Columbus also has a couple of less expensive pieces available. For anyone not prepared to meet Edmonton’s asking price for Hemsky, there’s Kristian Huselius to ponder. Huselius has been hurt all year and is a pending UFA, but played for Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter in Calgary and is a skilled, if meek, scorer. The advantage of taking a chance on Huselius is it’s low risk and potentially high reward if his groin issues ever clear up. In the four years between ’07 and ’10, Huselius had 77, 66, 56 and 63 points for Calgary, then Columbus, but he has managed to get into just two games so far this season. Sami Pahlsson and Vaclav Prospal are the Blue Jackets’ other unrestricted free agents up front.
Carolina is listening with interest to offers for hard-nosed Tuomo Ruutu, a potential UFA, who cost Carolina Andrew Ladd a few years back. Sutter likes his Finns and Ruutu is a more skilled version of Ville Niemenen who helped Calgary get to the 2004 final (and was really good, eliminating San Jose in the third round). Another possibility in Carolina would be Jussi Jokinen, a good shootout guy and terrific in the ’09 playoffs for Hurricanes (11 points, including 7 goals, in 18 games).
Tampa is moving up the standings again, but the feeling is the Lightning would move Ryan Malone, one of the few players remaining from the 2008 buying spree engineered by former owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules. Malone has had his share of injury issues this season; he’s a big-bodied forward, slowing down though, and the attraction will be his 16 point playoff performance for Pittsburgh in their Cup year. Malone has three years remaining on the seven-year, $31.5-million that carries an annual cap hit of $4.5-million but was front-loaded so the remaining years of the deal are fairly attractive in terms of cash paid out - $3-million, then two final years at $2.5-million. Malone’s no-movement clause ends after next year, at which point it becomes one of those limited no-trade clauses in which he can submit a list of 12 teams to which he would not accept a trade to.
THE FOLLY OF THE THREE-POINT GAME: In January, 48 out of 180 games went to overtime or a shootout, meaning 48 times, a single game produced three points in the standings - two for the winner, one for the loser - while the other 132 games produced the standard two. If the NHL is truly insistent that every game requires a winner and a loser, fine. But they can’t keep making some games more valuable than others. The rest of the world puts a greater value on regulation wins compared to shootout or overtime wins. They use the three-point system in the Olympics, at the world juniors, in Russia's KHL, in other Euro hockey leagues, even in the English Premiership. Hey if it's good enough for Chelsea and Man U, it should be good enough for the NHL.
But nobody in a position to do something about the system wants to change anything because it accomplishes two things for the league. First, it creates the illusion that about 24 teams are competitive because they are all at or above the new fake .500, which is the only way to describe a system that lumps regulation and overtime victories into a single category, but considers regulation and overtime losses two completely different animals. Secondly, it keeps the playoff races alive in most years right down to the wire. Even though the nonsense of having some games produce three points in the standings and others just two is completely irrational, the league will continue to do it because the alternative is what you have in major league baseball, with half the league out of playoff contention by the all-star break and two thirds done by the start of September. All those empty stadiums in the final month for major league baseball’s also-rans? That's commissioner Gary Bettman's worst nightmare, and the reason the point system isn’t going to change any time soon.