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NHL Free Agent Frenzy Tracker 2011

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Where will Brad Richards end up? Which team will strengthen its goaltending with Tomas Vokoun? Will Steven Stamkos receive an offer sheet from a rival NHL club, or re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning first? These types of questions have been asked in the rumor mill for months, but beginning on July 1 we'll finally start to find out the answers.

This year, the salary cap is set at $64.3 million and the cap floor rests at $48.3 million. Not only will some teams be looking to acquire players in an attempt to retool and take a run at the Stanley Cup, but others will need to sign players just to reach the minimum payroll. How will this affect the free agent market? Only time will tell.

So sit back, relax and follow the day's action up to 6 p.m. EST with instant analysis from THN experts on all the day's free agent signings and the most notable re-signings. Who will get what they want and who will have to turn to the trade market to get what they need? The frenzy begins at 12 noon.

After the July 1 madness, keep track of the rest of the signings via our team-by-team/alphabetical free agent lists.

 

5:51 EST
Colorado Avalanche
J-S Giguere, G TERM: $1.25 million/2 years

ANALYSIS: Watching J-S Giguere sheepishly accept the Conn Smythe Trophy with tears running down his face after losing Game 7 of the 2003 final seems like eons ago. Since then he's reached the top (winning the Cup in '07) and hit the bottom (he's played only 68 games, and won only 21, over the past two seasons due to injury and he called the 2010-11 campaign “a bit of a nightmare.”) The situation in Colorado is a perfect one for the 34-year-old, who will only be expected to play 20 to 30 games behind new Avs No. 1 Semyon Varlamov. If 'Giggy' can stay healthy, it's cash well spent. - EF.

5:26 EST
Colorado Avalanche
Chuck Kobasew, RW/LW TERM: $1.25 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: Kobasew has never come close to living up to the potential he possessed coming out of Boston College, potential that persuaded the Calgary Flames to tab him 14th overall 10 years ago. Injuries have always been an issue and even if he's healthy there's no reason to think he'll hit even the 40-point mark. He'll get a chance in the top-six if Gabriel Landeskog doesn't make the roster, but don't bet on that. With Kobasew, you'll get what you paid for. - EF

5:17 EST
Edmonton Oilers
Eric Belanger, C TERM: $1.75 million per/3 years

ANALYSIS: This is the type of signing a GM can hang his hat on. Belanger, 33, brings veteran leadership (716 NHL games), defensive responsibility (plus-11 in 2010-11), faceoff prowess (55.3 percent; 19th in the league) and a touch of offensive pop (40 points in '10-11) all for a bargain price. Perfect. - EF

5:00 EST
Edmonton Oilers
Darcy Hordichuk, LW TERM: $825,000/ 1 year

ANALYSIS: The Oilers parted ways with one pugilist in Zack Stortini and brought in another in Hordichuk. It's a good swap, thought, as Hordichuk, with his 495 games of NHL experience, will be a good presence for the youngsters. - EF

5:00 EST
Phoenix Coyotes
Boyd Gordon, C/RW TERM: $1.33 million per/3 years

ANALYSIS: The 27-year-old takes his trade to the desert (and eventually Canada, likely). He's versatile and he takes care of his own end, something the Coyotes will need with the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov. A veteran bottom-six forward who brings a winning attitude from Washington for less than $1.5 million? Good deal. - EF

5:00 EST
Philadelphia Flyers
Andreas Lilja, D TERM: $737,500 per/2 years

ANALYSIS: As the Canucks proved last season, when their blueliners dropped like flies and they just kept on keepin' on, you can't have enough depth on the back end. Lilja will serve as a nice replacement for Sean O'Donnell on Philly's D-corps. - EF

5:00 EST
Carolina Hurricanes
Tim Brent, C TERM: $750,000 per/2 years

ANALYSIS: The effort is always there for the 27-year-old veteran of 98 career NHL games. Unfortunately, the skill is not, as demonstrated by his career 0.21 points-per-game average. Fortunately, for a little over the league minimum per year, it doesn't really matter. - EF

