Saturday, July 01, 2006

A free-agent frenzy

On Day 1 in 2005, no fewer than nine notable free agents were snapped up: Tony Amonte, Adrian Aucoin, Adam Foote, Pavol Demitra, Derian Hatcher, Bobby Holik, Darren McCarty, Cory Stillman and Alexei Zhitnik.

So far today, we've had 30 signings, and many of them of the significant variety. Here's a look at what's happened (will be updated throughout the day):

Today's UFA signings (in order of $$)
- latest updates

Zdeno Chara, Boston, five years ($37.5-million)
Huge money here, enough to make Chara the second-highest paid defenceman in the NHL. The regime change has involved a marked contrast with the Bruins way of doing things, and this could definitely be a team to watch next season. The team's defence core now looks as follows: Chara, Mara, Stuart, Tanabe, Jurcina and Alberts. Not too shabby at all. The Bruins look like they'll be up against the cap this season, however, given that they decided against buying out Alexei Zhamnov's $4.1-million deal. (UPDATE: As a reader noted in the comments section, Zhamnov's ankle injury looks as it may be career-ending, meaning his salary will not count against the cap. A break for Boston, to be sure.)

Ed Jovanovski, Phoenix, five years ($32.5-million)
An interesting signing for a team that's going to , although rumours yesterday had mentioned the Coyotes were after the former Canuck. Personally, I think Jovanovski is similar to Bryan McCabe in that he'll be overpaid based on his offensive contributions. (He's being compensated as if he's one of the league's Top 5 blueliners with this deal.) Jovanovski is 30 years old and has had significant injuries for three seasons in a row. His contributions on the power play provide an expensive — and slight — upgrade over those lost when Phoenix dealt away Paul Mara earlier this week.

Rob Blake, Los Angeles, two years ($12-million)
The 36-year-old Blake benefits from the blueliner bidding, picking up a nice contract given his age and the half decent season he had last year. Blake looked during the playoffs like he'd lost more than a step, but in a power play role he's still one of the best there is.

Patrik Elias, New Jersey, seven years ($42-million)

Pavel Kubina, Toronto, four years ($20-million)
Wow, wow, wow. The numbers have been high so far today, but $5-million a year for Kubina? The Chara and Jovanovski deals prove that the elite, top-end defencemen are going to get top-end dollars, but Kubina is clearly outside of that Top 20 range. His career high for points came this past season when he had just 38. The Maple Leafs now have $15-million of the $44-million cap dedicated to their top three blueliners.

Marc Savard, Boston, five years ($20-million)
The Bruins strike again. Boston wasn't a team a lot of people were talking about heading into this free-agency period, but here they are, snapping up two of the biggest names available. Savard was one of the NHL's leading scorers before going down with an injury in 2003-04, and then followed that year up with a huge 97-point season in 2006. The Bruins will use Savard with Glen Murray, who had a poor year without Joe Thornton last season, and will keep their top unit of Sturm-Bergeron-Boyes together.

Mark Parrish, Minnesota, five years ($13.25-million)
Another boost for the Wild's offence. There have been recent rumblings that fans in Minnesota are growing impatient with the team's failure to take steps forward (and score goals), and I think so far this year that this is as active an offseason as I've ever seen the franchise take. Parrish had a fairly poor year last season, but is a Minnesota native and took somewhat of a hometown discount in order to secure a long-term deal with the Wild.

Dwayne Roloson, Edmonton, three years ($11-million)
That's quite a term for a 36-year-old goaltender — especially given his injury in the postseason — and the dollar figure could definitely be a problem should Roloson be relegated to a backup role at some point during the contract's length.

Martin Gerber, Ottawa, three years ($11.1-million)
I'd heard the Gerber to Ottawa rumours the past few days, so this one didn't come as a surprise. He's considered the best of the somewhat mediocre class of UFA goaltenders available this summer, but offers some nice insurance along with Ray Emery in the Senators goal. This also ensures Dominik Hasek is moving on.

