NHL Free Agency Diary

Mike CranwellCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2008

In honour of my favourite writer – ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons - I’ve decided to do a live free agency blog – well that & I’m not doing anything until 4.  I will be using TSN’s draft tracker & Spector Hockey for the times and terms of the contracts.  This will also include the trades that are going down, since there are so many.


One more thing to note: I don’t often agree with the moves that teams make.  I’m just warning you.


8:45 AM – Washington re-signs Mike Green, D to a four-year deal worth $21 million ($5.25 million per season). 


Great signing by the Caps, locking Green up long-term and at a salary that isn’t even remotely exorbitant.


10:21 AM – New Jersey agrees to terms with Bryce Salvador, D to a 4 year deal worth $11.6 million ($2.9 million per season).


Who the hell was Bryce Salvador to be asking Lou Lamorello of all people for a no-trade clause in the weeks leading up to today?  NJ must think enough of him to have given him four years, though no word on a movement clause.


11:35 AM - New Jersey re-signs forwards Jay Pandolfo (undisclosed) David Clarkson (undisclosed) and Barry Tallackson (undisclosed), and declines their option on forward Sergei Brylin.


Well, New Jersey has assured the guy who makes the jersey name plates of a quiet work day so far.


11:58 AM – Detroit Red Wings re-sign Brad Stuart, D to a 4 year deal worth $15 million ($3.75 million per year)


Thank you!  Somebody who’s head is screwed on straight (do you hear that Hossa & Orpik?!).  This also sets the ceiling for Brooks Orpik at $3.5 million annually.


11:58 AM– Pittsburgh Penguins sign Pascal Dupuis, LW to a 3 year deal worth $4.2 million ($1.4-million per year)


I absolutely love this deal for Pittsburgh.  Dupuis has bounced around the NHL the last few seasons teasing teams with his speed & 20-goal potential, but seemed to find a home on Sid the Kid’s left side during the Pens playoff run.  It’s safe to say he could’ve gotten more money elsewhere, but instead realized that money isn’t everything & stayed on Sid’s left and kept his perennial chance to win the Cup.  Ahem.  Excuse me for just a second, I have to get off my high horse now, my hands can’t reach the keyboard from up here.


12:00 PM – Edmonton trades LW Raffi Torres to Columbus for C Gilbert Brule.


12:04 PM – Edmonton trades D Joni Pitkanen to Carolina for LW Erik Cole


Wow, my Oilers t-shirt is looking pretty good right now!  Edmonton has made three trades over the last 20 or so hours, and on paper, they have won two of them hands down, and have the potential to win the third deal by a landslide.  Torres’s point production has been on a three year decline, not good for someone who’s not yet 30.  His reckless style of physical play, though great in many ways, is not easy on his smallish body (it’s tough to carry a lot of weight on a small frame – trust me – and Torres easily is carrying 15-20 lbs too much on his 6’ frame, as he’s listed at 216 lbs).  Brule on the other hand has had injury problems ever since Columbus rushed him into the lineup as an 18 year old.  Because he didn’t produce and got hurt, his confidence has been shot for 2 seasons.  He did put up 10 points in 16 games in the AHL last year, however he only had 5 points in 13 postseason games, which shows that he still has a ways to go to get to where both he and Edmonton will want him to be.  If he ever gets there, watch out. 


Cole replaces Torres in the lineup, except that Cole is a sure-fire top-6 forward who if healthy, can easily play on Edmonton’s first line.  About once a week last year, I’d catch the highlights of a Carolina game, and without fail, there Erik Cole would be, streaking down whatever wing he felt like, beating 3 guys wide, carrying the puck with one hand on his stick sometimes, and barreling into the crease, where he would deposit the puck without fail.  When Cole wants to, he looks and plays a lot like Rick Nash, and that’s a good thing.  He’s an upgrade on Torres, and I would much rather have a healthy Erik Cole in my lineup than the burgeoning enigma that is Joni Pitkanen.  Pitkanen’s on the verge of the entire league questioning whether he’ll ever get it or not, even though he’s only 24.  And considering it took guys like Mathieu Schneider until they were 30 to truly understand how to play defense at this level, Carolina could be regretting this trade much sooner than later.


