Around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the Free Agent Frenzy died down somewhat as it was revealed that both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were likely to make their decisions on Monday. At this time, Jim Rutherford was feeling pretty good about himself.
He had acquired what he believed to be a top-line center in Jordan Staal and signed him for a long time and a lot of money. Rutherford noted that the team's desire to pay nothing short of a king's ransom for a guy who had previously been a third-line center -- and then give him a decade-long deal -- had "totally changed" the way Carolina was perceived around the league.
Bringing aboard a player like Jordan Staal was, he noted, "a game-changer for us."
And hey, he's the one getting and making the phone calls. He would know. But there is an important distinction between being a team that's perceived as a desirable destination just because you're willing to splash the cash on players who may or may not deserve fat paydays, and actually being a team that's capable of competing within the National Hockey League in any sort of serious way.
Sure, the team announced it had put in serious bids for Suter and Parise, though how seriously they were considered is of course another matter entirely. And as for Rutherford's intent to suss out another top-flight wing to play with the Staal brothers, well, it's a nice thought. A few people have noted they're now in on discussions for Rick Nash, as a sort of hedging of their bets when Parise goes elsewhere; meanwhile, a tumbleweed blows through the offices of Alex Semin's agents. (Perhaps, though, they don't want someone to kill Kirk Muller so early on in his tenure.)
But didn't we all see this last summer, too?
(Coming Up: The good, bad and ugly of Day 1 of NHL Free Agency for all 30 teams; and stop being critical of Brian Burke.)
The Florida Panthers showed both the willingness and foolhardiness to throw a lot of money around in an attempt to turn a not-very-good team into one that can actually make the playoffs, and they succeeded in doing so. But any attempt to frame either as a place top-notch free agents want to go play hockey is more than a little disingenuous.
The reason you didn't hear anything about these teams seriously being considered contenders for the services of either Parise or Suter is that, for players who don't need to worry about finding a sucker team to help them cash in, there's no incentive to go there. If the money is comparable, and it comes down to a choice between playing with Sid Crosby and anyone else, you'd be out of your mind to pick the latter option.
Miami is obviously a very nice place to live, and you constantly hear about how players who play in Raleigh end up retiring there. But at the same time, under the current collective bargaining agreement (I know, I know) teams located there seem literally not to be able to pay top guys enough to play there, and that's telling.
Dale Tallon proved last summer you can always attract middling guys with money and term that is not commensurate with their performance, and that's one thing; but to suggest that somehow Carolina is now a premier destination and significantly closer to being a competitive team is laughable.
Their big defensive acquisition to a team that gave up more even strength shots per 60 minutes than any team in the league was three-time 'Canes washout Joe Corvo, whose Corsi relative to quality of competition was 153rd among defensemen who played 50 or more games this season. And again, Suter isn't walking through that door.
Further, we all had a good old fashioned laugh when the Jets gave Ondrej Pavelec that silly contract, but at the same time, Cam Ward finished last year with an even strength save percentage of just .002 better than the Jets' "franchise" netminder. Now, Ward is a better goaltender than Pavelec by a fair margin, but at the same time, he's perhaps not the player he's perceived to be.
The Jordan Staal acquisition may indeed send some sort of message to other players looking to get paid, especially if they're directly related to other people already on the Hurricanes' roster, but the real draw for top-shelf free agents is the same as it ever was: Playing for championships.
With a good but not great top-six, a porous defense and a slightly-better-than-mediocre goaltender, Carolina isn't that by any stretch. Sometimes being competitive isn't enough to attract top players, despite a repeatedly-stated willingness to spend.
Ask David Poile about that.
Maybe they get lucky this year and sneak into the playoffs, though I'm not sure adding Staal and Corvo gets you an extra 10 or 12 points in the standings. Unless they're willing to pay well above market value, it's hard to imagine they're in a position to get anyone of note to come aboard, and won't be any time soon.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks signed Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, and Brad Staubitz, blah blah blah who cares? Far more interestingly: It's starting to look like Teemu Selanne will indeed live up to the rumors of his return for an NHL victory lap. If you have the chance to see him in your city, take it.
Boston Bruins: Apart from making official a few lingering deals they had out there (Tuukka Rask, Chris Kelly, etc.), the Bruins didn't do anything yesterday, and that was according to plan. Depth signings or trades coming down the pike, if anything. They must really think Nathan Horton's good to go next year.
Buffalo Sabres: Here's another team that didn't do anything yesterday, but they did decide to part ways with Jochen Hecht after a decade. Surprised Pegula didn't try to give Parise "Double-Leino Money."
Calgary Flames: After breaking the bank on Dennis Wideman for some reason, the Flames remained pretty quiet, as Jay Feaster had more or less promised. It seems the team may be waiting for the Ryan Suter derby to reach its conclusion so he start shopping Jay Bouwmeester as a fallback for jilted suitors.
