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THN.com Blog: UFA Day 1 winners and losers

After being passed over for Marian Hossa, former Hawk Martin Havlat signed with the Minnesota Wild. (Getty Images)

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After being passed over for Marian Hossa, former Hawk Martin Havlat signed with the Minnesota Wild. (Getty Images)

Well, that was fun. At least for those who didn’t have to work and try to keep a website up to date with the furious action that was the first day of the NHL’s free agent frenzy.

But I digress.

It’ll be the better part of the forthcoming season, or even upwards of a decade, to get the full lay of the land on each of the 49 deals (equaling more than $460 million) consummated Wednesday, but while the dust is still settling, let’s take a look at which GMs did well and which will have some questions to answer from their soon-to-be apoplectic owners.

WINNERS
Minnesota
At first blush it appears as though new GM Chuck Fletcher replaced one injury-prone goal guru with another, but signing Martin Havlat – for $2.5 million less than Marian Gaborik, I might add – was of the utmost importance as a building block in the Wild’s new philosophy of up-tempo hockey.

If freshly minted bench boss Todd Richards is going to construct a house of goals, he’ll need some semblance of tools to do it. Not only is Havlat a good foundation, his signing will lay the groundwork for the Wild to attract other UFAs in the coming days.

Edmonton
Many GMs should have their heads examined for the money and term handed out to players 30 and older, but in this case the Oilers made a smart move. Nikolai Khabibulin will be 40 by the time his four-year deal expires, but at a price tag less than $4 million, it’s not egregious should Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers supplant him as the No. 1 in a couple of seasons.

Plus, with Khabibulin between the pipes, the Oilers have a bona fide game-stealer, which this young but inexperienced squad will need if they hope to make any noise in a tough Western Conference. GM Steve Tambellini and Co. deserve credit, too, for their hot pursuit of Dany Heatley, despite the $4 million bonus the Senators now have paid him.

Tampa Bay
As I said in my analysis of the Matt Walker signing during our real-time coverage Wednesday, GM Brian Lawton, despite being surrounded by ownership in-fighting, deserves a lot of credit for the three moves he made, all of which strengthened the team’s most-glaring weakness: its blueline.

Mattias Ohlund was the perfect player for the Lightning: a stable, veteran Swede defenseman who can mentor future star and countryman Victor Hedman. A seven-year deal for a 32-year-old seems excessive, but if Ohlund retires, that money comes off the books. Snagging Matt Walker from the Hawks and re-upping Lukas Krajicek provides the Bolts with a decent top six.

LOSERS
New York Rangers
After ridding themselves of a seemingly unmovable contract (Scott Gomez) the day before and allowing their resident thug (Colton Orr) to walk, GM Glen Sather seemed to be regaining some of the shine that’s worn off since joining the Blueshirts oh so long ago.

It was short lived, however, as New York quickly picked up a soon-to-be unmovable player in Marian Gaborik and took up another roster spot with Donald Brashear, who somehow got a two-year deal at age 37.

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Toronto Maple Leafs
GM Brian Burke gets a minus for giving Colton Orr a four-year deal alone, but we’ll backburner that and instead focus on the letdown of accomplishing nothing more than acquiring a pair of rough and tumble blueliners (Mike Komisarek and Garnet Exelby) who can’t score worth a lick. Expectations (see, Sedins) were high Toronto would add additional scoring punch, but those hopes went for naught on Day 1.

Yes, the Blue and White will leave teams black and blue next season, but PIMs don’t win games. Goals do.

Chicago Blackhawks
Hey Hawks fans, who do you like better: Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews? Because after this season, you’ll very likely only have one of them in your lineup. Kane, Toews and Duncan Keith, the team’s best defenseman and another must-keep, are all RFAs next summer and each will be looking for a significant raise, somewhere in the $5-6 million range.

With the cap likely going down after 2009-10, there’s not going to be a whole lot of room to spare after Marian Hossa’s deal this summer and Brian Campbell’s in 2008. Never mind the fact you still have RFAs Cam Barker, Kris Versteeg, Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer and Corey Crawford to re-sign with a little less than $9 million to deal with this off-season. Good luck, GM Dale Tallon – you’ll need it.

THN.COM SHOOTOUT
Host Ken Campbell sits down with writers Adam Proteau and Ryan Dixon to discuss... Winners and losers on free-agent day… The Habs facelift… The Dany Heatley saga… And Brian Burke’s moves. Producer: Ted Cooper.

Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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