Ah, it's late July and naturally one's thoughts turn to...the NHL draft? Well, not in a normal year, but this is not a normal year for hockey fans. Today in Ottawa, the NHL held an abbreviated version of its annual draft. Not only was it a chance for the Pittsburgh Penguins to do the obvious and actually draft wunderkind Sidney Crosby, but it left the other teams with interesting decisions: Do you draft the best player available or do you address glaring team needs? The latter wasn't completely clear for many teams, who will be using the beginning of the free agency period to fill a lot of roster spots. Still, for a team like Toronto, drafting late in the first round, it made sense that they drafted Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask, since after 40-year-old starter Ed Belfour and backup Mikael Tellqvist, their system is a bit thin on netminders. The pick, and most of the draft, was overshadowed by the news that the Leafs traded for Carolina sniper Jeff O'Neill, whom they landed in exchange for a conditional pick in '06; the pick could be as high as a third-rounder, depending on how many goals O'Neill scores this season. O'Neill, who's from the Toronto area, agreed to a two-year deal that would pay him $1.5 million per, a cut from the nearly $3 million he had been scheduled to earn had the Hurricanes been willing to do so (which they apparently didn't plan on). He's only 29 and has scored as many as 41 goals in a season, although he dropped off to 14 in '03-'04. Still, a nice pickup for the Leafs that didn't cost them much. That said, I'm a bit perplexed at Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr.'s failure to buy out any contracts other than Owen Nolan (which technically they didn't because they believe they don't owe him anything; this thing will end up in court); I expected others to be bought out to make more cap room by Friday's deadline, but no such luck. So now we'll have to see what JFJ does on Monday.
Other quick thoughts before I hit the sack:
- Boston is all abuzz about the possible trade of Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, who's leading the AL in RBI but who apparently wants out of town, even though his team is leading the division. Manny is definitely a free spirit and supposedly doesn't like the media attention in Boston, and the team is trying to acommodate him by trying to do a three-team deal involving the Mets and Tampa, but the deal has hit some snags. Still, Ramirez was a last-minute scratch before tonight's game, leading many to believe the deal had been done. Not yet, as he was out on the field celebrating after the Sox win. Tomorrow's the trade deadline, so something may still happen. Makes you wonder what losing such an offensive powerhouse will do to a team in first place, though.
- It has been a rough summer for my coed softball team, which lost two more games this weekend. Our record stands at 3-13, our ugliest output in a decade. It has been a challenge to put a decent lineup on the field this year; we lost our entire female contingent from last year for various reasons (marriage, pregnancy, disinterest, etc.) and have been forced to field a patchwork lineup most games. And as the losses have piled up, the guys aren't having much fun, either. Rough stuff. Only a few more weeks left, though.
That's it for now.