4:59 EST
Florida Panthers
Tomas Fleischmann, LW/C TERM: $4.5 million per/4 years

ANALYSIS: The Panthers overhaul continues and they're banking on Tomas Fleischmann being healthy and not missing significant time down the road with the blood clot problems that shortened his 2010-11 season in Colorado. To be sure, Fleischmann has offensive skills and is silky smooth with the puck on his stick, but he also gets pushed around rather easily and doesn't have much grit to his game. It's an awful lot of cap space and term to put towards Fleischmann, but in this UFA market and with the cap floor a target Florida had to hit, it's a gamble GM Dale Tallon had to take. -RB

POLL: Did the Panthers overpay?

4:37 EST
Dallas Stars
Sheldon Souray, D TERM: $1.65 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: It's interesting to note that Sheldon Souray will make more ($2.4 million) not to play for the Edmonton Oilers than he will ($1.65 million) to play for the Dallas Stars. That's a clear indication of how much Souray's game has tumbled in recent seasons, but he'll have the opportunity to clean the slate and prove he can still be a top-six defenseman in the NHL. Souray likely won't usurp Trevor Daley as the Stars top offensive defenseman, but he'll certainly give them more pop from the blueline and another weapon on the power play. The Stars are pretty deep on defense, so if Souray proves to be a bust, it will only represent a failed one-year experiment that costs $1.65 million. But when you're relying on advances in television and revenue sharing money to survive, that's a fair chunk of change. -KC

4:28 EST
Carolina Hurricanes
Alex Ponikarovsky, LW/RW TERM: $1.5 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: After spending the first eight-plus years of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, Alexei Ponikarovsky is building a career as a journeyman. That's largely because he somehow continues to seduce teams into thinking he's equal to the total sum of his parts - which he is not. How anyone in the NHL can pay $1.5 million to a guy who had five goals and was a healthy scratch on a number of occasions last year is anyone's guess. Even in Ponikarovsky's best days, he was never a big goal scorer nor a very physical player. Eric Lindros once compared Ponikarovsky to the Incredible Hulk, but too often Ponikarovsky plays more like Dr. Bruce Banner. -KC

4:23 EST
Vancouver Canucks
Marco Sturm, LW TERM: $2.25 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: Veteran winger Marco Sturm struggled through an injury-plauged 2010-11 campaign, but still landed in a comfortable spot, signing a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks. The 32-year-old split the 35 games he played last year between Los Angeles and Washington and managed just five goals and 16 points. However, on a skilled Canucks team he could be primed for a big rebound. -AP

4:16 EST
Buffalo Sabres
Ville Leino, RW TERM: $4.5 million per/6 years

ANALYSIS: Life is very good when one full season and 19 goals gets you a six-year deal worth $27 million in the NHL these days, so life is very good for Ville Leino. When the Flyers signed Jaromir Jagr, it seemed to spell the end for Leino in Philadelphia. If Leino can continue on his upward projection to become a guy who scores 30-plus goals on a consistent basis, he'll be well worth it. He was the second-highest scoring UFA available on this year's market, but a 400-plus-percent raise on a six-year deal is a big risk. When was the last time we could say the Sabres overspent on July 1? They have money, but with these big-money, long-term deals the Sabres are handing out these days, their fans should be wary of what they wish for, particularly five or six years down the road. But for the short term, the Sabres are shaping up as a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. -KC

POLL: Did the Sabres overpay?

4:10 EST
Boston Bruins
Benoit Pouliot, LW TERM: $1.1 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: The Boston Bruins will try to coax out of Benoit Pouliot what the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens have been unable to do to this point in his career - that is some semblance of consistent play and at least a token effort in the defensive end of the ice. Pouliot likely replaces Michael Ryder, who signed with the Dallas Stars, but he doesn't give them near as much as Ryder did. However, he'll do it for a quarter of the price, which is a factor for the cap-conscious Bruins. It will be interesting to see the dynamic between Pouliot and Bruins coach Claude Julien next season. -KC

4:08 EST
New York Islanders
Marty Reasoner, C TERM: $1.35 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: Journeyman center and New York native Marty Reasoner joined what appears to be an on-the-rise franchise on Long Island, signing a two-year, $2.7 million deal with the Islanders. The 34-year-old tied his career high in goals last season, scoring 14 in 82 games for the Florida Panthers. He’ll be a serviceable option for coach Jack Capuano to utilize when the team’s youngsters need a veteran boost. -AP

3:47 EST
Dallas Stars
Michael Ryder, RW/LW TERM: $3.5 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: A monster playoff and a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins has a lot of currency and so does Michael Ryder. The Dallas Stars were willing to overlook the maddening inconsistency Ryder shows on, well, a consistent basis, and were obviously impressed by his natural scoring ability and penchant for scoring big goals. The Stars know what they're getting for the next two seasons - that is a guy who can get to the open areas on the ice and use a lethal shot to score from there, but a player who also goes through very, very long stretches with low productivity and doesn't play a particularly robust game. -KC

3:43 EST
Ottawa Senators
Alex Auld, G TERM: $1 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: Alex Auld is leaving Montreal after only one season, but he isn’t going very far - just down the highway, as a matter of fact - as he signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Ottawa Senators and confirmed his second stint with the organization. A pure journeyman at this stage of his nine-year NHL career, the 30-year-old saw limited action behind Carey Price last season, posting a 6-2-2 record and .914 save percentage. The uncertainty in Ottawa means he will play more than that - the question is, how much more? The last time Auld played more than 24 games was in 2008-09…with Ottawa. -AP

3:35 EST
Edmonton Oilers
Cam Barker, D TERM: $2.25 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: The Edmonton Oilers aren't about to rebuild their defense around Cam Barker, but it's a start. He has a good shot, can play a physical game and can contribute on the power play for a team. The only problem is he can't seem to do it all at the same time and that's why he has never lived up to the billing he acquired when he was drafted third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004. That lack of consistency has hurt him over the years, as has his sometimes poor decision making in the defensive zone. Barker has a year to prove he can be a top-four defenseman, but if he has the same kind of year this season as last, he'll be looking for work this time next year. -KC

3:34 EST
Washington Capitals
Roman Hamrlik, D TERM: $3.5 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: After spending the past four seasons in the pressure-cooker that is Montreal, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik chose to take on a different yet similar type of pressure by signing a two-year, $7 million deal with the Washington Capitals. The 37-year-old will be looked to as a complementary piece of the Caps defense corps and may at times be asked to take on a bigger role depending on the health or effectiveness of Mike Green. Hamrlik's numbers from season-to-season are virtually identical - he’s a virtual lock to finish with between five and seven goals and 25 to 35 points - but after 18 seasons, he can’t be counted on to play a huge role consistently.

3:34 EST
Montreal Canadiens
Erik Cole, RW TERM: $4.5 million per/4 years

ANALYSIS: The Montreal Canadiens desperately needed size up front and they got it at an enormous price for a very long term. But it might not be as bad as it seems. Erik Cole did score 26 goals last season, picking a very good year to have a bounce-back season, and he's only 32. But he has always been injury prone and there seems to be the feeling that he's not as good a player outside of Raleigh, N.C., as he is with the Hurricanes. Cole played all 82 games with the Hurricanes last season, something he's had a problem with in the past. He has the speed to keep up with Montreal's small forwards and will almost certainly be installed on the top line playing alongside Tomas Plekanec. Cole is a fast, physical player who will give the Canadiens some much-needed grit up front, but you have to wonder whether his body will hold up through the term of his contract. -KC

POLL: Did the Canadiens overpay?

3:25 EST
Washington Capitals
Joel Ward, LW/RW TERM: $3 million per/4 years

ANALYSIS: The Washington Capitals added depth and grit to their lineup with the signing of former Nashville Predators winger Joel Ward to a four-year, $12 million contract. It’s a huge payday for the 30-year-old veteran, whose numbers have actually declined in the two seasons since his rookie year of 2008-09 in Nashville. But Ward drastically increased his value as a solid third-or-fourth liner with a 2011 post-season that included seven goals and 13 points in 12 games. He’ll definitely help out the Caps, but the bigger impact will be felt in Nashville; his absence from the Preds will be noticeable. -AP

POLL: Did the Capitals overpay?

3:17 EST
Pittsburgh Penguins
Steve Sullivan, LW TERM: $1.5 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: What the Pittsburgh Penguins were hoping to get from Mike Comrie last summer, they'll be trying to get from Steve Sullivan this summer and they're willing to pay $1 million more to get it. But they'll almost certainly get much more from Sullivan, who is capable of scoring 25 goals if he's healthy. Back problems have plagued Sullivan for years, but he claims to be 100 percent healthy. That's probably a stretch, but what isn't is that Sullivan remains an elite offensive talent who still has the ability to dazzle when he has the puck on his stick. And who knows in Pittsbrugh? At some point he might even be playing on the left side of the top line with Sidney Crosby. Even if he's not, the second line with Evgeni Malkin doesn't look too shabby, either. -KC

3:08 EST
Detroit Red Wings
Mike Commodore, D TERM: $1 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: One of hockey’s good guys got a second NHL chance with a first-rate NHL organization when defenseman Mike Commodore signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings. Commodore played just 20 games for the Blue Jackets last season before Columbus GM Scott Howson buried his contract in the American League for the remainder of the year. After having been bought out by the team this summer, the 31-year-old had good fortune in landing with the Wings, for whom he’ll be a third-pair defenseman who should blend in nicely in Detroit’s top-tier system. -AP

2:56 EST
New York Rangers
Mike Rupp, LW TERM: $1.5 million per/3 years

ANALYSIS: There were apparently 10 teams involved in the Mike Rupp Sweepstakes - discuss the logic of that amongst yourselves - so the Rangers probably ended up giving Rupp more money and a longer term than they orginally willing to give. The fact there was a bidding war for Mike Rupp - Mike Rupp! - tells you everything you need to know about how crazy July 1 can be. Rupp replaces the toughness the Rangers lost with the death of Derek Boogaard and he can provide some offense. Not much, but some. If he could score more, he'd be a prized power forward in the NHL, but the fact of the matter is his hands aren't nearly good enough to be anything more than a fourth-liner. Almost doubling his salary and giving him $1.5 million a year on a multi-year deal seems like a head scratcher. -KC

2:56 EST
Montreal Canadiens
Peter Budaj, G TERM: $1.15 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: Peter Budaj never could claim the starting goalie job in Colorado - and with the number of available jobs rapidly shrinking on the first day of free agency, he was forced to jump at the offer to back up Carey Price in Montreal and signed a two-year, $2.3 million contract with the Habs. Certainly, unless there is an injury to Price, there is no way the 28-year-old Budaj will play anywhere close to the 45 games he played in Colorado in 2010-11. And although his numbers were sub-par (15-21-4 record and an .895 save percentage), Montreal management believes he can improve behind a much better team. We’ll see about that. -AP

2:51 EST
Carolina Hurricanes
Brian Boucher, G TERM: $900,000 per/2 years

ANALYSIS: If Brian Boucher has proved nothing else in his career it's that he's capable of stepping into a lineup and helping it in the short-term. The Carolina Hurricanes are hoping that will be the case, since they found they couldn't rely on Justin Peters as Cam Ward's backup last season. A $900,000 cap hit seems a bit much to get a guy to play behind a workhorse such as Ward, but you'd have to think that with a more reliable backup there, the Hurricanes will be more comfortable giving Ward a little less work. Boucher is a character guy who certainly won't cause problems if he doesn't play much. -KC

