On July 1st Tim and I gave our free agency predictions for this summer and wow were we way off. I don't think either one of us should try our luck betting on anything in Las Vegas because we will surely be walking home empty-handed. Here's a look at the embarrassment that is our free agency picks. Now some people may say that its tough to guess where guys will go and that's true but Tim and I were way off and we also put three players on this list (Adam Foote, Tomas Holmstrom, and Todd Bertuzzi) that had already re-signed with their clubs. Can you say fail? Because we sure as hell can.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ)- Eric: Los Angeles Kings; Tim: Los Angeles Kings.
He came close to signing there but New Jersey threw a 17 year contract at him and he couldn't resist signing it, there was only one problem with the deal, the NHL didn't approve of it. Due to the contract manipulating the salary cap, the NHL shot down the 17 year/$102 million contract Kovie signed just a few days ago.
2. Evgeni Nabokov (KHL)- Eric: Dallas Stars; Tim: Atlanta Thrashers. Nabby proved us both wrong as he bolted to the KHL for the next couple years.
3. Anton Volchenkov (NJ)- Eric: New York Rangers; Tim: Vancouver Canucks
Guess what? We were both wrong again as the A-Train signed a 6 year/$25.5 million contract with the Devils on July 1st.
4. Raffi Torres (FA)- Tim said Torres would go to the Islanders and I said.....ahhhh who cares? Its Raffi Torres, he's still a free agent. Lets move on. The only reason he’s in the four spot on our list is due to the fact that he was a replacement free agent, our original pick for this spot had already re-signed. He's not the 4th best free agent out there, not now, not ever. Moving on.
5. Marty Turco (FA)- Eric: Atlanta Thrashers; Tim: San Jose Sharks. I'm betting the deal that the Flyers gave him a few weeks ago looks good now considering this declining goalie has overplayed his hand and now doesn't have a contract. It's reminiscent of Martin Biron last off-season. Good job Marty.
6. Matthew Lombardi(NSH): Eric: Phoenix Coyotes; Tim: Phoenix Coyotes. Lombardi shocked some people when he signed a three year deal with the Nashville Predators. The Predators have been a bit quiet even though they have a great deal of money to throw around but Lombardi is a good signing for them.
7. Alexander Frolov (FA): Eric: New York Rangers; Tim: Colorado Avalanche. Frolov is still sitting in free agency and it doesn't appear that he will sign anytime soon, he's an explosive player with a lot of talent which I think all 30 teams would like to add to their rosters.
8. Vaclav Prospal (NYR): Eric: New York Rangers; Tim: Ottawa Senators
Finally one of us got a prediction right as Vaclav Prospal re-signed with the Rangers for one year worth a little bit over $1 million with about another $1 million in bonuses. Okay so if you're keeping score at home that's Eric: 1; Tim: 0.
Stay tuned because the score is going to get even higher....not really, it’s slightly depressing how low the score will be.
9. Pavel Kubina (TBL): Eric: Nashville Predators; Tim: Florida Panthers. Yet another wrong prediction for the both of us as Kubina went back to the team that originally drafted him. 2 years/$7.7 million with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
10. Olli Jokinen(CAL): Eric: New York Rangers; Tim: KHL. This had to be the most laughable signing of free agency so far. Chokinen, you like the nickname? I like it a lot, anyway he signed a 2 year/$6 million deal to go back to Calgary. Even all of the guys on TSN were laughing at this deal. Oh Darryl Sutter, I'll make fun of you some more later don't you worry.
11. Teemu Selanne(FA): Eric: Retire; Tim: Retire
He hasn't decided on his future yet but I think its time he hangs up his skates. Its annoying to hear all the talk about whether he will come back or not, granted its nowhere as bad as Brett Favre talk but if I have to hear about either wanting to come back and all that non-sense then I'm running head first into the wall closest to me. Enough is enough.
12. Zbynek Michalek(PIT): Eric: Carolina Hurricanes; Tim: Philadelphia Flyers. He was described as "The Defenseman Every Team Wants" well the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to sign him to a 4 year/$20 million contract to help cope with the loss of Sergei Gonchar.
13. Paul Martin(PIT): Eric: New Jersey Devils; Tim: New Jersey Devils. Pittsburgh wasn't done enhancing their defense as they signed Paul Martin to a 5 year/$25 million deal best part for the Penguins is that they stole him from the division rival Devils.
14. Paul Kariya(FA): Eric: Anaheim Ducks; Tim: Anaheim Ducks.
Paul Kariya is still a very good winger who can use his speed and good shot to help out any of the 30 teams in the league. He had his most success with the Anaheim Ducks from 1994-2003 it would make sense for him to go back there as his career winds down.
15. Sergei Gonchar(OTT): Eric: Pittsburgh Penguins; Tim: Atlanta Thrashers. Gonchar is a great offensive defenseman and even at the age of 36 was able to put up 50 points last year from the blue-line which is why the Senators signed him to a 3 year/$16 million deal. 3 years may be a bit much for a 36 year old player but Gonchar might be worth it.
16. Shaone Morrisonn(FA): Eric: Boston Bruins; Tim: Ottawa Senators. Morrisonn still hasn't found a home but the 27 year old stay-at-home defenseman should find a home soon enough and you should expect him to make a big impact for whatever team he laces his skates up for this season.
17. Alexei Ponikarovsky(FA): Eric: Nashville Predators; Tim: New York Rangers. Poni is a solid winger with good size who likes to crash the net. He has scored at least 20 goals in four out of the last five seasons (he had 18 in 2007-2008). You can expect at least 20 goals and 20 assists out of him every year so he will find a good home soon enough.
18. Ray Whitney(PHO): Eric: Los Angeles Kings; Tim: Los Angeles Kings. All season long all you heard about was how much L.A was chasing after Ray Whitney so my colleague and I figured that's where he would go but Whitney shocked us when he signed a 2 year/$6 million contract with the Phoenix Coyotes. He can still put up 20 goals and give you at least 50-60 points a year.
19. Saku Koivu(ANA): Eric: Minnesota Wild; Tim: Minnesota Wild
Koivu played in Montreal for 13 years, 10 of which he was the captain. Last off-season he and the Canadiens parted ways and he signed a one-year deal worth $3.25 million with the Anaheim Ducks. He decided to stay in Anaheim on a 2 year/$5 million deal.
20. Maxim Afinogenov(FA): Eric: New Jersey Devils; Tim: Minnesota Wild. Afinogenov was finally able to return to his 05-06 and 06-07 form as he tallied 61 points for the Thrashers this season. Armed with a ton of speed and a wicked shot Afinogenov is a force to be reckoned with when he's healthy. From 2007-2009 Maxim only played 104 games and only tallied 16 goals and 32 assist for a total of 48 points. Any team looking at him will have to be cautious and think about those two years before signing him to any kind of lucrative deal.
21. Dan Hamhuis(VAN): Eric: Pittsburgh Penguins; Tim: Pittsburgh Penguins. Hamhuis had an interesting path to free agency. He spent the last five seasons in Nashville and it was obvious that he wasn't going to re-sign. The Predators traded Hamhuis to the Flyers, who had been coveting Hamhuis all season, for one-time Predator Ryan Parent who was acquired by the Flyers in the Peter Forsberg trade. Hamhuis and the Flyers could not reach any sort of agreement so he was traded to the division and in-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins for a 3rd round pick. Hamhuis couldn't come to an agreement with the Penguins either and he hit the open market July 1st where he signed a 6 year/$27 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks.
