The thing I find funny here is teams are buying into it.
Nashville was first to get into the act, trading David Gosselin and draft picks
to Dallas for Cameron Mann and the rights to Ed Belfour. Belfour would
eventually sign with Toronto to replace Curtis Joseph. Joseph was a member of
the Calgary Flames for a whole twenty-four hours before he signed with Detroit
to fill the void left by the retirement of Dominik Hasek. The Leafs ultimately
won big time here. While they lost Joseph, they at least got a draft pick for
him and ended up with another draft pick for Tie Domi, only to have him re-sign
with the club because "I canít picture myself playing anywhere else". They were
able to replace Joseph with Belfour, and hopefully it pans out even half as
well. I personally think it wonít. You cannot compare the team the Leafs have
now to that Dallas Stars team in 2000, but then again, the Leafs made it to the
conference finals with a battered and bruised team that should now be healthy
for the most part. Belfour states that his favorite team growing up was, you
guessed it, the Leafs. It will be very interesting to see how this pans out. The
Toronto team has not really changed too much from the team that went to the
Eastern Conference final series. They did add more of a veteran presence with
the likes of Robert Svehla, who came out of semi-retirement in Florida to play
for at least another year. They gave up on injury-plagued Dmitri Yuskevich to
get him. Nashvilleís former first ever captain and former Chicago Blackhawk, Tom
Fitzgerald, has also signed with the Leafs.
As expected, the teams that were expected to shell out the
big money for the big names did just that. The New York Rangers as always were
busy, this time around managing to lure Bobby Holik into Madison Square Garden
with a huge five year deal worth a whopping forty-five million. The very next
day they further opened up the vaults and ended up with Darius Kasparaitis on
defense. This deal was worth twenty-seven million over six years. Mike Richter
will be back, as he has also re-signed with the club.
Musical-clubs-rent-a-player Ted Donato will also join the Rangers. He joins his
eighth NHL club, but is still looking to better his output from 1993-94 when he
had a career year as a member of the Boston Bruins. The Rangers already have a
potent offense with Lindros and Bure. Theo Fleury has essentially worn out
his welcome in the Big Apple. Rumors have him going to San Jose,
Nashville, St. Louis or Chicago. Even so, you
can almost guarantee that the Rangers will be back in the playoffs next year.
Itís beginning to sound all too much like a broken record, so Iíll call
it a fifty/fifty shot, just on principle. You cannot buy the Stanley Cup, you
must win it.
Dallas Stars, clearly not learning from the misfortunes
of New York, not to mention themselves, also opened up their supposedly huge
wallets and ended up with arguably the two biggest names on the free agent
market and possibly the biggest one-two punch this side of Joe Sakic and Peter
Forsberg, not to mention Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman. Bill Guerin signed
with the club for another reported forty-five million over five years, and Scott
Young has been reunited with Pierre Turgeon, at least for two years anyway. Now
let me get this straight. You have two potential threatening scoring lines here.
Jere Lehtinen, Mike Modano and Guerin is a scary first line if they actually use
it. Then weíll have a possible second line combo of Turgeon and Young and insert
winger here. Thereís only one problem here. Belfour is gone. Marty Turco will
battle newcomer Ron Tugnutt for the starter job in Dallas. Perhaps I can butt in
here with a suggestion. Play them both equally or trade for Hasek. Oops, I
forgot, heís retired. With all that said, the Stars should be a contender again,
but they have to make the playoffs first. Hereís hoping itís money well spent,
unless by some strange twist of fate they happen to meet the Edmonton Oilers in
the playoffs again.
Washington, trying to learn from the mistake of acquiring
Jaromir Jagr last year, has reunited him with Robert Lang. Well it isnít Mario
Lemieux, but Washington already has Michael Jordan. Lang will get close to a
100% raise, as he accepted a five year twenty-five million deal. Kip Miller,
another former Penguin, will also play here.
the Eastern Conference champion, really surprised
me with one of their off season moves. Theyíve kept Ron Francis, Bret Hedican
and Jeff OíNeill in the fold (for now), but they let one of their biggest fish
get away. Martin Gelinas has signed with the Calgary Flames, of all places.
While Calgary needs badly to make the playoffs this year, I never thought it
could end up being at the expense of the Stanley Cup runners-up. Plus, the
Hurricanes have allowed Sami Kapanen and Aaron Ward to go to arbitration, so
perhaps the storm hasnít yet passed.
Colorado may have lost Kasparaitis, but theyíve decided to
keep the rest of their team intact by signing eight of their remaining free
agents, most notably Dan Hinote, Brad Larsen and Bryan Muir. They also signed
goalie Peter Budaj, drafted in 2000-01. If it hasnít already started,
speculation of Patrick Royís retirement canít be far behind.
will be a much improved team yet again, signing Tony
Amonte to a four year contract worth 24 million. Theyíve also got Kelly
Buchberger, former captain of the Edmonton Oilers and Atlanta Thrashers. Last
year he played for the Los Angeles Kings. If Wayne Gretzky has anything to do
with it, this team will be a contender before too long, however, I need an
explanation for the trade of Robert Esche and Michal Handzus to Philly for Brian
Boucher. Iím still scratching my head over that one.
Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings took a step
towards helping solidify their dominance over the league by re-signing Chris
Chelios. Ironically enough, two other defensemen, Uwe Krupp and Fredrik Olausson,
decided to sign elsewhere, both with expansion teams, Atlanta and Anaheim
respectively. Weíve also mentioned CuJo signing to replace Hasek. Steve Yzerman
will be out until at least Christmas recovering from knee surgery. Brendan
Shanahan, Brett Hull, "Lucky" Luc Robitaille and Steve Duchesne will be back.
Fedorov has decided to join Anna Kournikova on the tennis courtsÖjust kidding.
It all boils down to this: if CuJo ends up the suitable replacement for Hasek
everyone is expecting, we could probably fast forward to next June and see the
cup being raised by Detroit yet again. However, Dallas, Colorado, Phoenix and
even San Jose will have a thing or two to say beforehand.
Letís not forget to mention the biggest trade of the summer
so far. Anaheim and New Jersey were involved in a blockbuster deal involving
seven players. The Ducks get winger Petr Sykora, defenseman Mike Commodore,
goalie J.F. Damphousse and prospect Igor Pohanka. To the Devils in return are
winger Jeff Freisen, former first round drafted defenceman Oleg Tverdovsky and
winger Maxim Balmochnykh. For the sake of the Devilsí play by play announcer, I
hope they donít have to pronounce that name too often. The trade should benefit
both teams to a certain degree. The Devils lose Holik, but gain experience in
Freisen and a solid D-man in Tverdovsky. The Ducks not only get a proven winger
in Sykora, but they get a goalie for the future and a proven D-man in Commodore.
Not to mention that they signed Adam Oates as a free agent from Philadelphia.
The Ducks need to make the playoffs and it is clear they are taking steps to do
so, but then they go and send Steve Shields to Boston. Hello Anaheim, can
somebody please tell me who is going to man the pipes over there? Giguere you
say? Anybody got a game show buzzer I can borrow?
The Devils re-signed Patrik Elias in an attempt to keep at
least some of their offense. Itís hard to say which direction the Devils are
taking here, but with Pat Burns as coach it shouldnít be too hard to guess that
they will at least contend for a playoff spot.
weeks after coming back from my summer vacation I heard
the funniest news Iíve heard in years. Anybody remember Alexandre Daigle, the
former first round bomb, er I mean draft pick? When Randy Sexton signed this guy
to a $12.5 million deal in 1993, he set the stage for NHL salaries to skyrocket.
Had it not been for this irresponsible deal (and if the Senators at the time had
the clout to send him to the minors his first year like every other draft pick
since) I am convinced that things would have been different. Then again,
somebody sometime had to end up the victim of a ridiculous deal, and Daigle just
so happened to be it. You couldnít help but feel sorry for poor Daigle as he
tried to live up to the hype surrounding this deal and failed miserably.
Watching him play I was certain if he would have just been given a chance he
could have made it eventually (look at Bonk and even Yashin now). When he was
finally traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, around Ottawa you got the good
riddance vibe, but I analyzed it this way: how would Ottawa feel if somehow the
Flyers and Senators met in the playoffs and ended up in an overtime situation,
Game 7 and Daigle somehow miraculously came through and scored? Thankfully it
never happened, probably due to the great Lindros saga (donít forget Daigle
ended up on the infamous Legion of Doom line for about seventy-two hours).
Daigle subsequently never fit in and was traded twice more to Tampa Bay and the
New York Rangers before finally being sent down to the minors. After that, he
decided to retire from hockey and move on to Hollywood to pursue an acting
career. In his spare time he ended up playing roller hockey in Los Angeles. Now
hockey fans, I hope youíre sitting down, because the San Jose Sharks, arguably a
significant contender next year, have offered this guy a tryout and have signed
him to a free agent contract. What this means is he could either make the team,
or end up playing for the Sharksí affiliate in Cleveland. I myself canít help
but wonder if this deal is so crazy that it just might work. I know itís made
headlines around the hockey world thatís for sure. It will be interesting to see
if Daigle can make it to a checking line role or even as an occasional call-up
between the minors and the big league. Time will tell. I am predicting big
things for Daigle in his comeback bid. It obviously wonít be of Mario Lemieux
proportions, but look for him to at least make a significant impact. Iím
predicting heíll figure in the top fifteen in scoring on the Sharks roster, and
by 2005 he will be a top scorer in the league. Am I getting a little too far
ahead of myself? Maybe, but thereís no question this guy had potential when he
was drafted. Perhaps a break was exactly what the doctor ordered. Weíll have to
wait for training camp and preseason to find out for sure. Maybe they can play
him with Teemu Selanne, who clearly is not "Finnished" in Shark land as he
re-signed despite being offered more money from undisclosed sources. Oh by the
way, due to the Compaq/HP merger, the Compaq Center as we knew it will now be
referred to as the HP Pavillion. While I wonder profusely what will happen with
the Houston arena, there is no NHL hockey being played there so it shouldnít
the most part, the big names have already been signed.
We will see most, if not all remaining free agents signed within the coming
weeks. Most arbitration and contract disputes will (hopefully) be resolved. The
last thing a player wants to do is sit out when they could be contributing on
the ice. As has been demonstrated, the mentality of most teams is win and win
now, even if it means breaking the bank.
Of course as we already know, only one team will win the
Stanley Cup. It has already been predicted that the East doesnít hold a candle
to the West, but that will also remain to be seen. I for one am eagerly awaiting
the dog days of summer to pass so we can drop the puck on a new season.
closer look at who has gone where can be found here: