Monday, July 31, 2006

Dominator to Detroit

I don't think many would have thought that the Red Wings would go the way they did, but somehow they went and did it. The Red Wings signed 41-year-old Dominik Hasek to be their goaltender for the upcoming season.

I'll let that all sink in......

What the Red Wings did was just compensate for the leaving of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan and kept their AARP membership. With all the young goalies out there on the market, it's an interesting decision to get Hasek, even for a year. Granted, it gives Jimmy Howard another season in Grand Rapids, but if Hasek get hurt, as he is known to do, then it could fast track his way to full time in the NHL.

Of course, to Red Wings fans and what he did to them in the '03-'04 season is not lost. Many of him don't like it and will accept it; others would like to have him hit by a runaway car. They are passionate folks, you have to give them that. But Hasek's reputation preceeds him. Stories of being a "locker room cancer" and an "egotistical asshole" are many of the things you hear about Hasek, even though he is one of the most dominate goalies in the past decade.

One thing you wonder is how long will it be before he gets hurt. Last season, Hasek said he was good to go and all healthy....and he went out with a groin injury. Monday he said he was good to go and healthy....the results remain to be seen.

At about $700k, it's a steal if the Wings can get 35 games out of him and have him play well, but the Wings are going the wrong way in rebuilding. They need to get younger before they try to add some veteran leadership into the room.

The Wings have been a good regular season team, only to falter when the time comes in the playoffs. It could be one thing that the Wings need to have Hasek on the team, which gives them two Cup winning goalies on the squad, but if something were to go haywire....the season could be a lot longer for the Wings then what actually happens on the ice.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Can Penguins Fly??

As I mentioned in the News and Notes 07.24.06 post, Sam Fingold was the leading bidder for the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to AP's Alan Robinson , Fingold has signed a letter of intent to buy the team.

The deal that Fingold would agree to includes carrying out the deal that the former ownership group, with Mario Lemieux, had with the Isle of Capri Casinos, in which Isle of Capri would build a new arena if they got a gambling license. Also, the state, county, and city have a "Plan B" ready if Isle of Capri doesn't get the bid.

When looking at the monetary figures, Fingold is going to agree to buying the team for $175M, which is reportedly $5M less than the group which included Mark Cuban and Dan Marino who would have kept the team in Pittsburgh no if, ands, or buts. Yet, money talks, and Fingold must have done something to really woo the current ownership group. I think much had to do with agree to hold up to the whole Isle of Capri deal that has been set into place.

However, if that doesn't come to be-- that's where it'll get interesting. Of course, everyone in the state and local government have been talking about the plan to keep the team in Pittsburgh, but holding up to the whole ordeal is another story entirely. Frankly, I don't know if they would step up if push came to shove. Of course, if they don't, you can bet that if the team leaves, hockey fans would probably not vote for those officials coming up next election.

Now, if something can't be done, Fingold had said he had interest in moving the team to Kansas City and into the new Sprint Center, which should be open in 2007. Whether or not that will happen, it all depends on what happens with the casino licenses in PA. The one thing that gets me is that this whole license deal seems to have been going on forever. When the bloody hell will they dish them out.

Even if you don't hear the outcome, you can bet someone who's a hockey nut will let you know about toot sweet. This is the drama for your momma that never ends.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Eagle Landing, Gomez piling on

I would have done this sooner, but like I said on the show...moving suck.

Regardless, it was less than a week ago that I wrote about Eddie Belfour's woes after apparently the Panthers pulled their contract offer. Seems like Mike Keenan pulled the wool over my eyes. Belfour signed a one year, $750K contract with the Florida Panthers. As it stands, the best goalie will play and it will go from game to game.

It's not that much of a risk at that price. Especially considering the Panthers have plenty of space under the cap, Belfour could help aide the maturing of Alex Auld. Though he hasn't been known for that before, I'm sure that two contracts going away would change his mind.

It's going to be tough to fill the void left by Roberto Luongo. Luongo is one of the premier goalies in the game and really seemed to face barrage of shots in his tenure as Panthers goalie. Belfour and Auld will not be the ones to be called upon, which should put the pressure on both of them to perform to their best each and every night.

