Blog Entry

Dollars go to defense

Posted on: July 1, 2010 9:12 pm

The Ilya Kovalchuk watch continues which seems a little surprising since he’s the best scorer out there and everyone seems to be looking for more offense these days. Of course Kovalchuk is too rich for most teams’ blood, but there was still plenty of money around for defensemen on day one of free agency 2010.

Back end guys were in the forefront of things all day and ended up signing contracts worth a collective $152 million, with Ottawa kicking things off by signing away veteran Sergei Gonchar from Pittsburgh only moments after the festivities begun. Gonchar’s age, 36, and his increasing propensity for injuries in the last couple of years make him a bit of a risk for three years at $5.5 million per. But if he stays healthy, Gonchar will be an impact player for Ottawa.

The Penguins, meanwhile eased the pain of losing him by signing a pair of other high-end and much younger defensemen to long term deals at pretty fair-market rates. Pittsburgh’s core around the blue was already pretty good with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, but its much better now that Paul Martin is locked up for five years and $25 million and Zybnek Michalek is signed for $20 million over the same time. That’s a pretty solid solid and mobile back end.

For their part the Devils didn’t waste any time plugging the hole left by Martin, signing veteran Henrik Tallinder away from Buffalo for $13.75 million over four years, and then adding Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa for $27.5 million over six years. Tallinder is a steady stay-at-home type who will be a mentor for a couple of the young Swedes New Jersey expects to have in its lineup next season, while Volchenkov was among the most sought-after defensemen because of his physical game and shot-blocking talent.

A third Atlantic Division team kept pace on the back end as the Philadelphia Flyers picked up Andrej Meszaros from Tampa Bay from Tampa Bay in a trade, re-signed restricted free agent Braydon Coburn and unrestricted free agent veteran Sean O’Donnell. The Flyers rode two units of defensemen to the Stanley Cup Final, but their inability to get any significant minutes from fifth, sixth and seventh defensemen was a big reason they stumbled at the end. Philadelphia added a versatile tough guy in Jody Shelley, an upgrade from Daniel Carcillo last season.

And not to be outdone, the Vancouver Canucks got in on what was the biggest trend of the day, signing much sought after defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who played last season in Nashville and rejected both the Penguins and the Flyers after they acquired his negotiating rights in the last 10 days. Hamhuis may seem expensive at $27 million for the next six years, but he has more offensive talent than he was able to show in the Predators tight system, he’s only 27 and most important, he hardly ever misses a game.

Hamhuis will join a pretty formidable defense that now includes Keith Ballard, picked up from Florida in a draft day trade, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa. Roberto Luongo is locked up in goal core forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond aren’t going anywhere for years. With all the roster-shredding going on now in Chicago, right now there is an argument to be made that the Canucks are the best team in the West.

Not a bad way to come out of the first day of free agency.

Some other thoughts about the first day.

Best reward to risk ratio:  San Jose signing goalie Antero Nittymaki for two years and $4 million. He could be next season’s Craig Anderson. Nittymaki had a very good year behind a pretty bad defense in Tampa Bay and showed flashes of brilliance before that in Philadelphia. He was the best goalie of the tournament at the 2006 Olympics but has never really been given a good shot at being a No. 1 in the NHL. He’ll get it in San Jose at 30, an age many goalies really come into their own. And at worst, he’ll split the job with a couple of the Sharks youngsters, and give the team a competent and cost-effective tandem.

Best reward to risk ratio II: Phoenix signing LW Ray Whitney for two years and $6 million. Normally this would be a bargain price for a player who is good for 60 to 70 points a year and just creates a lot of offense. But Whitney is 38 and teams are on the hook for the money to players of his age regardless if they retire. For a financially-challenged team like Phoenix, that has to be a concern, but if Whitney can definitely add some offensive punch to the Coyotes
Perfect landing spot: Colby Armstrong went to the Toronto Maple Leafs for $9 million over three years, a 25 percent raise. He’s gritty, responsible defensively, can score a respectable amount of goals and has a real nasty streak that sometimes goes over the edge. In other words, he’s the kind of player Leafs GM

Biggest miscalculation: Chris Mason was offered $3.25 million a season by the Blues not that long ago and held out for $3.5 million. He made $3 million last season but St. Louis didn’t make the playoffs, so they headed in another direction, trading for Montreal’s playoff hero Jaroslav Halak and then signing the 25-year-old netminder to a long term deal. That set Mason, 34, free and he landed with the improving Atlanta Thrashers, but for only $1.85 million in each of the next two seasons.

