Nichols: Iggy’s rebound; Lidstrom returns

June 1, 2010, 7:19 PM

Jarome Iginla led his team in scoring again this season, as you’d expect, but he still had a disappointing season offensively with 32-37-69. The 32-year old winger, who’ll celebrate his next birthday on Canada Day, had a significant 20-point drop from his ’08-9 total of 89 points (35-54-89). He had averaged just shy of 94 points per year for three straight campaigns before this past season too.

This year, as his fantasy owners are painfully aware, Calgary’s captain had one lone assist in his final nine starts and scored only one goal in his last 16 affairs. Ouch.

Still, the Calgary Herald indicates that Flames GM Darryl Sutter expects a rebound season from No. 12.

“He’s had two years when you can say the numbers are down,” Sutter said. “He would be the first one to tell you he was disappointed in his level of offence last year. I’m sure he will regain it next year.”

The Herald notes that another topic of consternation around town involves 25-year old defenceman Ian White, a pending restricted free agent.

“We have his rights for one more year either through arbitration or actual negotiation,” Sutter said.

“That’s something we’ll work on in the next month.”

White had a fairly decent 4-8-12 in 27 GP with Calgary after the Dion Phaneuf trade, including four points via the PP. White should actually be a solid later-round pick in most fantasy formats next season when you’re looking to fill out your roster.

Also on the docket is the future of Eric Nystrom, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1.

“I wanted him to get back from the world championships,” Sutter said.

“I spoke to him on Thursday. He’s back in the U.S. We have to work at it.

“We didn’t make the playoffs, so we’re going to look at different areas where we think we can upgrade or how we can upgrade, whether it’s through the free agent market or our own unrestricted guys.”

Overall, The Herald says Sutter has a simple message for fans concerned for the future of the Flames.

“We’ve got a good team,” he said. “We just have to fill in some blanks and move forward again.

“We just need to reload.”

40-year old Nicklas Lidstrom has agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Detroit Red Wings, rather than retire.

“I’m very excited,” GM Ken Holland told Michigan Live. “I still believe, especially after watching him the last half of the year and in the playoffs, that we have the best two-way defenceman in the world. He’s excited to come back, we’re excited to have him.”

The new deal is reportedly for $6.2M after having made $7.45M per season on his last deal.

“He’s helped give us some extra (salary) cap space,” Holland said. “Hopefully the cap goes up a little and it gives us a little wiggle room to improve the depth of our team.”

Lidstrom posted 10 points (4-6-10) in Detroit’s 12 playoff games after a regular season that saw him record his lowest goal, assist, point and power play point totals since the lockout ended. Still, if 9-40-49 (20 PPP) with a +22 rating during a season where his team endured key losses in terms of injured players and summer movement is an off-year, then sign me up for another one of those “disappointments” next year.

Remember that he not only contributed 14 points in 21 GP during Detroit’s strong post-Olympic push, but he also put up 36 points in the 46 games after the Christmas break ended.

With a healthy Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall over a full season, coupled with the return of Jiri Hudler and maybe, finally (this time for real) the next developmental step for Valtteri Filppula… it should be fairly safe to pencil him in for another 50-60 points the next time around. Throw in the fairly helpful peripherals he generally contributes in terms of +/- and SOG in addition to his career consistency of being a great offensive threat and he’ll surely still be one of the early rearguards off the board in fall fantasy drafts yet again.

The Wings will no doubt try to shave some minutes off his ice time totals, but that really shouldn’t affect his bottom line offensively because you know he’ll make his TOI count and he’ll still be the top PP1 threat along with Rafalski. Lidstrom averaged 25:26 per game this past season, which was actually up from the 24:49 he tallied in ’08-9. The team likely ideally would have liked to have seen his trend of a diminishing TOI continue this past year (28:07 in ’05-6, 27:28 in ’06-7, 26:43 in ’07-8 and then 24:49 in ’08-9), but injury issues prevented that from happening.

“They won their home games,” Flyers goalie Michael Leighton told The Philadelphia Daily News of Chicago jumping out to a 2-0 series lead after last night’s 2-1 win. “That’s what we have to do – we have to go home and win our home games. Then we’ll come back here and go again.”

New GM Steve Yzerman has a lot on his plate to turn the fortunes around of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the St. Petersburg Times opines that if it’s not too much trouble, Yzerman can do this: He can salvage Vinny Lecavalier’s career.