Staying in the East, but up I-95-- the New Jersey Devils have said they will accept Scott Gomez's $5M arbitration reward. With that, the Devils are at $48.9M in total payroll-- that's without signing David Hale, Brian Gionta, and Paul Martin. Of course, the albatross contracts of Alexander Mogilny, Vladimir Malakhov, and Dan McGillis ($9.3M combined) will hamper the Devils in trying to move forward. Like our good buddy Lyle Richardson's writes-- the Devils are in quite the bind.

However, right now-- the Devils have time. They only had Gomez going to arbtration, so the other RFAs can take it's time to get signed. That could be a little shining hope for Devil fans everywhere. If only the Devils had a strong farm system, then they may not be in this bind. Some would never know.

What the Devils need in addition to more time and less craptastic players holding onto big contract, is another goalie and maybe some mid-level defenseman. We all figured it would be an interesting summer with the Devils, but who though they would have to sign a deal with the devil to get everyone under the salary cap.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

News and Notes 07.24.06

Nothing completely big has happened....yet...but here's what did happen and what it could mean to you.

Good news for Predator fans, as Tomas Vokoun has been taken off medication and is cleared to compete. Vokoun's '05-'06 campaign was cut short due to blot clots found in his abdomen and pelvic reason. Vokoun was a big part of why the Predators were able to get the fourth seed in the West, though they could have used him in the first round of the playoffs.

Mark Recchi is reportedly heading back to Pittsburgh. Both the NHLPA website and TSN have the forward returning to the team after a trade which sent him to the Carolina Hurricanes. Of course, there were murmurs that Recchi wanted a trade because of turmoil in the Pens lockerroom, but what goes on in the room often stays in the room...unless you want to write a book about it.

Also, the Penguins rejected the bid from Mark Cuban and Dan Marion, both Western PA natives, while the new front runner, Sam Fingold, is said to have made a bid only $5M more than the group with Cuban and Marino. If there's a gap of $5M that is really the issue, then that's a BS move by the Pens. With Cuban and Marino's group, they have said they want the team to stay in Pittsburgh. With Fingold, he has mentioned that he may want to go to Kansas City if something cannot be worked out in Pittsburgh. Fingold has also put up a front saying it could work in Pittsburgh, but he didn't seem over-eager to many of the Pens fans.

Larry Gottesdiener, a Massachusetts developer who has said he would want to move a team back to Hartford, is also still in the running.

Fingold could sign a letter of intent any day this week, in which he'll have 30 days to make a deal.

The Canadiens have rewarded Bob Gainey by extending his contract as GM through the '09-'10 season. Gainey joined the team in 2003 and really hasn't looked back since. With a great hockey mind, Gainey would be my choice to be the next commissioner of the NHL when the day comes. Not only because of his ties to both players and management, but he looks like Sam the Eagle, which would replace Gary Bettman's Count von Count.

Sean Avery is back in LA. The disgruntled forward was re-signed by GM Dean Lombari who almost sounded like Dean Vernon Wormer saying Avery was on "double-secret probation." Avery is a shrill guy who can get under some guys skin and make an ass of himself. Also, he tries too hard to be like Jeremy Roenick, but if he'll help out your team, you know you'd want him on the team.

That was the big highlights for the day. Don't be surprised if some moves go down this week. Rumors have been circulating about Daniel Briere and Scott Gomez being traded due to their salaries and the arbitration process. For all your rumors, check out Spector's Hockey and tune in Wednesday for Spector himself on Face Off Hockey Show. There, cheap plugs, you happy??

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Arbitration Frustration

Thus far in the NHL arbitration season, two players have gotten rewards, at least publicly. Both Mike York and Daniel Briere got some raises in their future. York got an $850k raise based on an arbitrator's ruling and the Islanders are in their last 24 hours to see if they want to sign York or let him go free. As for Briere, he got much, much more.

According to TSN, Briere was awarded $5M for next season. That's a raise of about 259% for a guy who had 58 points in 48 games. No disrespect to Briere, but that's effin' crazy. Apparently, Briere and his agents used Marian Gaborik, Martin Havlat, and Alex Tanguay as examples in his case. This is why I'm not a big fan of arbitration.

When you look at the points-per-game of Briere (0.70) it is less than Tanguay (0.89), Havlat (0.79), and Gaborik (0.76). They are all younger than Briere and have more potential upside than Briere. When you look at what the other three got, Havlat ($6M/year) is a result of the Blackhawks spending insane cash, Gaborik ($6.3M/year) is the franchise player for the Wild, and Tanguay (avg $5.25M) is added punch for a weak-offensive Flames squad.