22. Dan Ellis(TBL): Eric: Montreal Canadiens; Tim: Dallas Stars
With the emergence of Pekka Rinne in Nashville, Dan Ellis became expendable. He was traded along with Dusin Boyd to the Montreal Canadiens for troubled winger Sergei Kostitsyn. Ellis and the Canadiens couldn't come to an agreement and he hit the open market where he signed a two year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
23. Alex Tanguay(CAL): Eric: Florida Panthers; Tim: Pittsburgh Penguins. Here is where I go back to ripping on Darryl Sutter. Signing Jokinen was bad, signing Tanguay wasn't horrible since its only a one-year deal worth $1.7 million but what the hell does Sutter expect? He's bringing back players that used to play for the Flames who played well for the team but are now past their primes and are rapidly declining. Tanguay is eager to prove that he can still be a productive player but I'm not a believer.
24. Tomas Holmstrom(DET): Eric: Detroit Red Wings; Tim: Montreal Canadiens. Okay so this one of the players Tim and I didn't realize that re-signed. Even though I was technically right about where he went, no point will be awarded for that.
25. Chris Mason(ATL): Eric: San Jose Sharks; Tim: Tampa Bay Lightning With the addition of Halek in St. Louis we all knew Mason would not be returning to the Blues. Mason is a good goalie that would help out any team, the Thrasher felt the same way as they inked the goalie to a 2 year/$3.7 million deal.
26. Michael Leighton(PHI): Eric: Philadelphia Flyers; Tim: Philadelphia Flyers. Praise the lord we finally have a prediction that is correct. Leighton was a big surprise for the Flyers this past season. The big issue for the Flyers coming into every single season for the past decade has been their goaltending. Is Leighton the key? Maybe. He proved to be solid especially in the playoffs but he needs prove that he can do it again, he has the next two years in Philly to prove something to everyone. Score: Eric-2; Tim-1. A real barn burner going on here between Tim and I, its still better than watching a World Cup game.
27. Adam Foote(COL): Eric: Colorado Avalanche; Tim: Colorado Avalanche. Yet another person that re-signed with their club and made it onto our list. No points, moving on.
28. Joe Corvo(CAR): Eric: Washington Capitals; Tim: St. Louis Blues
Corvo was traded from Carolina to Washington at the trade deadline this past season and Corvo has decided to go back to Carolina on a 2 year/$5.5 million.
29. Owen Nolan(FA): Eric: Minnesota Wild; Tim: Minnesota Wild.
This past season we said good-bye to plenty of hall of fame caliber players(Rod Brind'Amour, Keith Tkachuk, Scott Niedermayer, Rob Blake) Owen Nolan will fall into this list within the next few years but he isn't willing to go away just yet and who would want him to retire? He's one of the best power forwards to ever play the game and is still competing at a high level. Leadership, determination, grit, 15-20 goals, its safe to say he can still bring something to the table.
30. Willie Mitchell(FA): Eric: Toronto Maple Leafs; Tim: Dallas Stars Mitchell is a tough defensive defenseman, hes a great leader and hes not afraid to throw himself in front of the puck. The only reason Mitchell hasn't found a new home is due to his post-concussion syndrome, which is a very tricky injury. In January Mitchell was hit by Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and his head was driven into the boards and he suffered a concussion which sidelined him for the rest of the season. If Mitchell can prove he is healthy and ready to go, I'm sure teams will be lining up at his door with contract offers.
31. Andy Sutton(FA): Eric: Buffalo Sabres; Tim: Washington Capitals
Andy "The Expert" Sutton was acquired by the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline last year from the New York Islanders. Sutton is a rough and tough defenseman who plays with an edge to his game, which lead to the infamous "Expert" incedent in the playoffs this season. With an abundance of defensive defenseman on the market I wouldnt expect Sutton to be signing any time soon, he will most likely wait and see how the market will shape for a player like him.
32. Jose Theodore(FA): Eric: KHL; Tim: New York Islanders
I personally respect Theodore because at the beginning of the season he lost his two month old son due to illness, Theodore was able to play through all the pain and have a solid season. But this is a business and no one gives you a contract over a feel good story, Theodore is on a slippery slope and if it weren't for Washington's high-powered offense then Theodore would have been one of the worst goalies in the NHL. The lockout was Theodore's downfall, in the five seasons he started before the lockout his goals against average was 2.39, in the five years after it has inflated to 2.96. Theodore's time in the NHL might be coming to an end.
