Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Homes for the free

The much ballyhooed Free Agent frenzy wasn't quite a frantic rush of names and destinations on Tuesday. For the most part it featured the interchangeable names and faces of the NHL middle class, many of whom changed places on Tuesday seeking out fresh starts from stale situations But as for the Big names, there were fewer of them than anticipated filling out change of address cards on this day after Canada Day.

The most impressive name of those that have signed on a dotted line thus far was Brian Campbell, who has given up the life of Northern California's Silicon Valley for the Windy City of Chicago.

Campbell signed a $57.12-million, eight year contract with the Chi Hawks, providing them with what they hope will be many years of solid defense on the Black hawk blue line. Campbell was the most attractive of the recently freed on Tuesday, finding the Hawks willing to open up the vaults just a little wider than Ottawa, San Jose and a few other tire kickers along the way.

The Black Hawks also made Cristobal Huet a happy guy on Tuesday, giving him 5.6 million a year for four years, a move that has many observers wondering if perhaps the NHL's GM's are beginning to add something to their Kool aid these days.

In fact, Tuesday seemed to be Goaltender Independence Day as eight of the NHL's backstops moved to new locations, besides Huet, getting measured for new uniforms will be Olaf Kolzig, Curtis Joseph, Andrew Raycroft, Jose Theodore, Alex Auld, Patrick Lalime and Ty Conklin.

Just when you were thinking that the Toronto Maple Leafs were getting their act together, they cobble together some interesting deals that have many thinking that things are back to normal at the Air Canada Centre. Besides bringing Cujo back for another go round at the Maple Leaf hockeytorium, the Leafs signed the former Colorado Avalanche defenceman Jeff Finger to a fourteen million dollar, four year deal. Leaving Leaf followers to try and understand how a player with less than 100 games of experience in the NHL could be worth so much money, so fast.

Ottawa won't have Wade Redden to kick around anymore, the Ottawa Senators paid their farewells to Redden on Tuesday, as he signed on for a new deal with the New York Rangers, where he once was thought to be facing a cut in pay in order to retool from a couple of disappointing seasons in Ottawa, the Rangers instead have pretty well matched the Senators pay scale for Redden as he prepares to move to Broadway, the Rangers also topped up the roster by keeping Michal Rozsival in the folf, one of their own free agents Rozsival accepted a four-year, $20-million contract.

The Oilers while not signing any free agents (yet) did improve via the trade route as the Oil picked up Gilbert Brule from Columbus and Erik Cole from Carolina. Still to be seen is whether the wooing of Marian Hossa will have the speedy sniper heading to Northern Alberta for a training camp this fall. Hossa is said to be looking over an offer from Edmonton that could be offering him as much as 9 million dollars a year. Indications that the Oilers are once again eager to show the folks at home that Edmonton can compete with the money players in the league.

While Hossa tries to wrap his head around nine million a year, Mats Sundin sits in Sweden working out the math on a reported 20 million dollar, two year offer from the Vancouver Canucks. With some suggesting that Sundin is contemplating retirement, the Canuck offer sheet might be enough to postpone those thoughts for a couple of years. Sundin has apparently been mentioned by a few teams besides the Montreal Canadiens who spent last week trying to land him, however with Vancouver pushing the pay envelope as high as they have, a good number of those will no doubt be dropping out of any negotiations.

The Sundin bid is what appears to be the last chance for new Canuck GM Mike Gillis to attract a major name to the Canucks off season headlines. Shut out at the draft by his fellow GM's, he has but the cheque book approach left to team building for this season, though he seemed to let a few of the higher profile possibilities slip through his radar while he concentrated on Sundin, a fact that won't be missed by the eagle eyed and quick to react Vancouver media.

Gillis will be keeping close to the phone on Wednesday, hoping that the long distance call from Sweden brings him his prized asset. If that call doesn't come, there will be others made, from the always entertaining hockey fans of Vancouver eager to vent their thoughts on the city's many hockey hotline shows.

Those that have signed a new deal to date...

Those that are still up for grabs...

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