History repeats itself, so they say. Why should the NHL be any different? Twenty years after Mario Lemieux was drafted by the Penguins (and hailed as the next Great One), The Pittsburgh Penguins won the 2005 draft lottery, and thus the right to select Sidney Crosby (hailed as the next Great One) in the 2005 draft.
A few other promising young players in the Penguins organization, namely Ryan Malone, Dick Tarnstrom, Milan Kraft, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, will round out the core of the new Pittsburgh squad. With just $5.5 million already spent on 7 players, there is plenty of wiggle room for Mario & Co. to sign a few veterans to help guide the new squad to success in the next era of NHL hockey. Heck, Mario might even think about lacing up the skates one more time now that he has a new prodigy to bring up.
LeClair, Amonte bought out
And while all's quiet on the Western Front of Pennsylvania, the Flyers wasted no time in shaking up their roster in order to deal with their upcoming salary cap troubles. With more than $33 million of the $39 million salary cap already spent on just 11 players, Bobby Clarke has some pruning to do. The first victims of the new CBA buyout clause are John LeClair and Tony Amonte. The pair accounted for more than $10 million, and with age, injuries, and declining performance becoming an issue, the only sensible thing to do was to buy out their contracts before they count against the cap. This really shouldn't come as a surprise to any Flyers fan, nor should any Flyers fan truly be upset by this turn of events. The buyouts will open up some room to sign restricted free agents Robert Esche and Simon Gagne, both of whom are clearly more important to the Flyers' future.
Speaking of teams that have salary cap troubles looming...
The Maple Leafs have yet to pull the plug on any players, but with $27 million slated for just 8 men, rest assured that changes are coming. Owen Nolan is expected to be bought out of his $5.6 million contract ASAP, but Nolan is claiming that he is still suffering from a knee injury that resulted from an in-game collision that occurred in March of 2004. If so, the team cannot buy him out for just 2/3 of his contract. That Boyes - McCauley for Lindr... errr... Nolan trade just keeps on kicking the Leafs in the backside, doesn't it.
A Maple Leafs doctor, who has since been fired by the team, had cleared Nolan to play early last fall. However, Nolan is now scheduled for both an exam and surgery early next week. The surgery is to be performed by the very same doctor that cleared Nolan to play. If Nolan's injury is deemed legitimate and a result of the same incident in 2004, the Leafs will need to pay the full amount of both last year's and this year's salary in order to buy him out. That's a $12 million tab as opposed to $3.8 million. The matter is fishy enough that it is certainly headed for messy grievance hearings. Either way, Nolan is as good as gone, but don't expect this to go down without a Lindros-style nightmare.
Have I mentioned how pissed I was after the Nolan / Boyes - McCauley trade?
Anyway... in summary... Crosby = Penguin, Flyers dump LeClair and Amonte, and the Nolan trade continues to plague Leafs.