NHL Free Agency Begins: Defenseman are a Premium

Frank Trovato@@voiceislanderfnCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 10:  Martin Biron #43 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on April 10, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The NHL free agency period has begun and defensemen are getting scooped up on day one and being paid handsomely.

One of the biggest winners so far is Paul Martin formerly of the New Jersey Devils scoring a five-year 25 million dollar contract from the Penguins. The Devils quickly turned around and replaced Martin with Anton Volchenkov by coughing up $25.5 million over 6 years ,and four years and 13.5 million for Henrik Tallinder.

Sergei Gonchar did not let the door hit him on his way out of Pittsburgh by taking a three-year 16.5 million dollar deal from Ottawa.

Toni Lydman managed to get someone to give him 3 years and 9 million continuing the free agent parade out of Buffalo that has been going on since Briere and Drury left.

In a bit of a head scratcher Pittsburgh also picked up former Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek and gave him $20 million over five years. Michalek is not going to wow you with his skills but he can eat minutes and dependable NHL defenseman are at a premium.

Also in the head scratcher category, Dan Hamhuis scored a $27 million dollar 6 year contract from Vancouver. $4.5 million per year for this guy?

Really?

Other defenseman who are off the market are Derek Morris (four years, 11 million) resigning with Phoenix, Sean O'Donnel (one year, one million) with Philadelphia and Kurtis Foster (two years, 3.6 million) with Tampa Bay.

While I am surprised the Devils did not push harder for the young, talented Paul Martin to resign it is obvious that defensemen scored some long, rich contracts on day 1.

Most of the more attractive free agent forwards are still out there including Mr. Kovalchuk who is sure to net well over 100 million dollars and the only question is - Who is going to give it to him?

On the Islanders front Martin Biron making the odd move of signing with the Rangers to back up Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist is going to play 70 games and unless the Rangers are going to reduce his work load Biron is going to spend a lot of the next two years on the bench.

I just figured that Marty after the frustrating season on the Island would want to play more games than he did a year ago and unless Lundqvist gets injured that is simply not going to happen.

Jeff Tambellini took a one year $500K deal from the Canucks so the bane of Ted Nolan is gone and if you ask me good riddance. It was way past the time for Jeff to produce on the Island and his spot can be taken by one of the Islanders prospects on the rise. I wish him well.

Jeremy Reich left the Island and signed with the Bruins. Yawn.

If I may be so bold to offer Garth Snow some advice, go sign Lee Stempniak.

Who do you think will land Kovalchuk? Who should the Islanders pursue if anyone? Who overpaid their free agent defensemen?

Leave your comments below.

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