Canucks score big after day one
Vancouver was the biggest winner after day one of NHL free agency
Mike Komisarek will liven things up in Toronto, that's for certain
Mike Knuble goes to Washington; the ultimate round peg for a round hole
Rating the smartest deals from day one of NHL free agency (and no, the Marian Hossa signing is not among them):
1) Daniel and Henrik Sedin stay in Vancouver (five years, $30.1 million each): The Canucks maintain the core of their offense with a contract that features both a hometown discount and reasonable term, allowing GM Mike Gillis enough space to make at least one more significant addition. Hard to imagine any deal topping this one in terms of value for the team and a fair stipend for the players.
2) Mike Komisarek to Toronto (five years, $22.5 million): Coming on the heels of a disappointing season, you can argue that Komisarek's game needs significant development before he's worth the $4.5 million cap hit provided by this contract. Still, this is exactly the type of player that Brian Burke has been promising he'd add since arriving in Toronto, a nasty piece of work who'll make life miserable for invading forwards and up the entertainment quota on a nightly basis. When you consider the general surliness of Toronto's right side (Komisarek joins Luke Schenn and Garnet Exelby, acquired earlier in the day in exchange for Pavel Kubina), next season will be miserable for opposing left wingers.
You want to rip this deal? You wont have any problem finding an angle, but it says here that Glen Sather finally nailed a landing. After finding another sucker to assume the indefensible contract of Scott Gomez -- an award-worthy move in and of itself -- Slats morphed that cap space into Gaborik, one of the top three one-on-one players in the game. New coach John Tortorella wants to play an up-tempo style? It's hard to imagine many players who are more ideally suited to the role than Gabby, whose speed and finishing ability ensure that the Rangers wont have to suffer through another year as the worst offense in the East. Granted, there are no guarantees he'll stay healthy for the duration of the contract, but the same can be said of every player. After all, we're all day-to-day, arent we?
4) Greg Zanon to Minnesota (three years, $5.8 million): An underappreciated element of Nashville's defense corps, Zanon is an old-school warrior. He won't contribute much to the offense, but he does all the little things that help a team maintain control of its own zone. He's smart positionally, plays a disciplined physical game and ranks as one of the league's most fearless shot blockers. He'll be a fan favorite in Minnesota.
5) Martin Havlat to Minnesota (six years, $30 million)
The Wild quickly filled the hole created by Gaborik's departure. Havlat, who bounced back from an injury-shortened 2007-08 campaign with a career year, was Chicago's top forward, scoring 77 points in 81 regular season games before amping up his effort in the playoffs where he played with a passion that hinted more at a hunger for success than a new contract. Now that he has one, Wild fans should be thrilled that not only does he want to play in Minnesota, something that clearly couldn't be said for the more talented Gaborik, but he signed at a price that will allow Chuck Fletcher the flexibility to deepen the talent pool. If that money is used to bring in Saku Koivu or Ruslan Fedotenko, this deal ends up looking even better.
What's Havlat going to do with his windfall? His post-signing postings on Twitter suggest he'll be spending some of his new riches on incendiary devices to burn all his bridges with the Blackhawks. Keep an eye on this one.
6) Nikolai Khabibulin to Edmonton (four years, $15 million): After losing last season's MVP Dwayne Roloson to the Islanders, GM Steve Tambellini addressed a gaping hole by acquiring arguably the best goaltender in this year's UFA class. Khabibulin will be 40 at the end of this deal, but he's durable (50-plus starts in six of his last seven seasons) and his 2.33 GAA last season was the second-best of his career. And if all goes well, he'll pay dividends before he even slips on an Oilers sweater. The addition of one of the league's elite stoppers to the roster might be enough to convince Dany Heatley to waive his NMC and accept that trade to Edmonton.
7) Mike Knuble to Washington (two years, $5.6 million): The ultimate round peg for a round hole, Knuble is the ideal solution to Washington's most pressing need: a gritty forward with soft hands and a reliable net presence. His ability to create havoc in the crease and bury unfortunate rebounds could be the element that propels the surging Caps to the Eastern Conference finals.
8) Craig Anderson to Colorado (two years, $3.6 million): He wasn't the most prominent netminder available, but that doesn't mean he won't provide a significant upgrade over what was the league's most inept goaltending duo. Anderson isn't the classic No. 1 stopper, but he demonstrated an ability to carry the Panthers for lengthy stretches last season while starter Tomas Vokoun struggled to find his game. Anderson's GAA of .924 was third-best in the league-a valuable asset for a goalie who's likely to face a lot of shots playing behind a lower-tier defense. Plus, he came at a price that leaves the Avs enough money to stay in the chase for Jonas Gustavsson, the Swedish goalie who'd make a far more compelling partner than holdover Peter Budaj.
9) Mattias Ohlund to Tampa Bay (seven years, $26.25 million): Seven years for a 32-year-old defender may seem excessive, but the real value of this deal will be demonstrated over the first two seasons. Ohlund not only brings a physical, two-way presence to the league's most beleaguered blueline, he'll also serve as a mentor to Swedish defender Victor Hedman, the second overall pick in last weekend's draft.
10) David Booth stays with Florida (six years, $25.5 million): Playing in Florida obscures his goal-scoring prowess (raise your hand if you knew he ranked third among U.S.-born snipers with 31 goals last season), but the Panthers showed their appreciation with a contract that makes the 24-year-old winger the team's highest-paid forward.
11) Mike Cammalleri to Montreal (five years, $30 million): Coming off career highs in goals (39) and points (82), Cammalleri has the instincts and grit to assume a key role in Montreal's revamped offense. Problem is, he won't be playing with Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow, the Flames' forwards who helped him to that career season. And while his lack of size might not have been a big issue yesterday, it becomes one today in the wake of the Habs trading for Scott Gomez. A big, physical center would have been a better fit, but Cammalleri will find a way to be productive.
12) Scott Niedermayer stays with Anaheim (one year, $6 million): Granted, this signing had all the dramatic impact of Matthew McConaughey getting the girl at the end of any one of his indistinguishable rom-coms, but the return of the veteran ensures a smooth transition for a young but very promising defense in Anaheim. The hair might be more salt than pepper these days, but the legs still have plenty of gas and no one in the league makes a better first pass.
13) Steve Sullivan stays in Nashville (two years, $7.5 million): On a practical level, re-signing the oft-injured Sullivan makes as much sense as building a house along a major fault line. Still, there are few players who bring as much passion to the game as the 2009 Masterton winner and as he showed in his return after two years on the sidelines, he's still got the jam and desire to play in the greasy areas. Sullivan had 27 points in his final 25 games, suggesting he can still carry a significant offensive load in 2009-10.
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