Tag:2011 Free Agency
Posted on: July 28, 2011 10:35 am

Daily Skate: Preds, Weber prepare for arbitration

By Brian Stubits

ALWAYS BE PREPARED: Even though all other arbitration hearings haven't come to fruition so far (not counting Chris Campoli, who the Blackhawks decided to walk away from well before), Shea Weber and the Predators are both preparing for their battle (the Tennesseean). The chances still are good that a deal will be reached in time, but the sides maintain they aren't close right now. The arbitration meeting is set for Tuesday, Aug. 2, so expect things to stay at a stalemate until Monday. If they still go to arbitration, then Nashville has to take whatever award Weber gets since it filed for arbitration and it will only be a one- or two-year deal. You can see why the Preds would love to handle this on their own.

PITTSBURGH IS ON THE CLOCK? No site has been selected for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft yet, but Pittsburgh has stepped to the front of the table as the leader (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). The city's main foe appears to be the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last year the draft was held in Minnesota. But that's not all the Penguins are up to in the middle of the summer. The team is also going to unveil a Mario Lemieux statue outside of the arena at some point before then. Certainly a worthy gesture.

GETTING WITH THE TIMES FORUM: Steven Stamkos got the most money from Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, but a close second is the St. Pete Times Forum. The team's new owner Jeff Vinik is serious about rebuilding the franchise, and one of those steps is rebuilding the arena. The Forum is in the process of receiving a $35 million facelift (St. Petersburg Times) to the arena which will feature a whole bunch of new and interesting aspects. You know the pirate ship at Tampa's football stadium? Well the Lightning are looking for something similar as far as a recognizable destination goes. The way team CEO Tod Leiweke put it: "we felt the building in some ways needed a soul."

BACKUP BLUE: When free agency began, the Blues got in the action by signing former Senators goaltender Brian Elliott. It wasn't long after that they re-signed massive (literally) prospect Ben Bishop to the same exact two-way contract as Elliott. Now the two are primed for a camp battle for the same spot. Pro Hockey Talk takes a look at the backup battle and notes its importance considering Jaroslav Halak played a career high in games last season and it was just 57. The backup will certainly be relied upon.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:20 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:26 am

Red Wings sign Conklin after Osgood retirement

By Brian Stubits

That sure didn't take the Red Wings long.

A day after announcing Chris Osgood's retirement, Detroit GM Ken Holland wasted no time in turning his attention to Plan B for a backup goaltender, targeting former Wing Ty Conklin. Mission accomplished.

The team announced it has reached an agreement with the goaltender on a one-year contract to backup Jimmy Howard.

You have to give Holland this: He's good to the guys who have been good to him. So instead of trying for some of the other free agents available such as Ray Emery, he goes with the familiar and somebody he has seen before. Granted, Conklin's time with the Wings was brief, but it was enough to make an impression on Holland, it would appear.

Conklin returns to Detroit after spending the last two seasons in St. Louis. In two years he had an 18-18-6 mark but saw his numbers drop to .881 save percentage and 3.22 GAA this past season. He played in 40 games for Detroit in 2008-09 with a record of 25-11-2.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:32 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 4:32 pm

Lightning, Stamkos agree on five-year extension

By Brian Stubits

The Tampa Bay Lightning have reached an agreement with superstar center Steven Stamkos on a five-year contract. The team made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

"Very exciting day for my family and I," Stamkos said on his Twitter account. "Can't thank Mr. Vinik, Mr. Yzerman and the rest of the organization for making this deal possible. Also want to thank my family, friends, agents, teammates, and fans for all their love and support!"

According to Craig Custance of the Sporting News the deal will pay Stamkos an average annual salary of $7.5 million per season, which comes out to a total of $37.5 million. He'll be eligible for unrestricted free agency when the contract expires after the 2015-16 season.

Said general manager Steve Yzerman in a statement released by the team, "Steven is extremely important to this franchise and is part of the foundation of our hockey team. We are very pleased to have him signed and look forward to seeing him in a Lightning uniform for years to come.”

It brings an end to a long saga that had plenty of twists and turns, most made out of fear since it took so long for a deal to be reached. Although the Flyers did contemplate sending an offer sheet Stamkos' way before ultimately passing.

Of course in Stamkos, the former No. 1 overall draft pick, the Lightning are holding on to the league's top goal-scorer over the past two seasons as the 21-year-old has tallied 96 goals in that time frame. He represents not only the future of the Lightning, but perhaps the NHL. Remember, he was recently bestowed the honor of having his mug grace the cover of the video game NHL '12.

The Lightning were determined to get a deal reached with Stamkos, and Stevie Y never waivered on that, saying his team would match any offer sheet if one did come. Alas, it didn't come to that, instead reaching a deal that seems very fair to the team and Stamkos.

