2010 NHL Free Agency: Winners, Losers, and Surprises
When NHL free agency opened on July 1st, we expected a frenzy, and we had it.
There were 18 signings announced in just the first two hours, and major moves continued throughout the day. Indeed, the opening of the 2010 edition of the free agent market was quite hectic.
Well, for one day, that is.
The rest of July, so far, has been extremely quiet, with Ilya Kovalchuk's waiting game the only headline for almost a week. Still, according to capgeek.com, an impressive 110 new contracts have been reported in just five days, and there are plenty of big names still available (see Kovalchuk, Ilya, Nabokov, Evgeni, or Kariya, Paul).
Each of the 30 NHL teams went into the "Frenzy" with a blueprint of what positions needed some help and who they could sign for the right price, but it's fair to say that not many of them truly managed to stick to that plan.
Of course, the activities of many teams were expected, too; we figured the Hawks would try to shed some salary even after winning the Cup, and we knew that teams like Toronto and Florida would also need to mix some players around.
Even though we are just a few days into free agency and less than a month into the offseason, there are some squads that are happy with their bounty of newcomers, and others that perhaps aren't quite as elated.
Naturally, it's hard to tell exactly what each team was looking for and who they're close to signing in the near future, but here are a few major winners, losers, and "surprises" of the 2010 NHL offseason so far.
Winner: Toronto Maple Leafs
Loser: Atlanta Thrashers
Acquisitions: Dustin Byfuglien (CHI), Ben Eager (CHI), Brent Sopel (CHI), Akim Aliu (CHI), Chris Mason (STL), Andrew Ladd (CHI), Jaime Sifers (MIN), Jared Ross (PHI)
Losses: Marty Reasoner (CHI), Jeremy Morin (CHI), Joseph Crabb (CHI), Colby Armstrong (TOR), Johan Hedburg (NJD), Pavel Kubina (TBL), Brett Sterling (PIT)
Re-signings: Jim Slater, Noah Welch
Unlike the Leafs, the Atlanta Thrashers will have some work to do to recover from a bad decision—and bad luck-laden offseason.
The Thrashers have already been active, yet have been unproductive nonetheless. Atlanta has $28 million that needs to be dealt out in order to progress from its league-low 14 signed players.
Atlanta was involved in perhaps the biggest trade of the offseason so far, dealing solid winger Marty Reasoner, top prospect Jeremy Morin, and several others to Chicago to eat the big contracts of Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel.
A later trade also sent a 2012 pick to the Hawks for Andrew Ladd. Yesterday, it was announced that all four acquisitions are entering arbitration, demanding a salary raise.
Meanwhile, the Thrashers also let goaltender Johan Hedburg, winger Colby Armstrong, and top-pairing defenseman Pavel Kubina slip away. It will take some work to replace those players...and perhaps more negotiating power than Atlanta currently possesses.
Surprise: Buffalo Sabres
Acquisitions: Jordan Leopold (PIT)
Losses: Toni Lydman (ANA), Henrik Tallinder (NJD)
Re-signings: Cody McCormick, Mike Weber
The Buffalo Sabres' defense may look a little different than anticipated this next season. Surprisingly, Buffalo let Olympic defensemen Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder both slip away, sending an electric shock through much of the fan base.
On the other hand, though, the Sabres quickly found a replacement in Jordan Leopold, who has had successful recent stints in Florida and Pittsburgh.
But as the summer rolls on, questions still remain about Buffalo. And, with the way July 1st went, it may be tough to predict what the answers might be.
Winner: Vancouver Canucks
Loser: New York Rangers
Acquisitions: Marty Biron (NYI), Derek Boogaard (MIN), Kris Newbury (DET)
Losses: Bobby Sanguinetti (CAR), Alex Auld (MTL), Jody Shelley (PHI), Olli Jokinen (CGY), PA Parenteau (NYI)
Re-signings: Erik Christensen, Vinny Prospal, Brandon Prust, Dane Byers
The Rangers actually started off July 1st well, signing experiened netminder Martin Biron to a cheap, two-year deal.
Then, things began to go downhill quickly. The signing of Derek Boogaard says it all.
Even with the Rangers holding among the least cap space of any team going into free agency, Boogard still earned a four year, $6.5 million contract. This is a player that over the past two seasons with the Minnesota Wild recorded zero goals, seven assists, and 192 penalty minutes in 108 games.
Typical Rangers management, isn't it?!
Surprise: Washington Capitals
Acquisitions: Dany Sabourin (BOS)
Losses: Kyle Wilson (CBS), Alexandre Giroux (EDM)
Pictured is former Bruins goaltender Dany Sabourin, who hasn't made an NHL start in almost two calendar years.
Or, we could say, "Pictured is the Washington Capitals' one signing thus far."
Or, we could even say, "What?!"
That's right, hockey headlines have been scarcer than scarce in the nation's capital since the Caps were eliminated from the postseason in mid-April. It's not like Washington has been too picked over, either; the Capitals' two players who signed elsewhere this offseason combined for 11 NHL appearances this past season.
We might not have expected Washington to have a frantic flurry of moves this summer...but we certainly didn't expect this.
Winner: New Jersey Devils
Acquisitions: Jason Arnott (NSH), Henrik Tallinder (BUF), Anton Volchenkov (OTT), Johan Hedburg (ATL)
Losses: Dave Halischuk (NSH), Paul Martin (PIT)
Re-signings: David Clarkson, Tim Sestito
Regardless of contracts, the Devils made off with some of the best free agents available around the league in less than one week.
They've already added former-Predator Jason Arnott, former-Sabre Henrik Tallinder, former-Senator Anton Volchenkov, and former-Thrasher Johan Hedburg to completely fill out their already-talented roster...and might they soon add Ilya Kovalchuk to that list?
Both Tallinder and Volchenkov should provide some much-needed defensive support in front of aging superstar goalie Martin Brodeur, as well as production from the blue line. Hedburg should also become a more steady backup behind Brodeur, and reacquired forward Jason Arnott will add some grit and experience.
Now, what else could "Kovy" add?
Loser: Calgary Flames
Acquisitions: Henrik Karlsson (SJS), Logan MacMillan (ANA), Alex Tanguay (TBL), Olli Jokinen (NYR), Tim Jackman (NYI), Raitis Ivanans (LAK)
Losses: Jason Jaffray (ANA), Eric Nystrom (MIN), Chris Higgins (FLA)
Re-signings: Cam Cunning
Calgary has become a team of second chances.
Two well-known former Flames will be headed back to Alberta this summer: Alex Tanguay will be returning from a few years in Tampa Bay, and Olli Jokinen will be back following a trade to the New York Rangers just a few months ago.
However, both of them may be more expensive and less talented than some others available, not to mention that both Tanguay and Jokinen's first stints in Calgary weren't overly productive.
Additionally, giving aging forwards Raitis Ivanans and Tim Jackman a combined $3.3 million over the next two seasons was also absurd...and that's not even considering they combined for a whopping nine points in 115 games in 2009-2010.
The Flames now have the third-least cap space remaining of all 30 teams, and likewise don't have many options to work with...although, perhaps NOT making any more moves may be the best idea left for Calgary.
Surprise: Phoenix Coyotes
Acquisitions: Patrick O'Sullivan (EDM), Ray Whitney (CAR), Andrew Ebbett (MIN), Garrett Stafford (DAL), Matt Climie (DAL), Nolan Yonkman (NSH), Bracken Kearns (CHI),
Losses: Daniel Winnik (COL), Jim Vandermeer (EDM), Zbynek Michalek (PIT), Joel Parrault (VAN), Matthew Lombardi (NSH) Peteri Nokelainen (buyout)
Re-Signings: Scottie Upshall, Wojtek Wolski, Taylor Pyatt, Derek Morris, Al Montoya, Sami Lepisto, Mathieu Beaudoin, Adrian Aucoin, David Schlemko, Ryan Hollweg
After several years of disappointing play and relocation talks, the Coyotes may have managed to turn it around after a very successful season.
However, who knows whether they'll still be the same 'Yotes after a week as insane as this one was in the desert.
An incredible 17 new contracts were dealt out—tops in the league—including re-signing forwards Scottie Upshall, Wojtek Wolski, Derek Morris, and Sami Lepisto, as well as bringing in forwards Ray Whitney from Carolina and expensive Patrick O'Sullivan from Edmonton.
No one expected the measly, financially-unstable Coyotes to be active at all. But instead they were among the busiest teams in the league.
Incredibly, they still have $14 million left...who else might get a new offer?
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. In his 21 months so far with the site, he has written over 210 articles and received over 160,000 total reads.
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