Not sure today was worth calling in sick for, but nonetheless it was a very interesting, and sometimes perplexing opening day of free agency. Defense was the most sought out position as teams ponied up serious cash for offensive defensemen as well as stay at home types. Typically, the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, and Red Wings are most active on July 1, but this year the Canadian hockey clubs made the most noise on Canada Day. Some for the better, (Vancouver,Ottawa), and some for the worse, (Calgary). In case you missed it, here were the top ten items of the day.
10. Martin Biron starts the day off as the first player signed. Funny how the former Islander goalie was signed so late a year ago(7/22), and signed so early this year by the NY Rangers.
9. What deals exactly are Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco waiting for? Turco reportedly turned down a contract from Philadelphia at a substantial price and who knows what the market is like for Nabakov. With eight goaltenders being signed today, all for less money than Nabokov and Turco would of wanted, teams clearly found other options.
8. Four goons were signed on July 1st. I found it surprising that teams went for tough guys this early in free agency. Jody Shelley, Raitis Ivanans, Derek Boogard, and Tim Jackman all were signed today. Maybe even more surprising was that Calgary signed two of them in Ivanans and Jackman. The Rangers gave Boogard, who has not scored a goal since 06, a four year contract. The Philadelphia Flyers gave Shelley a three year contract. At least we can look forward to a Shelley-Boogard tussle during the next Ranger-Flyer game.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs sign another 3rd line player. Colby Armstrong is a good player, and a great teammate, but doesn't Toronto have too many second and third liners? I can't come up with a true first line forward on that roster.
6. Clearly the biggest winner of the day was Sergei Gonchar. Kudos to his agent for getting him a three year contract when Pittsburgh was not going to go past two years. At $5.5 Million per year to play in Ottawa he did quite well today.
5. The Dan Hamuis and Zbynek Michalek factor. These two defensemen who are more the stay at home type, commanded lot's of interest around the league. Neither are household names, but they attracted big bucks and are now playing on teams with Stanley Cup aspirations. Hamhuis will help the Vancouver defense, and Michalek should fit in well in Pittsburgh with Goligoski, Letang, and Orpik and the newly signed Paul Martin.
4. Ilya Kovalchuck still not signed. Lot's of rumors all day that a deal was imminent with Los Angeles but nothing to report of as of tonight. Besides New Jersey, and perhaps Toronto, no other club has been linked to him. Maybe the KHL?
3. Steve Yzerman quietly improved the Lightning. Yzerman traded Mezaros and his $4M cap hit to Philadelphia, and shortly afterward signed Martin St.Louis to a contract extension. Tampa signed Dan Ellis at a bargain price to compete with Mike Smith to shore up the goaltending position.
2. The Flames did WHAT? The look of shock on the faces of the TSN panel were priceless when it was announced that Calgary had signed Olli Jokinen. What made the move more disconcerting was the fact that Calgary traded him to the NY Rangers on Februrary 1st. This site is not a fan of Jokinen, but may be even less of a fan of Raitis Ivanans who was signed by Duane Sutter hours after Jokinen. Throw in the signing of another former Flame, Alex Tanguay and it's very puzzling as to what is going on in Calgary these days.
1. Following Twitter with the latest updates was the way to go. Yes, it provided bogus trade rumors at times, but also produced classic lines like this one from Kingscast directed to the LA Kings. "This whole Kovalchuck watch is basically hockey blue-balls"