Thursday, July 2, 2009

Free Agent Frenzy

It’s no coincidence that the first day of NHL free agency happens to fall on Canada Day (or is it? Either way, it’s quite fitting, don’t you think?) Yesterday didn’t blow me away, but there were some interesting moves. I spend most of my time worrying about the Capitals, so I’m no expert on other teams and how their moves might play out…but hey, has that ever stopped me before?

CAPITALS: Lose Donald Brashear to the Rangers, Sign Mike Knuble

Being a hockey fight enthusiast, I’m sad Brashear is leaving. But honestly, compare Knuble’s stat line with Brashear’s and it’s a no brainer. Replace a guy who had 4 points in 63 games, and averages 8 minutes a game, with a 47 point scorer who played all 82 games and averaged 18 minutes a game. Yes, they play different roles, but it’s not as if Knuble is all soft hands and scoring prowess. He’s gritty and he’ll drop the gloves if he needs to (thank god, because as much as I love Matt Bradley, if he’s our tough guy, we’re in trouble.) Most importantly, he’ll set up in front of the net, which means I won’t have to lose my voice screaming “GET IN FRONT OF THE NET” during every Caps power play. Is Knuble going to replace Sergei Fedorov? No. But he’s a good substitute for Kozlov.

As sad as I am to see Brashear go, it was the right move. Early on the Capitals needed that veteran enforcer to protect their young guns. But this season the Capitals ranked 28 of 30 in number of fights. Is that because we had Brashear to frighten potential opponents? I don’t think so. I think it’s a reflection of how players like Ovechkin and Backstrom have started to stand up for themselves now that they’re more comfortable. All in all, this is a good move for the Capitals and one they needed to make. The price is right and the team is adding something they lacked, which should help ease the pain of cheering for a former Flyer…

DEVILS: Lose Gionta, John Madden, Mike Rupp, Scott Clemmensen, Re-sign Johnny Oduya, Andy Green

Nash Brown should take this into the details, since this is her team. But I'm glad to see Clemmensen, who played so well when MB30 was hurt, get a chance, even if it is in Florida. It wouldn't have been fair to keep him in the AHL wile Marty chases the shutout record, so good for him. But I am sad to see Brian Gionta go. He was sassy, and one of my favorite things to do at Devils games was get drunk and yell “He’s so leeeeeetle!” Now that he’s a Hab, I have to hate him, which is sad. Speaking of…

MONTREAL: Lose Mike Komisarek, Sign Gionta, Hal Gill, Mike Cammalleri, Jaroslav Spacek

Woah, someone was busy. Before the frenzy began, I asked my co-worker, who happens to be a Rangers fan, how much tequila Sather had buy Bob Gainey before he agreed to take Gomez. I figured that massive hangover came into play when he signed Jaroslav Spacek to a pretty hefty contract. Not going to lie, had no idea who he was. His numbers aren’t bad, but, $11.5M over 3 years? Then again, these people are paying Gionta $25M over 5 years so…The only really solid addition I see is grabbing Hal Gill from the Pens. As much as I hate seeing the Habs shore up their blue line, I won’t miss the U.S.S. Gill during those heated Caps-Pens games. Picking up Cammalleri was a good move, I think, although again it seems like a lot of money ($30M/5 years). All in all, I have no idea what this means for Montreal. Clearly they needed to shake things up after last season’s embarrassment, but I’m confused by their desire to be the tiniest team in the league. Hopefully this will work out as well as the Lightning's signing orgy did last years. On the other side of things…

RANGERS: Lose Scott Gomez, Colton Orr, Fredirk Sjostrom, Add Brashear, Marion Gaborik

I though the Rags were brilliant getting rid of Gomez’s big money deal. Then they went and signed Marion Gaborik. From what I read yesterday, it kind of seemed like they wanted to get rid of Gomez so they could pick up Heatley. But maybe when it was clear that wouldn’t happen, they grabbed the next best thing out there? There’s no in between for this deal. If Gaborik finally gets/stays healthy, the Rangers could be going places fast. If not, someone’s getting fired. I wonder if there’s a no trade clause attached? Perhaps the Rags will be saddled with a Nylander like mess in a few years….wouldn’t mind seeing that at all.

LEAFS: Toronto steals Mike Komisarek from Montreal. If he and Luke Schenn pair up on D, they’ll have to keep the temps at the Air Canada Center subzero to stop them from melting the ice every night. I mean, holy hotness Batman! (Sorry, were you expecting hard hitting analysis there?)

I’m not even going to pretend to know about the West, but I do have to add my two cents on Chicago. They quickly became my favorite team out there this season…

CHICAGO: Lose Matt Walker, Khabibulin, Pahlsson, Havlat, Sign Hossa, Kopecky, John Madden

So I was less than pleased with their moves. First of all, letting Khabibulin go could be bad. Maybe they have a good prospect ready to come up, but I don’t think (based on this season and his last in Washington) that Cristobal Huet can carry the starting workload alone. Plus, the Bulin Wall is the best goalie nickname out there.

I suppose the drama, aside from the Dany Heatley saga, was Hosssssssa. I was a fan of this guy in Pittsbugh and cut him slack for picking Detroit. But last season made him into a less than favorite and I feel like he’s sullying the Blackhawks. Maybe they need a veteran guy in the room, but is Hossa a leader? Is he worth a 12 year!!! contract? Plus, his deal seems to have forced Martin Havlat out of Chicago, at least according to Havlat’s tweets last night. That’s too bad. The Blackhawks look different and that’s probably a good thing, but I’m wondering how they’ll manage re-signing Towes and Kane next season, especially if the cap goes down.

All in all, not a thrilling first day, but some solid moves and some head-scratchers. Unfortunately we have three more months to wait until we see how it all plays out.