July 3, 2007

Blood in the water

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

The NHL’s free agent feeding frenzy opened up on the first with tons of names, including some big ones, flying across the board. Several small market teams were forced to absorb big personnel hits, especially Buffalo and Long Island. Who said the salary cap makes every team equal?

Daniel Briere is going to be lacing them up for the Flyers who had a season disappointing enough to put them in the lottery and force them to fork out a massive front-loaded deal to the diminutive dynamo. Lucky for them his cap number is the average of the eight-year contract he signed, not the $10 M that he’s getting for his first season.

The other player that struck a $10 M deal was Scott Gomez who crossed the state-line north from Jersey to New York. Gomez will be joined in MSG by another one of the top-flight free agents from this year’s crop, Chris Drury.

With the exits of Briere and their captain Drury, it’s looking like the Sabres will be hard-pressed to equal their run from last season that saw them fall just short of reaching the finals.

Philadelphia also made a trade to bring in the Oiler’s captain Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul, who had a disappointed year in Edmonton after coming over in the Pronger trade last off-season. Going the other way were Joni Pitkanen and ??

Speaking of former Oiler captains, Ryan Smyth, who was dealt to the Islanders at the trade deadline, signed on with the Colorado Avalanche after a reported “convincing” phone call from Joe Sakic. Seeing those two on a line with some of the youth they have developing in Denver should make for a return to the playoffs. The Avs were also able to ink defenseman Scott Hannan

On the blue line, two big names filled some holes. In Anaheim, after learning that Scott Neidermayer is leaning towards retirement, GM Brian Burke went out and got Mathieu Schneider from Detroit, who then went and signed Brian Rafalski to a five-year deal.

The defending champion Ducks also brought in a player that suits their rough style perfectly by netting Todd Bertuzzi. If he can find his form from prior to the Steve Moore incident, he will pay off in spades.

The Toronto Maple Leafs addressed their need for a winger to pair with aging Mats Sundin in the form of Jason Blake. But is signing a guy who is 33 to a five-year deal really a smart move? Considering he just hit his career high last season, I wouldn’t expect more than 60 points from him and that’s on the generous side.

With this amount of signing in the first few days, there aren’t very many names left that will gather too much interest other than some role-players. I’m glad to say that after Peter Forsberg and Sheldon Souray come off the board, there won’t be too much NHL posts ‘round these parts.

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