Smart Kings Anze up

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

It didn't take long for the Los Angeles Kings to get down to business by signing centre Anze Kopitar to a seven-year, $47.6-million contract yesterday.

Now the ball is in the Colorado Avalanche's court.

While the Kings made the smart move by locking up the 21-year-old Kopitar, NHL GMs are privately wondering what Avalanche GM Francois Giguere is thinking by not doing similar business with centre Paul Stastny.

A potential restricted free agent at the end of the season, the 22-year-old Stastny has averaged a point per game during a three-year NHL career (150 points in 149 games). That puts him in the same class as Washington's Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Many believe Kings GM Dean Lombardi was smart to lock up Kopitar because he would have been a target for an Group II offer as a restricted free agent in the off-season.

All the attention will now be focused on Stastny.

"Why isn't Stastny signed? A lot of people are surprised that Colorado hasn't made a deal with Statsny and a lot of people are talking about it," said a league executive. "The Avs are going to have huge issues if they don't get this guy signed because he's going to be a franchise player down the road."

You can almost bet Giguere is going to get on the phone soon.

OFF THE GLASS

There has been plenty of talk about CTV-Globe Media's (TSN's parent company) decision to swoop in and grab the theme to Hockey Night in Canada from the CBC. There's a belief it might have been done it out of spite. A well-placed league source told Sun Media what might have sparked the anthem move was CBC outbidding CTV for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! Both bring in huge audiences. The whisper making the rounds is the day after CBC secured those two valuable game shows -- which had been on CTV for years -- network officials met to try to find a way to make their rival feel some pain. CTV officials knew that CBC was having a difficult time getting a deal done with Dolores Claman, who wrote and composed the HNIC song. That's when CTV jumped in and made her an offer she couldn't refuse ... Keep an eye on the Blackhawks. The talk is newly-appointed senior adviser Scotty Bowman brought in former Avs coach Joel Quenneville to have him ready to take over behind the bench. If Chicago stumbles out of the gate, don't think for a second that Denis Savard is going to remain in his post.

AROUND THE BOARDS

NHL officials were red-faced when Def Leppard's Joe Elliott placed the Stanley Cup upside-down during a concert in the Motor City last week. This week, the Red Wings take the Cup to Washington to visit with U.S. President George W. Bush. He will likely show more respect ... Blackhawks G Nikolai Khabibulin will have to twist in the wind until his future is decided. GM Dale Tallon toyed with sending Khabibulin to the minors, but resisted and a potential deal to have him play in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia also fell through. That means Khabibulin will make $6.75 million as a backup to G Cristobal Huet. If he made less money, the Senators would be interested, but the whisper is the Avalanche is just waiting to pounce on Khabibulin because nobody is sure G Peter Budaj can do the job. The Avs might not be alone because Washington must also be wondering about G Jose Theodore ... An early candidate for rookie of the year: Bruins RW Blake Wheeler, who was signed as a free agent in the off-season. The 6-foot-5, 219-pounder looks like he's going to be a power forward.

RUMOURS DU JOUR

The Canucks are still looking to move D Kevin Bieksa so the club can find a centre to play with RW Pavol Demitra. But the word is GM Mike Gillis is having a tough time finding anybody who is willing to help ... Success has a price: The Capitals are hovering close to the $56.7-million salary cap and GM George McPhee is trying to make moves. The talk among league executives is he's been offering C Michael Nylander, who is making $5.5 million this season, to anybody who will take him. Sources say the Caps weren't exactly thrilled Nylander missed the club's final 38 games last season after deciding to have rotator cuff surgery ... Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is trying to move RW Peter Schaefer and his $2.1-million contract after he cleared waivers last week. The former Senator is with the AHL's Providence Bruins and could be there all year because he'd be picked up on re-entry. There is some talk the Hurricanes may be interested. The 'Canes would like to unload D Frantisek Kaberle or D Joe Corvo, but the Bruins aren't looking to take back any salary ... The Panthers are also trying to unload money. With about $53 million committed, the talk is Panthers GM Jacques Martin wouldn't mind moving RW Radek Dvorak and his $1.6-million salary ... The Bolts are shopping for a blueliner and could be casting covetous glances toward former Rangers D Marek Malik, who is a potential UFA. Nobody would be surprised if he signs with Tampa in the next couple of days ... Defencemen are in demand. Philly, St. Louis, Tampa and Ottawa are all sniffing around ... Any truth to the talk the Oilers are willing to deal D Ladislav Smead? Just wondering.

Have a nice Sunday and a Happy Thanksgiving.


Photos