One day into the NHL free agency season and one prediction right:
July 1 was an overblown let-down. How could it not be?
Very few people care about where very few of the names on those UFA lists go anyway. At the very least, TSN showed some good sense in airing Wimbledon instead of foisting Pierre Maguire on poor viewers for the entire day like the equally uneventful trade deadline.
Even with the disappointing lack of big-name contracts, it is still possible to start pointing to who the winners and the losers of this free agent "frenzy" (and I hesitate to use that word) might be.
Off-season winners (as of July 1, 2008)
1. Phoenix Coyotes
These guys probably would have been winners regardless of any free agency stuff. Adding Olli Jokinen for disappointmenting Dmen was a coup. The fact they added Sauer, who can easily replace Boynton, for nothing shows real planning and thinking.
2. Edmonton Oilers
How about we trade Pitkanen, Stoll and Greene for Visnovsky and Erik Cole? That's fan forum stuff, yet they pulled it out of the bag. Cole gives them a winger who can convert Hemsky passes. Visnovsky replaces Pitkanen and more.
3. New Jersey
Holding onto valuable players they like (Pandolfo) and acquiring Holik and Rolston make this team better. Intelligent moves from an intelligent GM.
The Hawks fans are biggest winners here. Chicago could have easily ridden their prospects for another few seasons. Adding Campbell shows their commitment to regain respectability. Adding Huet is puzzling with Khabibulin in place already, but hey they have the cap room and just landed the best goalie available.
Off-season losers (as of July 1, 2008)
What on earth is this team doing? Little more than a year ago they were vying for the league title, acquiring Forsberg and all. This off-season they've committed lots of money to a one-year wonder in goal, cutting loose their previous one-year man. They've also lost Zidlicky for peanuts. Adding nothing only adds to the sting. Maybe they are planning a surprise for us soon.
Does Dean Lombardi know something we don't? Did the Kings actually win the league and Cup? Letting Cammalleri go was puzzling for a team with such dire quality up front. The players they added look like final last pieces for a Stnaley Cup contender, not the foundations for a new go.
Losing your best defenceman, the guy you thought would be the goalie of the future and your only proven talent beyond the first line hurts a lot. Adding Auld does nothing to assuage this kind of pain.
This pathetic franchise, which needs to lay down some kind of plan soon, has done nothing. Looking at their roster, it's still two wingers and no one else to lead the charge.
From my viewpoint, Gainey's done a good job to hold off on signing the lesser lights of July 1 just for the sake of it.
If I look at what he has done so far, I think a case could be made that he signed the best player available yesterday in Andrei Kostitsyn – certainly if performance as well as potential for improvement are factored together. To sign him at 3/4 the cost of Michael Ryder is a bit of a coup, actually. To get his services for 60% of a Jeff carter contract shows the difference in quality of the respective GMs.
If we think about it, Tanguay is also one of the top three acquisitions made at forward since the end of the season, up there with Jokinen and Cole.
Sure losing Ryder hurts, but we were never going to be happy for a minute with $4 million for even 30 goals from Ryder. Losing Streit hurts more, but we hope this is pain for gain as the money saved is used to benefit the team.
And when you measure Gainey against his peers, he looks even better. He has resisted the AD/HD signings that the Rangers and Flyers cannot, he can apparently spot talent a whole lot better than anyone ever sitting in the chair of Leaf GM, and he hasn't overcommitted to third tier stars just to placate the screaming hordes. While we can lambaste him now, imagine if Gainey had signed Ryan Malone for 7 years, made Brian Campbell the highest paid player in Canadiens history or highly overpaid for Commodore. We should consider ourselves lucky considering how few teams came out of Day 1 unscathed.
So all in all, Gainey has done well. He's been sensible, just like we asked him to be. What's more, he's seen his rival GMs fill their cap space with no important free agents yet tied down. Well done. More of the same please...