The Quebec-born centre finished third on the team’s scoring charts (24-46-70), but was well below the 95 points posted by star sophomore Steven Stamkos and the 94 recorded by veteran winger Martin St. Louis. Lecavalier ($10M) also made more this season than both players combined, although the cap hit ($7.7M) is the more important number than the salary in any given year. Still, the team clearly isn’t getting its money’s worth from a guy who is supposed to be a franchise centre. After racking up 200 points over the ’06-7 and ’07-8 campaigns, he had 67 points in ’08-9 and then 70 last year.

Anyway, Jacques Demers had some interesting thoughts on the subject of Yzerman joining the organization and what impact this might have on Lecavalier.

“Steve Yzerman could be the best thing that ever happened to Vinny Lecavalier,” said Demers, who has coached them both. “What Vinny really needs right now is direction from a man like Steve.”

Lecavalier, according to the SPT, didn’t seem to trust the former regime. Yzerman, on the other hand, might be the most trusted man in hockey.

“He’s not going to say it’s black on Monday and then tell you it’s white on Tuesday,” Demers said. “You can trust Steve. I think you’re going to see the real Vinny Lecavalier.

“Vinny has to be told he’s the leader, that this is his team. He has to be reminded that he’s still a superstar. He hasn’t played like one. He needs a new direction.

“The times he came to Montreal, I thought Vinny looked like he was searching for something. I knew in my heart he was a better player than this.”

There will surely be a lot of people who, perhaps rightfully, would take issue with Demers’ first part of that statement. Leaders don’t really need to be told they’re leaders and if he needs a reminder that he’s supposed to be a superstar on this team, Lecavalier need only look at the amount of money being deposited into his bank account every few weeks during the season.

Phil Esposito, Demers’ old boss with the Lightning, also weighed in and says it’s too soon to give up on Lecavalier. Give him the right linemates (definitely a factor this past season), let him find his old spark, and he thinks Lecavalier can still be an asset.

“Let’s just forget about the last two years,” Esposito said. “That was lunacy. I know Vinny doesn’t want to go somewhere else. I think he needs someone he can trust. There isn’t any doubt that he didn’t trust the other guys.

“You could tell Vinny wasn’t happy last year. He wasn’t having fun. You could see it on his face. You could tell by his body language. I don’t think he played with the same enthusiasm. The other night, I watched the sixth game (of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup final) on television. I can’t tell you how many times he deked guys on his way to the net. When’s the last time you saw him beat anyone? That was his game.”

Esposito and Demers agree on this. At age 30, Lecavalier can still re-establish himself.

“He’s only 30,” Esposito said. “I had my best years at 30, 32, 33.”

Added Demers: “Absolutely, I believe he can get it back.”

Regardless, the vast majority of poolies will be passing on Lecavalier in the early rounds. Two straight disappointing seasons will do that to any player’s stock, but you could still do a lot worse if you’re looking for a player to rebound back to point-per-game form who may finally have the right circumstances in which to succeed. Time will tell.

FORSBERG’S FOOT had a note on the legendary Peter Forsberg, who was interviewed on Swedish radio about his troublesome left foot. He’s apparently taking off the cast today from his latest operation and he’ll go from there in terms of seeing if there’s any hope of continuing his hockey career.

He apparently mentioned during the World Championships in Germany that the chances of him playing on weren’t great, but he’s Foppa… he’s worth the mention for poolies, just in case. Even a one percent chance is a chance.

We’ve covered the Florida Panthers’ plans for Jacob Markstrom recently, but this morning The Sun-Sentinel reports the team confirmed this morning that they’ve signed 20-year-old Swedish goalie to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Markstrom, their second-round pick (31st overall) in 2008, will be in training camp in September and is expected to spend next season in AHL Rochester.

Arguably the Panthers’ top prospect, Markstrom was the Swedish Elite League’s goalie of the year this past season, posting a 20-10-10 record with a 2.01 GAA and .927 save pct. in 43 games with Brynas IF. He then backstopped Sweden to the bronze medal at last month’s World Championships in Germany, going 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA and one shutout.

“Jacob is a very skilled and talented young goaltender who we are pleased to have reached a contract agreement with,” GM Dale Tallon said in a statement. “He has performed exceptionally well in the Swedish Elite League, as well as in international competition. He will continue to improve and develop his game while playing in North America and we look forward to his contributions to our organization.”

Ok, so this has zero to do with fantasy hockey but this is a fun story nonetheless. The Associated Press reports that the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for 250 students to help with an important task and there’s only one major requirement: You must know how to flush a toilet.

Construction is near completion on the Penguins’ new area, the Consol Energy Center. But like with any new arena or stadium, officials need to simultaneously flush all the toilets and urinals once to make sure everything is working.

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