12:04 PM – Anaheim re-signs Corey Perry, RW to a 5 year deal worth $26.625 million ($5.325 million per year)


A great signing by the Ducks.  Obviously they had to lock Perry up or risk having Edmonton, or possibly the just-crazy-enough-to-be-wildly-enjoyable Tampa Bay Lightning throw him an offer sheet.  Plus, again they didn’t break the bank to keep him locked up until his UFAyears, which will allow them to at least stay competitive.


12:20 PM– Please Toronto, please don’t sign Kristian Huselius unless you’re going to re-sign Sundin…PLEASE!


12:36 PM – Calgary trades a future 2nd round draft pick to Chicago for LW Rene Bourque.


What I know about Bourque is that he’s a streaky offensive player but doesn’t put up a ton of points, and was used in a top-6 role in Chicago that didn’t seem to fit him.  Flames GM Darryl Sutter says that Bourque will be used in their top-9, so there you go.  So long as he has the fire to match his size, Bourque will fit in well with Calgary.


12:52 PM – Tampa Bay signs Radim Vrbata, RW to a 3 year, $9-million contract ($3 million per season)


Does this mean that Tampa has given up on signing Brian Rolston?  Not according to their cap space.  Matter of fact, with this signing (which I like b/c no matter who center’s Vrbata, he’ll have a tremendous guy to play with), should the Lightning be able to “retain” Rolston, their top-6 looks very, very pretty.


12:54 PM– Spector’s Hockey is officially pounding on TSN.ca in the free agent frenzy reporting game.  They have CuJo’s Leafs return, Radim Vrbata’s Tampa Bay signing, Blake Wheeler signing with the Bruins, and the Hurricanes’s Anton Babchuk signing all up before TSN does.  If you’re wondering why I have the Vrbata signing up before this, it’s because that’s the time it happened, and TSN.ca didn’t have the signing up until approx. 1:10 PM.


12:55 PM – Former Phoenix 1stround draft pick Blake Wheeler, RW signs an entry level contract with the Boston Bruins.


This has been known for weeks, and was made official today.  You know, this signing never felt right to me.  When Wayne Gretzky made this kid his first ever draft choice, 5th overall back in 2004, he went way off the scouting map to pick this kid, based on the speed that he combined with his 6’5” frame, and the fact that he could be a prototype power forward for years to come.  Phoenix then patiently waits around as the kid slowly develops in US college hockey, all the while getting panned for making such a risky pick that doesn’t look like it will work.  Then, finally, the kid starts to show signs of life.  The stats start showing up.  He scores a highlight-reel goal that is a regular destination spot for hockey junkies on Youtube.  Finally, he graduates after 4 years and it’s time to sign him.  However, there is a loophole in the CBA that states that after 4 years of college, players can become a UFA if not signed before the Entry Draft.  So Wheeler, and this is his right, takes full advantage of that.  Phoenix offers him the max salary under the CBA, but apparently didn’t offer enough bonus money – either that or he simply didn’t want to play there.  Wheeler rejects the offer and goes on the market, where he quickly agreed to the terms signed today with the Boston Bruins.


Phoenix took a huge chance on the kid.  They supported him for 4 years.  They let him develop at his own pace.  What does the kid do to repay them?  He screws them over for a few extra bucks.  Wow.  To me, that’s shows that he & his agent have no class, plain and simple.  Okay, back off the soap box, I’m starting to get dizzy.


1:33 PM – Vancouver signs RFA Kyle Wellwood, C, to a 1 year, $997,500 contract.


If you’ve been reading me, you know how I feel about Wellwood.  This gives Vancouver some offensive depth at center (which they need), at least until Wellwood breaks his heart trying to care & misses 3 months.


1:37 PM– Well I was going to go clean up a little, but then Spector broke this.  The  Minnesota Wild have signed Andrew Brunette, LW to a multi-year contract, and have acquired Marek, Zidlicky, D from the Nashville Predators for a 2 round draft pick in 2009 and prospect Ryan Jones.