Granted, Briere could be considered a franchise player, but so should Ryan Miller, Chris Drury, and a host of others on the Sabres squad.

Arbitration is insane because you can have a guy who has one good season, then go to arbitration to get a boatload of cash and then stink it up that year of the contract. Happened to Brendan Witt, though do to the Lockout, he never got it.

While I'm all for some players to get top-dollar, there needs to be work done to the current system to fix the whole craziness that is going on surrounding it. If the past performance of the player has nothing to do with it, you may as well just give everyone raises and then raise the salary cap more so, throwing the NHL into a state it was before.....more so.

As the old saying goes: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It may not be broke, but it's almost to that point for the NHL and it's arbitraion rules.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Clipping the Eagle's Wings

At age 41, Ed Belfour still thinks he can do it all. He has gone through a couple of physicals to prove to teams he's healthy enough after his second back surgery in as many years and there have been some talk that some contracts have been put out on the line. However, with the recent debacle with the Panthers taking back their contract offer, you have to wonder why two teams have passed on him after passing physicals.

Depending on who you listen to, Belfour's demands on his next contract are a little bit too much for the teams. There have been some rumors that Belfour has been requesting to be assured that he would be the #1 goalie for whatever team he is going for. With an oft-injured goalie, you can only assume that some GMs would be tentative in doing so, because it really handcuffs the coach in doing his job and probably does a disservice to the team.

Oddly enough, I don't think Belfour realizes that his best days may have passed him by. Or he does realize it, which is why he is requesting such a thing, knowing that he could be unthroned and then his legacy ending on the bench talking to the soda guy walking up and down the arena where he's at.

That all being said, Belfour is a great insurance policy for a team with a young goaltender(s). Though I'm not suggesting that Belfour would be the mentoring type, but he would definitely lead by example of what and what not to do in the NHL. With his years in the NHL, the experience is invaluable at this point. For a team like the Blues, to have an experience guy who is a proven winner would be a good the right price. I'm sure that philosophically Belfour and Blues' President John Davidson would clash hardcore style, but both feel it's a good fit, then it could be a good match.

Yet, it gets odder and odder as the Panthers are saying that Belfour is still being pursued by the team, while the Red Wings' Assistant GM Jim Nill stated that Belfour was one of 6 or 7 goalies on the team's list.

When all is said and done, we'll see if Belfour's determination to come back will be as strong now as it is by mid-September, but if he is picked up-- there's a good chance he could prove some people and make the best out of a second chance....or third or fourth, for that matter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wild on the Island

We'll get to the main event for the day in a second. However, we do have some actually straight forward news about some things that did go on Tuesday.

First, Michael Peca signed a 1-year/$2.5M contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday. Some would think this is a lot for a guy who's scoring wasn't that good, but it's not the scoring which makes Peca so desirable. Quite frankly, his play shorthanded and his work in the face-off circle is what makes teams want him. Add that to his leadership qualities and you have yourself a guy many teams would want regardless of stats. Peca took the $1.5M paycut/hometown discount to play with the Leafs.

Also, Scott Walker was traded from Nashville to Carolina for Josef Vasicek. Both Walker and Vasicek played limited seasons this year due to injury, but when healthy, both will be effective on their new team. Walker will be a grinder for the Canes and should bring energy to the line-up, while Vasicek will be added speed to the Preds line-up.

Now for the main event, so to speak. If you're confused about the happenings on Long Island're not alone.

For those who didn't hear or are still shocked, Neil Smith was fired as GM after 40 days of work. To replace him, former goaltender Garth Snow retired and will take over as the GM for the New York Islanders. Also, "special advisor" to the owner, Pat LaFontaine, reportedly resigned after the Smith dismissal press conference. Don't believe me?? Here's the link from TSN.

Obviously, the first reaction from most is that it was a joke....then is sank it. The common response was "Snow?? GARTH F'IN' SNOW?!? THE HELL!!??!" That is pretty dead on, along with some laughing because of the shamble of an organization that the Islanders have become.

So what caused this whole ordeal to go down?? Well, the reasoning is because of differences between Smith, LaFontaine, and owner Charles Wang. It seems that Smith wasn't really the GM, per se, but just the figure head. This is due to the Islanders having a system of playing GM by committee. With too many cooks in the kitchen, things are bound to burn. You can only assume that one move was lauded by someone while applauded by another, then you have in-fighting, which leads to the back-up goalie retiring and becoming the GM. More detailed things won't be known until Smith clears up some legal proceedings and goes to the public.