Chicago Blackhawks: Could the Blackhawks try to solve their goaltending woes with a 40-year-old guy with known fitness issues and had a .903 and .908 save percentage in the last two seasons, respectively? Yes.
Colorado Avalanche: I was originally skeptical of the Avs' signing PA Parenteau to a four-year, $16 million deal, particularly because he "broke out" at 27, and is now 29. But I have been swayed to believe he is a decent enough player and worth about that much money if Brandon Prust makes $2.5 million.
Dallas Stars: The Stars made an offer to Zach Parise and he turned it down. I don't believe it!
Mikael Samuelsson is now the sixth-highest-paid Red Wing. Mikael Samuelsson. Apparently with Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom shuffled out of the lineup, Ken Holland had a quota for old Swedes to fill.
Edmonton Oilers: After spending most of the weekend pursuing and successfully signing Justin Schultz, then re-upping Ryan Smyth to a painfully reasonable deal (is Steve Tambellini still running this team?) it might be time for the Oilers to try trading someone.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers weren't about to overpay Jason Garrison, so they overpaid Filip Kuba instead. Sure. I mean, if you only put up 32 points as Erik Karlsson's D partner, what's even going on?
Los Angeles Kings: Really like the Dustin Penner deal for one year at $3.25 million. Reasonable number for a guy who now needs to prove he's an 11-points-in-20-playoff-games player, not a 17-points-in-65-regular-season-games player.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild wanted to get tougher, so they signed Zenon Konopka, which just about does the job. More importantly, Konopka can actually win draws. Minnesota was already eighth in the league in that regard, basically because Matt Cullen and Mikko Koivu are very good. And they're not as good as Konopka.
Montreal Canadiens: Marc Bergevin probably wanted to make a big show of things in his first free agent day, but I'm not sure Brandon Prust for $10 million over four years, or Colby Armstrong for any reason, is the way to do it.
Nashville Predators: I know people like David Poile but let's look at his plan for free agency this year: Sign Paul Gaustad to a silly deal to justify giving up a first-rounder for him, then sit around hoping someone who isn't him doesn't sign Ryan Suter. I get it to an extent, but oof.
New Jersey Devils: Speaking of waiting around: Alex Ponikarovsky left for Winnipeg, Zach Parise's future remains uncertain, not one word about Bryce Salvador. Yeah, it couldn't have been easy being Lou Lamoriello yesterday.
New York Islanders: Brad Boyes signed a one-year, million-dollar deal with the Islanders, and noted that "both sides" were the reason he only popped in 14 in his 93 games with the Sabres. Well umm. We know one side was responsible for sure. Don't worry though, if anyone can make him look like an All-Star again, it's John Tavares.
New York Rangers: Big ups to Arron Asham for signing with the Rangers and, in doing so, playing for every team in the Atlantic Division over the course of his career. Can't imagine too many players have ever done that before.
Ottawa Senators: The Senators are out of the Rick Nash sweepstakes, and that noise you heard around 5 p.m. yesterday was every single Ottawa fan breathing a heavy sigh of relief.
Philadelphia Flyers: Michael Leighton is back with the Flyers. The third question asked of him by the media was about allowing the Game 6 goal to Patrick Kane.
Phoenix Coyotes: Nice bit of business for Don Maloney (as though he does any other kind) in locking up David Moss, who's a useful player when he's healthy. Shane Doan, meanwhile, will wait until July 9 to decide where he's going.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sneakily-great signing by the Pens to pick up local boy defenseman Dylan Reese. His underlying numbers show he can be really pretty good if you don't ask him to do too much. Getting that done while waiting for Parise and Suter is strong.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues' big signings yesterday: Taylor Chorney, Scott Ford, and Mike McKenna, all on two-way deals. They must really like their team from last year.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steve Yzerman gave Sami Salo $3.75 million a year for the next two seasons. He's 38. And he's Sami Salo.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Pencil in Jay McClement and Matt Frattin for next year's Leafs roster. It's fairly amazing that Brian Burke was able to resist the temptation to give a mediocre player a huge contract, but maybe he's finally learning.
Vancouver Canucks: Any time Florida wants to trade for Roberto Luongo would be just fine with Vancouver, thanks. But at least they gave Jason Garrison too many years.
Washington Capitals: George McPhee had boatloads of cap space — more $20 million, in fact — but didn't spend a penny of it. Like everyone else, they're likely waiting to see what the non-Suter/Parise free agents want to get up to.
Winnipeg Jets: Alex Ponikarovsky finally gets to reunite with Nik Antropov in Winnipeg. Two best bros playin' hockey together again.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the WeekendHey, idiots who think Brian Burke did his team a disservice by marching in the Toronto Gay Pride parade: drop dead.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "Slick Eller" isn't interested in visiting Dry Island.
CGY 2nd Rnd 2013
That's earthquake oil set loose!
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