Brunette was either going to stay in Colorado (doubtful), or re-sign with Minnesota, where they need somebody to score after poor, poor heartless Marian Gaborik (I love the kid but he looked like Ginger-on-skates in the playoffs last year).  Zidlicky went on the market a couple of days ago, and puck-moving defensemen mean so much in the NHL that he was snapped up quickly by the Wild (whose name ironically enough mirrors his defensive style, good times!).  Ryan Jones was Minnesota’s 5thranked prospect according to THN.  He’s 23 years old, 6’1”, 207 lbs and plays RW for the University of Miami (-Ohio?) in the CCHA.  He scored 22 goals and 35 points in 28 games last season, and according to THN is close to turning pro.  23 years old, I’d sure hope he’s ready for the AHL at least, and with 22 goals in 28 games (as well as 2 points in 4 AHL playoff games), it’s a safe bet that he is.  According to THN, he’s a high-energy guy who scores his goals by going into traffic & battling.  He’s a heart-and-soul player, so if he ever plays in Nashville’s top-9, this is officially a good deal for them.


1:59 PM – Spector’s has had CuJo’s Toronto return up for over an hour, and TSN.ca still doesn’t have it up yet.  For the record, TSN’s home base is in Toronto. 


2:00 PM – WOW!  TSN is on the ball with some Toronto news!  Apparently up to four teams have offered Mats Sundin contracts, including one team that has supposedly offered him a $10 million, multi-year deal.  Ooh, this is getting interesting.  I wonder which insane team (NYI?  TB?  Rangers?) offered him that much money.


2:02 PM – Pittsburgh re-signs Mark Eaton, D to a 2 year, $2 million contract.


Great under-the-radar signing by the Pens.  Eaton was badly missed in the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially the Finals, where his 20 minutes a night and tremendous penalty killing prowess would have made the series that much tighter. 


2:11 PM – Philadelphia trades Denis Gauthier, D and a 2nd round draft pick in 2009 to the LA Kings for…?  (2 prospects)


Gotta love Spector.  While TSN.ca’s tracker page is or isn’t loading because of traffic, Spector is breaking trades before everyone in the deal is even being named.


Gauthier is super-physical (I’ll never forget his WJC play), but doesn’t have the mobility to play in a team’s top-4 at the NHL level.  With that said, this is a fine deal for LA, who can hide him in their 3rd pairing where he can mash people for 16 minutes a night. 


The prospect’s names are Patrik Hersley and Ned Lukacevic.  THN doesn’t have them in LA’s top-10 prospects.  Enough said. 


2:35 PM– One of those old western style tumbleweeds just mosied on by me.


2:44 PM– Still no CuJo-to-Toronto on TSN.ca.  This is becoming one of the biggest stories of the day!  Haha.


2:50 PM– TSN.ca finally…scoops Spector.  Phoenix signs Kurt Sauer, D to a 4 year, $7 million contract ($1.75 million per season).


Sauer is a solid puck moving, defensive defensemen.  He’s not Keith Ballard or Nick Boynton, but he will help improve Phoenix’s depth in the 4-5 D spot.


2:52 PM – Apparently it was Vancouver who offered Mats Sundin a 2 year, $20 million contract.  Let’s break this down, shall we?


Crazy Canucks’s GM Mike Gillis (who I should've thought of in the first place and who will probably be living in a van down by the river in 3 years) likely offered Sundin this exorbitant amount of money for a few reasons.  The first being that the Canucks aren’t at or near the top of his radar, and the money will definitely get his attention.  Once Gillis has Sundin’s attention, he can attempt to sell him on playing with the Sedin twins (on the power play), the Canucks’s excellent defensive depth, and some goalie named LUONGO.  He tells Sundin that he’s the missing piece, the top offensive player needed for the Canucks to take a run deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that he’ll trade for whatever’s needed at the trade deadline in March to assure Sundin of that long playoff run. 


Come to think of it, this may just happen…


2:53 PM – Washington signs Jose Theodore, G to a 2 year deal (terms undisclosed)


WOW!  Washington belly-flops all over the free agent pool!  Wonderful signing, so long as they don’t pay him $7 million a year or more.  And even then, he’ll be a fantastic, overpaid goalie. 

(5:30 PM update: Spector says $9 million for two years.  That's an amazing deal for the Caps!)


