ONE FINAL KOVALCHUK THOUGHT: Waddell held a conference call in the immediate aftermath of the deal, and provided a fair bit of insight into the process. When I asked him if there were any formal offers beyond the Devils' proposal that gave him pause, he answered no:
"There were a couple of other teams that were interested, but nothing with the assets this package provided. In some of the other cases, teams wanted to get rid of some bad contracts. We didn't feel we in a position where we needed to take any bad contracts back and help somebody else out of a situation, so … We looked at several other deals really closely, but at the end of the day, this was the best deal for us - currently and moving forward."
As for Waddell's semi-controversial decision to spill all about the contract negotiations, he did so with the blessing of the team's ownership: "It was important for us to share those numbers and let people know we tried to sign him."
WHAT'S THE HITCH? The Columbus Blue Jackets took a comfortable and relatively safe path after parting ways with coach Ken Hitchcock this week, promoting Claude Noel to the job on an interim basis. It's similar to the strategy adopted by the St. Louis Blues with Davis Payne - giving a comparative unknown with defensible credentials a chance to show if he can get the players to buy into his approach over the final third of the season. The recent success of Cory Clouston in Ottawa and Bruce Boudreau in Washington - currently manning the benches of the two hottest teams in the league - have given other clubs the courage to try out their own fresh faces behind the bench, rather than recycling the tried and true. The only real difference is that the Blues are in a position to make the playoffs with a strong finish, whereas Columbus is not. If Noel doesn't get the nod on a permanent basis, it'll be because the Blue Jackets will also want to look at Kevin Dineen, one of their former players, who is currently coaching in the Buffalo Sabres' organization. … Hitchcock is under contract through the end of the 2011-12 season at $1.3-million a season, meaning that he'll get paid in full for two more years after this if he doesn't pursue - or land - another NHL opportunity. Chances are, he'll take his time before jumping at the next job, if and when an offer comes.
THE NEW-LOOK FLAMES: One of the reasons that Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter went ahead and acquired high-priced, under-achieving Ales Kotalik in that four-player trade with the New York Rangers was that Kotalik came recommended by two old friends from his Lethbridge days, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier. Kotalik was the odd man out in Buffalo, largely for financial reasons, but he did produce a 62-point season for the Sabres in the first year coming out of the NHL lockout. Ever since, however, his numbers have fallen way off. Kotalik started his Calgary career playing alongside fellow ex-Ranger Chris Higgins on the second line with Daymond Langkow. Two ex-Leafs, Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman, were getting first-line duty on the Jarome Iginla line. Not sure what that says about Calgary's secondary scoring - or if the Flames believe that more ice time will do for their newcomers what an enhanced role did for Guillaume Latendresse in Minnesota. Kotalik, upon his arrival in Calgary, after waiving his no-trade contract said, "I want to prove mostly to myself I could have been better and I will be better."
BLACKHAWK UP: As expected, the Chicago Blackhawks got centre Dave Bolland back from injury earlier this week, bumping Colin Fraser to the press box. That came Wednesday in a loss to the St. Louis Blues - and the expectation is that, as Bolland's conditioning improves, he'll move from the fourth line to the second line and play with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.