TORONTO - Just how close did the Maple Leafs come to landing Mike Richards from Philadelphia?
Answer: Not close at all.
While there were rumblings the past few days that Brian Burke was in the mix in trying to attain the Flyers’ captain, he was, in truth, in the conversation. Some have gone so far to report that Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren asked for Nazim Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin and a draft pick in exchange for Richards which isn’t exactly true.
The Leafs won’t confirm this, but they would have made the Richards deal for Kadri and Kulemin if Holmgren would have accepted it.
Bottom line was, Holmgren was looking for more. When Los Angeles offered up centre Brayden Schenn, winger Wayne Simmonds and a second-round choice, the Leafs have nothing they could offer of similar value — and Philadelphia found their price met in exchange for the man they no longer wanted as captain.
This is the difficulty Burke often finds in the trade market. There are players he wants who are available. There are deals to be made.
But with a limited roster, it’s tough to close on a big trade when you have so few cards in your deck.
This and that
It’s only a few days since Jeff Carter was traded to Columbus, but already he’s become the quintessential Blue Jackets player: He’s basically gone underground since being dealt from Philadelphia ... Another reason why you don’t need country music stars at the NHL Awards: Turns out Dierks Bentley accidentally broke the Ted Lindsay Award ... Big smiles all around Toronto minor hockey when the Leafs selected Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy with their first-round picks: Both spent their formative years with the Junior Canadiens ... How tough is it to make a world junior team in Canada? Well, put it this way: Both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyler Seguin got cut from the past two Canadian entries ... Best part about the Leafs acquiring John-Michael Liles from Colorado. No more Tim Brent on the point of the power play ... Three reasons why Colorado was willing to deal Liles cheap: 1. He’s pretty soft at even strength; 2. He’s a free agent next July, already making more than $4 million a season; 3. They have two young defencemen, Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie, whom they believe can take Liles place ... An honest NHL executive best summed up the low expectations of this NHL Draft class: “Given what this draft was made of, I think we did pretty well.” ... Question: How did the Leafs do in the draft? Answer: Tell you in 2015.
Hear and there
Another reason why Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can’t win anything — they can’t stay out of business they have no business getting involved in: Before Bryan Colangelo got the go-ahead to hire coach Dwane Casey, members of the board had to interview him for 90 minutes. Like, isn’t that why they hired Colangelo? ... A correction: close friends Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph were not the first two Canadians selected in Round 1 of the NBA draft. Back in 1983, Leo Rautins was the 17th pick in the draft and Stewart Granger was chosen 24th. Combined they ended up playing 112 NBA games ... Question for Thompson at his introductory press conference in Cleveland: “How will you deal with the winter here?” Answer: “Ah, I’m from Toronto.” ... And this from ESPN’s Bill Simmons: “Bryan Colangelo’s goal is to have a 12-man roster of dudes from different countries who will score 110 points a game and finish 26-56.” ... Worth repeating: the highest NHL draft pick from the GTA was Ryan Strome, picked 5th by the Islanders. Thompson, from Brampton, went 4th in the NBA draft.
Scene and heard
A little jolt of reality interrupted the annual lovefest that is the NHL Draft. It came when Nikita Filatov, the No. 6 pick three years ago, was traded to Ottawa for nothing more than a disposable third-round draft choice. It means, contrary to all the fluff you read and hear that the draft isn’t fantasy, that there are all kinds of failures, and not every choice is a good one. Maybe Ottawa gets a late-bloomer here. Maybe not ... So we see that Ron Artest has petitioned to change his name to Metta World Peace. Apparently World B. Free isn’t happy about this ... If there is a Week 1 in the NFL season, it would pit Rex Ryan’s New York Jets against twin brother, Rob Ryan’s Dallas Cowboys defence ... I hate the Argos’ schedule this year. They have one home game in July — on a Saturday afternoon of all things. And no Labour Day game in Hamilton ... I’m cheering for Bowman’s Causeway in Sunday’s Queen’s Plate for no other reason than jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva got booted off the favourite in place of a jockey parachuted in for the day. And never mind that this would make it three Queen’s Plates in a row for da Silva ... What I dislike more than the Argos schedule: This prolonged period of interleague play ... This much is clear: Resigning Washington manager Jim Riggleman never heard of Walter Alston.
