Thursday, July 3, 2008

Making Sense Of The Free Agency Madness

Well. we are about 58 hours into the NHL's free agency period as I write this and the dust is just now starting to settle. There are still a few big names still out there (Sundin, Jagr, Demitra). Most of the big players in the market appear to be done spending, and it is possible that from here on out most of the noise will be made by teams trying to find a way up to the salary cap minimum. As it is, let's take a look at the free agency winners and losers thus far.

The Winners
  • The Detroit Red Wings: Obviously the Marian Hossa signing is huge for Detroit, and most people seem ready to forego the 2008-09 season and just give the Red Wings the Stanley Cup now. Hossa's deal is a perfect fit for their contract environment and he is a perfect player for their team. Ty Conklin is also a good signing, assuming he can play near the level he did in January for the Penguins. It seems like they maybe overpaid a little for Brad Stuart, but I'm just a guy with a blog so I will give Kenny Holland the benefit of the doubt here.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets needed to make some big additions this off-season. While they didn't go quite as big time as I had hoped, adding Kristian Huselius, Mike Commodore, and R.J. Umberger (via trade) are very good additions for the Jackets. Hopefully for the Jackets Huselius and Umberger can help take some of the pressure off of Rick Nash offensively.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks made two of the bigger splashes in the free agent pool by signing Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet to huge contracts. You hate to kick dirt on the grave of Bill Wirtz, but signings like this would not have happened 12 months ago and Hawks fans have to be excited. They do have way too much salary tied up between the pipes right now, but they will find a way to deal with that somehow. It looks like the Blackhawks are finally ready to be players again in the Western Conference.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins: Losing Hossa has gotten most of the ink in Pittsburgh, but take a step back and look at what Ray Shero has accomplished in about the last 48 hours. He locked up Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, and Marc-Andre Fleury to long-term deals. He added Eric Godard as a cheap replacement for Georges Laraque. He brought back Mark Eaton and Pascal Dupuis on the cheap. And finally today he brought in Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko with very palattable one-year deals to help fill out the top two lines. Fedotenko should slide right into Ryan Malone's spot quite nicely, and Satan has enough offensive skill to thrive alongside Sidney Crosby. My only real complaint so far is why could the Pens have kept Adam Hall for $1.8 million over three years?
  • The New York Rangers: This was a tough call for me simply because it is hard to say something positive about a team that is going to be paying Michal Rozsival $5 million per year for the next four years. Aside from that deal though, the Rangers did pretty well. The Wade Redden contract stands out, but he still has a lot of good hockey left in him and he should be a good influence on their young defencemen. The acquisition of Aaron Voros, Markus Naslund, Patrick Rissmiller, Dimitri Kalinin, and Nikolai Zherdev are also pluses for the Blue Shirts.
The Losers
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs: The Jeff Finger signing has quickly become a running joke in NHL circles and I don't feel real good about the Hagman signing either. Hagman strikes me as the kind of guy who would be great in the right situation, but will flame out in Toronto. Only time will tell there I guess. At least they gave the fans a little service by bringing Curtis Joseph back.
  • The San Jose Sharks: With Brian Campbell gone that trade looks pretty lousy now. The Sharks did not appear to have much of a Plan B in place after losing out on Campbell and have now had to settle for bringing Rob Blake in on a one-year pact. Losing Patrick Rissmiller to the Rangers is another shot to the Sharks, although the seem to have enough young talent to deal with that loss. Ultimately the Sharks have done nothing to improve a roster that has consistently underacheived for years now. Then again, maybe that Patrick Marleau trade is just around the corner...
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning: I have to say that on paper I like a lot of the signings the Lightning made. Ryan Malone is an awesome player, they just paid too much for him. The Radim Vrbata and Adam Hall deals are also excellent signings. As is the deals they got Gary Roberts and Olaf Kolzig to sign for. The problem is that none of the players I just named are defensemen, and that is Tampa's biggest weakness. To compound the issue, the Lightning they may now be forced to deal Dan Boyle to compensate for their recent spending spree, which would weaken their defensive corps even further. In a vacuum I like the deals Tampa made, but in reality the Lightning's new owners spent their money in all the wrong places.
  • The Washington Capitals: The Capitals did what they had to do in re-signing Mike Green, but then they took a big step back in net. The Caps front office can say whatever they want to, but the money they saved in signing Jose Theodore instead of Cristobal Huet was not worth it. With that one transaction the Capitals were transformed from a team on the rise in the East to a team that could easily find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. Just when things had started to look up for them too.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes: If you are intentionally paying Josef Melichar real money to play hockey for your team you are a loser. Nothing else matters. There is a reason why this guy was in Europe last year.
Honorable Mention - The Edmonton Oilers: Kevin Lowe is the punch line to about 75% of all hockey jokes these days, but he has done a real good job of upgrading his team in the last few days. The only reason why the Oilers are here instead of among the winners is because Lowe did it all through trades. Having said that, Erik Cole and Lubomir Visnovsky are players any GM would love to have, and the Oilers will be a better team with them this coming season.

1 comment:

Mike Kole said...

Are the Sharks out of the 'loser' category after landing Boyle?