Wow, what a day.
Gotta love the start of free agency. It's the only day that an entire division can completely shift. Some serious cash was thrown around today, with mainly the historically big market Eastern Conference teams coming through for their fans (as I write this, the West is making some big signings). Smaller market teams such as Buffalo, New Jersey, and my Islanders lost some serious chess pieces. By the way, if you want a good laugh, take a look at the Islanders' roster as of right now.
I was really looking forward to live blogging this whole thing, but because I'm one of those schmucks that actually had to work today, it wasn't possible. Anyway, I've gone through the day's events thanks to TSN's UFA Tracker... and some Advil.
1:09 PM EST: The Sharks have signed Joe Thornton to a three-year extension. Joe turns 28 on Monday, and this will keep him in California through 2010-11. The biggest UFA in 2008 is now off the market... The Hockey News is also reporting that Jarome Iginla is on the verge of signing an extension that would keep him in Calgary through 2011-12 or 2012-13. Iginla's current deal is also set to expire in 2008.
1:47 The first official UFA signing of the day is in, as Atlanta signs Todd White. No questions about tampering this year (oh yeah, about that), since the first two hours pass ridiculously uneventful.
2:17 Punch right to the stomach. Tom Poti is an Islander no more. He signs in Washington for four years, $14 million. I put the over/under on Tom Poti defensive zone brain cramps for next season at 17... and the best defenseman on the Islander roster is now Brendan Witt, or dare I say it, Radek Martinek.
2:24 Richard Zednik to the Panthers. Zednik is a good player, but did squat in his time on Long Island. If you're scoring at home, the Islanders are -2 right now... I swear I'm not trying to turn this into an Islander post. I'm trying to talk about the entire NHL, they're just not letting me!
2:49 Wow, first blockbuster of the day. It looks like things are starting to get rolling. Matty Schneider to the Ducks for two years at just over $11 million... Looks like this should be a Scott Niedermayer replacement, but nothing is final yet. I'm not dead yet. Not quite dead.
3:38 The Oilers make two nice depth additions to their blue line in Dick Tarnstrom (that sounds like some type of a groin injury) and Denis Grebeshkov. Did I mention that they are both former Islanders?
3:48 The first of the top tier forwards is off the board, as Daniel Briere signs a monster contract to go to the Iladelp. Eight years, $52 million. The Flyers website already has a seemingly brand new picture of Briere up. Was there a photo shoot when they signed the contract? Buffalo has to go after Chris Drury hard now.
3:57 Calgary signs Cory Sarich for ~$3.5 mil per season. I can't imagine why he is worth that much. The guy can't score and isn't a lock down defender. He's big and physical, but that doesn't equate to $3.5 mil. At least not for me.
4:01 Continuing the overpaid rant, Bryan Rafalski goes home to Detroit for an average of $6 million per. That's much more of an egregious number than Sarich getting 3.5. Rafalski is a great player don't get me wrong, but $6 million per? Briere's new deal averaged $6.5. There's no way you can pay Rafalski that much! Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm undervaluing defenders big time.
5:41 Radek Dvorak to the Panthers. They've already got Zednik, which makes for a pretty decent day from their perspective. This isn't going to put them over the top or anything, but it's a nice start. Remember, sometimes you have to take baby steps.
5:59 The Hurricanes grab Jeff Hamilton. Yawn... Who am I kidding, I would take 800 grand to play in NASCAR Land, too.
6:03 Michel Ouelett had a nice year in Pittsburgh and gets rewarded with 2 years/2.5 mil from Tampa Bay. If you're keeping score, that's Sunshine State 3, Islanders -2.
7:32 Look, I swear I'm not trying to make this all about the Islanders, but they are just flying off the shelves right now. It's like Garth Snow is selling iPhones to other NHL GMs. The team is now -3 as Jason Blake signs a fiver with Toronto for $20 million. I knew he wasn't coming back, but it still bites... To make up for some 'I told ya so' moments in previous posts, I thought Blake would go to Minnesota. I admit that I was way the heck off... I'm just trying to even things out with karma before it bites me in the ass. Actually now that I think about it, being an Islander fan for a couple decades has probably ensured that my life outside hockey will be full of good karma. I've endured enough. Time to buy some Lotto tickets!
7:34 Huge news as the top tier of forwards has quickly gotten thinner. Scott Gomez is... this just hurts me to say... is a New York Ranger. Seven years, $51.5 million. I think I just puked a little bit in my mouth.
7:35 This just in; all 6 Devils fans are royally pissed.
7:46 Another 2008 UFA is off the market as Sergei Zubov signs a one-year extension with Dallas.
7:47 Chris Drury signs with his childhood favorite team, the Rangers. Five years, $35.25 million. The Rangers have just spent $86.75 million in under 15 minutes. Is it just me, or does it feel like 2001? The NHL does have a salary cap, right? What we do know is that this should work out a lot better than the Holik/Kovalev signings... I've got to believe this was in strict response to the Gomez signing moments earlier. Drury jumped at the chance to win a Cup with his favorite team... This move just sends shock waves throughout the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are a serious Stanley Cup contender, and the Sabres, well, are not. Not a good day in Sabre land. You've got to feel for those folks.
7:59 The Capitals have signed Victor Kozlov for 2 years/$2.5 million. They poach a pair of Islanders, and things are starting to look a lot brighter in the nation's capital. It's safe to say that despite my best efforts, this has turned into a full fledged Islander post. Sorry, I tried... By the way that's Islanders now at -6, if you factor the Rangers adding Drury and Gomez.
8:22 Things are winding down for the night, but July 1st isn't going down without a fight. Scott Hannan signs on with the Avalanche for four years at $18 million. That's an average of $4.5 million. I'd say it's the most realistic valuation of a defender yet. Could it be that the lack of top tier defensive UFAs is pushing salaries up? With Kimmo Timonen off the board last week, that left Sheldon Souray, Rafalski, Schneider and Hannan as the cream of the defensive crop available today. Schneider signed off very early in the day, which leaves anyone searching for top defenders at a loss for options. It's a seller's market, and we're seeing the effects of that.
11:05 Yup, you knew it was coming. One more dagger in my gut before the day passed... You also knew that the Avalanche were going to make a play at top tier free agents coming into today since they have so much cap room. It was really only a matter of who those players would be... Ryan Smyth signs on with Colorado for $31.25 over five years, a dollar value which seems to be lower than everything he was reportedly offered. This guy could have gotten more than an average of $6.25 per, there's no doubt about it. He just didn't want it.
11:54 Paul Kariya signs a three-year deal with St. Louis, no specifics yet. Last place I thought that he would go, but it's not a bad fit. Gotta hand it to the Blues, they're really making it seem like they are completing the quickest rebuilding job in NHL history... That's all for tonight, if there's a lot of action tomorrow, I'll fill out another post like this tomorrow night.
I feel like Hacksaw Jim Duggan just took a two-by-four to the back of my head. Not only did the Islanders finish -7 on the day, but the Rangers were a rather impressive +2. Heck, that number should be more like +20. Kudos to them. At this rate, it will be interesting to see if the Islanders can even field a team on opening night that doesn't consist of mostly minor leaguers.
Today's big winners: the Rangers, Flyers, Avalanche and Blues.
Today's big losers: the Sabres, Devils, Islanders and my sanity.
Top forwards remaining: Peter Forsberg, Teemu Selanne, Slava Kozlov, Brendan Shanahan, Bill Gurien, Michael Nylander, Dainius Zubrus
Top defenders remaining: Sheldon Souray, Brad Stuart, Roman Hamrlik
Top goaltenders remaining: Dominik Hasek