Just as a note, Garth Snow has no GM experience, no front office experience, I don't think he has a degree from UMaine, and he was a back-up goalie for the last couple of years. Charles Wang said:

"When the job opened up, the choice was an easy one. Garth knows the league as well as anyone, has an eye for talent and understands how our staff works as a team. Most importantly, Garth is a man of integrity, someone I trust will work hard, be creative and represent the Islanders with dignity."
Ted Nolan can only sit and hope that he's not the next one to go. The gongshow for the Islanders seems to be unfolding by the hour, so keep your eyes out for it.

Finally, we have finally posted our pictures from our 2006 Entry Draft online at the FOHS Photo Gallery, so if you have the time; go check it out.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fading Star

It took about 48 hours for the Dallas Stars and Eric Lindros to hammer out a final deal, but after a weekend of speculation, the Big E is heading to the Big D. Lindros's '05-'06 campaign was cut short due to a wrist injury, but was still able to record 11 goals and 11 assists in his shortened season.

Now, the deal is for $1.55M for a year with incentives that could make it worth about $2.5M. I'm not saying that's too much for an injury proned center, I'm just thinking that it could be a little risky in the grand scheme of things. Granted, two big names are no longer with the Stars in Bill Guerin and Jason Arnott, but I don't think that getting Lindros over, say, someone like Anson Carter is a hockey or business decision. Of course, it's easy for me to be the arm-chair GM.

Regardless, it seems that GM Doug Armstrong is very happy with having Lindros in a Stars uniform. Yet, the thing I find odd is that a guy who has had several head and arm injuries would be willing to go to the Western Conference with some of the biggest hitters in the games. Guys like Chris Pronger, Dion Phaneuf, Jason Smith, and Rob Blake are going to be out there, more often than not, when Lindros is out there, which only means you can count the minutes before Lindros has a big injury.

I'm not wishing ill-will to Lindros by any means, but when you have a rough and tumble Conference like the Western Conference is, you're bound to get a bad break here and there, which could amount to his injury count going up, rather than holding steady. Plus, for a guy who has missed 32% of the possible games he could have played in, that to me is much riskier than anything out there, especially when the front lines of Dallas aren't as strong as they used to be.

I have set the over/under of games at 40 games for Lindros. Place your bets.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Busy Day for Gainey

It's a little late, but it took a while to digest all the information that happened in Montreal yesterday. After weeks of waiting and being grilled by the media, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey went all out on Wednesday.

First, Gainey got word that goaltender David Aebischer had signed his qualifying offer and his rights will be retained by the team. Just today, Yann Danis was re-signed with the team, which means the Habs have two goalies going for just one back-up spot. The speculation is that Aebischer will be traded away, making way for Danis to assume the back-up role. There's a good market for goalies, but limited spaces. The frontrunners are the Blues and Red Wings.

Second, Gainey made two trades. Gainey first sent a 4th round pick to Phoenix for winger Mike Johnson. Johnson had 16 goals and 38 assists last season and had a hot streak during the middle of the season. Also, Gainey freed up some money by sending Richard Zednik back to the Washington Capitals for a 3rd round pick. Zednik returns to the place where he spent the other part of his NHL career and should instill some energy to the Caps line-up.

The Zednik move prompted some people to think more was in the works. At about 8 PM ET, that happened as the Habs announced that Sergei Samsonov was signed to a two-year deal . Between Boston and Edmonton, Samsonov collected 23 goals and 30 assists; though he did slump in Boston after the departure of Joe Thornton.

Gainey answered his critics in a big way. Whether or not this is the end of it all or just the beginning is to be seen, but with these moves, the Habs seem to be a better team than when they first started on the free agent market.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Change For the Flames

According to the Canadian Press, Darryl Sutter will step down as head coach of the Calgary Flames in a Wednesday news conference. Assistant coach Jim Playfair should be named the heir to the head coaching spot.

Though this is a little out of the blue, it shouldn't really be shocking to anyone. To be quite honest, in the interviews done during the season, you could almost hear Sutter hinting to this being his last year behind the bench. He will keep his GM duties, which should help the Flames in the long-run, especially since Sutter won't have to worry about pulling double duty all year.