Willie Mitchell, Vancouver, four years ($14-million)
Regardless of what happens, the Canucks defence core will look remarkably different next season due to the loss of Jovanovski. Mitchell receives $3.5-million per year, which is going to really put GM Dave Nonis in a tough spot with the salary cap. Even if the team can shuttle out veterans like Matt Cooke and Dan Cloutier, this will still be a roster with a ton of minimum-salary types on it.

Filip Kuba, Tampa Bay, three years ($9-million)

Matt Cullen, N.Y. Rangers, four years ($11.2-million)
The Rangers pick up a guy who had 49 points this season and added 18 more in the playoffs. Cullen's a versatile player who can play centre or the wing. He's fast and an excellent puckhandler and will bring another element to the Rangers power play, but this is a lot to pay for a guy who's yet to hit the 50-point mark in his career.

Joe Corvo, Ottawa, four years ($10.5-million)
And the bidding war continues. The Senators lost a lot of offence from their blueline in both Pothier and Chara, so it makes sense they'd bring in a guy who put up some decent points from the power play last year. The problem I see with Corvo, aside from his somewhat shady past, is that at 29 years old he's only had one impressive NHL season. $2.625-million seems like a lot to pay, but defencemen are going like hotcakes today.

Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey, five years ($14-million)
It's interesting he didn't opt to test the market, as given his playoff success over the years, my guess is he'd be an attractive commodity to a lot of teams.

Keith Carney, Minnesota, terms undisclosed

Hal Gill, Toronto, three years ($6.3-million)
Another huge defenceman for the Maple Leafs. Gill received $1.6-million from the Bruins last season and plays a game that isn't particularly suited to the quicker pace the NHL adopted in 2005-06. $2.1-million a year is too high for a player that's going to fill a No. 4 or 5 role (and this deal makes me wonder just how high the bidding for Jay McKee has gotten as the Leafs must have dropped out). Toronto also has a wealth of prospects on the blueline that should have been given an opportunity to fill out the remaining positions behind McCabe, Kaberle and Kubina.

Chris Osgood, Detroit, two years
Another year as a backup to whoever GM Ken Holland decides to bring in.

Francis Bouillon, Montreal, three years ($5.625-million)

John Grahame, Carolina, two years ($2.8-million)
Cam Ward, you have a backup. The Hurricanes obviously think Grahame's going to eliminate the 25-per-cent rule he'd adopted during the 2006 playoffs.

Brian Pothier, Washington, four years ($10-million)
The Capitals are short in the veteran defencemen category, and Pothier gives them a decent enough option in that regard. He instantly becomes one of the team's top blueliners, and may even put up significant point totals as a power-play quarter back. Pothier was reportedly seeking big figures given his production to this point, so it'll be interesting to see what the dollar amount is here (UPDATE: Annnnnd, it's a high one folks. Hard to believe a guy who hadn't played more than 55 games in a season prior to 2005-06 now earns $2.5-million).

Andrei Zyuzin, Calgary, two years ($2.8-million)
This might be the answer to the question 'Who replaces Jordan Leopold on the Flames back end?'

Curtis Brown, San Jose, terms undisclosed

Chris Mason, Nashville, two years ($2.5-million)

Scott Thornton, Los Angeles, two years ($3-million)
Joe Thornton's cousin gets a one-way ticket down the highway. Seems like a lot to pay for Thornton's 21 points last season.

Dallas Drake, St. Louis, two years ($2.2-million)

Scott Mellanby, Atlanta, one year ($1-million)

Tyler Arnason, Colorado, one year ($950,000)
Arnason is quickly gaining a bad reputation for having a poor work ethic, but I really don't think he was given much of a chance in Ottawa. With the Avalanche, he's got a shot at a No. 2 centre spot, and he likely comes cheap. Could be a rebound season.

Nolan Baumgartner, Philadelphia, two years
It was a remarkably productive year for Baumgartner in his first season as an NHL regular with the Canucks. The Flyers are losing some offensive punch from their defence in Kim Johnsson, and Baumgartner may be the one to fill that role.