2:35 EST
Philadelphia Flyers
Maxime Talbot, C/W TERM: $1.8 million per/5 years

ANALYSIS: The Pittsburgh-Penguins-ing of the Philadelphia Flyers continued Friday when now-former Pens winger Max Talbot signed a five-year, $9-million contract. The deal is sure to reverberate in Pittsburgh, where Talbot was beloved for his emotional, often clutch play, as well as his exuberant personality. Goodness knows what Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has planned for his next move, but locking up a gutsy 27-year-old at a solid price can’t be portrayed as anything but a win for the Flyers franchise and a serious loss for the Penguins. Does it get any better/worse than that for an intra-state rivalry? -AP

2:03 EST
Florida Panthers
Marcel Goc, C TERM: $1.7 million per/3 years

ANALYSIS: The Panthers continue to inch towards the salary floor with the depth signing of Goc. A first round pick from 2001 (20th overall) Goc has never reached his potential. His offense is inconsistent and he's not reliable enough as a shutdown player to fit soley in that role. Florida is hoping he can find some consistency at both ends of the ice finally, but don't count on it. -RB

2:03 EST
Dallas Stars
Vernon Fiddler, C TERM: $1.8 million per/3 years

ANALYSIS: Veteran worker bee Vernon Fiddler left the Arizona desert for the Texas heat in signing a three-year, $5.4 million deal with the Dallas Stars. The 31-year-old center spent his past two seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, amassing 14 goals and 52 points in 147 games. At 5-foot-11, he’s far from a big physical presence, but the Stars need as many hard workers like him as they can get. -AP

2:02 EST
Chicago Blackhawks
Andrew Brunette, LW TERM: $2 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: The Chicago Blackhawks have plenty of superstar talent on their roster, but they continue to do an excellent job of filling their holes with quality players. Take the one-year, $2 million deal for Andrew Brunette, for example. Along with Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell, the Blackhawks get another player with a ton of experience and character. Getting 20 goals from Brunette is like clockwork and surrounded by much more talented players in Chicago than he had with the Minnesota Wild doesn't put the possibility of 25 or 30 out of the question. Brunette has slowed down with advance age, but he was never that great a skater at any point in his career. Most importantly, he makes sure he gets to the dangerous areas on the ice and takes the abuse necessary to score goals. -KC

1:52 EST
Phoenix Coyotes
Mike Smith, G TERM: $2 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: Perhaps the Phoenix Coyotes are trying to gain new fans by promoting scoring. The only problem is there’s a good chance most of those goals will be in their own net. Think about it. The Coyotes went from having Ilya Bryzgalov as their No. 1 goalie and exchanged him for Mike Smith, a guy any team could have had on waivers last season. Smith had some very good moments in Tampa Bay and was quite strong at time during the Lightning’s playoff run, but he is far too inconsistent to carry the load as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. -KC

1:50 EST
Colorado Avalanche
Jan Hejda, D TERM: $3.25 million per/4 years

ANALYSIS: Former Blue Jackets defenseman Jan Hejda agreed to be part of the rebuild in Colorado, agreeing to a four-year, $13 million contract. The 33-year-old Czech spent the past four seasons in Columbus, establishing himself as a steady, stay-at-home defender. He had five goals and 20 points for the Jackets last season and could partner up on the blueline with former No. 1 overall draft pick Erik Johnson. -AP

1:45 EST
Florida Panthers
Ed Jovanovski, D TERM: $4.125 million per/4 years

ANALYSIS: Ladies and gentlemen, our first pay cut of the day! If you can believe it, Ed Jovanovski took almost a $2.5 million per season cut to go back to the Florida Panthers on a four-year deal. Of course, the fact there is no state tax in Florida will help soften that devastating blow. After a decade of missing the playoffs, the Panthers might be shaping up as a team that will contend for the post-season and Jovanovski, who still has some game and will provide an enormous amount of energy in the room, will be an huge part of that effort. -KC