I do like reading the replies and reaction some people have. Sure, it's a hard hit to the Flames, but come on-- with the new rules making the NHL a more free-flowing offensive game, the game-plan of Sutter's was his demise in the playoffs. It's amazing that the Flames were able to have 10 shutouts last season with scoring opening up. That's not to say Sutter is behind the times, but it would be more beneficial to the Flames as a whole to get some new blood behind the bench. You almost got a sense that the Flames were tuning Sutter out at the end of the season.

Jim Playfair is a great choice for the replacement. Playfair joined the Flames organization in the '00-'01 season coaching the Saint John Flames in the AHL, leading them to the Calder Cup the same season. However, with the lack of good prospects, Playfair was less than fortunate in his tenure remaining there. However, when Darryl Sutter took over the role as head coach in the '02-'03 season, Playfair was named assistant coach and has been there ever since. Playfair started coaching with the Dayton Bombers (ECHL) between '93 and '96 going 106-76-24 during that time. While in Saint John, Playfair won the Calder Cup and had a record of 83-77-22-10 in two and a half seasons.

However, don't expect a drastic change for the Flames. They'll no doubt have more offensive punch with the pick up of Alex Tanguay, but Playfair, a former defenseman, will have defense first on his mind and worry about his own zone before the attack zone. For Sutter, it's time to kick back and watch the team he help build, as well as get a chance to relax....though it probably won't happen.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Easy Like Sunday Morning

After a nice little lull, business picked up on Sunday. Interestingly enough, I think that the holiday hangovers were the only delay in most of the deals not given out, so we'll see what's going to go on next week.

First, Brendan Shanahan left Detroit and signed a one-year, $4M deal with the New York Rangers. It seems a pretty mixed bag for Detroit fans, who loved Shanny's ability to play well at his age, but hated his ghost like appearence in the playoffs. In the last 22 playoff games (the last three playoff seasons), Shanahan only has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists). However, Shanny is coming off a 40-40 year (40 goals, 41 assists to be exact), so it should help out the regular season part for the Rangers. If it will have any effect if they make it to the playoffs, we'll just have to wait and find out.

Late on Sunday, the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and Chicago Blackhawks pulled off a three way deal. We all love three-ways, am I right?? Huh?? Anyway, here's how it breaks down:

TO SAN JOSE: Mark Bell
TO OTTAWA: Tom Preissing, Josh Hennessy, Michal Barinka
TO CHICAGO: Martin Havlat, Bryan Smolinski

Personally, I know Sens fans will hate this on paper, while Sens haters will talk about the Sens not winning a Cup this year. Oddly enough, I think the Sens got a good deal out of this. As a Sens fan, I have to say I like the arrival of Preissing and Hennessy, because they are both studs. Frankly, I would take a couple guys like that for developing than worrying about arbitration or retaining the rights of Havlat. Let's face it, Havlat would have been gone anyway, so it's not a big loss altogether.

Chicago got a flashy guy like Havlat, but unless he can stay healthy (which hasn't been Chicago's strong suit) and find someone to click with on a line, he will be useless to the Hawks. Havlat is a very streaky player who can either make a game or be invisible the entire night. There's no doubt that when he's on, he's on-- but that's hard to come by. He'll be Chicago's guy to deal with for the next three years. Smolinski re-ignited his play late in the season being paired up with Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley when Jason Spezza had his injury issues. However, reality is Smolinski is almost in the twilight of his career, so his effectiveness is to be determined.

The Sharks, I believe, got screwed in this deal. For a team that needs a defenseman who can move the puck, dealing Preissing away probably wasn't the best move. Don't get me wrong, I like Mark Bell-- he's a scrappy player, but Bell and Preissing almost has the same amount of points last season. It will really depend on where Bell is placed in the line-up. If he is with the top dogs in Cheechoo and Thornton, then he'll get plenty of secondary assists, but if he's one a line where it's a grind line-- he'll be effective in the intangibles, but won't show up too much on the scoresheet.

All in all, we'll have to way to see how this all pans out for each team, but if it's a move that needed to be done for a team to move around some salary (COUGHottawaCOUGH) to get someone else in, then it's a good deal all around.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Free Agency Day Five/Edmonton Exodus

A little more done today in the free agent market. Of course, arbitration could bring another level to the whole ordeal, plus some trades going down today brought another interesting day at the wires.

