Thu Jul 01 08:29pm EDT
We're about eight hours into the NHL Free-Agent Frenzy, and you know what that means: Hasty evaluations of the winners, losers, stunners and shockers in what was an entertaining day in the hockey offseason.
Here's a look at what's gone down so far:
Biggest Winner: Sergei Gonchar(notes). The 36-year-old defenseman wanted money and he wanted years. He got both from the Ottawa Senators just 14 minutes into the Frenzy, with a three-year, $16.5 million deal. Agent J.P. Barry gambled by taking him to the market, and Gonchar got what he wanted.
Biggest Losers: High-end goalies. Seven goalies were signed on July 1 through the first seven hours of the Frenzy. One of them (Antero Niittymaki(notes)) has a cap hit of $2 million. None of them were named Evgeni Nabokov(notes) and Marty Turco(notes), who sat and watched cheaper alternatives find jobs.
Worst Dismantling: The trade of Andrew Ladd(notes) to the Atlanta Thrashers marks the sixth player from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to be traded this offseason. The Florida Marlins comparisons are starting to inch toward validity.
Biggest Surprise (Activity): Ray Whitney(notes), one of the top free-agent wingers on the market, goes to the Phoenix Coyotes for two years and $6 million. Surprising first, for not being able to come to financial terms with the Carolina Hurricanes, a franchise in which he was "entrenched." Second, for signing with the Coyotes, giving the burgeoning franchise validity.
Biggest Surprise (Inactivity): St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. The Blues have a ton of cap space and roster flexibility, but only said farewell to Chris Mason(notes), now the goalie for the Thrashers. The Bruins, with Tim Thomas(notes) and Marc Savard(notes) rumored on the trading block for the last two weeks, stood pat as well.
Best Debut: Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who traded Andrej Meszaros's(notes) salary to the Flyers and signed Dan Ellis(notes) to challenge his friend Mike Smith(notes) between the pipes. All while extending Marty St. Louis' deal with the Bolts for four years.
Best Plan B: Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins. Gonchar went to the Senators, Hamhuis decided he wanted to go West. Shero was looking at revamping a blue line that was already struggling to overcome the losses of Hal Gill(notes) and Rob Scuderi(notes) in the previous Frenzy, and he worked some magic.
Defenseman Paul Martin(notes), a dependable puck-mover from the Devils, inked a $25 million, five-year contact. Zbynek Michalek(notes), a defensive-defenseman that the Phoenix Coyotes desperately wanted to re-sign, signed a $20 million deal over five seasons.
The Penguins wanted to build up the blue line and, presumably, add a forward or two near the deadline when it's more cap-tenable. They committed $45 million to two players, but they're worth it; consider $9 million next season for two defenders compared to $5.5 million for Gonchar, as the Senators are paying him.
Worst Term: He'll help the Devils' blue line in a big way, for sure, but six years for Anton Volchenkov(notes) is reminiscent of other Lou Lamoriello "desperation" deals like Dainius Zubrus getting six years back in 2007.
Most Surprising Glamour Position: Checking center. We knew the defensemen would get paid; but the defensive centers? Matt Cullen(notes), a checker or a No. 2, went from Ottawa to the Minnesota Wild for $3.5 million annually over three years. Manny Malhotra(notes), who resurrected his career with the San Jose Sharks last season, so his $600,000 salary jump to $2.5 million annually over three years with the Vancouver Canucks.
Worst Overpayment: The Rangers paid Derek Boogaard(notes) (four years, $1.65 million cap hit) more annually than the Flyers will pay Stanley Cup Finals goalie Michael Leighton(notes) (two years, $1.55 million cap hit) and nearly more than the Atlanta Thrashers will pay goalie Chris Mason ($1.85 million against cap over two years).
Feel-Good Signing: Kurtis Foster's(notes) been through hell in the last few seasons, rehabbing back from a shattered leg and losing a child. He signed a two-year, $3.6 million deal and can help the Edmonton Oilers. Plus, the Oil (for once) didn't have to overpay to get a UFA to come to town.
Best Mentor: Henrik Tallinder(notes), the former Buffalo Sabres defenseman, signed a four-year, $3.375 million per season contract with the New Jersey Devils. On the one hand, he bolsters their blue line; on the other, as GM Lou Lamoriello noted to Fire & Ice, he could be a valuable teacher to some young prospects in the system:
"In Tallinder, you've got somebody 6-4, 240, played under an outstanding coach (Lindy Ruff in Buffalo), mentored (Tyler) Myers in Buffalo this years. We've got three young Swedish players coming in (Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Alexander Urbom(notes)). He's 31 years old. He's in his prime. He's a mature guy."
True story: There's an IKEA just a few exits away from The Rock.
Oddest No-Trade Clause: It may have been the NTC that the Flames gave Alex Tanguay(notes), but there's no topping the no-trade clause the Devils gave goalie Johan Hedberg(notes) for his eight-game season behind Marty Brodeur.
Happiest Person: Dan Hamhuis(notes), who watched his value skyrocket during the offseason as a free-agent defenseman and then signed a six-year, $27 million deal to play in B.C. with the Vancouver Canucks.
Angriest Person: Anyone who considers his or herself a Calgary Flames fan and watched the maligned former flop Olli Jokinen(notes) get recruited by Darryl Sutter and then return on a two-year deal ... after watching former winger Alex Tanguay return on a one-year deal. There's nostalgia, and then there are retreads. As Puck Daddy columnist and Flames fan Ryan Lambert put it ... well, just read the Tweet.