June 30, 2010
The big question heading into the NHL's Free-Agent Frenzy, the signing period that officially begins on Thursday, July 1 at noon ET:
Are we going to witness the Hype Fizzle Hat Trick?
We called the 2010 trade deadline an "adventure in tedium." Anyone who was waiting for a slew of significant trades during the opening night of the 2010 NHL draft is still waiting.
Now we have the Free-Agent Frenzy again, with Canadian television networks dedicating hours of coverage, websites and blogs going 24-7 and social media churning out news and rumors (OK, mostly rumors).
Will it be a blockbuster? Will it bomb? Here are eight things we suspect you'll see out of the Frenzy this summer.
Unless his financial and contractual terms go from a focus on his long-term stability to a short-term, go-for-Stanley mercenary focus with a team like the New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk is going to get blasted for whatever he accepts.
His value as a player has been scrutinized for the last several months, and the scrutiny increased after a solid but not starring role with the Devils in their brief playoff appearance. The phrase "not worth the money" has been used by fans in reaction to Kovalchuk during the offseason, and frequently.
If a team like the Los Angeles Kings sign him, some will see it as an important step toward a Stanley Cup; others will see it as the over-commitment of assets to a player that hasn't earned them. He's become as divisive a star as there is in the NHL; the next few seasons are his chance to back up the investment.
2. Defensemen will be overcompensated.
The forwards behind Kovalchuk are Grade-B. The top goalies are over the hill. But the defensive unrestricted free agents actually feature some players that are (a) desirable and (b) championship-building material and (c) don't have an AARP card yet. Anton Volchenkov(notes), Paul Martin(notes) and Dan Hamhuis(notes) are going to make bank during the Frenzy; will there be a trickle-down to other players like Henrik Tallinder(notes) and Willie Mitchell(notes)?
3. Payroll, more than cap space, determines action.
Looking at Cap Geek — and for the love of Ray J., if you're not reading Cap Geek in the next few weeks, what are you doing? — there are clearly teams that have cap space to work with. But that doesn't tell you anything about what they may or may not do.
Example: The majority of teams in the NHL, according to every source we've asked, have an internal team-cap that's far below the league ceiling.
Another example: The Tampa Bay Lightning have over $25 million in cap space. But they also only have 11 players under contract and they're "hamstrung by $139.525 million it owes five players whose contracts run a combined 28 years," and are looking at second contracts for Steven Stamkos(notes) and Victor Hedman(notes) down the line.
4. The San Jose Sharks will add a goalie.
After saying goodbye to Evgeni Nabokov(notes), the Sharks made it clear that they're bringing a veteran in. Former Dallas Stars keeper Marty Turco's(notes) name keeps coming up; if that happens, expect Sharks fans to chomp on management for the goalie flip to a rival.
5. It will be a Tweet-pocolypse.
The majority of hockey news is broken either on Twitter or on television during these insane news-heavy days. Social media's impact has only been amplified as teams have started to break their own news on Twitter and Facebook.
On July 1, agent Allan Walsh vowed he intended "on tweeting updates throughout the day bringing fans and hockey voyeurs into the world of a sports agent."
Here on Puck Daddy, we'll have our annual Free Agency Frenzy Chatterbox of insiders and panelists running throughout the day.
6. The Boston Bruins will make a trade.
The Bruins cap situation will prevent them from being all that active in free agency, but the trade route's a different story. Will it be goalie Tim Thomas(notes) or center Marc Savard(notes), owners of no-trade clauses? Will it be RFA winger Blake Wheeler(notes)? We heard enough at the draft to believe something will go down, but it's not a guarantee.
7. The St. Louis Blues will be players.
The young players on the roster have been gestating. Jaroslav Halak(notes) was acquired to be between the pipes. They have a ton of cap space and roster flexibility. Then there was this quote from Dave Checketts, the team's owner:
"We'll be ambitious this offseason, I guarantee you that," Checketts said. "I think it may well be the most ambitious (since) we bought the team, because we're going to have real decisions to make and room in the salary cap."
They were in on Kovalchuk during the trade deadline, but that doesn't mean they'll be in on him now. Or does it?
8. Finally, know that this stuff will go waaaaaaaay beyond July 1.
The Free-Agent Frenzy will produce big signings and huge hockey news. But check out how many free agents there are. This is going to take a while, and well beyond July 1, 2, 3 or 31.