3:03 PM – Colorado signs Andrew Raycroft, G to a 1 year contract (terms don’t matter)


Well, instead of making the bountiful obvious jokes here, let’s tackle this from a hockey perspective.  First of all, it’s a tremendous downgrade from Jose Theodore.  Secondly, it screams “Rash decision-making” because of Theodore signing a contract just a few short minutes earlier.  Third of all, if I’m Joe Sakic or Peter Forsberg, why do I re-sign here when the goaltending is in shambles? 


Peter Budaj (the incumbent if he stays), is a tweener.  He’s not quite consistently good enough to be a starting goalie, but he’s too good to be a backup.  Raycroft, who knows what the guy will do this year.  But the longer he’s removed from his rookie season, the farther he gets away from being that goalie.  Even when he won 37 games in Toronto, a great many of those games were shaky at best.  As much as I liked Edmonton taking the risk on a 21 year old Gilbert Brule, I don’t like Colorado taking this risk, as much for it’s immediate ramifications as for the trickle down effect it may cause.


3:07 PM – Detroit signs Ty Conklin, G to a 1 year, $750,000 contract.


You’re telling me Colorado, that you’d rather have Raycroft than Ty Conklin?!  Pffft, I’m done with you.


3:07 PM – Montreal re-signs W Andrei Kostitsyn to a 3 year, $9.75 million contract ($3.25 million per year)


The terms are in line with what Montreal wanted to pay him, and he’ll probably produce more in the next 3 years than a ton of players who are making more than him, so a good contract for the Habs.


3:07 PM - Phoenix signs UFA forward Todd Fedoruk to a 3 year contract (terms undisclosed)


Fedoruk and Daniel Carcillo can work on their dancing skills together…


Fedoruk: So Carcillo, I hear you think that you can dance…


Carcillo: What’s up old man, I hear you think that you can still dance…


Fedoruk: Oh I can still dance son, I can dance.


Carcillo: So you think you can dance?!


Fedoruk: Nigel said I have great lines…


Sorry, guess I’m a little excited for So You Think You Can Dance tomorrow night. 


3:23 & 3:24 PM – Toronto signs Jeff Finger, D to a 4 year contract worth $14 million ($3.5 million per season) and Curtis Joseph, G to a 1 year, $700,000 contract.


Well, the wait is over.  CuJo is officially a Leaf!  So says TSN, thanks for catching up guys.  And Jeff Finger, hmmm…


I had him listed as a guy I’d have no problem with them signing, and it’s not that they signed him that makes me go hmmm.  It’s the contract terms.  $3.5 million per year for a guy who up until last year was a career minor leaguer?!  Ya you know what?  Instead of losing my mind over this, I’m gonna go to work for a bit.  Canada Day or not, I gots to get paid. 


Gosh I hope those contract terms are wrong.


3:25 PM – Before I go I figured I’d check Spector’s site, and low & behold, he has the Finger deal as 4 years, $3.5 million total.  Man if that’s the deal it’s a steal, and if not…


3:38 PM – Tampa Bay signs Adam Hall, RW to a 3 year contract worth $1.8 million ($600,000 per season)


A good 4th line grinder who helped Pittsburgh get to the Finals last year, a good signing by Tampa.


3:40 PM – Pittsburgh signs Eric Godard, LW to a 3 year contract (terms undisclosed)


Pittsburgh replaces Hall with Godard, fair enough.


3:41 PM – Florida signs Cory Stillman, LW to a 3 year, $10.6 million contract ($3.53 million per season)


I really like this pickup for Florida.  Stillman is a proven winner with two Stanley Cup rings, and beyond the veteran experience he brings, he’s still young enough to be in his peak, and his tremendous playmaking ability could very well get Nathan Horton 45 goals.


3:43 PM – Chicago signs Cristobal Huet, G to a 3 or 4 year contract (TSN & Spector disagree on this) worth reportedly $5.6 million per year.


And Chicago’s goalie position is now being paid $12,350,000 for this coming season.  This obviously means that Nikolai Khabibulin is on the market, however seeing as he can’t be bought out (the deadline for buyouts was June 30), unless Tampa Bay trades Dan Boyle to get Khabibulin back (not necessarily in the same deal), I wonder who would be willing to take on that contract, even if it is now the final year of the deal.