He will receive $8 million in the first four years of the contract and then $5 million in the final season. At that point, under the current CBA at least, he will be free to test to the free-agent waters unrestricted at the ripe age of 26, when he figures to be in the prime of his career. If no extension is signed before that point with Tampa Bay, can you imagine the frenzy for him? It would put the Brad Richards courtship to shame.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: July 18, 2011 7:29 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 7:46 pm

Jets re-sign Wheeler to two-year extension

By Brian Stubits

The Winnipeg Jets have re-signed Blake Wheeler to a two-year contract. Darren Dreger of TSN says the deal is worth $2.45 million the first season, $2.65 million the second, meaning an average salary cap hit of $2.55 million.

With the signing, congratulations are in order for the Jets as they climb over the salary floor. Plus, they still have a restricted free agent in Zach Bogosian to get under contract. Now only the Coyotes, Avalanche, Predators and Islanders are below the floor.

Split between Boston and Atlanta last season, Wheeler scored 18 goals with 26 assists in 81 games. It was the third time in his three NHL seasons that he played in 81 games or more. He was sent from the Bruins to the Thrashers in a trade that netted the B's Rich Peverley. Wheeler's best season came as a rookie when he scored 21 goals.

Wheeler plays a role as a top-six forward for the Jets, seeing plenty of burn with top-line guys Andrew Ladd and Nik Antropov.

Wheeler has received more than his fair share of criticism, especially coming out of his old stomping grounds in Beantown. But it's important to remember he's still just 24 and has only three full seasons under his belt in the NHL. He seemed to find a good situation once he hit Atlanta, posting 17 points in 23 games after the trade. He could be in store for a very nice season playing a big role in Winnipeg.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: July 18, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 2:59 pm

Osgood announces retirement after 17 seasons

By Brian Stubits

Chris Osgood ended the speculation, and his career, on Tuesday when he announced his retirement instead of his return to the Red Wings for another season.

"After a lot of thought I have decided to retire," Osgood announced. "I thought it was the best decision to make for the organization and myself. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. I thought it would've been easier."

Well he will return to the Red Wings in one sense. The team announced he will stick around as a goalie consultant.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland had said he was interested in talking to Osgood about returning for another year to back up starting goaltender Jimmy Howard. Clearly that won't be happening now. Instead, Holland said he will sign another goaltender by week's end (Ty Conklin, come on down!)

At least one person is happy to see Osgood go away. Ducks forward Bobby Ryan had this to say on Twitter: "Osgood retires! Thank god. That guy gave me fits. Heck of a career though. Congrats to him."

Osgood finished out his career where it began, in Hockeytown. He spent 14 of his 17 NHL seasons playing for the Wings, winning three Stanley Cups in that time. He ends up fourth all-time with 15 postseason shutouts, eighth all-time with 74 playoff wins and 10th all-time with 401 regular-season wins.

So is he Hall of Fame bound? Holland thinks so.

"In my opinion, it's a Hall of Fame career."

Osgood, meanwhile, will keep his fingers crossed.

"It means the world to me to get into the Hall of Fame. It means a lot and hopefully one day it happens."

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: July 15, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: July 15, 2011 2:55 pm

Capitals re-sign young D Alzner for two years

By Brian Stubits

The Washington Capitals added to their offseason transactions by re-signing defenseman Karl Alzner, a restricted free agent, to a two-year contract, the team announced Friday morning. The contract calls for an annual cap hit of $1.285 million according to capgeek.com.

“We are pleased to have re-signed Karl Alzner to a two-year contract,” Capitals GM George McPhee said. “We feel he’s an important part of our defensive core who logs critical minutes against other teams’ top player

With the signing of Alzner, that brings the Caps to 23 players under contract, but more importantly puts them over the salary cap of $64.3 million by almost $900,000. This will have to be taken care of by the start of the regular season and what the Capitals seem likely to do is put defenseman Tom Poti on the long-term injury list as he recovers from a groin injury he sustained.

Getting Alzner back in the fold was pretty imperative for the Caps after the 22-year-old had a very solid season on the blue line for Washington. Last season he played in all 82 games scoring two goals with 10 assists, but scoring isn't his game. He also blocked 132 shots (third on the team) and placed seventh in hits with 98 all while recording a plus-14 on the season while averaging 20 minutes of ice time.

The No. 5 overall selection in the 2007 draft figures to be a rock for the back line for the Capitals for years as they transform into a more well-rounded team instead of one that scores, scores and scores some more as it had previously played.

