Wednesday, July 4, 2007

This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race

First of all, before we get into all of the NHL free agent signings, I'd like to share my condolences with the 31 remaining fans of the Edmonton Oilers.

Wow, could the last 4 days have gone any worse for you? Your general manager, Kevin Lowe, was unable to land any front-line free agents - just like everyone except Kevin knew was going to happen. His big selling point over the last year was that Edmonton was going to have big money to spend on free agents this offseason - after Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth jumped ship. The only problem was that nobody wanted to play in Edmonton, regardless of the money.

And now the bats have come home to roost in Edmonton. Their big free agent signings? A back-up goalie and a defenceman who was a healthy-scratch with the team during their Stanley Cup run 2 years ago. When you have to send out a DVD selling your city to potential free agents this is what you end up with.

And just when the Oilers thought they had landed a big-name free agent in Michael Nylander, they learned via the television that Nylander had in fact signed with the Washington Capitals instead. People in Saskatchewan just had a Scott Flory Flashback. This situations is going to get very, very ugly - mark my words. You can read about the whole sordid affair here.

AND... as if that wasn't bad enough, on Sunday the Oilers traded away their captain (Jason Smith) and one of the two players they got for Chris Pronger last summer (Joffrey Lupul, who was a total bust in Edmonton, by the way) for a defenceman who was a -25 last year (Joni Pitkanen) and a 35 year old (Geoff Sanderson). Last week I was saying that Eric Tillman has been getting about 30 cents on the dollar in his trades, apparently Kevin Lowe is fine with getting about 7 cents on the dollar.

I'm surprised the people of Edmonton haven't strung Lowe up from the statue of Wayne Gretzky yet. It's just baffling to think that he still has a job with the way he's run the team over the last two years.

And also to the fans of the Montreal Canadiens - Welcome to the Roman Hamrlik era! You thought you didn't like Sheldon Souray, just wait till ol' Roman takes the ice for you this year. Hamrlik has about the same defensive prowess as Souray, only without the offensive upside. Oh and did I mention that Hamrlik is making over 5 million dollars a year for the next 4 years. Have fun!

Now to the rest of the free agent news...

I'm not going to rank how teams fared in the free agent market or anything like that. I'm leaving that to men who wear suits and have profile pictures on websites for TV stations and newspapers.

Is Buffalo's management deliberately trying to sabotage their team? How do you have the two top free agents on your team and end up keeping neither of them? Both Daniel Briere and Chris Drury were Sabres last year and now they've lost both of them. Wow, I just don't understand that one. By all accounts the Sabres made offers to both Drury and Briere but both offers were well below market value. All of the talk leading up to free agency was about which superstar Buffalo was going to keep and somehow they squandered their chance at both of them. The Sabres were one of the best teams in the league the last two years and now they've taken a huge step backwards.

Somehow the New York Rangers are going to be able to pay Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Henrik Lundqvist and apparently Brendan Shannahan. Is nobody looking into this at all? When 3 of your players (Jagr, Drury, and Gomez) make up almost half of your payroll, about $25 million, how are you going to pay your other 20-odd players? The Rangers could be a little weak on the supporting cast this year... oh, and on defence.

The Philadelphia Flyers have gone from joke to probable playoff team. A team that was old and slow last year is suddenly younger and faster. Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and even Joffrey Lupul make up one of the best young groups in hockey. Kimmo Timonen and Jason Smith are upgrades for them defensively as well. Now if only they could rid themselves of the corpse of Derian Hatcher. Has anyone been made more obsolete by the new NHL? He's like watching a phone booth on skates.

Paul Kariya is still a 6 million dollar a year player, when did that happen? What year is this? Kariya signed a 3 year $18 million contract with the St. Louis Blues, proving once again that Paul Kariya doesn't care about winning (from Sportsnet Connected).

The Colorado Avalanche have a chance to be very good for the next two years, or until Joe Sackic retires. By adding Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan the Avalanche are now right in the mix in the West. Goaltending is still an issue with them though. However, if Peter Forsberg decides he can play next year, don't be surprised if he ends up in Denver again - even if it's for only half a season. Right now they're my dark horse in the West for next season.

The biggest deals that Calgary and San Jose made were re-signing their big guns to new contracts. In Calgary Jarome Iginla and Robin Regehr both signed new 5 year contracts. And in San Jose Joe Thornton signed a new deal as well. All 3 of those players would have been big names in next years free agent market, Iginla and Thornton especially. But are you really ready for a world in which Scott Gomez, Kimmo Timonen, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury all make more than Iginla and Thornton? There are guys who are in this for the money and there are guys who are in this to win.

Based on all the signings and trades of the past few weeks, I think I'll pick some dark horse teams that are going to surprise people next year. I'm not saying these team will win the Stanley Cup or anything but they'll be playoff teams. I've already picked Colorado in the West and I'm going to go with Florida in the East.

So that's it, hopefully your team spent their money well. Unless of course you're an Oiler or Canadiens fan and then... well there's always next year.

No comments: