Blues Land Paul Kariya
Dynamic forward Paul Kariya has signed a three-year deal with St. Louis, joining Keith Tkachuk on what should be a much-improved Blues team. Kariya remains one of the NHL’s most prolific offensive players, consistently scoring at a point-per-game pace. Capable of playing the point on the power play, the versatile Kariya should be a great asset on a Blues team that will be welcoming top prospect Erik Johnson into the fold.
Avs Sign Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan
The good news for the Oilers fans is that Ryan Smyth won’t be suiting up for the Calgary Flames this season. The bad news is that they’ll still be seeing him eight times during the 2007-08 regular season. Smyth has joined good friend Joe Sakic on the Colorado Avalanche, signing a five-year, $31.25 million deal with the Oilers’ Northwest Division rivals. Hard-hitting blueliner Scott Hannan has signed a four-year deal with the Avalanche worth $18 million. The stay-at-home rearguard was previously a mainstay on the San Jose Sharks’ blue line, and should affect a huge improvement in the Avs’ own-zone play.
Rangers Land Gomez and Drury
The New York Rangers took a dramatic step towards improving themselves yesterday, signing two of this summer’s most coveted free agents—Scott Gomez and Chris Drury—to their lineup. By adding Gomez to their lineup for seven years and $51.5 million—and subtracting him from the cross-town rival Devils’—the Blueshirts accomplished two critical tasks with one bold move. And Drury, signed to a five-year deal worth $35.25 million, is one of the most well-respected leaders in the NHL; he will slot in quite nicely as the much-improved Rangers’ new second line center.
Gomez had been reportedly working out with Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan—also an unrestricted free agent—in recent weeks, leading to speculation that he was Broadway-bound. Gomez was on the market for all of seven hours, likely mulling numerous lucrative offers before accepting the Rangers’. With the talented Alaskan now in the fold, it makes it far more likely that Shanahan will return to the Rangers for the 2007-08 season, making them one of the Eastern Conference’s most formidable Cup contenders.
Maple Leafs Sign Jason Blake
Jason Blake scored a career-high 40 goals and 69 points last season for the New York Islanders, and now he’s going to get the opportunity to play alongside Mats Sundin on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top line. The speedy penalty-killer signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Leafs, marking the end of his successful stint with the Islanders.
Flyers Trade Pitkanen/Sanderson to Oilers for Lupul/Smith
The Philadelphia Flyers have traded defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Geoff Sanderson to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith. The teams finally consummated this long-rumored trade, in which Pitkanen—a talented young rearguard who wasn’t working out in Philly—gets a fresh start in Edmonton, where they desperately needed a power play quarterback following the exits of Chris Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek, and Marc-Andre Bergeron. In Lupul, the Flyers landed a supremely talented forward who—like Pitkanen—desperately needed a change of scenery. Acquired from the Ducks in the deal that sent Pronger away, Lupul was perhaps a bit overburdened by the expectations surrounding his arrival, however unreasonable they might have been. And Smith, the former Oilers’ captain, is a hard-hitting rearguard who should immediately endear himself to the Broad Street Bullies’ bloodthirsty fan base.
Rafalski Leaves Devils for Motown
After seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils that included two Stanley Cup victories, defenseman Brian Rafalski is changing addresses. He signed a five-year, $30 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings, where he will replace Mathieu Schneider on the point of the power play alongside perennial Norris Trophy candidate Nicklas Lidstrom. A native of Dearborn, Michigan, this will be a homecoming of sorts for Rafalski, who should in quite well with the talented, high-flying Wings.
Flames Sign Sarich
The Calgary Flames have signed stay-at-home defenseman Cory Sarich to a five year, $18 million deal worth an average of $3.6 million per year. Sarich joins the Flames after spending seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, including the team’s 2004 Cup victory over the Flames. This contract makes it abundantly clear that the market for defensemen is quite strong, and that huge paydays are likely in store for both Sheldon Souray and Scott Hannan.
Flyers Land Daniel Briere
One of this year’s most highly coveted free agents has chosen a new home. Center Daniel Briere has signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers that includes a no-trade cause. The dynamic center should be an excellent fit with the Flyers, helping them to establish an up-tempo game that will enable them to re-emerge as contenders in the post-lockout NHL. The cost of the deal ($6.5 million per year) is about what was expected for Briere, and should leave GM Paul Holmgren with the flexibility to make another move or two this off-season.
Ducks Sign Schneider to 2-Year Deal
Amid rampant speculation that captain Scott Niedermayer is planning to call it quits, the Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman Mathieu Schneider to a two-year deal worth $11.25 million. The move demonstrates that the Ducks intend to maintain their focus on the blue line, as their Cup victory was largely due to the presence of Norris Trophy finalists Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. And though Schneider represents a step down from Niedermayer (should he retire), he’s probably the best alternate option available to GM Brian Burke.
Panthers Sign Zednik and McLean
Florida Panthers have gotten active in the market on the first day, quickly signing forward Richard Zednik (formerly with the Islanders) for two years, $3.25 million deal and forward Brett McLean (Avalanche) for three years, $5.1 million. While the moves won’t set South Florida ablaze with excitement, it’s a good sign that the Panthers are actively working to improve for 2007-08.
Capitals Add Tom Poti to Blue Line Corps
Offensive defenseman Tom Poti has signed a 4-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth $14 million. Poti should fit in nicely in Washington, where he’ll become the top power play quarterback on a team boasting two of the league’s most lethal goal scorers, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Look for Poti to return to his 2002-03 form, when he scored 48 points while with the New York Rangers.
Thrashers Sign Todd White to 4-Year Deal
The first major UFA signing came when the Atlanta Thrashers signed Todd White (formerly with the Minnesota Wild) to a four-year deal worth $9.5 million. The price for White (around $2.125 million/year) is about what is expected, and the playmaking center could see his offensive production rise dramatically if he’s paired with Ilya Kovalchuk and/or Marian Hossa.
Sharks Sign Thornton to 3-Year Extension
The San Jose Sharks have signed first line center Joe Thornton to a three-year contract extension that will pay him $21.6 million. Getting the Hart Trophy winner locked up to a three-year deal gives the Sharks some nice stability and continuity, which could help them pursue top talent this summer. And given that there was rampant speculation that Scott Gomez and Daniel Briere could command contracts worth $8 million/year, it seems far likely that the market has been corrected a bit by this (and the Iginla) signing, making Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s task quite a bit easier.
Flames Re-Sign Iginla to 4-Year Deal
Jarome Iginla is clearly not concerned about whether or not he’ll get along with new Flames head coach Mike Keenan. At the dawn of this summer’s free agent signing period, Iginla inked a four-year, $28 million extension with the Flames, making it ever more likely that Calgary will be the only NHL team for which he plays. The signing should give GM Darryl Sutter some valuable security as he pursues free agents this summer, because he can now address the team’s needs without worrying about losing Iginla next summer.
Bruins Acquire Fernandez from Wild
The Boston Bruins have acquired goaltender Manny Fernandez from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for mid-level forward prospect Petr Kalus and a fourth round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. For the Wild, the deal was a simple salary dump, as they are quite comfortable leaving their goaltending in the hands of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. The Bruins are now rumored to be shopping forward Glen Murray and goalie Hannu Toivonen, with the Oilers the most likely destination.