Middletown, N. J – Free agency is in full swing and even with general managers taking the weekend of the 4th of July holiday off, there was still plenty of movement just prior and some rumors through 2 days to keep us interested.
Santa Claus makes his annual visit to most of us during the latter part of December but in hockey he is forced to awake from his slumber and visit NHL offices around the league in July.
A verse from a classic holiday tune rings true in my head every season when this occurs ; ‘He knows who’s been naughty and knows who’s been nice’.
Below I give my opinion on who I think received the present that was tops on their list and who received a lump of coal in their stocking this off-season. Part one of the two part series takes a gander at the Eastern Conference.
Eastern Conference Nice List
Detroit Red Wings : The new addition to the Eastern Conference ups the ante for the Isles this season, as they will have to contend with the model franchise for many more games than in seasons past. Detroit will end up losing 27 year old Damien Brunner, but did wonderfully in free agency, adding aging but iconic superstar Daniel Alfredsson to the lineup from the Ottawa Senators and signing Stephen Weiss from the Panthers to a very modest 1 year, 4mm deal. With Valtteri Filppula leaving along with Ian White, if the Red Wings can manage to lock up Dan Cleary they will definitely be a team to recon with yet again. Nobody quite knows how they continue their excellence year in and year out but I am sure an expose on the lines of ‘Moneyball’ could soon be following to fill us amateurs all in.
New Jersey Devils: Lou Lamoriello is an absolute genius and a general manager that should set the standard for others around the league. I had mentioned on Twitter earlier in the off-season that Garth Snow himself was developing a very Lou like feel to him and he should continue with that transformation. After wrapping up their worst regular season in recent memory, the Devils had questions all over the rink ; specifically who would support Ilya Kovalchuk at forward and who is playing goal after what is sure to be 40 year old Martin Brodeur‘s final season. All those questions were answered with the signings of Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder as well as the blockbuster draft day trade of the 9th overall pick (Bo Horvat) for Cory Schneider. Now, instead of New Jersey taking a step back, they will be the same pain in the neck team to play against.
New York Islanders: Garth Snow, much to some fans chagrin, has had a wonderful off-season so far. One of the fastest teams in the East now gets quicker with the addition of Pierre-Marc Bouchard from the Minnesota Wild on a 1 year contract with very minimal risk. Peter Regin arrives with more speed and a penalty killing presence on the 3rd line from Ottawa. He also maintained the status-quo in a quickly dried up goaltender market by taking out a retainer on Evgeni Nabokov. That should allow New York to see exactly what they have in youngsters Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson. But perhaps his biggest and most shrewd move was the re-signing of restricted free agent Travis Hamonic to a 7 year deal at under 4mm per season. It shows the vision that is needed for the franchise to survive long term and reap the benefits financially that the move to Barclays Center will bring. In 2-3 years, when Travis rounds out his game even more and becomes a top blueliner in the league, the salary will be way below market standards.