Andy Delmore, Tampa Bay, one year
The AHL defenceman of the year gets a shot with yet another NHL team. The Lightning desperately need defence with Kubina gone, and my guess is Delmore sticks with the big club this time around, if only for power-play duty.

Patrick Lalime, Chicago, one year ($700,000)
Wayyyy down at the bottom, the Ottawa Senators former starting netminder gets what may be his last shot at an NHL job. Lalime's fall from grace has been sudden — and difficult to watch — and he's going to be in tough here behind a clear No. 1 (Nikolai Khabibulin) and an awful team. In terms of plain personality, Lalime's as nice a guy as they come — although you do know what they say about nice guys.


At 2:43 p.m., July 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chara just signed with the LA Kings. Terms not released.

At 3:13 p.m., July 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope, the Bruins.

At 3:27 p.m., July 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toronto nabbed Pavel Kubina; 4 years, $20 million. God damn it with the overpaying...

At 3:40 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Some insane deals today. The Kubina one makes me laugh my ass off.

The Leafs can't trade Kaberle now, right? I just wanna make sure I don't encourage Fate to kick me in the ass.

At 3:55 p.m., July 01, 2006, Anonymous Ben said...

I like the fact that TSN is updating their lists of slary commitments, but would it kill them to add the numbers up and keep a running total?

Good thing the Thrashers locked Havelid up before today. Who knows what somebody would have offered him. If Kubina can get $5 million...

At 4:02 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Now Hal Gill? Ferguson knows there are forwards available, right?

At 4:37 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:38 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

Toronto needed D - it's been obvious for years.

But now, with today's signings, they have $17.1 million committed to 4 players - McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina, Gill. When you consider the Leafs are capped at about 42 million (because of buyout money), this is about 41% of their payroll, for 20% of their roster.

Throw in Sundin at 6.33 million per season, and that's 23.43 million, or 56% of their payroll, on 5 players.

I hope there is a salary-balancing trade in the works, because I don't think any team has ever taken the Cup with this kind of top-heavy roster. The playoffs proved decisively that depth wins; Toronto is going to have a handful of star-like players and fifteen schleps, at this rate.

Kubina - massive overpayment. Gill - somewhat overpaid.

At 4:39 p.m., July 01, 2006, Anonymous Karina said...

Did Ferguson not pay attention to what happened to Bobby Clarke last year?

I like bulking up the defense, but either Kubina or Gill would've been nice, since we seem to be completely relying on Sundin and McCabe to put the puck in the net.

$17mil, 4 defensemen.

No way we're getting Elias. :(

At 4:52 p.m., July 01, 2006, Anonymous Paul in Boston said...

"The Bruins look like they'll be up against the cap [after] they decided against buying out Alexei Zhamnov's $4.1-million deal."

To my knowledge, it's not that the Bruins decided against it, it's that since Zhamnov is still considered injured, his contract was ineligible to be bought out. That and the Bruins believe Zhamnov's injury to be career ending, which would mean that his salary would not go against the Bruins' cap space.

At 4:56 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger Matt said...

My math tells me Lidstrom is still the highest paid Dman in the league, on an annual basis at least.

At 6:20 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Arnason is quickly gaining a bad reputation for having a poor work ethic, but I really don't think he was given much of a chance in Ottawa.

How do you figure that?

At 6:33 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

How do you figure that?

He went from 16 minutes a game to 11 with the Senators, which really wasn't going to allow him to contribute all that much. Given how he played, it was warranted, but Arnason's still a 20-goal player in this league — despite that slump he had with the Senators.

I think Colorado may just get some pretty solid returns from him next year.

At 7:34 p.m., July 01, 2006, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

He went from 16 minutes a game to 11 with the Senators, which really wasn't going to allow him to contribute all that much.

He averaged 11 minutes because by the end he was playing five or six a game, however, for the first 10 or so he was getting 15 mins. a game and didn't do shit with it.

I think Colorado may just get some pretty solid returns from him next year.

They'd better be hoping the old phrase "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" isn't true, that's for sure.

At 9:39 p.m., July 01, 2006, Anonymous Ben said...

The Thrashers have signed Johan Hedberg.


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