With the 2011 Free Agency period officially open, its only a matter of time before the spending spree begins. How will your team fare in the 2011 free agent frenzy? Where will Brad Richards sign? Where will Tomas Kaberle end up? These questions and more are likely to be answered in the next twenty-four hours, so continue to check back and see how your favorite team has fared thus far.
Check back here for up-to-the-minute reactions and analysis on all of July 1's action. I will be updating the slide show as more signings are announced, so keep checking back!
The Avalanche have traded first and second round picks for enigmatic but uber-talented Russian netminder. While Varlamov had struggled to hold down the number one job in Washington, he remains one of the most talented young goaltenders in the NHL. If he is able to finally start to make good on all of his potential, the Avs will have acquired their first true franchise netminder since Patrick Roy.
This grade has a lot of potential to improve once the questions surrounding Varlamov are resolved. There were numerous rumors earlier in the week that Semyon was considering a return to the KHL, but preferred the NHL. There is also the high price paid by the Avs for Varlamov: a probably lottery pick and high-second round pick. That's a lot to give up for a player that has yet to prove he can handle the starting job for an NHL franchise.
If Varlamov makes good on his talent and steps into the #1 role for the Avs long-term, this could end up as a very good trade. But right now, there are simply too many unanswered questions and too many risks for the Avs to justify a higher grade.
Dale Tallon continues to make headlines, signing former first overall pick Ed Jovanovski to a four-year deal worth 16.5 million dollars. This is another solid move for the Panthers, who needed more help on the blueline. Jovanovski will bring veteran savvy, offensive ability and solid defensive play to the Panthers, who are looking to contend for a playoff spot in 2011-2012.
Jovanovski is another team-first, high-character player, and he should bring a lot to the intangibles that have been missing in the Panthers locker room for the past few years.
I like the signing of Jovanovski, but the length (4 years) and cap hit (4.13M) are a little steep for the injury-prone 34-year old defenseman. If Jovo can stay healthy and productive, this could end up as another solid move for Tallon. If not, Tallon has still added salary.
Heading into free agency, one of the most glaring holes in the Columbus lineup was on the blueline. The signing of the 27 year-old puck-moving defenseman should provide back-end support for the big two of Jeff Carter and Rich Nash, as well as provide an anchor for the Blue Jacket powerplay.
The only downside to this signing is the contract itself. 6 years/33 million dollars is a hefty price to pay for a good, but not great, defenseman. The price is understandable in the sense that Columbus was going to have to overpay in order to attract a solid, talented veteran core.
Columbus needed a puck-moving offensive defenseman, and they got one of the best available in James Wisniewski. While they did overpay, its part of the cost of re-building. Solid move by Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
One of the biggest surprises of the past few days has been the willingness of the Buffalo Sabres to take the next step and start spending like a big-market team. I'll admit that I was initially skeptical when the Sabres and Terry Pegula said they were ready to be major players in the free agent and trade markets. When Buffalo pulled off a major trade to bring in Robyn Regehr to bolster their blueline, I figured it was going to be the first and last major move they made in 2011. I'll be the first to admit I was wrong.
The signing of Christian Ehrhoff is a major addition to an already stellar Sabres blueline. With youngsters Tyler Myers and Marc-Andre Gragnani, established veterans Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera, and recent additions Robeyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff, the Sabres defense should be among the best in the NHL.
What makes this deal an absolute steal is the contract value: 10 years, 40 million dollars. Compared to the deals received by fellow defenseman James Wisniewski (6/33) and Andre Markov (3/15.75), the 4 million dollar cap hit for arguably the best available blueliner is a tremendous signing.
I love the signing of Ehrhoff, and I love the message it sends to rest of the NHL. The Sabres are ready to take the next step, and they finally have an owner in billionaire Terry Pegula that is willing to open up the checkbook to make that happen.
The is a savvy signing by Florida GM Dale Tallon. With Tomas Vokoun set to hit free agency and likely to receive several substantial offers, the Panthers needed a goaltender who can fill either the starting role or the backup role, as well as potentially serve as a mentor for the young Jacob Markstrom. Theodore is a player that can do exactly that, and with a two-year, 3 million dollar contract, the price was right.
With back-to-back solid seasons in WSH and MIN, Theodore looks ready to take on a bigger role in FLA. Solid signing by Dale Tallon and Florida Panthers.
The Blackhawks made a great move in signing veteran depth defenseman Sean O'Donnell. The 39-year old is one of the most respected players in the league, and he brings a calming presence and playoff experience to a new-look Hawks blueline.
O'Donnell won't light up a scoresheet or make "Top Plays" on ESPN often, but he will give 110% every shift, stand up for his teammates, and serve as a great mentor and ambassador for the Blackhawks franchise.
The one-year, 850 thousand dollar contract is a tremendous value for a player like Sean O'Donnell. Great signing for the 'Hawks.
The Philadelphia Flyers continue to surprise, signing 39-year old Czech winger Jaromir Jagr to a one-year, 3.3 million dollar contract. After all of the changes made to this team during the past few weeks, this is one move that is sure to provide some consistency and some reliable offense. Throughout his career, Jagr has been a point-per-game player on every team he has played. His work ethic has improved, his attitude has improved, and his understanding of the game has improved.
While he most certainly is not the explosive skater and the scoring demon he once was, Jagr still has one of the best pairs of hands in the world. He showed he can still play with the best at the World Championships, and I expect that success to continue in Philadelphia. He'll most likely be put on a line with Claude Giroux and James van Reimsdyk, which could wind up as one of the most dominant lines in the Atlantic Division.
I expect Jagr to net between 20 and 28 goals, and total between 50 and 75 points in 2011-2012. Great signing by Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.
Jagr, even at 39, is a top 6 forward in the NHL. He's demonstrated that he's more than capable of playing against the best in the world at the World Championships, and his cap hit is a very manageable 3.3 million dollars. Some may say the price was too high, but on a Flyers team that desperately needs some offensive consistency, Jagr is one of the two best options available (along with B. Richards).
The Canucks moved to re-sign two key contributors to the team that came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup in 2010-2011.
Salo received a one-year, 2M dollar contract; Higgins a two-year, 3.8 million dollar contract. Both deals are solid moves by Canucks GM Mike Gillis.
In Salo, the Canucks get a solid veteran all-around defenseman with a booming shot from the point. In Higgins, they retain one of their better two-way forwards, who has solid offensive instincts and is very responsible defensively.
Solid value moves by the Canucks. There's really no other way to put it.
I love this signing by Florida GM Dale Tallon. Upshall is a high-energy player who has a contagious positive attitude—something that's going to be needed in the Panther's locker room as the season progresses. Upshall signed a four-year, $14 million deal, which is right about market value for a player of Upshall's caliber.
Upshall's up-tempo, high-energy playing style should make him a fan favorite in Florida, and his ability to score at the NHL level (22 goals in 2010-2011) should allow him to play a top six role on an up-and-coming Panthers team.
Another excellent value move by Florida GM Dale Tallon. Upshall brings a lot to the young Panthers team, both on and off the ice. Expect him to score between 15 and 25 goals in 2011-2012.