3:49 PM - Vancouver signs RFA forward David Backes to an offer sheet: 3 years, $7.5-million ($2.5 million per season). St. Louis has 7 days to match or accept a 2nd round draft pick as compensation.


Huge move by Vancouver, who’s got the signing volume up way high right now.  St. Louis has absolutely no choice but to match this offer, as a 2ndround pick isn’t even close to value for Backes.


4:02 PM – Colorado signs RW Darcy Tucker to a 2 year, $4.5 million contract ($2.2 million and $2.3 million respectively)


Can he play goal?  Will he be given 1st line power play minutes?  Does it make sense for a guy on the downside of his career to move to the high altitude of Colorado to play?


4:14 PM – Tampa Bay signs the remnants of Olaf Kolzig to a 1 year, $1.4 million contract.


I’d have not signed any of the forwards they went for & gone after M-A Fleury instead, so apparently I’m crazier than even Oren Koules & The Immortal Len Barrie.


4:27 – Ottawa signs Alex Auld, G to a 2 year contract worth $2 million.


A good signing by the Sens.  Auld played well in Boston last year, and should anything happen to Martin Gerber, Auld will be able to step in at a high level. 


Hello?  Colorado?  Anyone there?


5:04 PM – Buffalo signs Patrick Lalime, G to a 2 year deal worth $2 million.


He’s not as good as Alex Auld, but I’d still take him over Raycroft.


5:16 PM– TSN’s Gord Miller says that Jeff Finger’s contract is for $3.5 million per year.  This just confirms what the website says, but it makes me think those are the terms of the contract.  1 season in the NHL.  You could’ve had Dimitri Kalinin for that money – at least I think you could have.  And I’m not the only one upset about this.  Pierre McGuire just dropped a sacrilegious J on the signing, good times.  GO LEAFS GO!


5:18 PM – Detroit’s in on Marian Hossa?  Detroit’s offering less money but a longer contract (Pittsburgh’s offer was 5 years, $35 million for the record)?  Hossa may make $9 million a season?  Edmonton is in on Hossa too and may be willing to offer him $9 million a season?  Wow, that’s all kinds of insanity.


5:39 PM – Super Bob McKenzie says Brian Campbell is in fact going to the Chicago Blackhawks.  Good move by the Hawks, should be a good move by Campbell.  8 years, $7.1 million per year ($56.8 million total - wow).  Interesting, considering he apparently turned down an 8 year, $7.5 million per year.


5:41 PM – Tampa Bay is shopping Mike Smith because they now have Olie the Goalie?  Okay, someone cut off the peyote to the Bay’s owners.


5:44 PM – With the Brian Campbell & Cristobal Huet signings, Chicago is several million dollars over the cap.  I guarantee you that Nik Khabibulin is either traded or sent down to the minors if he can’t be moved.  If the ‘Hawks instead trade one of their top young D (Brent Seabrook is making $3.5 million per year according to TSN), they’re taking 2 steps forward and one back instead of 4 steps forward.


5:46 PM – I like that Pittsburgh is talking to Ya-me Jagr, as the Don of Canadian hockey, Don Cherry would call him.  If he’s willing to play away from his NY-based model girlfriend, and he’s willing to take a deal that won’t pay him the world, he’ll have the chance to play with one of arguably the two best centers in the NHL, and he’ll have one last great chance to win the Stanley Cup.  Not to mention some career closure.  I really like this idea.  Partly because I’m picturing a half-homicidal Sidney Crosby pulling a Messier and grabbing Jagr by his throat and pressing him up against the wall in the midst of a classic Jagr slump, threatening to send him back to the Czech Republic “The hard way,” and Jagr responding by putting up 2 points a game in the playoffs.  One day, I’ll tell you all the Messier story, it’s good times.


The Terminator is on, plus I’m over 6000 words in two days, so I’ll be wrapping this up.  I’ll tell ya, post-steroid Arnold was still JAKKED like nobody’s business.  I’ll have more thoughts up when the rest of the major signings take place.  Ahh, no matter how many bad signings take place, I love this day.  Happy Canada Day!