Salvador’s another head-scratcher.  He’s always been a “nice” player.  Makes most teams better, but given he’s not a scorer, not a shut-down guy, not a fighter, and isn’t skilled enough to play the power-play — how he worked over Lamariello to a 2.9M/year long-term deal simply defies explanation.  I’m not sure he can be moved, and like Rolston — Salvador’s on the books through 2012.

Dainus Zubrus and his deal will make your head explode — $10.2 million over the next three years.  There’s a Dainus Zubrus on every roster, in every organization — only most don’t come with this pricetag.  Again, it’s even debatable whether he makes a contender’s roster better.

Lamoriello has a mess on his hands now — he really does, and despite his richly-deserved Hockey Hall of Fame induction, and the way he’s always valued character, integrity, and honour among the players he believes are fit to wear the Devils logo,  the team as it stands is a mess.

I’ve hacked on Martin Brodeur before for not being an elite goaltender before, and if you took any joy whatsoever in Canada’s gold medal, rest assured, please, though I can’t scientifically prove it — I’m convinced if Mike Babcock doesn’t banish Brodeur to the bench in favour of a not spectacular, but far more steady Roberto Luongo, Canada doesn’t win that tournament.

Brodeur is an all-timer, no question.  Longevity has helped him break records, but he’s still had an exceptional career.  He’s far from an exceptional goaltender.  There’s simply no other keeper who could win 6 of his last 22 playoff starts and not be replaced in the organization.  Not a one.  Loyalty matters in the Devils organization and that’s great,  but the Devils’ roster issues and team decline have coincided with Brodeur’s decline.  He’s fine as a regular season goaltender when he can pad wins playing against other teams’ backups, and catching teams on long road trips or back-to-backs, but when it’s best-on-best and all teams are putting out in the postseason, he’s become sub-par and completely unreliable.

I know Leafs fans are hoping THEY can be the team like Atlanta and Toronto did, to hope to exploit the Devils’ “issues” before the regular season starts, but though Brian Rolston would help the Leafs’ offence, there’s no financial wiggle room without sending something back.  Count on the Islanders or St. Louis or Colorado to be the team to take on an overpaid Devils veteran, but there’ll be an asking price.  Future Devils like Nick Palmieri, the very underrated Adam Henrique, or even Vladimir Zharkov, who should make the Devils roster out of camp, are going to be in discussions. 

No one’s scratching Lou Lamariello’s back without a reciprocal snuggle here, especially after the circus the Kovalchuk signing ended up becoming.

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