For more Capitals news, click here.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:51 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 9:26 am

The paradoxical world of restricted free agency

By Brian Stubits

It's almost like a bad Jerry Seinfeld joke: "And what is the deal with restricted free agency? They're free agents but no team feels free to sign them!"

Surely, Seinfeld could provide a better punch line, but you get the point. I'm starting to wonder why the NHL even bothers with offer sheets. Teams are apparently too afraid to use them, not wanting to violate what has become one of sports' infamous unwritten rules, joining not stealing bases with a big lead in baseball and not running up the score in football.

Now, there are multiple reasons for it. Yes, it seems to be generally frowned upon by GMs, a scorn that lingers and the threat of future relations being strained. That's the unwritten rule part. But there is also a tangible side, the angle of offers being futile. Teams always say they will match any offer sheet and keep their restricted free agent. Plus, there's the compensation. All legitimate drawbacks/hurdles. But enough to create a freeze?

Take this year's prime RFA Steven Stamkos as an example. Is there a more promising prospect in hockey? He's only 21 and he has the most goals scored in the NHL over the past two seasons. As of now, he's still unsigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning who insist they will keep Stamkos no matter the cost or offer sheet.

As far as we know, no team has submitted an offer sheet to Stamkos. Granted, we would only know if Stamkos signed a sheet or a team admitted to tendering an offer, but it doesn't appear as if there has been any movement on Stamkos. Only the Flyers seem to have even come close, having numerous internal debates before deciding to pass.

Or how about Kings defenseman Drew Doughty?

L.A. GM Dean Lombardi recently told the L.A. Times that the negotiations could "take a while." So if the sides are so far apart, why wouldn't some team take a shot? Doughty is as good a young d-man you will find across the NHL. At the age of 20 he had 16 goals and 43 assists. Last season he tallied 11 goals and 29 assists. Now who wouldn't want to try for that?

The idea of getting a superstar through restricted free agency is almost non-existent. No team will surrender a superstar when they have a rebuttal at their disposal. But if nothing else, you force another team's hand. Imagine throwing out an offer so steep that it will cripple the other team's financial status. The way I see it, anything that hurts my rivals helps me.

Since the summer of '05, only six offers have even been tendered. Only once did the controlling team not match. You might remember when Edmonton pried Dustin Penner away from the Ducks. It left then-Ducks GM Brian Burke irate, lambasting Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, saying "I have no problem with offer sheets. They’re part of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. But in my opinion, Edmonton has offered a mostly inflated salary for a player, and I think it’s an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job."

"The bottom line is there are the tools at your disposal," former Flames GM Craig Button told NHL.com about restricted free agency. "You just have to understand the future ramifications."

Look, I understand the point of offer sheets. The league is interested in keeping young superstars with their teams at least for the early portion their careers. And, ya know, they don't have contracts with their teams any more.

I guess I'm just left wishing for more movement on RFAs. Think of the added intrigue. The Panthers trying to take Stamkos out of Tampa Bay? Suddenly you might have some actual teeth into the Sunshine State rivalry beyond a geographic connection. Or imagine the Ducks making a play on Doughty (just pretend) ... we could have Battle Los Angeles again, except this time it would actually be good.

There are legitimate points as to why restricted free agency exists. There are an equal number of points as to why teams don't tender offers. Eventually it leaves you feeling as if it is pointless. Funny.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: July 7, 2011 5:16 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 6:06 pm

Wayne Simmonds signs with Flyers

Wayne Simmonds

By: Adam Gretz

Wayne Simmonds was one of the key pieces acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers during their massive -- and surprising -- roster overhaul last month. He joined the team as part of the trade that sent former captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles and landed the Flyers Simmonds, top prospect Brayden Schenn and a 2012 second-round draft pick.

Eligible for restricted free agency, the Flyers still needed to work out a deal with the 22-year-old forward. They managed to do just that on Thursday afternoon by signing him to a two-year contract that carries an average annual salary of $1.75 million, according to Tim Panaccio of CSN Philadelphia.

In 80 games with Los Angeles last season, Simmonds scored 14 goals to go with 16 assists. He's scored 39 goals in 240 career games.

Simmonds is a nice young player, but he, along with Schenn and Jakub Voracek (acquired as part of the Jeff Carter trade), has some large skates to fill this season. The Flyers offseason has essentially seen them lose Richards, Carter and Ville Leino (three of their top-five scorers from a year ago and their best two-way player), as well as role players like Darroll Powe, Daniel Carcillo and Sean O'Donnell. The club is replacing them with nine years of Ilya Bryzgalov, a 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr, Max Talbot, Andreas Lilja and a collection of young players with talent and upside, but it's far from a guarantee that these players will ever reach the level of the players they're replacing.

That's a sizable risk both in the short-term and the long-term.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com