33. Pavol Demitra(KHL): Eric: New York Islanders; Tim: St. Louis Blues Demitra has been a consistant player for the past few years, netting at least 20-25 goals and talling at least 50-60 points but the 35 year old forward is running into injury trouble. Demitra missed most of the 2009-2010 season with shoulder issues, he had two shoulder surgeries last off-season for torn front and back rotator cuffs and he was limited to 28 games this season due to setbacks. He decided to go to the KHL on a one-year deal.
34. Todd Bertuzzi(DET): Eric: San Jose Sharks; Tim: Pittsburgh Penguins Another player who had re-signed already....moving on.
35. Brett Clark (TBL): Eric: Colorado Avalance; Tim: New York Rangers After six years in Colorado, Brett Clark has moved onto the Tampa Bay Lightning for the next two seasons. Clark brings his leadership, toughness, and grit to a Lightning team that has very much improved this offseason thanks to Steve Yzerman.
36. Johan Hedberg(NJ): Eric: Washington Capitals; Tim: New York Rangers Moose was brought into New Jersey to lighten Martin Brodeur's work load. Hedberg will most likely start 20-25 so that Marty can be rested and ready to go when the Devils make their playoff push.
37. Colby Armstrong(TOR): Eric: Tampa Bay Lightning; Tim: Calgary Flames Armstrong was the 21st overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft, he hasn't really ever blossomed in the NHL but that didn't stop Toronto from signing him to a bad contract. Armstrong signed a 3 year/$9 million contract, Armstrong has averaged only 34 points per season the last three years so that means he makes roughly a million dollars per ten points. Chin up Jeff Finger, you are no longer the only below-average player that the Leafs are paying $3 million a year for, spending money is fun isn't it Brian Burke?
38. Fredrik Modin(FA): Eric: Dallas Stars; Tim: New York Islanders
Modin has really hit a road block in his career, he has only played 117 games in the last three seasons and has only tallied 20 goals and 28 assists for a total of 48 points. There aren't many teams who will be interested in his services so maybe the KHL might be an option.
39. Eric Belanger(FA): Eric: Los Angeles Kings; Tim: New Jersey Devils You want someone who is the apitamy of a consistant player? Then Eric Belanger is your guy, you know what your going to get from him and thats great when your attempting to sign a free agent. Since 2002-2003 Belanger has had at least 33 points, this season he posted a career high of 41 points this season. Belanger is a great defensive forward who will give you anywhere from 33-40 points.
40. Derek Morris(PHO): Eric: Columbus Blue Jackets; Tim: Carolina Hurricanes Morris' top offensive days are over and it seems that he is declining at a some what rapid pace, he's still a good leader to have for a young Coyotes team and he can still put up 25 points.
41. Antero Niittymaki(SJS): Eric: Philadelphia Flyers; Tim: Philadelphia Flyers Niitty is still a solid goaltender who hasn't really ever gotten a chance to start, with Nabby out in San Jose, Niitty will finally get his shot. Time is running out on Niittymaki though so he needs to make his time in the shark tank count.
42. Matt Cullen(MIN): Eric: St.Louis Blues; Tim: Washington Capitals
Another consistant centerman, Cullen can provide 40-50 points a season and has Stanley Cup expierence from his 2006 season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Cullen signed a 3 year/$10.5 million contract with the Minnesota Wild, is a consitant 40-50 point centerman worth almost $4 million a year? I guess we shall see.
43. Henrik Tallinder(NJ): Eric: Anaheim Ducks; Tim: Carolina Hurricanes The Devils got much tougher on defense this year, they added Anton Volchenkov for six years and they added long-time Buffalo Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder for the next four years. Tallinder isn't the rough and tough defenseman that Volchenkov is but he is solid in his own end and isn't going to chip in much offensively but he plays that Devils style of hockey, defensive which also means the trap defense which equals boring hockey.