1:27 EST
Phoenix Coyotes
Raffi Torres, LW TERM: $1.75 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: Edgy winger Raffi Torres parlayed playoff success with the Vancouver Canucks into a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Phoenix Coyotes. Torres made $1 million last season with Vancouver and posted 14 goals and 29 points. The 29-year-old isn’t likely to equal or better his career-high 27 goals (in 2005-06) in Arizona, but he’s got the speed coach Dave Tippett likes. -AP

1:27 EST
Dallas Stars
Radek Dvorak, RW TERM: $1.5 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: Fifteen-season veteran winger Radek Dvorak, who bounced between Florida and Atlanta last season, jumped to the Western Conference when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Dallas Stars. At age 34, Dvorak’s best days can only be seen on VHS tape - and he was a total washout in 13 games with Atlanta, posting just a single assist - but the Stars need his decent size (6-foot-2) and the price was well within the means of a team that still doesn’t have an owner. -AP

1:27 EST
Philadelphia Flyers
Jaromir Jagr, RW TERM: $3.3 million per/1 year

ANALYSIS: Good on Jaromir Jagr for seeing all the ridiculous money being thrown around and demanding more for his services. Whether or not the Philadelphia Flyers hit a home run or just got swindled for $3.3 million is open to debate. Jagr has done plenty well in the KHL, but you have to remember that the caliber of play is at its best, on par with the American League. At its worst, it's more like the ECHL. Sorry, great performances in the World Championship don't count for much either. But there is absolutely no denying Jagr's skill level and ability to find the net. If he plays on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux on the second line, the Flyers will have a lot of scoring depth. If the Flyers get anything less than the absolute best of Jagr, they wildly overpaid and might regret it. -KC

POLL: Did the Flyers overpay?

1:22 EST
Florida Panthers
Scottie Upshall, LW/RW TERM: $3.5 million per/4 years

ANALYSIS: Scottie Upshall has become a journeyman in the NHL over the past few years, but that winding road will likely end with his four-year deal for $14 million with the Florida Panthers, for no other reason than the Panthers probably won’t be able to move his contract anytime soon. In his continuing effort to get to the salary floor, Panthers GM Dale Tallon keeps throwing around real money the Florida Panthers don’t have. Upshall can score in the neighborhood of 20 goals, but that could change with first-line duty in Florida. -KC

POLL: Did the Panthers overpay?

1:20 EST
Washington Capitals
Jeff Halpern, C/RW TERM: $825,000 per/1 year

ANALYSIS: It was a homecoming of sorts when veteran center Jeff Halpern signed a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Washington Capitals. The 35-year-old began his NHL career with the Caps in 1999 and played six years in D.C. before leaving and bouncing around the league. Halpern had 11 goals and 26 points in 72 games with Montreal last season and will be depended on for his defensive play and leadership in his return to the Capitals. -AP

1:15 EST
Dallas Stars
Adam Pardy, D TERM: $2 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: The Stars beefed up their defense corps with 6-foot-4, 206-pound Adam Pardy. The thing is, the former Flame has been injury plagued in his three NHL seasons and hasn't played more than 60 games in a single season yet (and made only $700,000 on his last deal). A $2 million cap hit for a guy who likely won't play the entire schedule? Risky. -RB

1:12 EST
Chicago Blackhawks
Sean O'Donnell, D TERM: $850,000 per/1 year

ANALYSIS: After losing players by the boatload last summer, the Chicago Blackhawks are loading up on character players in the summer of 2011 and there are few who have more character than defenseman Sean O'Donnell. He comes cheaply and even though he won't play in every game and might not see action in the playoffs, he'll provide the Blackhawks young defensemen with a calming influence. He brings a Stanley Cup with him from Anaheim and a ton of credibility. -KC

12:59 EST
Florida Panthers
Jose Theodore, G TERM: $1.5 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: Former Hart Trophy winner-turned –journeyman goalie Jose Theodore will play his 16th season – and on his fifth NHL team – after signing a two year, $3 million contract with the Florida Panthers.

