Free Agency in the East: Who Won So Far?

The 2011-12 NHL free agency period is only a few days old.  There was a bevy of moves made in a frantic first day.  I am going to focus on a five winners in the Eastern Conference so far.

Washington Capitals

The moves that the Caps made so far haven’t gotten a lot of publicity.  There was a draft day deal that traded their 2011 1st round pick (pick 26) for the Blackhawks winger Troy Brouwer.  As a Blackhawks fan, I think the Caps gave a lot for him, but Brouwer does the things that go unnoticed to the television viewers, he has the strength and will to win battles in the corners.  He may not live up to his offensive potential, but he’s a nice player.

The best trade the Caps made was the 1st round and 2nd round conditional pick for the 2012 draft in compensation for, eh, Semyon Varlamov?  Colorado is giving away assets in some stupid deals, this is worse than the Stewart/Shattenkirk deal last year.  I do like Varlamov, Neuvirth, and Holtby; so I believe Washington has some of the best young goalie talent in the league, but a deal like this you can’t pass up.  Because of this trade, Washington is probably going to have a top-5 pick in the draft next year.

And their best deal so far is the signing of Tomas Vokoun at a cap hit of $1.5 million, a steal if you ask me. You ask, “$1.5 million for one of the best goaltenders in the league?” Yes, it’s true.  Think about this as well, the Avalanche signed Varlamov for 2 years at $2.75 per year.  What?  Washington received a steal here, plain and simple and Vokoun will certainly be on all of my fantasy teams.

Other key players they’ve signed are 37-year-old puck-moving defenseman Roman “The Hammer” Hamrlik and two-way forward Joel Ward who gives them even better winger depth than they already had.

Boston Bruins

What have the Bruins done in free agency so far?  Nothing, and that’s exactly why they are winners.  Unlike the Blackhawks the season before, the help of a raised salary cap and the lack of expiring contracts, the Bruins are able to keep their core together.  They lost Michael Ryder who signed with Dallas.  In addition, they lost Tomas Kaberle, whose play in Boston surely means fans won’t miss him much

With Kaberle and Ryder coming off the books they have room to sign a couple more veteran players to take their place.  They could take a chance with a younger player like Zherdev, or an older winger like Samsonov.  With Savard hopefully coming back from multiple concussions, they have some of the best center depth in the league, along with Krejci and Bergeron.  I see no need to do this, but they could get a lot in a trade for any of the three.

The Bruins made a trade with Carolina, sending a 4th round pick and received defenseman Joe Corvo in return.  I think this is a  good trade for Boston and think that Corvo will pay big dividends this year.

Carolina Hurricanes

No big splashes here.  What is there to do in Raleigh, North Carolina?  I don’t have a clue….ok, I just looked up some things to do: apparently they have a lot of museums, there is an annual beer festival (I guess I could live in Raleigh), and many other things that every major city has like historic sites and shopping.  At least they get nice weather, sometimes, with hurricanes, hence the name.

So to the good, I got sidetracked.  The keys here are the re-signing of Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, and Chad LaRose.  Jokinen was re-signed at $3 million a year for three years, which is laughable, because Tomas Kopecky signed a four year deal in Florida for the same cap hit.  Jokinen contributes in both ends of the ice and is a 20-30 goal scorer with a healthy Eric Staal.  A couple free agent signings were two solid forwards who will give you between 15-20 goals, Alexei Ponikarovsky and the lesser of the Stewart brothers, Anthony Stewart.  Also Brian Boucher is a serviceable backup to Cam Ward who is still a top-10 goaltender in the league.


The Hurricanes also signed Tomas Kaberle to a 3 year $13.75 million deal.  The Hurricanes have better defensemen on their roster and a prospect would have been better playing this position instead of an overrated “puck moving” defenseman who refuses to shoot from the point.  I still count their free agency a win, but this is a stupid signing.

Philadelphia Flyers

Many would hardly consider Philly as winners this offseason.  When the first of two blockbusters was revealed, the one that sent Jeff Carter away, I was so confused.  I figured it must be so they can sign Ily Bryzgalov, who they traded for the negotiating rights of.  Well, I was right, but I didn’t think it would result in trading away Mike Richards too.