LOS ANGELES: The Kings sured up their goaltending as they traded for Dan Cloutier from Vancouver. All the Kings had to give up was two draft picks. Cloutier will be coming off a knee injury which kept him out the duration of the '05-'06 season. It should be interesting to see what GM Dean Lombardi does with Mathieu Garon and Jason Labarbera.

CALGARY: The Flames were able to get Alex Tanguay under contract for three years at about 5M per. Also, the Flames added some depth with the signing of Jeff Friesen. Now, Friesen had a horrendous '05-'06 campaign, but if Darryl Sutter has proven anything-- he can get the best out of a bad player.

DALLAS: A day after signing Matt Barnaby, the Stars continued their veteran kick by signing Jeff Halpern. Halpern had been in the Capitals organization for his entire career up until today. Halpern should bring more leadership into the room. Also, Steve Ott re-signed a deal with the Stars.

BUFFALO: All was not rosy for the Sabres, but I'll touch on that later. The Sabres, however, did sign Jaroslav Spacek to a multi-year deal. Spacek is the second defenseman of the week to sign away from Edmonton. Though he won't replace Jay McKee, but Spacek could help out the offense in the Buffalo blueline.

RE-SIGNINGS: Plenty of re-signings as Marian Gaborik (Wild), Erik Cole (Hurricanes), Antero Niittymaki (Flyers), Ray Emery (Senators), and Andy McDonald (Ducks) all re-signed with their club. Emery and Niittymaki signed one year deals while Gaborik, Cole, and McDonald signed three-year deals.

ARBITRATION: A total of 69 players filed for arbitration this year, 12 of them coming from the Buffalo Sabres. Teams have until tomorrow at 5 PM ET to take players who made over 1.5M to arbitration. Hearings will be held from July 20th to August 4th.

What's the deal with people wanting out of Edmonton?? Chris Pronger was very vocal after the season, Michael Peca voiced his displeasure during the season, and according to other sources, Jaro Spacek was a player who had an issue with Edmonton as well.

I don't know if it was the city or the team itself, but there could be something fishy going on if it's not. We know Pronger's issue with his family, but I'm unsure with the other two. I do know one thing, there has to be something deeper to the situation, mainly because of the run that the Oilers made last season, you'd think everyone would want to come back to try and get back there.

As someone living in Calgary, I'm not really a fan of Edmonton; but I can't help but feel bad for the fans. With all these guys getting out of there after what happened is a shock. Then to hear that some either had a problem with the city or the team is definitely a blow to the fans who have lived and cheer for the team for the longest time. Here's hoping it's just something to do with internal chemistry and not the city itself, because I know I would be furious if anyone talked about my hometown badly....of course, it's Glen Burnie, MD and that place ain't that good to begin with....but still, it's the principle of it.

Needless to say, the Oilers will need to find some help on their blue line either from their prospects or through trades or maybe some UFAs out there, but if something doesn't get fixed up, it could be a long season for the Oilers and their fans.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Free Agency Day Four

It was a rather quiet day on the free agency market with the US Independence Day and all, but there were some rather big names on the wire getting picked up:

PHOENIX: The Coyotes got a familiar face back in the fold as Jeremy Roenick was picked up for a 1-year, 1.2M deal. Roenick had said he would have like to have played in Canada, but that'll have to wait at least another year, when the market will be just as saturated.

DALLAS: Matthew Barnaby will pick up the agitator role in the "Big D" as the Stars signed the feisty winger to a 1-year deal. Barnaby was last with the Chicago Blackhawks for an uneventful year, which led to him being bought out.

PITTSBURGH: Agitators were a theme, as Jarkko Ruutu was picked up by the Pens on Tuesday. Ruutu got a two year deal worth 2.3M. This will be the first change of scenary as Ruutu had spent his whole career with the Canucks prior.

ATLANTA: The Thrashers signed Fred Brathwaite, Jason Krog, and Darren Haydar to one-year deals. The interesting part is why the Thrashers brought in Brathwaite when they had signed Johan Hedberg on Saturday. Maybe they are just stocking up for a injury filled season, but maybe they also know something about Kari Lehtonen that others don't.

Also, Randy Robitaille and Brian Willsie signed with the Flyers and Kings respectively. Also today, two traded goalies signed three year deals as the Leafs got Andrew Raycroft under contract and the Lightning got Marc Denis under contract.