Theodore, who’ll turn 35 in September, performed well in a backup role in Minnesota last season, posting a 15-11-3 record and .916 save percentage with the Wild. He can’t ever be expected to carry a team as a starter any longer, but with the rebuilding Panthers, he could be part of a veteran platoon or mentor a younger goalie GM Dale Tallon would like to take a chance on. Either way, the money isn’t bad – and the Panthers have to get to the NHL-mandated $48.3 salary cap minimum somehow. -AP

12:52 EST
Chicago Blackhawks
Jamal Mayers, RW/C TERM: $550,000 per/1 year

ANALYSIS: Signing Jamal Mayers is the ultimate low-risk move for the Chicago Blackhawks. Mayers has scored only three goals each of the past two seasons, but he has tremendous character and will embrace a fourth-line grinding role. A one-year deal at the league minimum gives the Blackhawks no risk and a low-maintenance guy who will give the Hawks a lot of inspiration and perspiration. -KC

12:52 EST
Edmonton Oilers
Ben Eager, LW TERM: $1.1 million per/3 years

ANALYSIS: If the late Derek Boogaard was worth 1.625 million per season and Colton Orr $1 million, suddenly giving Ben Eager a three-year deal worth an average of $1.1 million doesn’t look so bad. Eager gives the Edmonton Oilers some toughness and is a far better player than Boogaard or Orr. And the Oilers apparently needed it in a big way, since Zack Stortini, J.F. Jacques and Steve McIntyre were all sent on their way because they simply can’t play. The Oilers have a motherlode of young players with a lot of speed and skill, but they have no toughness and players such as Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will likely breathe a little easier knowing he’s in the lineup. Eager is undisciplined and can hurt his team at times, but he does have value. -KC

12:45 EST
Tampa Bay Lightning
Mathieu Garon, G TERM: $1.3 million per/2 years

ANALYSIS: After spending the past two seasons with the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets, Mathieu Garon jumped at the chance to join a resurgent Stanley Cup contender in Tampa Bay, signing a two-year, $2.6 million deal.

The 33-year-old will back up senior citizen Dwayne Roloson in what will be one of the league’s more veteran tandems. Garon's numbers weren’t particularly impressive in Columbus (a 22-23-12 record and .902 save percentage), but given the motley crew he had in front of him, Garon wasn’t the sole culprit and should be a solid addition to the Bolts. -AP

11:15 EST
Columbus Blue Jackets
James Wisniewski, D TERM: $5.5 million per/6 years

ANALYSIS: Unrestricted free agent defensemen always seem to make a killing each July; that trend continued in 2011 when Columbus signed former Islanders and Canadiens defenseman James Wisniewski to a six-year, $33 million contract just prior to the 12 p.m. kickoff of the free agency process.

That’s right, that’s a $5.5 million average salary for a player who, prior to last season, had a career high of 30 points (in 2009-10). Sure, the 27-year-old looked very good for the Isles and Habs last year, when he amassed 10 goals and 51 points in 75 games. But don’t fool yourself – the dollars he secured in this deal were a direct result of (a) a very thin marketplace for young-ish, puck-moving blueliners; and (b) a certain desperation on the part of the Jackets, who acquired Wisniewski’s rights from Montreal earlier this week for a seventh round pick.

Clearly, the Jackets’ wooing of the Canton, Mich., native paid off. He instantly becomes their most dangerous offensive weapon on the blueline and will see all kinds of power play time. He was a beast last year, putting up 22 assists and 29 points with the man advantage – but again, his previous high (10 assists and 11 points) in power play production is a far ways off from what he showed in 2010-11.

Although Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson has made much noise this summer with this deal and the trade bringing Jeff Carter to Columbus, the price appears to be astronomical. With due respect to Wisniewski, the Carter swap is the safer bet to pay off. -AP

POLL: Did the Blue Jackets overpay?

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