1. Hossa Blows Into Windy City
This year’s version of the July 1st free agent frenzy didn’t disappoint, as NHL general managers once again threw money around like it was candy at a parade. Perhaps the most surprising move of the day was the Chicago Blackhawks’ signing of the consensus number one free agent, Marian Hossa. It had been rumored for weeks that Hossa and the Detroit Red Wings were close to a long-term deal that would have kept the sniper in Motown, but when all was said and done Hossa was a Blackhawk, signing for 12 years and a bushel of cash.
Despite the fact that Detroit missed out on Hossa, their fingerprints are all over his new contract. The 12-year pact is clearly a copycat of the uberlong-term deal the Wings and forward Henrik Zetterberg agreed to earlier this winter. Hossa’s deal, which calls for him to earn a total of $62.8 million, is heavily front-loaded: the 30-year old Slovak will be paid $7.9 million over the contract’s first seven seasons, $4 million in the eighth season and $1 million or less in each of the final four. A deal such as this is appealing to the player because it assures them a major payout over the first two thirds of the contract, and it is appealing to the club because it allows them to keep the player’s cap hit at a reasonable figure, $5.23 million in Hossa’s case. If Hossa becomes unproductive in the contract’s final years, it will be much easier for the Blackhawks to swallow the remaining dollars on his contract and cut him loose.
In essence, Hossa’s deal is an eight-year contract worth $7.4 million per season with a four-year deal worth $0.875 million per year tacked on the end.
So what will Hossa bring to the ‘Hawks? In a word, scoring. In the four seasons since the lockout, the winger has posted goal totals of 39, 43, 29 and 40. His choke job in this year’s finals aside, his playoff numbers have also been relatively good: 31 goals and 76 points in 97 career games.
As Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports, Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon is thrilled to add a player of Hossa’s caliber to his up-and-coming team.
“He's an elite-level, world-class player. [We felt] he would be a tremendous asset to our team and to our young players, and help lead us to the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup," said Tallon.
Hossa’s deal signaled the end of the road for Chicago free agents Martin Havlat, Nikolai Khabibulin, Sammy Pahlsson and defenseman Matt Walker. Havlat inked with the Wild for six years and $30 million, Khabibulin was snapped up by the Oilers for four years and $15 million, Pahlsson chose the Blue Jackets at three years and nearly $8 million and Walker will now patrol the blue line for the Lightning, having signed for four years and $6.8 million. Chicago did add free agent forward John Madden on a one-year contract worth $2.75 million.
However, the Blackhawks may be in for a few more free agent headaches before the NHL’s silly season is through.
The Sports Network (TSN) reports that the team is currently being investigated by both the NHL and NHLPA for making invalid qualifying offers to a handful of their restricted free agents. According to TSN, the qualifying offers presented to Kris Versteeg, Cam Barker, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Aaron Johnson and Troy Brouwer may not have been filed correctly. That could lead to the six players being deemed unrestricted free agents. Should that come to fruition, it would be a huge embarrassment for Tallon and his front office staff.
2. Heatley Saga Heats Up
One of the biggest stories of July 1st involved not a signing, but a non-trade involving an increasingly infuriating forward. As if Dany Heatley hadn’t already tarnished his reputation enough by demanding a trade from the Ottawa Senators only two years into a generous six-year contract, he has now vetoed a deal that would have sent him from Canada’s capital to the Edmonton Oilers for forwards Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner and defenseman Ladislav Smid.
Heatley, who has a no-movement clause in his contract, elected not to waive the clause because, as rumor has it, he was hoping to be sent to either San Jose or the New York Rangers.
The Oiler deal, now seemingly kaput, had a deadline of Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. ET. Why, you ask? Because once midnight hit it triggered a $4 million signing bonus in Heatley’s contract. Now that the Senators have been forced to pay the bonus, they will look to recoup more value in return for Heatley’s services.
This sordid tale could get uglier still before all is sorted out in Ottawa. One thing is for sure, after spurning two Canadian teams this summer, Heatley is sure to be an unpopular name north of the border.
3. Smyth Sent To Kings
It would appear that the Colorado Avalanche have committed to a total rebuilding of their sub par roster. The Avs dealt forward Ryan Smyth to the Los Angeles Kings late Friday night for two defensemen and a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft. Tom Preissing and Kyle Quincey will head to the Mile High City.
Smyth, who tallied 59 points in 77 games last season, was signed to a five-year, $31.25 million deal by Colorado in 2007. Smyth, a two-way forward, has never scored more than 70 points in any of his 14 NHL seasons, the majority of which were spent in Edmonton. The winger, who posted an overall Goal Versus Threshold (GVT) of 7.9 last season, waived his no-trade clause in order to join the Kings.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed leaving the Avalanche in the fact Denver is a great city and the team has a winning tradition and great people and great fans," Smyth told ESPN.com. "But at the same time, I'm really excited about the transition to Los Angeles. You're talking about a really good, young team.”
4. Vancouver Makes Twin Killing Prior To July 1st
The Vancouver Canucks were successful in their bid to keep the Sedin twins in Canuck blue for the near future. Just prior to Daniel and Henrik becoming unrestricted free agents on July 1, Canucks GM Mike Gillis locked up the pair to identical five-year, $30.5 million deals. The twins’ contracts also include no-movement clauses.
Earlier reports indicated the twins were seeking matching 12-year contracts (a la Henrik Zetterberg and, as it turned out, Marian Hossa) worth $63 million, but the Canucks were not interested in inking the twins to such deals. Apparently Gillis is not a believer in the cap-friendly contracts that could become increasingly en vogue in the NHL.
The Swedes will earn less than they could have garnered on the free agent market as they took a hometown discount to stay with the only team for which they’ve ever played. According to Allan Muir of SI.com, Gillis’ trip to Sweden to woo the brothers was proof positive the Canucks were willing to go the extra mile (or 4,600 miles) to keep the twins happy.
“That meant a lot to us,” said Henrik. “They showed us they wanted to have us. It was great for both me and Danny to have them come over, sit down, and have a discussion.”
One man who likely wasn’t pleased with the news was Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, who had himself boarded a plane for Sweden in an attempt to negotiate with the twins. Alas, they re-upped with the Canucks before he had a chance to pitch his case. It was Burke who originally drafted the Sedins with the second and third overall picks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft as general manager of the Canucks.
As if it isn’t enough that Daniel and Henrik look alike, the stats they have posted over some 640 NHL are also strikingly similar. In 646 games, Henrik has scored 109 goals and 351 assist for 460 points. In 642 games, Daniel has tallied 179 goals and 283 assists for 462 points. Aside from the goal/assist differential, the only noticeable difference on the back of their hockey cards is that Henrik has racked up 106 more penalty minutes than Daniel.
Last season’s GVT ratings favored Daniel slightly more than Henrik; Daniel posted an offensive rating of 13.3 and a defensive figure of 5.3 for a total of 18.6 while Henrik posted figures of 11.4 and 5, for a total of 16.4.
5. News and Notes From The Free Agent Frenzy
Elsewhere around the league, the New York Rangers signed forward Marian Gaborik, formerly of the Wild, to a five-year deal worth $37.5 million. In turn, the Rangers did not re-sign Nik Antropov, who elected to join the Atlanta Thrashers on a four-year deal worth $16 million…
It looks like the Flames/Panthers deal from last week worked out for both teams, sort of. Calgary inked defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to a five-year deal worth $33.4 million dollars on Wednesday while the Panthers were able to lock up Jordon Leopold to a one-year pact for $1.75 million. The two free-agents-to-be were swapped for each other when the Panthers determined that re-signing Bouwmeester was an impossibility. That the club was able to recoup anything for Bouwmeester at such a late stage is a feather in the cap of de facto GM Randy Sexton, who took over the club on an interim basis following the departure of Jacques Martin, who left to take over head coaching duties for the Montreal Canadiens. Florida also received a third-round draft choice in the deal…
Speaking of Les Habitants, the club made their own free agent splash by signing forward Mike Cammalleri. At the present time, three of the Habs’s own free agents are still playing the market: Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev and captain Saku Koivu are without contracts for the upcoming NHL season.
Bill Duke is an author of Puck Prospectus. You can contact Bill by clicking here or click here to see Bill's other articles.