With players like Sergei Samsonov, Brendan Shanahan, Manny Legace, and Anson Carter out on the open market, Day Five will prove to be as interesting as all the rest.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Free Agency Day Three/Ending of an Era

After the trade that happened today, it was almost a good thing that there wasn't much signings early on, because it would have gotten lost in the crowd. However, the biggest name struck late into the day.

ST. LOUIS: The Blues continue to build back up their once-hallowed team by signing winger Bill Guerin. Terms and length was not available, but you can almost see the improvement the Blues are making, just due to the new ownership coming into practice. Thank goodness, because St. Louis fans deserved better than last year's outcome.

ATLANTA: The Thrashers signed center Steve Rucchin to a three-year deal. Rucchin didn't have the greatest seasons on Broadway, but Rucchin's leadership and ability to control the face off circle will be a great asset to the Thrashers.

NY RANGERS: Though they lost Rucchin, the Rangers got some help on their back line. The Rangers signed Aaron Ward to a two-year deal. Ward just got finished winning his third Stanley Cup and will be great for depth and shot-blocking abilities that the Rangers need to help out their intangibles.

NY ISLANDERS: The Isles got some more help on the blue line by signing Brendan Witt to a three-year deal. Witt, who split time with the Capitals and Predators, will bring a stay-at-home mentality and some secondary leadership to the Isles lockerroom.

Also today, Mark Eaton signed on with the Penguins to help out defensively at the Igloo, while Mike Grier signed on with the San Jose Sharks to get a grinder into the line-up.

Also today, Steve Yzerman retired from the NHL after 22-seasons in one city. Rarely do you see someone not only stay in the same city for their whole career (as we have seen in this Free Agency), but to have the Captaincy for a majority of that time, it is unbelieveable.

Whether you love or hate the Red Wings, one thing you can deny is the ability and class that Yzerman possessed. Personally, I don't care for the Red Wings, but the respect I have for Yzerman overshadows that dislike.

We may never see another player like Yzerman in our lifetime, but that's probably a good thing, because I don't think many could fill the shoes left by Stevie Y.

Burke Does It Again

If there is one guy who likes the summer more than any other GM out there, it has to be Brian Burke. Last summer, Burke signed coveted free agent Scott Niedermayer and this summer, Burke traded for one of the biggest names out there on the trading block, Chris Pronger.

That's right, today Burke acquired Chris Pronger from the Oilers for Joffery Lupul, Ladislav Smid, the Ducks 1st Round pick in '07, a conditional 1st Round pick in '08, and a 2nd Round pick in '08. The question of who got the better of the deal is up for debate. Some Oilers fans, like those from Battle of Alberta feel they got...well, violated, while almost admiting defeat already for the '06-'07 Season. Some believe that the return is as good as what is leaving all things considered.

Personally, it works out both ways. For the Ducks, they have an amazing top-3 defense with Pronger, Niedermayer, and Francois Beauchemin. Plus, it seemed like negociations with Lupul had stalled anyway, so though it's a depth loss, the Ducks won't have to worry about a young kid holding out if he doesn't like the offer given. This move helps the Ducks short-term.

Long-term, the Oilers could get the better of the deal if they can do well with those picks and somehow get Lupul and Smid to become superstars. Frankly, it hurt the defense, especially when you consider that both Dick Tarnstrom and Jaroslav Spacek are free agents right now and not re-signed. Now, if the picks pan out well for the Oilers, than they could get the better of this deal.

James Mirtle has an in-depth breakdown of what went down, so go ahead and check out what he has to say about it.

Time will tell who really got the better of this, but in the short-term; Brian Burke is doing a fancy jig because he could have the best defensive pairing in the NHL today.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Free Agency Day Two

After 30 players were signed yesterday, it was a little bit more quiet on the second day. There's little to do for an encore for the opening day of NHL free agency, especially with the top notch signings that have happened.

ST. LOUIS: I left the Blues out yesterday with their signing of Jay McKee, because I thought they wouldn't be done yet. Not only did the Blues sign McKee to a four-year deal, but they also got back Doug Weight on their club. At two years, $7M, and a Stanley Cup ring, Weight is back to help the Blues rebuild. Also, the Blues have reportedly signed Dan Hinote to a deal, though this is coming off the wire as I type.

