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Free Agency And Other Animals

PenaltykillIt’s the off-season.

The Stanley Cup Finals are over (although for many fans, the finals were over in April! Sorry Toronto…again!), the awards have been given out, and Free Agency was admittedly very interesting for a few days, but is now just picking up 4th line and backups.

So what to talk about?

Detroit have been making a couple of changes, but nothing amazing. Rafalski retired, and Salei is yet to sign a deal, but we’ve picked up Mike Commodore, and Ian White.

Commodore is a player I’ve always admired. Not just for his defensive play, ability to hit, and determination on the ice, but also for his ability to grow a frankly epic playoff beard. He arrives with 104 points from 454 games in the NHL. I like the deal at $1m for 1-year and also that the defenceman suggested he wears number 64, so that his jersey will read ‘Commodore 64’.

Ian White is a little different however. The former San Jose D-man was a pain in the behind for Detroit in the playoffs last year, as his ability to close down the neutral zone, play hard along the boards, and willingness to hit a shot from the blue line made him an excellent Rafalski replacement. White has tallied 143 points from 401 NHL games with the Sharks, Hurricanes, Flames and Leafs. He signs a 2-years deal at $5.75m.

Elsewhere in the NHL, the free agency when pretty nuts. Vokoun was expected to be the top goalie moving, and yet he was pretty much left sitting on the outside looking in as Auld, Budaj, Boucher, Varlamov, Hedberg, Smith, Garon, Theodore, Elliott, and Giguere, all signed new deals before the ex-Panthers goalie suggested a deal to the Washington Capitals.

Brad Richards delayed making his decision until the 2nd day, but eventually moved from Dallas to the New York Rangers.

However, some of the biggest headlines were due to trades, rather than Free Agents. Philadelphia tied up Bryzgalov, but had to trade Carter to the Blue Jackets for very little in return (Voracek, a 1st and a 3rd), along with Mike Richards to the Kings for the slightly more respectable Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. Now I know many Flyers fans were dumbstruck about this deal, but this to me looks OK in the end. Philly have had goalie problems for a while now. They didn’t have the cap space to bring in a solid and reliable netminder, and so had to give up some forwards to get Bryzgalov. In return they’ve got some lower line forwards, but I also think they’re players that are ready to come good. I’ve always been a fan of Wayne Simmonds and think his work ethic is second to none. I wouldn’t mind seeing him sporting a winged wheel.

The Calgary Flames traded Regehr, Kotalik and a 2nd to Buffalo for Butler and Byron. That’s the most lop-sided trade I’ve ever seen. Regehr is arguably the best defenseman to move this off-season and I’m amazed at Calgary’s salary dump.

Heatley and Havlat swapped San Jose and Minnesota. I understand Heatley was getting a bit of stick from San Jose in terms of both fans, and possibly in the dressing room too. The general concensus is that Havlat is the better deal, and the Sharks came out of this with the superior player.

Finally, the big talking point was Jaromir Jagr. He spoke at length to the Penguins, Habs, and Red Wings. Slowly, all three withdrew from negotiating with Jagr, and all I can imagine is that he was demanding something the GM’s were unwilling to bend to. Finally, he signed with the Flyers, maybe placating the fans who were very upset with the Carter/Richards trades.

So all in all, a lot of trades, and a lot of changes in FA. I think it’ll take a little while to get use to this!

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