Strangest signing: I blogged earlier about the Calgary Flames machinations on day one and their deals certainly could fit this category, but how about the New York Rangers signing Derek Boogaard? And for four years and $6.5 million no less. Boogaard is a 6-foot-8, 275-pound goon who may be one of the league’s toughest guys to fight but does nothing else. He didn’t score a goal last season and has only two in four NHL seasons. You’d think the Rangers would have figured out that these kinds of players do nothing for them after signing Donald Brashear last summer.


Category: NHL

Since: Nov 9, 2008
Posted on: July 5, 2010 12:18 am

Dollars go to defense

Since: Nov 9, 2008
Posted on: July 5, 2010 12:16 am

Dollars go to defense

Since: Sep 4, 2009
Posted on: July 3, 2010 12:46 pm

Dollars go to defense

Jaroslav Halak

Halak is not signed to a long term deal with the Blues.  Bad reporting.  He is currently seeking a contract with atleast 4 years around the 5 million dollar range.  Halak and his agent have said that they will not hesitate to go play in  Russia, in the KHL, where the offers will far exceed any he would recieve in the NHL.  This could be a huge disaster for the Blues if they don't sign this guy. 

I'm surprised that there has been no news on this.  Chris Mason might have miscalculated in his decision to not resign with the Blues but the Blues may have miscalculated with Halak.  It's all starting to makes sense now why the Canadiens were so quick to deal this guy.  He might not even play in the NHL this year.

Since: Dec 31, 2007
Posted on: July 2, 2010 4:48 pm

Dollars go to defense

As a Wild fan its a bittersweet day to see Boogy going to another team.  He can't really do much other than take up injury time and fight but was seriously a fan favorite.


So looks like we have 1 less thing to cheer about at the X this year.  And we *really* need something to cheer about these days.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: July 2, 2010 1:46 pm

Dollars go to defense

What evidence do you have that "the NHL may be the most corrupt league in the world" ? Is it because they don't call penalties whenever a player gets brushed, especially in the playoffs? If you don't like contact, just watch women's hockey. It's a pretty good game and getting better, but not my cup of tea. I, for one, appreciate the fact that when the playoffs get rolling, the refs lay off the soft calls. With the emotion that builds in a seven game series there would be 5 players in each penalty box if they called everything by the books. But again, none of this has the slightest thing to do with corruption, unless you think the refs are pocketing some coin for not calling penalties. Since there is zero evidence of this, I'd say that hockey has got to be one of the least corrupt sports going.

Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: July 2, 2010 10:54 am

Dollars go to defense

You're right ... Fighting does sell tickets, unfortunately .

That's because most NHL fans ... are not "Hockey Fans"
...they're just "NHL fans" ...... there's a Big difference.
Hockey is a game where rules are enforced.
The NHL just pretends to enforce the rules.

Hence, the so-called need for "enforcers", because the officials are instructed to deliberately Not enforce the rules.
Therefore, teams are encouraged to "take the law into their own hands" & "enforce" the rules, because the officials won't.
Many times, especially in the playoffs, the refs don't just put the whistle in their pockets, they leave their whistles in the changerooms.

Hockey is the greatest game in the world.

But, the NHL may be the most corrupt league in the world.

Since: Dec 3, 2006
Posted on: July 2, 2010 7:23 am

Dollars go to defense

As much as dbag Bettman wants the fighters and fighting out of the league I'm glad to see theres still a few real enforcers still around and Boogard is one of the best. And signing Boogard for 6 million isnt the reason the Rangers have been mediocre, its the horrible contracts handed out to Gomez, Redden, Drury and Naslund just to name a few thats killed that team. Having had 40 plus million tied up in those clowns is the real problem not the couple million handed out to Boogard and Brashear

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: July 1, 2010 10:10 pm

Dollars go to defense

The Rangers don't have attendance issues. And WINNING sells more tickets than anything. These kinds of signings are why the Rangers are mediocre

Since: Jul 9, 2007
Posted on: July 1, 2010 10:05 pm

Boogard to Rangers

Fighting sells tickets.... GM's know this.

Home team scores home team fans cheer.  Away team scores visitor fans cheer.  Fight breaks out...everyone is cheering.

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