Will He or Won't He?
We may not be there yet, but we are approaching a soft deadline for Vladimir Tarasenko to make a decision on where he’ll play hockey next season. Those close to the “Russian Tank” have encouraged him to notify the Blues of his plans by the first week of June. This doesn’t mean GM Doug Armstrong wouldn’t sign him in the last week of August but the team needs to know so they can build their 2012-2013 roster.
Tarasenko recently met with Armstrong in Helsinki, Finland during the World Championships.
With the addition of Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin, Russia sent Tarasenko home from the tournament. He flew from Sweden to Moscow before immediately turning around and jumping on a 12-hour midnight train back to Finland to visit with Armstrong.
Sources indicate the meeting went well and suggest the former first round pick said all the right things.
What exactly he’s telling his KHL club is anybody’s guess. Don’t think for a minute he isn’t being hounded by SKA St. Petersburg management to stay in Russia. Word is he is in constant communication with his KHL GM.
I’m told the possibility of an NHL lockout is a pretty big factor in terms of him deciding where to play. Whether or not a lockout scares him from signing remains to be seen.
Some close to Tarasenko are recommending he sign with St. Louis and begin the season in the AHL if there’s a lockout in the NHL. Not sure I see this scenario playing out.
At the very least it would help in adjusting to life in North America.
Sources tell me he could announce his plans as early as next week.
Blues Sign Finnish D-man…
Below you’ll find a prospect report of Finnish Defenseman Jani Hakanpaa I submitted to Hockey’sFuture.com prior to this past NHL season. I had Hakanpaa ranked #16 out of the top #20 Blues prospects coming into this year. He will probably move up a few spots before next year’s list comes out. Hakanpaa will remain in the Finnish Elite league next season.
At 6’5 many people believe Finnish defenseman Jani Hakanpaa is still growing. Huge compete level and determination are often words attached to Hakanpaa. He may be one step behind but he finds a way to recover and finish off an opponent. Scouts understand he isn’t close to being a finished product yet they rave about the physical presence he brings to the ice. He plays with an edge and won’t hesitate to take a run at an opposing player. His skating will have to improve and is probably the most glaring weakness in his game.
The Blues believe he’s solid number five with good enough hockey sense to where he could max out as a number four. He recently captained the Finnish national team who came over to play Team USA at the World Junior selection camp. He’ll play in the Finnish Elite League this season.
A New Car!
New York Islanders assistant coach/assistant to the GM Doug Weight recently won a brand new Mercedes for a closest to the pin shot in Boomer Esiason’s golf tourney.
Check your Ego At the Door…
I’ve recently talked to some retired NHL players who sat out a full year during the 2004 lockout. They tell me, looking back on it, that it wasn’t worth missing an entire season.
One can only hope today’s NHL players feel the same this go around. While I don’t think the season is in jeopardy, the idea of missing even one game is inexcusable.
Even Commissioner Gary Bettman recently told me attendance numbers and revenues are at an all time high. Many are interested to know how far the Commissioner is willing to take this. Not to put it all on him but he certainly plays a vital role.
It’s going to take the few players who were around in 2004 to take charge and help dictate which direction this goes. Even if it means upsetting NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.
Respectable players such as Shane Doan, Jamie Langenbrunner, Martin Brodeur, and Jarome Iginla (among others) need to step up and show some true leadership here.
The game is in a good place right now to where both sides better think long and hard before making unintelligent decisions. We don’t need Owners who can’t control themselves and uninformed players holding press conferences trying to explain why a lockout is necessary.
More to come,
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