Thursday, July 22, 2010

Free Agency Winners and Losers

By Eric Bancker

With about a month gone by since the free agent frenzy started I figured now would be a good time to assess who are the winners and losers in free agency.


Pittsburgh Penguins: They lost Gonchar to the Ottawa Senators but they still seemed to upgrade the defense anyway. With the additions of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin they may not have the same offensive weapon they had in Gonchar but they got younger and these two guys can be the cornerstones of the Penguins defense for years to come. Both signed five-year contracts Michalek's worth $20 million and Martin's worth $25 million.

Atlanta Thrashers: Now Atlanta didn't throw around a ton of money but I'm counting the players they traded for just before the frenzy started on July 1st. They acquired Andrew Ladd on July 1st from the Chicago Blackhawks for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2nd-Round Pick in 2011. On June 25th they acquired Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and Akim Aliu from the Chicago Blackhawks for 24th overall pick 2nd-Round Pick both in this years draft, Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin, and Joey Crabb. During this time period that they were acquiring half of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks roster they also signed goaltender Chris Mason, which was a steal for the Thrashers.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Just a few days ago they were able to acquire Simon Gagne from the Flyers for Matt Walker and a 4th-round pick in 2011 which to all of you non-hockey fans this trade is like trading in a 1995 Mercury Tracer for a 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer, you might be asking yourself, why did you pull a 95 Tracer out of the air? I think that answer is simple to find out. Okay, back to hockey. The Lightning were also able to sign Brett Clark, Pavel Kubina, Kurtis Foster, and Dan Ellis. They were able to address their defensive issues and also added a goalie to have a two-headed monster in goal, plus the addition of Gagne makes the Lightning offense even more dangerous.

New Jersey Devils: I am sort of conflicted on whether they should make the list or not because of the fact that the NHL rejected Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year deal but if you look at the two defenseman they were able to acquire, Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, as well as the addition of Johan Hedberg then they are very clearly winners this summer. If Kovalchuk and the Devils can reach a new agreement that pleases the NHL then that will just be the icing on top of the cake.


New York Rangers: As usual the New York Rangers find themselves on this list because Glen Sather continues to prove you can have an I.Q of 22 and still be a general manager in the NHL. The Martin Biron signing was good but the signing that got them put on this list was the 4 year/$6.6 million contract handed out to Derek Boogaard. I know Rangers fans love tough guys but all the Rangers fans that think that the money or year side of this contract are okay then they have just as low of an I.Q as their leader Sather. Boogaard is a great fighter but he hasn't scored in four years, so they are essentially paying $1.65 for a guy who can hit and fight....does Sather have short-term memory loss and he forgets that he signed Donald Brashear last year for 2 years/$2.8 million, lets remember how that ended. He got sent down to Hartford half-way through the season and the Rangers are forced to eat his contract this year. I know, I know Brashear is old but Sather has lost his mind giving this much money to a guy who has averaged 47 games played in the past four seasons and hasn't scored. If I see another Rangers fan online defending this signing them I'm going to be forced to go to their house and take their computer away from them because I'm deeming them just too darn stupid to use it.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers haven't had a horrible off-season but they are still losers in my eyes. They started with the addition of Andrej Meszaros which is an iffy addition, his career started strong as he recorded over 35 points in his first three seasons but his numbers have dropped off big time since then only tallying 33 points in the last two seasons. Then the wheels started to fall off a bit, Holmgren signed Braydon Coburn, or as I call him Chris Therien Jr., to a 2 year/$6.4 contract. Coburn was awful last year and on more than one occasion put the puck in his own net so yeah that's worth $3.2 million a season. They also traded Simon Gagne away for practically nothing and replaced him with Nikolai Zherdev. Zherdev is tricky, his talent is limitless but he's selfish and lazy. Zherdev is only signed for one-year at $2 million so if this experiment doesn't work then the Flyers can show him the door. Holmgren has cap strapped this team again and fans aren't happy, Leighton will be the starter moving forward but fans weren't exactly happy to find out on July 1st that Holmgren had spent all of their money in a matter of hours and that he didn't get a goalie.

Calgary Flames: Calgary had a rough season last year and Darryl Sutter came into this years free agency with a lot of needs for his team but I don't know what he was thinking when he handed out contracts to once Flames, Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay. Jokinen is nowhere close to the player he used to be and the entire hockey world was laughing when Sutter decided to bring him back in what had to be the worst deal of the day. Jokinen is just two and three years removed from a 71 point campaign in 2007-2008 and a 91 point campaign in 2006-2007. Since then Jokinen has been in a downward spiral and it seems like 50 points may be his limit now. Tanguay is another amusing signing, he just hasn't been the same player he was a few years ago and he's still fairly young (30) but he will never put up over 60 points again or even 50 for that matter. Sutter is trying to dig into the past and see if he can recapture some of the magic these guys had on the Flames, more so with Tanguay than with Jokinen.

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