Sunday, July 02, 2006

Opening Day Excitement: NHL Free Agent Moves

There were lots of major free agent signings yesterday, on what was the first day of unrestricted free agency. Given some of the money that was thrown around, I have to say that the naysayers within the players' association regarding the salary cap have been proven wrong. If anything, the salary cap era means that more teams than ever have the ability, and the inclination, to commit to outlandish contracts.

Here are my thoughts on some of the signings. A full list of the moves can be found within Sportsnet's free agent tracker.

• Despite losing defenseman Filip Kuba, the Minnesota Wild had a great day, adding Keith Carney and Kim Johnsson on the back line, as well as underrated forward Mark Parrish. At face value, getting Johnsson for over $4 mil a year seems a bit excessive, but given some of the deals that other defensemen signed, it's a good deal. Carney provides depth, and Parrish is an underrated, but effective, scorer. He'll put up 30 goals, and with him, Gaborik, Rolston, and Demitra, the Wild have put together the core of two very dangerous scoring lines.

• I have mixed feelings on what the Boston Bruins have done. I like the Zdeno Chara signing, even though they payed him about $1.5 million more than I would have. Sometimes, you need to go that extra mile to get someone, especially when there's a lot of competition on the market, and your franchise hasn't exactly been a model of excellence. Given that they have a significant group of players in their 'restricted' years, they should be able to afford it. I'm less excited about the Marc Savard signing, because I'm pretty certain that he's not worth $5 mil a year when he doesn't have Ilya Kovalchuk to feed the puck to.

• I feel good about breaking up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, given the way that they threw money at the underachieving Pavel Kubina, and the slough-footed Hal Gill (who somehow got $2 mil a year!). On the other hand, Kubina might be the difference between finishing with 68 and 72 points.

• I love the Rob Blake signing by the Kings. They're in a rebuilding stage, but he'll provide consistency and mentorship for their young club.

Ottawa signed Martin Gerber (for $3 mil a year plus), which I think is a bit excessive. I'm pretty certain that by year two of his three year contract, he'll be one of the highest paid backups in the league.

• I don't understand what Carolina sees in John Grahame - who succeeded in front of a championship Tampa Bay team in 2004, but struggled mightily this year (like bust-to-be Andrew Raycroft). After signing him to replace Gerber, they better hope that Cam Ward is the real deal.

• Grabia covered it over at the Battle of Alberta (in the comments thread I believe), but I'll support his comments about Kevin Lowe's attachment to players from this year's playoff run. Pisani and Roloson got too much money, and too many years for a guy who, respectively, have had one good playoff run, and finally took over as a starting goalie this year, and will be 39-40 at the end of his contract. Not a banner day for the Edmonton Oilers

• A good big contract deal: Jovo in Phoenix; a bad one: Elias getting 7 years from Jersey (at 6 mil or so). That's way too long for a guy just passing on to the wrong side of 30.

• Worst move by a player: Jay McKee signing with St. Louis. I hope he finds that the $16 mil is worth going from a Cup contender to the worst team in the league.


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