Monday, 30 June 2008

Free Agency Eve

With July 1 looming in front of the hockey world, there has been plenty of movement in the NHL to lockup free agent talent before the market opens tomorrow. Phones have been busy, and players have been scrawling their signatures to contracts for huge, and sometimes ridiculous, salaries. With that in mind, it's time to prepare for the second biggest day in player movement over the course of the year. Get your phones lined up, sit your agent down, and hang on. This year's free agency period looks to be a wacky free agent season.

  • The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings swung a deal yesterday. The Oilers send forward Jarret Stoll and defenceman Matt Greene to the Kings for defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky is an excellent powerplay quarterback, and should solidify the point when the Oilers have the man-advantage. If paired with Sheldon Souray, Visnovsky could be the trigger man that Souray so desperately needed last season. I don't understand why Lombardi would trade his, arguably, best defenceman for an underachiever and a sixth-man, but it seems this is a salary purge as Stoll is a free agent next season, and Greene the season after.
  • Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts are now officially members of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Malone signed a seven-year, $31.5 million deal with the Lightning, while Roberts signed an incentive-based, one-year deal for $1.25 million. The incentive is that for every game he appears in, he will receive a $10,000 bonus. If he plays in all 82 games next season, his salary could top out at $2.07 million. The strangest part is that the Malone deal is front-heavy as Malone will earn between $7 million and $8 million for the first two seasons. Isn't this the same reason they traded Brad Richards - too much money between four players? It now appears the Dan-Boyle-to-someone rumours will become reality if Boyle is willing to waive his no-trade clause. According to George Bazos, Boyle's agent, that is highly unlikely to happen. Is it just me, or has Tampa's payroll increased to about $100 million this offseason?
  • In more insane Tampa Bay news, the Lightning traded a conditional draft pick in 2009 or 2010 to the Wild to acquire exclusive negotiating rights with UFA Brian Rolston. While I understand that the Lightning are trying to be aggressive in the free agent market, how do they expect to pay for all these players under the current cap system? And why trade for a guy who stated that he was going to test the market no matter what?
  • Just because it needs to be said, I respect TSN's coverage of all things hockey. However, their beat writers need to take more time in reviewing their work, and their editors need to spend more time reviewing facts. Apparently, Brian Rolston started his NHL career when he was 13 years old if you believe TSN's information. Rolston is 35, not 25.
  • Add a few more names to the free agent pool. Alexei Zhitnik and Duvie Westcott have been bought out by the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively, and are now free agents. Denis Gauthier of the Philadelphia Flyers was placed on waivers after playing all last season in the AHL, and will reportedly be bought out as well.
  • Former New York Islanders goaltender Wade Dublielewicz has signed a deal to play in Russia next season with Ak Bars Kazan. The Islanders had offered Dublielewicz a $500,000 contract, but it is believed his contract with the CHL-R team is worth much more. Joey MacDonald has a one-way deal with the Isles this season, forcing Dublielewicz to start the season in the AHL with Bridgeport. That was something the veteran goalie was not willing to do, and may have forced his hand in signing with Ak Bars Kazan.
  • The Flyers, just days after acquiring defenceman Steve Eminger at the NHL Entry Draft, have signed the 24 year-old to a one-year contract. Eminger should fit nicely in Philadelphia alongside their current defencemen, in my opinion, and should provide another good defensive defenceman to help replace Jason Smith.
  • While there has been little activity from Joe Sakic's camp in regard to the Avalanche re-signing the star, the Avs did sign a couple of key defencemen who were heading towards free agency. John-Michael Liles signed a four-year, $16 million deal while Adam Foote signed a two-year deal worth $6 million. These signings bring back two important pieces of a defensive unit that looked to have more holes than swiss cheese entering this free agency period.
  • The Florida Panthers re-signed RFA Rostislav Olesz to a six-year, $18.75 million deal. Olesz has been a perennial underachiever, but looked to be having a break-out season last year before injuring his hand. He is a career +1 player despite never appearing in the playoffs, and playing on some brutal Panthers teams. They may have overpaid, but it appears that Rusty will be counted on for some scoring this season with this new contract, more so than in the past.
  • From the "insanely stupid" file, a number of parents have been banned from the Bell Sensplex in Kanata, Ontario after they were involved in a brawl at a hockey tournament for five year-olds. The Bell Sensplex is managed by Capital Sports Management, an affiliate of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club, and they have banned the select parents from entering the arena after one parent was left with a broken nose. A witness stated that the "parents began shoving and punching each other after a referee called a penalty shot in the last minute of the game". You can see the CBC video report here in Quicktime format. Seriously, what the heck is wrong with people? Fighting at a tournament for five year-olds?!? Grow up, people. Try setting a good example for your children.
  • Some more good news for Sherry of Scarlett Ice. The British equivalent of Wayne Gretzky has decided to return to the Manchester Phoenix for a third season. Tony Hand, the only British-born player who was entirely trained in his home country to have been chosen in the NHL Entry Draft, will return this season as a player/coach. To date, the British phenom has recorded "3,659 points, including 1,380 goals, in 1,260 games. In 57 IIHF-sanctioned international tournament games, he's racked up an even 100 points for Team Great Britain". If that's not enough, "[i]n his best season, he averaged a hat trick per game en route to racking up an astounding 105 goals and 216 points in a mere 35 matches". That's a ridiculous average of 6.17 points-per-game! Good luck to the Manchester Phoenix and Mr. Hand this season! And good luck to you as well, Sherry!
Ok, that's everything for today. Tomorrow will have the free agency recap as everyone prepares for money to be thrown around like it is going out of style. More charitable organizations coming up this week as well, so tune in for those to see who is helping his community!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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