The deal for Carter netted them the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft (drafted C Sean Couturier), a 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft (drafted Nick Cousins), and Jakub Voracek.  The Richards deal gave them more in return; they received promising prospect center Brayden Schenn (drafted 5th in 2009 draft), Wayne Simmonds, and a 2nd round pick in 2012.  Yes, they gave up two experienced, talented, two way centers for a lot of prospects basically, but in the end this could still be a fair deal.  All three players received can contribute immediately.

Right winger Jaromír Jágr signed a $3.3 million deal and was poached away from the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Jaromír Jágr that tortured Philly for several years during the 1990’s is now wearing the Flyers sweater.  He’s been almost a point per game layer in his later years.  I see him having a decent season; something like Mark Recchi has had in Boston, but just a tad bit better.

The biggest signing was the 31-year-old goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9-year, $51 million deal.  Signed until he is 40, Bryzgalov is the goaltender that they needed the past few seasons.  Last year I said if Nabokov would have signed with the Flyers they would have won the Cup.  Well that’s not the case this time around with Carter and Richards gone.  This team will still make the playoffs and compete very well, but there will just be that lack of scoring.  Also with those two gone, Briere is very likely to play center, and it’s well known that his scoring decreases when he plays this position as opposed to wing.

Other moves the Flyers made were the signing of Maxime Talbot to a 5-year deal, he will fit nicely here.  Andreas Lilja will take care of the third pair on defense.  They’ve lost Darroll Powe, Ville Leino, and Daniel Carcillo.  They should be happy to “lose” Carcillo, although.  He was nothing but an idiot, he goes out and gets penalties on stupid plays, he has energy but is a worthless turd that was a Broad Street Idiot, not a bully.

Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff (not the Sabres)

Both players signed with the Buffalo Sabres this offseason.  There is a reason they are winners and not the team though, they were highly overpaid.  Leino inked a 6-year, $27 million deal.  Ehrhoff’s deal was longer, 10-year, $40 million deal.

Right now this hurts the Sabres because they have to shed some more salary (they are over the cap right now), which shouldn’t be too hard because they have some useful players and many teams are struggling to meet the salary floor.  They were reportedly going to be in the Brad Richards sweepstakes, and were going to meet with him and his agent.  But with the window closing for Leino to be available; so they chose him over trying to get Richards, who honestly probably wasn’t going to choose them anyways.

Leino is a winner in this whole thing because he is now making $6 mil-6 mil-4 mil-4 mil, 3.5 mil-3.5 mil (for each of the 6 years) and he gets to play his preferred position, center.  Leino was a centerman until he was 23 (now 27), then switched to wing.  Because he is now playing center, likely on Buffalo’s second line, he will be centering probably Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe; an uptick in points is possible.  He had a career year and a fantastic post season last year.  Really though, the main reason Leino is a winner is because he is not “worth” that much money.  He’s a decent penalty killer and camps in front of the net, but his defensive skills combined with his scoring ability do not warrant that much money.

Christian Ehrhoff’s bargaining rights were traded twice before he became an unrestricted free agent.  The first trade was the Islanders giving their 4th round pick in next years draft to the Canucks.  After talks with him and his agent, they realized they weren’t going to sign him, and traded his rights to the Sabres for their 4th round pick next season.  Now, Ehrhoff is a good offensive defenseman and is no slouch in the defensive end.  But his specialty is offense and the power play.  I have no doubt he’s still going to be very good and help this team win, but he was signed for 10 years; the deal will pay him $10 million in the first year, and $8 in the second.  This is more of a win for Ehrhoff because he gets most of his money in the first half of the contract and if he wants to he can retire, or be traded to a contender when he’s in his late 30’s.

The reason I picked the players as winners and not the Sabres is because this gives the team the inability to sign another free agent or two to give them a chance at a Cup run.  I do not see the Sabres as being cup contenders with this current roster, they will make the playoffs, but won’t make it to the finals.


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