Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picking winners and losers

I've been meaning to get to a post that details free agency's winners and losers, but the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson has a good run through of the particulars in the CanWest papers today.

It's a little early to know for sure who will 'lose' out of this crop, especially given some teams can still pick up complimentary players like Sheldon Souray and Bill Guerin and turn out just fine. It's also not too far out of line to suggest that the next Stanley Cup winner could surely be one of the teams that hasn't yet done a thing in what's been a seller's market so far.

No one wins a thing on July 1, aside from perhaps a few new season tickets buyers.

I'll have more thoughts here shortly.

UPDATE Just for interests sake, here are the nine teams who go unclassified in Matheson's piece: Atlanta, Boston, Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Minnesota, Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Vancouver.

A lot of those clubs were inactive, either due to ineptitude, lack of cap space or by choice, but the one that did well was the Panthers. Getting Tomas Vokoun was obviously the biggest move, but bringing back Jozef Stumpel was important, as was filling out the forward lines with more middling scoring talent in Richard Zednik and Radek Dvorak.

They don't look half bad now, and certainly not in the context of their division.

Matheson gives the Sabres and Devils the thumbs down, but I don't see a huge slide in order. The Devils replace Scott Gomez with Dainius Zubrus, which is a downgrade of sorts, but New Jersey has the likes of Zach Parise and Travis Zajac ready for far greater roles. The big loss there is Brian Rafalski, but I expect (Loophole) Lou Lamoriello to quickly address that need through a signing or trade relatively soon. The one advantage the Devils will have over last season will be cap space, and that's something Lamoriello will be able to leverage into assets in short order.

The Sabres, too, have plenty of young talent ready to step up, as the AHL Americans were practically overflowing with talented forwards ready for a shot at the NHL. A healthy Tim Connolly and more ice for Drew Stafford and Paul Gaustad isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I'm also unsure how the Canadiens slip into the winners circle here. There's little to crow about in what Bob Gainey has done the past year or so, and the bloom is quickly coming off that rose given the turmoil enveloping the franchise. A slow start and things could get ugly for the Habs next season.

Another club that I think made out well was the Penguins, who picked up another veteran for scoring depth (Petr Sykora) and a solid defenceman to play some penalty killing minutes (Darryl Sydor). Given their meteoric rise last season, tinkering was what was necessary, and if GM Ray Shero can add another solid blueliner, this is easily one of the best teams in the East this season.

And, finally, I'm not sure what the Stars are thinking, but they need some offensive weapons. It sounds as though they were in the Slava Kozlov bidding toward the end, and that's the kind of piece required there. Expect more of the same in Texas.

For some reason that was mostly a tour through the Eastern Conference, although given what's happening with the New York teams and in Philadelphia, that seems to be where all the action is lately. Or inaction, as it were.


At 12:57 p.m., July 05, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

I actually think Nashville has done well despite the bleeding. Unfortunately, Poile is back to the days of hoping David Legwand produces at a scoring forward's clip, but outside of that, he has gone and found players to compliment his talented young core.

As for Montreal, it has recently been brought out just how much of a tax disadvantage they have... it's an 18% gap between Montreal and several US based markets, and there are way more tax loopholes in the US than in Canada for players to take advantage of. So Montreal has to, in a lot of cases, outbid teams by $1m-$2m per season if they want a good to great player on the open market.

For those who read this blog that may not know, Quebec has a higher tax rate than the other Canadian provinces with NHL teams by a significant margin as well.


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