Monday, June 30, 2008

One Day Till Free Agency

One day from NHL free agency and things are starting to sort themselves out a bit. Fascinating news from Tampa where former Steel City guy Ryan Malone signed a 7 year $31.5M deal with the Bolts.

What isn't terribly interesting is Malone leaving Pittsburgh, but rather him signing with Tampa a day prior to the start of free agency. One has to assume that the Lightning had at least a pretty good idea they would be able to sign him when they made a deal for exclusive negotiating rights. If Malone hadn't somehow indicated a willingness to sign with Tampa, why would they give up a draft pick in exchange for exclusive pre-July 1 negotiating rights? Shocking to think that in today's seamlessly run (note the sarcasm) NHL, such outside the rules shenanigans would take place.

Another interesting move announced today was the LA Kings trading solid defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky for not quite as flashy, but quite a bit younger Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene of the Oilers. The Kings may not (well, probably won't) be a playoff team next season, but they are assembling quite a collection of young talent for the future.

So... a few things have already happened and a few more are to come. The marquee free agents are Mats Sundin of the Leafs and Brian Campbell of the Sharks. At this point, both players appear to be on the move with the Leafs gently nudging Sundin out the door (probably the right strategy for a franchise that needs to go young, but shouldn't slap their loyal superstar by not "trying" to sign him).

Campbell is a different case in that he's talented, he's young and the Sharks woulve love to keep him. However, publically there has been strange communication out of Camp Campbell with statements to the effect of "might have to stay closer to home/Eastern Canada." My guess would be that this means Campbell has already told the Sharks he's not going to sign with them and has asked that this remain quiet while he figures out where he does want to go. While it's true that Campbell would be a very valuable piece of the puzzle in San Jose, not signing him is no disaster in that it does free up probably $7-8M a year over five or so years. This is the type of money that can be used elsewhere... not necessarily for a Brian Campbell (not many of those out there), but for a different D-man, perhaps a Wade Redden, Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit or Brooks Orpik.

On a different note, here's to hoping that one hypothetical player move doesn't happen... Patrick Marleau out of San Jose. Marleau's no-trade clause kicks in July 1, but he proved his toughness in the playoffs last year and at $6M/season for the next two years, isn't due crazy $ for a center (much more valuable than a comparably talented wing) of his ilk. If the Sharks got sufficient value for a Milan Michalek, I'd be fine with a move there, but I just don't see the return on Marleau being high enough to let him go.

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