44. Jere Lehtinen(FA): Eric: Dallas Stars; Tim: Dallas Stars
The three-time Selke award winner, for best defensive forward, has run into injury problems and his age is starting to catch-up with him. He won't score 30 goals anymore but 15 goals and 20 assists is still possible for him
45. Kurtis Foster(EDM): Eric: Tampa Bay Lightning; Tim: Columbus Blue Jackets Foster had a great season last year, recovering from a broken left femur that sidelined him for about half of the 2007-2008 season and most of the 2008-2009 season, Foster came back and showed everyone that he can compete at a high-level as he tallied 42 points in his first full season back, thats 14 points more than his previous career high which he set in 2005-2006. Foster has now moved onto the Edmonton Oilers and this is where I'm going to rain on his parade, he will not put up 40 points again in Edmonton. In Tampa he played with Stamkos, Lecavalier, and St.Louis, three elite players. Edmonton is a mess and nowhere as equiped with superstar talent as Tampa, expect a drop in points for sure.
46. Jay McKee(FA): Eric: New Jersey Devils; Tim: Montreal Canadiens
Mckee is still a player who can be added to an NHL roster and make an immediate impact, hes on of the NHL's best shot blockers and every team likes guys that are willing to give up their bodies for the sake of the team. He's the poor man's Anton Volchenkov, in a sense.
47. Marek Svatos(FA): Eric: New York Rangers; Tim: KHL
Svatos had a strong start to his NHL career, he had 73 goals in his first three seasons but only 21 in the last two. Svatos just seems to be falling apart and needs to leave Colorado, a change of sceneary will do him good but since the 2005-2006 season was such a crazy year for offense since it was the season after the lockout and all the rules were changed, Svatos had 32 goals that year his career high so far. This version of Mark Svatos may be the real player that was hidden due to rule changes that helped offenses, if this is the Svatos that teams are going to get then don't expect many teams to sit down at the negoatiating table with him.
48. Ryan Johnson(FA): Eric: Pittsburgh Penguins; Tim: Nashville Predators Johnson is your typical defensive forward, he hits, blocks shots and plays penalty killing minutes other than that he doesn't offer much, he won't hit the back of the net many times but he is one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL.
49. Lee Stempniak(FA): Eric: Minnesota Wild; Tim: Detroit Red Wings
Stempniak is an odd free agent, he's never really been a consistant scorer in the NHL. He had one good season in St.Louis which saw him score 27 goals, since then he has kinda just flown under the radar collecting about 15-20 goals. This past season he had 30 points in 61 games with the Maple Leafs, 14 goals 16 assists, he was then traded to the Phoenix Coyotes where he scored 14 goals in 18 games. Now if any team thinks they are getting the Stempniak that played in Phoenix then they are insane, some players just flourish when they get moved at the trade deadline and then dont do much when they either stay with that team *cough Sean Avery cough* or move on to a new team.
50. Martin Biron(NYR): Eric: New York Rangers; Tim: Buffalo Sabres Well the depressing road has come to an end and I have a strong finish as I get the last player on our list correct. About two minutes into free agency Martin Biron inked a deal to back-up Henrik Lundqvist in New York. Biron was linked to the Rangers all season and they finally got the back-up they coveted.
Final Score: Eric-3; Tim-1
Okay so out of 28 of the 47 free agents have homes(3 had already re-signed) I got 3 correct which is 10% right, and Tim got 1 out of 28 which is 3%. We still have 19 more free agents to go but this is bad, we both have joked about how horrible our picks were this year and this proves that we need to do a little bit better next season.
Free agency has been slow this year but I believe that once Ilya Kovalchuk's situation is figured out then the second-tier guys will start to go, a domino effect in a sense.
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