We're a few days into the NHL's free agent period, and there have been a lot of interesting happenings around the league. Christy over at Behind the Jersey did a pretty excellent job of breaking down the winners and losers so far.
I completely agree with her that the Kings have done an excellent job. Could they end up being the new Vancouver Canucks? A scary, scary team to face, but without a quality goaltender that could pull everything together and make them a real contender? With Blake, JMFJ, Stuart, and Preissing, that's a great group they've got back on the blueline. And four guys that can play on the PP to boot.
I have to laugh at the Buffalo Sabres. I know that's not nice, because they're a small market team with extremely loyal fans--and with me being a diehard Packers fan it's almost hypocritical for me to do so--but screw em. I hate Ryan Miller, I hate that fucking arena that was the site of one of the worst days of my life, and I hate those douchebags in the Anchor Bar that told me the Wings just bought their Cups. So there.
One guy I do feel bad for, however, is Jed Ortmeyer, who deserves SO much better than the sinking ship that is the Nashville Predators. And he deserves better than the "Hey, a guy named Jed signed with a team in Tennessee" jokes that are sure to come. At least I'll get to watch him play 8 times a year now! One positive of this asinine unbalanced schedule.
As for the Red Wings, thusfar they've lost Kyle Calder, Todd Bertuzzi, and Mathieu Schneider, and signed Brian Rafalski and Jiri Hudler.
I'm still not sure what to make of the Rafalski signing. I really want to like it. I think he's an upgrade from Mathieu Schneider. Even if he doesn't have Schneider's shot from the point (maybe he can put HIS on goal sometimes), he's a better passer, and a better all-around defenseman. He's good enough that if Lidstrom hangs it up in the near future, we've still got a guy that could be a legit #1 defenseman (even if he's not Nick). He was an all-star last year, has been durable (82 GP the last two seasons) and he averaged 25+ minutes of ice time.
And because of that, $6 million a year isn't an unreasonable salary. Especially if the report is true that he turned down a 6 year/$40 million offer to play for his hometown team (he's from Dearborn).
The only thing that scares me is that if the cap doesn't go up much higher and Lidstrom hangs around for a few more years, we're going to have quite the money crunch when Zetterberg's raise comes due. You're going to have Z making $7.5 or so, Datsyuk making $6.7, Rafalski making $6 million and Lidstrom making $7.5ish. That's almost $29 million on four players (which would leave $21 million for the other 22 guys). That puts an insane amount of pressure on Jim Howard to be for real, because it really wouldn't leave a buffer to go sign a high-end goalie.
And after putting that down on paper, I have to wonder if they don't have a pretty decent idea of how much longer Lidstrom is going to play.
I'm not really upset that Bertuzzi left. Anaheim overpaid for him, and for Detroit to match that and give up another second round pick? No thanks. I'm disappointed that we couldn't land Kozlov though. I was really liking the idea of seeing him in red and white again, flanking Datsyuk.
I wish things had worked out with Kyle Calder. He looked so good when he got to Detroit. I remember writing "I'd be working out a contract extension with him right now" two weeks or so into his tenure. Then something happened. He ended up in Babcock's doghouse, and his play dropped off big-time. I don't know which happened first. Still, he was cheap, and he was the kind of player we need. I would've brought him back.
It's puzzling that Hasek isn't signed yet. Based on the reports in the media, it seems that he's asking for a raise, they're close, but he and the Wings haven't come to terms yet. There have also been rumblings that LA made him and offer of 2 years/$10 million that he turned down. I'm wondering if he hasn't said something along the lines of "I'd like $2.5 million, but if taking less would allow us to get another player, I'm willing to do so--or at least take a lower base salary" but since contracts can't be renegotiated, they have to wait to sign him until we know for sure how much money we're going to have at the end of the free agency period. That's the only thing that makes sense to me.
As for the Pistons, it seems like the free agent market is shaping up nicely for them. Chauncey will get signed. There aren't any other suitors out there. Additionally, there is an unsubstantiated rumor that Amir Johnson will sign a 3 year/$12 million offer sheet with the Houston Rockets. If true, I can't imagine that Detroit doesn't match that offer sheet. You can't let a player with that much talent get away. Sign him, and MAKE Flip play him. I view that offer sheet (if it's true) as a good thing, as it gets the deal done. I can't see Detroit letting him go for $4 million a season. Additionally, I believe it's going to come down to Detroit and Phoenix for Grant Hill, and I think the Pistons have more money to offer (even if they use $4 million on Johnson). I don't know a ton about the NBA cap, but that seems to be the gist of what I read. If they could land all three of those guys, this offseason is a success in my eyes. If they can move Nazr and Flip for a center, all the better.
Edit: Forget what I said about Grant Hill. ESPN is reporting that he'll sign with Phoenix when this dead period is over.