Free Agent Day 1 Winners and Losers
New York Rangers: The Rangers added Scott Gomez and Chris Drury and still have enough money to Shanahan and restricted free agents Lundqvist, Avery, and Prucha and maybe even still have enough left for another second tier unrestricted free agent (possibly a defenseman). These guys could be the best in the east next year.
Colorado Avalanche: This was the hottest team in the final month or two of the regular season and they just added Ryan Smyth and defensive stud Scott Hannan and like the Rangers, they too still have some money to spend. Gotta like the Avalanche to make tje playoffs next season if their goaltending can hold up.
Philadelphia Flyers: No doubt the Flyers have had the biggest face lift of any team in the NHL in this off season (maybe in any off season). Adding a playmaking center like Briere to play with Gagne and Knuble was huge for them because they didn’t have a first line center otherwise. I am unconvinced about the Pitkanen for Lupul-Smith trade. In the short term Smith should be a valuable asset to provide leadership and help bring this massively revamped team together and Lupul should provide some long-term second line offense but the possibility still exists that Pitkanan will become a top 10 defenseman in the NHL and the Flyers might regret giving up on him.
Anaheim Ducks: They picked up Mathieu Schneider which is a big plus, but the reason they did so is because of their impending loss of Scott Niedermayer to retirement. That will be a net loss for the Ducks but they minimized the pain of a situation they had no control over so that gets them in the moderate winner category.
Toronto Maple Leafs: It cost them an extra year in contract length than they would have liked to give but the Leafs got a speedy goal scorer they needed for Sundin’s wing in Jason Blake. I am not sure if Leaf fans should expect Blake to match his 40 goal production from last season but Leaf fans can expect their top line to generate more chances on the rush, and not just from cycling the puck in the corners and crashing the net. It’s an important pickup for the Leafs.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The biggest signing for the Penguins was getting young, soon to be a star defenseman Ryan Whitney under contract for the next six seasons. That alone would have made them winners but they also signed Petr Sykora for even more offensive help and Darryl Sydor for some leadership and defensive ability on their back end. The only negative I see is they signed Danny Sabourin which makes me wonder if they are looking at a Marc-Andre Fleury-Sabourin tandem. That is not good as I don’t think Fleury is capable of playing 70 games yet and I don’t think I would want Sabourin playing 25 games.
St. Louis Blues: Paul Kariya will be a nice addition to the Blues and should help turn the Blues from a one line team to a two line team as Weight-Tkachuk could form one line and Kariya-Boyes could be the core of another line. I think they still need another player or two up front and maybe some goaltending help but they are in a position to make a push for a playoff spot but the west is so tough that as of right now they likely will still be sitting on the outside looking in.
Detroit Red Wings: They lost Schneider but they picked up Rafalski which should be a bit of an upgrade and should Scott Niedermayer retire, the Lidstrom-Rafalski combo likely becomes the top defense tandem in the NHL. That’s the positive. The negative is they didn’t pick up Ryan Smyth or anyone else to fill the holes on their team. They still have some work to do.
Edmonton Oilers: Picking up Pitkanan could pay huge dividends for the Oilers for many years to come but losing Smith (in addition to Smyth at the trade deadline) means they might be lacking int he leadership department now. Rumour is they have signed Nylander which is probably a bit of an upgrade to Sykora who left for Pittsburgh but I don’t see the Oilers being any better today than a couple days ago.
New Jersey Devils: Everyone expected they would lose Gomez but losing Rafalski as well has to sting. It was not a good day for the Devils.
Buffalo Sabres: Gone are Briere and Drury and reports seem to indicate that Zubrus is on his way out too. Things aren’t looking good in Buffalo. Yes, the Sabres still have a lot of young talent remaining on their roster but is that young talent ready to lead? I am not sure of that.
New York Islanders: Smyth is gone. Blake is gone. Kozlov is gone. Poti is gone. When you combine those losses with the loss of Yashin (50 points in 58 games) there isn’t a lot left to get excited about on Long Island unless you have a thing for Miroslav Satan and Mike Sillinger. As of right now, the Islanders might be the worst team in the NHL.
Montreal Canadiens: Rumour was that they in fact offered Briere more money than the Flyers did but they were rejected. It seems no one wants to play in Montreal and it appears they might yet again have to resort to resort to Plan C or D like last year when they signed Samsonov. Plus seeing the Leafs and Flyers improve their teams means hopes for a playoff spot for next is looking a bit more bleak.
Los Angeles Kings: Supposedly they had upwards of $22 million to toss around at free agents but came up empty. They better find something among the second tier free agents or else it could be another long season in Los Angeles.