Thursday, September 14, 2006

Out With The Old, In With The New

Hockey is coming back. A new collective bargaining agreement sees its first off-season begin to melt away. That leaves many players on the free agency list in new uniforms as training camps start around the league.

Many teams took advantage of this windfall list, sending many players packing over the summer to new cities. While it is hard to gauge a clear winner or loser, only time and an 82 game season will tell, many teams looked shell shocked while others looked to land a little gold mind of players. Many teams hurriedly signed their stars to keep them home, many could not hold on to others, allowing key players that were big successes during the season to slip away.

The Buffalo Sabres can attest to losing some key talent. J.P. Dumont signed with Nashville after he could not agree to terms offered by Buffalo, Mike Grier and Jay McKee were also lost to San Jose and St. Louis respectively. Don’t cry for Buffalo yet, they still have Daniel Briere and Ryan Miller, and have signed Jaroslav Spacek from Edmonton.

The Ottawa Senators had their defense picked apart over the summer. Boston picked up Zdeno Chara, Washington took Brian Pothier and Detroit took back Dominik Hasek. However, Ottawa was able to hang on to most of their offensive weapons in Jason Spezza and others, still leaving them very dangerous in the Eastern Conference.

St. Louis has quietly made moves with some unexpected signings like Manny Legace from Detroit (who was blamed for their early fall in the playoffs even with a sluggish Detroit offense). Doug Weight returns to a Blues uniform and joining him in St. Louis are Martin Rucinsky from the Rangers, Dan Hinote from Colorado and McKee from Buffalo. The Blues are not going to be last in the Western Conference in the direction they are now heading.

If your head isn’t spinning yet with all of these moves, just know that we are only scratching the surface of players on the move this summer in the NHL. There are 132 free agents that have changed teams as listed on which doesn’t include off season trades as of September 14th. These are just the highlights.

Some familiar names also moved around after so-so seasons. Eric Lindros went south to become a Dallas Star, Ed Belfour did as well signing with Florida, and Petr Sykora made a move west in Edmonton. Michael Peca (his season was not sub par) is buying property in St. Paul signing with the Wild.

Goaltenders seemed to be on the move every wear. Hasek, Legace and Belfour were all packing to new locations. As were Ty Conklin who is now a Blue Jacket and John Grahame, who was strongly criticized by Coach John Tortorella after Tampa Bay lost in the first round of the playoffs, signed with Carolina. The biggest non move by a goaltender, Rick DiPietro who will be going no where soon, signed a 15 year contract with the New York Islanders, guaranteeing DiPietro at least $4 million a season until he is 40.

Free agency this off season has seen some players go back to their old haunts. Jeremy Roenick is a Coyote again. Rob Blake is back in Los Angeles after a stint in Colorado. Hasek will be flopping around the crease in red and white again with Detroit while Weight brings back some Cup experience to the Blues.

New faces in new places have kept many fans a buzzed this summer with rumor and speculation. Complaining about whom they let go, and who they signed. It will take some getting used to, to see players in different uniforms.

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