Free Agent Frenzy: The NHL First Week Winners and Losers

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 30:  Tomas Holmstrom #96 and Marian Hossa #81 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate after Hossa's goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 1 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on May 30, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Let the games begin!  The opening of the NHL free agency saw many teams move forward towards the 2009-10 NHL season while some (Detroit and Los Angeles) just sat on the bench with David Spade. 

The main trend of yesterday’s contract was not in dollar signs but in the years given out. With the national 401K packages going down in flames, it seems like being a 30 year-old hockey player is the best retirement package.  Well, let’s break it down, Pucking-Awesome style.


Best Signing

This one is going to be the most debated for sure.  We had some huge moves when the bell rang at high noon, but I have to go with the 12-year gamble of the Chicago Blackhawks with Marian Hossa.  It took me a while to be okay with giving a 30-year-old a 12-YEAR deal, but I finally get it.

General Managers very rarely last 12 years at the same place, so if you are Dale Tallon why not give the guy that was on the team that beat you in the Western Conference Finals that many years.  I think the biggest reason I like this deal is for the amount of cap hit per season. For Hossa, a contract at $5.23 milion is a steal. 

Obviously, Hossa who took a one-year risk to win a cup, was willing to pass up millions per season for the security and the Blackhawks took the risk that I think is worth taking.  With the reasonable cap hit, this will allow them to re-work contracts for both cornerstones Kane and Toews.  


Worst Signing

This one was tough also, only because I had to shake my head at A LOT of the big signings yesterday, so I am going with a whole team: the Montreal Canadiens.  This team has done nothing right since being knocked out as the No. 1 seed in the 2008 playoffs. 

Mike Cammaleri was their big signing with a five-year, $30 million contract, and yes he had a huge year playing alongside some top notch centers in Calgary, but this guy is a step down from mainstay Alexei Kovalev.

The other big signing was undersized Brian Gionta for five years and $25 million; he is a system player who is living off of a one-year post lockout and almost scoring 50 goals.

And don’t get me started on Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek for a combined $16 million. This is a team that had a lot to do on their offseason checklist and, so far, this one-time contender is looking more and more like a fraud with no chemistry.


Underrated signing

Someone who is not at the top of the free agency list, but whom I think will change the culture of the team, is John Madden.  The Blackhawks, with the Hossa move, have said this is their year to make a run and Madden is the type of player that will give the Blackhawks the much needed toughness and veteran cup winning presence. 

They also got him to sign a one year deal which not only helps with the cap but puts up the front of "prove you still got it old lad" after a subpar year last season.


Get back to you signing

The Rangers cleared caps space on the eve of free agency to make a big splash, but struck out on Hossa and with the trading for Heatley so late Wednesday that they made a belly flop into the pool and signed the risky Marian Gaborik to a five-year, $37.5 million contract. 

The $7.5 million annually was the biggest per year contract given out yesterday. Look at the Czech's goals numbers and you know he is worth the big contract.  Look at the Rangers offensive numbers, and it seems like the right fit, but can he stay healthy?  

This could be a huge signing for the Rangers and a huge move for Gaborik to be on a main stage.  So, we'll revisit this one in a year or two and see how it works out.