NHL Free Agency: Winners and Losers

Nelson SantosCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2009

MONTREAL - JANUARY 24:  Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke speaks with the media at the NHL Board of Governors Meeting during the 2009 NHL All-Star weekend on January 24, 2009 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

July 1 is an exciting day for the fans of hockey and the players set to make millions of dollars in raises.

It is probably not nearly as exciting for the GMs who spend hours trying to convince players to sign with their team and then have to convince the owner that said player is worth that much, all the while being scrutinized by media and fans alike.

That being said, I'n here to scrutinize and praise the activities of some teams and GMs on day one of the free agent signing period.

Dale Tallon and the Chicago Blackhawks lead off my list of winners.

Chicago was able to replace Martin Havlat with a bigger, more sturdier player in Marian Hossa. Chicago committed to Hossa long term with a 12-year deal, but the sign of Hossa proves to the fans in the Windy City that winning is now.

It also hints to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane that this team intends on being competitive for years to come.

John Madden is a premier defensive forward with winning experience. His one-year deal was an astute move by Tallon and co.

The Lightning also made strides in the right direction. Matthias Ohlund was signed to a lengthy seven-year deal, probably a tad too long for a player that is 32 and will be 40 at the end of his contract.

But a closer look shows that Ohlund is actually an investment into the future.

No doubt a big reason for his signing was to help Victor Hedman acclimate to the NHL game and North American life style.

Ohlund will provide stability on the back end as well as help quarterback the power-play in the Sunshine State.

Joining Ohlund in Tampa Bay is Matt Walker at a very reasonable $1.7 million per year.

Walker proved during the playoff run with the Blackhawks that he could play a tough, shot-blocking game.

Glen Sather finally showed some of the managerial skills he displayed during his cash strapped days in Edmonton.

Sather was able to pawn off the albatross-like contract of Scott Gomez on the Montreal Canadiens and score a quality defensive prospect in Ryan McDonagh.

Clearing Gomez's contract off the books allowed the Rangers to sign oft-injured, but highly-skilled Marian Gaborik. This is an upgrade in my opinion.

Garth Snow acquired a quality insurance plan for the oft-injured Rick DiPietro in Dwayne Roloson.

The combined annual payroll cost of the goaltending duo will hover in the $7.5-8 million range. That is not obscene when you think of how many teams are paying their number one guy in excess of $6 million.

Now, onto the losers.

Anyone that has read my past articles or comments will not be surprised to find that Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs head up my list of losers. Burke was active on July 1.

Colton Orr was signed to a four-year, $4 million deal. This is a old day goon. He scored one goal all of last season.

Mike Komarisek was "stolen" from the Montreal Canadiens for $22 million over five years.

When it comes to shut down, puck-blocking defensemen like Komisarek, I heed the words of Ken Holland.

"Never spend big bucks on defensemen unless they are point producers".

Komisarek contributed 11 points last season, of those 11 points one was a goal.

Obviously, Burke does not agree with Holland.

If you're counting at home, that is $5 million per year for two goals.

Lastly, Pavel Kubina and his $5 million contract were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Garnett Exelby and Colin Stuart.

I have no idea what Stuart brings, but I'm guessing grit. Exelby is...well a shot-blocking, defensive-minded defender who had one goal last season.

By my summation, Burke went out and spent rough the money saved from Kubina being traded on three goals and a crap load of toughness. Not a bad play if you had any form of talent and scoring already on the payroll.

Sadly, for Leafs Nation that is not the case.

The second biggest loser on day one was Bob Gainey and the Les Habitants.

They spent huge money to bring in Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, and Mike Cammalleri. Three skilled players that, combined, weigh as much as Zdeno Chara.

Size is no longer as big an issue as it once was in the NHL. But when your three top offensive players are all under 5'10", you may be pushing the envelope a little.

Also paying these three players in excess of $17 million per year seems a little pricey, especially when you factor in how many more holes need to be filled in in the La Belle Province.

Lastly, the Los Angeles Kings make my list for simply doing nothing. This is a team loaded with young talent and prospects.

They showed flashes of something good last season, but inevitably lacked that true winning punch. There was probably no team more in need of one or two proven stars.

Dean Lombardi has a ton of cap space, but seems quite tentative to spend it on proven players in fear of tying his hands when some of his youngsters are up for contract renewal.

Hopefull,y Lombardi realizes in time that if his team doesn't make the playoff for the next couple of seasons, those youngsters may look elsewhere come contract time.



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