NASHVILLE: The Preds added more offense by picking up Jason Arnott and signing him to a five-year $22.5M contract. Arnott brings plenty of experience to the camp, especially the playoff experience that some in the organization don't possess.

NY ISLANDERS: With Arnott signing, Mike Sillinger was expendable, so he went to his 12th team in the NHL. The Isles locked up Sillinger to a three-year, $6.6M contract. Not only can Sillinger find the net, but he can also get it done in the face-off circle as well.

PHOENIX: The Coyotes signed Mike Morrison to a one-year deal, which will give him the back-up spot to Curtis Joseph. This really makes you wonder if the progress of David LeNeveu is slower than the team had hoped, or if they feel that CuJo would do better with someone who has a bit more experience than LeNeveu.

DALLAS: Though the loss of Jason Arnott hurt, the Stars got back Darryl Sydor as Tampa traded the defenseman for a 4th round pick in the 2008 Draft. Sydor is going to help out the Dallas defense, as well as provide a little offensive touch to the Stars from the point.

FLORIDA: After losing out on Ed Jovanovski, the Panthers were able to get Ruslan Salei under contract for four years. Salei will bring more depth the Panthers blue line, as well as some playmaking abilities. I wouldn't rule out the Panthers as being done yet.

Other signings of note were the Bruins picking up Shean Donovan for two-years. Donovan didn't have his best season, but is a great energy guy. The Los Angeles Kings took two former Sharks by signing both Scott Thornton and Alyn McCauley to contracts. While Thornton will be one to throw the body around, McCauley will play the strong forechecking role for the Kings.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Free Agency Day One

It was a slow start, but once things got rolling, they got rolling in a big way. It was a run on defensemen and they went very quickly. If you missed any of it, here's a short run-down on what happened. Cliff notes style as it were.

BOSTON: The Bruins made the first big move by getting Zdeno Chara under contract for five-years at 37.5M and Marc Savard to a five-year 20M contract. This is a big deal for the Bruins, who are pretty much starting with a whole new outlook with management and all of that. Should be interesting to see what else they do.

MINNESOTA: The Wild were pretty active to by getting Mark Parrish, Keith Carney, and Kim Johnsson. All these role move should help the depth of the Wild. Health permiting, the Wild are looking to take a run at the Northwest crown.

TORONTO: The Leafs signed Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina. It's not so much that they signed Kubina, but they signed him to a 5M/year deal....slightly....well not slightly...overpaying him. Sadly, I don't think this is going to help them as much as they think.

PHOENIX: Ed Jovanovski is heading the desert. The one downside to Jovo is his often injured body as of late. Maybe the Coyotes will have better luck with Jovo than the Canucks did.

LOS ANGELES: Rob Blake is back in town, which should bolster the blue line for the Kings. It's a big step up from Joe Corvo and gives the Kings yet another leader on a somewhat young team. Now, they just need to lock up a goalie.

OTTAWA: Corvo landed in Ottawa, along with Martin Gerber-- who will undoubtedly be the starter for the Sens next season. Though he had a good season, Gerber was shaky in the playoffs. Of course, the Sens should be used to goaltending that goes out in the playoffs.

CAROLINA: To fill Gerber's void, the Champs signed John Grahame. After the Bolts traded for Marc Denis, Grahame was very expendable. Cam Ward now has a back-up who can push him when needed. Also, the Canes got Eric Staal, Mike Commodore, Justin Williams, and several others extensions to keep the core group together.

NEW JERSEY: Though they didn't do much on the FA market, the signed up Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner. Elias signed an interesting deal, a seven-year, 42M contract. I'll tell you, I'm shocked by it, but in the end-- it's a good thing for Devils fans.

TAMPA BAY/COLUMBUS: Like mentioned above, the Bolts got Marc Denis from Columbus for Freddy Modin and Freddy Norrena. Denis will be the #1 guy with Sean Burke being his back-up/mentor. Denis is a horse, but what will happen now with the Bolts depleted defense?? Though the Bolts did go out and sign Filip Kuba, so it should be better. The Blue Jackets get more depth in scoring while Norrena will be one of the players going for the back-up position in camp.

Those were some of the bigger names that went to other places. This will happen when there's plenty of movement of substance. Also, as the moves come along, there will be pieces about teams who have made good with the moves and others who have crapped out. Rarely, we'll have a team in the middle, but that's always possible.