And another thing
The Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2011 will be announced on Tuesday. Nobody asked, but if I was part of the secret-behind-closed-doors vote, my Hall-of-Fame class would begin with a slam-dunk choice in Ed Belfour and be followed by Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour and the long-overlooked Mark Howe ... The Rick Dudley hiring will certain bring snickers from some NHL teams, and not because Dudley isn’t respected. He is well thought of. It’s because the Leafs have a top-heavy front office that includes former GMs Brian Burke, Dave Nonis, Cliff Fletcher and Dudley, along with Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle. The snickering comes from teams that are having better results than the Leafs with half the front-office people, and more than half the price ... Rest in Peace: Nick Charles, Harley Hotchkiss and Rod Beaton ... There was all kinds of celebration with the re-naming of the Winnipeg Jets. Can’t complain myself, but I would have called them the Winnipeg Golden Jets ... The Kyle Drabek return to the big leagues may be a lot longer wait than expected. His first start in Las Vegas was terrible. His second start, was worse, lasting just two-thirds of an inning. “It’s all part of the process,” said a Blue Jays executive ... It took almost four hours to get through one round of the NHL Draft and less than that to get through the next six rounds ... Happy birthday to Derek Jeter (37), Ed Jovanovski (35), Kirk McLean (45), Steve Bowling (59), Michael Vick (31) and James J. Dillon (59) ... And hey, whatever became of Nathan Dempsey?
Colangelo's wrong choice
Bryan Colangelo is a dreamer.
That much has become obvious the longer he stays with the Toronto Raptors.
He looks at a piece of art — and we see junk and he sees possiblities.
He views the big picture and the future but can’t seem to realistically grasp the present.
The drafting of Jonas Valanciunas is a reasonable choice if there is no NBA season next year due to lockout. He won’t be playing here anyway, assuming there is a season. Valanciunas probably won’t be ready to contribute much the year after, considering how slowly most NBA centres come around.
So to recap, one of the worst teams in the NBA used its first-round pick on a player its impatient fan base won’t get a sniff of until 2012 and who probably won’t be effective until 2014. By then, it says here, Colangelo may well be looking for work.
The Richards decision
When a rather ordinary class of NHL free agents become available on Friday, and teams have more money to spend than ever before — see salary-cap enhancements — the opportunities for high-scoring centre Brad Richards could be extraordinary.
At least 25 teams have the cap room and perhaps the inclination to take a run at 31-year-old Richards, who wants this to be the final contract of his career.
Which means, any team that wants him is looking at least six or seven years in term.
And probably a starting price, or average, at around $8 million a year.
Richards has quietly hinted to some he would take a discount of sort to play in his cities of choice, beginning Tampa, but he could be overwhelmed with opportunities come Friday.
This much is certain: Somebody will be overpaying in both term and salary for a very good but not superstar-level centre.
Canadian QBs get sacked again
On a very busy and noisy sporting Friday, Canadian QB, Danny Brannagan (left), was let go by the Toronto Argonauts.
This wasn’t unexpected. It was, in fact, predictable. Brannagan spent a year on the Argos roster, improving and learning during his time with the CFL team. The players liked him.
He was reasonably well thought of. But one year isn’t enough time for a CIS quarterback to make that kind of professional jump and the Argos no longer had the time or inclination to devote to development. That is the chicken-egg dilemma for the Canadian QB in the CFL. You can’t play if you don’t get more time and you don’t get more time if you can’t play. I still advocate a free roster spot, not counting against the salary cap, for any Canadian QB. Otherwise, this exercise will continue, year after year, without any fruitful results.