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NHL free agent thoughts

Olli Jokinen is back in Calgary after signing a two-year deal on Thursday. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Olli Jokinen is back in Calgary after signing a two-year deal on Thursday. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Well, that was a fun first day of free agency, wasn’t it? Defensemen held all the bargaining power; big-name goalies such as Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco appear to have priced themselves out of a full-time NHL job; and to keep things light, the usual GM suspects in Manhattan and Calgary delivered a heap of humor for fans of every team except the Rangers and Flames.

I’ll continue some Twitter and Facebook opining today (Friday). Then, at 4 p.m. EST, The Hockey News Radio Show hits the XM Home Ice 204 airwaves; our guests – THN writer/editor John Grigg and NHL player agent Todd Reynolds – will analyze the trends and anomalies of this free agency period.

Otherwise, a safe and happy holiday weekend to everyone.

Adam, I think the Sabres really got hurt yesterday. Not saying Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman were Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer, but they were fairly solid during their time here. And replacing them with Jordan Leopold does not make up for them leaving. Do you agree? Were the Sabres the biggest losers on free agent kickoff day?
Stuart Melvoin, Cheektowaga, N.Y.

Stuart,

Yeah, I think the Sabres have to be right up there in terms of teams that “lost” yesterday; ownership’s apparent indifference to retaining players has been obvious for so long now, Buffalo’s fans can be forgiven for locking themselves in a dark, empty room for the entire first week of July.

That said, at least the Sabres weren’t lunging awkwardly at any available free agent, the way the Flames and Rangers did. A four-year, $6.5-million deal for Derek Boogaard? The return to Calgary of Olli “You Gotta Be” Jokinen? Awful and awfuler.

On the other hand, I liked what Penguins GM Ray Shero did yesterday to rebuild his defense corps; I loved Steve Yzerman’s first big moves (extending Martin St-Louis’ contract and signing goalie Dan Ellis); and I thought Canucks overlord Mike Gillis made a couple of nifty signings in Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra.

Hey Adam, What's the point of ‘Future Considerations?’ In the Sergei Kostitsyn-Dan Ellis deal, Montreal and Nashville each got futures. Why not just make a second trade at a later date once they figure out who else they want to move?
Kevin Smith, Ottawa

Hey Kevin,
In that specific trade, the reason both teams included future considerations had everything to do with the players involved; all were going to be free agents, so the future considerations were conditional on the Canadiens or Predators signing the players they acquired.

Hey Adam, love the blogs, keep up the good work.

I have a question regarding the salary cap. As I understand it, coaching, management, and equipment staff salary does not count towards the cap. With this in mind, is it possible to pay a player for his actual play, which would be counted under the cap, as well as employ him as a development coach for his younger teammates?

The reason I ask is because as an Oilers fan, right now is a pretty exciting time having so much youth in the pipeline. But with so much youth I think we could use some real experienced veteran leadership as well to help guide our youth.

With a bevy of amazing players at the very tail end of their careers, would it be possible to pick up a guy like Paul Kariya or Teemu Selanne and pay them minimally from our cap, but delegate them certain development duties to help our youth adjust to the NHL and pay them for their coaching/development skills? Thoughts?
Scott Fawcett, Edmonton

Hey Scott,

Thanks for the nice words. What you’re talking about is a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement – a document created by lawyers who are paid to ensure there are as few contractually negotiated loopholes as possible.

Those lawyers knew full well that teams would’ve been prepared to offer players off-ice clauses in their contracts that circumvented the cap (and in effect gave rich teams a competitive advantage over less-successful franchises). So they wrote the CBA and forbade teams from signing an NHLer to any type of secondary ‘personal services’ contract. Same goes for family. Crafty buggers, aren’t they?

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Hey Adam, I’m a 50 years-plus subscriber to The Hockey News. A couple emails with Jay Greenberg; a great guy. Wished he appeared more often. Maybe salary cap issues.

A lot of Canadian team content on your web here. I know you do various magazine covers for different regions at times. Is there a different version of this Internet for Canada/USA computers?
Terry Nicholson (and a dog named Sandi), North Vancouver, B.C.


Hey Terry & Sandi,

Thanks for sticking with us for so long. Agreed on Jay G. He’s a fantastic writer, funny guy. You know you can still read him at the New York Post’s site, right?

While we do indeed produce regional covers – mostly for our annual Yearbook – there is only one version of our website. However, if you want to download our new web browser application, you’ll get news and updates regarding everything we do online.

Adam, as a diehard Oilers fan, I am eager to watch Taylor Hall & Co. take the ice next year. But I’m confused as to what we now do with free agency. Do we go for big name forwards/D-men? Also, will Sheldon Souray be back for the copper and blue next season? Thanks Adam.
Kassidy Kelly, Edmonton


Kassidy,

As you probably saw yesterday, the Oilers are among a group of franchises that, for various reasons, have difficulties persuading free agents to sign. (The Islanders are another.) In most cases, the main issue that scares away players is Edmonton’s lack of wins in recent years; of course, it’s difficult for them to improve when players don’t want to sign there, but that’s a Catch-22 scenario that plays out in every sport.

The Oilers have little choice but to look within – and depend on their internal player development process – in order to win more and make them a more attractive landing area for free agents.

As for Souray, I think it’s very unlikely he comes back to the Oilers. If Steve Tambellini can’t unload him in a market that is desperate for veteran defenders, that won’t bode well for the rest of his GM reign.

Adam, whatever happened to Chad Kilger? He never actually played for the Panthers, yet he was traded there.
Matthew Hebron, Parkland, Fla.


Matthew,

Last I heard, he was a firefighter in his hometown of Kingston, Ont. His acquisition by Florida is another reason why Jacques Martin isn’t a GM anymore.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on TheHockeyNews.com. Proteau also answers readers' questions in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show on XM Radio channel 204. Send us your question or comment.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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

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