Sweeping changes accompany NHL free agency
It has been a frenzied 24 hours of free agency in the National Hockey League, and thus far some big names have swapped sweaters. Let’s take a look at the busier teams.
Goaltender Ty Conklin will test incumbent Chris Osgood, and re-signing dependable and highly underrated defenseman Brad Stuart is a good start. Oh, did I forget to mention the defending Stanley Cup champions signed the most coveted forward on the free agent market in Marian Hossa? $7.4 million for Hossa is too much for a one-year deal, showing Detroit is serious about making another championship run next season.
New York Rangers
Shame on general manager Glenn Sather for letting fan-favorite heart-and-soul forward Sean Avery sign with the Dallas Stars. The Stars signed Avery for $15.5 million over four years, while the Rangers opted to spend $20 million on defenseman Michal Rozsival.
The Rangers were 50-20-16 with Avery in the lineup and 9-13-3 without him. Re-signing Rozsival makes no sense, especially since the Rangers signed all-star defenseman Wade Redden the same day to a six-year, $39 million deal.
The Rangers added depth at forward with Patrick Rissmiller and former Houston Aero Aaron Voros. With right winger Jaromir Jagr’s future uncertain, who will play on the wing with centers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez?
Tampa Bay Lightning
Talk about busy; Tampa Bay got a new coach in Barry Melrose, used the number one draft pick to gain center Steve Stamkos and raided the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning signed left wing Gary Roberts and forwards Adam Hall and Ryan Malone away from the steel city. Radim Vrbata left the desert of Phoenix, where he had a career year, to join Tampa Bay along with veteran netminder Olaf Kolzig.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Former Dallas Star forward Niklas Hagman will be going north along with former Leaf goalie Curtis Joseph and defenseman Jeff Finger (formerly of Colorado). The question still remains as to where captain and career-Leaf Mats Sundin will go. Detroit and New York are rumored destinations, but the Vancouver Canucks reportedly have offered a two-year, $20 million contract. I have a feeling Sundin may just stay in Toronto.
Goaltender Cristobal Huet will be the man in goal in the windy city, but the biggest free-agent splash is defenseman Brian Campbell. Chicago already has a young cast of talented forwards in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, so the signings of Huet and Campbell show Chicago has its eyes set on the playoffs. Campbell will be expected to deliver with his ridiculous eight-year, $57.8 million contract.
Not even commissioner Gary Bettman could save Pittsburg this time. The sky is falling as Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Marian Hossa, Gary Roberts and Ty Conklin all sign on elsewhere. Teams in Russia were looking to break the bank to have Evgeni Malkin return home after next season, but Pittsburg wised up and reached a new five-year deal with Malkin early Wednesday.