Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Gentlemen, open your wallets!

The midnight hour came and went for the NHL free agency sweepstakes and the Maple Leafs made sure that some of their key players were not part of the festivities. General Manger John Ferguson Jr. spent most of the day putting the finishing touches on the deals that kept Eddie Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts in Bud Blue for one more year for 3 million and 3.75 million respectively. In Belfour’s case the contract runs through until 2006. For his goaltending expertise Belfour will receive 7 million dollars US per season, plus performance bonuses as well as the opportunity to pursue an option year.

While the Leafs were busy sewing up their potential refugees, the list of those looking for a new home grew in leaps and bounds. Some of the top names in the game are now free agents and waiting by the phone for the offers to pour in. But in this summer of discontent that just may not happen, with the league and the players union engaged in (or non-engaged as the case seems to be)negotiations over a new contract and some form of “cost certainty” expected it would be a rather gutsy GM that offers up his boss’ money right now.

But for those dreamers that win the yearly hockey pool with their drafting acumen here’s a list for you to pore over. Imagine how some of these names would stack up in your hockey pool!

Jason Allison, Adam Deadmarsh, Anson Carter, Alexei Kovalev, Paul Kariya, John Madden, Michal Nylander, Richard Matvichuk, Alexei Zhamnov, Peter Bondra, Mathieu Schneider, Teemu Selanne, Glen Wesley, Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Chris Osgood, Craig Conroy, Ziggy Palffy, Vincent Damphousse, Sean Hill, Alexei Zhitnik, Mike Knuble, Glen Murray, Brian Rolston and Eric Lindros.

Some of these names may end up on the same team that they just finished the season with, but others are destined to be moving for sure. Brett Hull has been informed he’s not in the Red Wings plans so will be going somewhere. Paul Kariya had a horrible season with Colorado and is planning on playing somewhere else in the next season. And then there is Dominik Hasek, rumoured to be Ottawa bound but so far he hasn’t put his DH on a Sens contract.

Canada Day in the NHL is usually filled with number crunching and long distance phone calls. This year, it could be that it will be Day of Rest for NHL GM’s. With a tight fist on their wads of cash free agents may find that the day Canada celebrates our rights and freedoms, is not one of celebration. There are normally lots of fireworks across Canada on July 1st, for the NHLPA the fireworks will be delayed until September. By all accounts that display will put the Canada Celebrations to shame!

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