Even before the NHL’s free agent frenzy, we have a big trade. Scott Gomez is now a Montreal Canadien. He and a couple of minor prospects head up I-87/Autoroute 15, while the New York Rangers get restricted free agent to be Chris Higgins (a native of Smithtown, NY), touted prospect Ryan McDonagh, and journeyman Doug Janik.
Quite a few pundits seem to have thought this deal would set the Rangers up to acquire Dany Heatley, whom the Ottawa Senators have been trying to trade so they wouldn’t have to pay him a $4 million bonus tomorrow. Actually, the relationship between Heatley and the Senators has very much deteriorated in recent months, but the bonus essentially provides a built-in deadline. But right now, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the Rangers are prepared to pay a steep price in prospects for Heatley, especially if Ottawa won’t take on the big contracts of Michal Rozsival or Wade Redden; trading Gomez rid New York of $4-5 million a year (assuming they sign Higgins, which GM Glen Sather apparently expects to do). Perhaps, they will use the freed up salary cap space for someone else, or to deal with eventual contract extensions for some of their better young players, like Marc Staal or Brandon Dubinsky. There is also the possibility of a salary cap decrease in 2010-2011 depending on what the economy does to ticket and sponsorship sales across the league next year.
Excluding that stuff though, it’s probably a better deal for the Rangers than for the Canadiens, as Adam Gretz writes. Higgins had an injury plagued 2008-09 season, but is a decent two-way player and seems to have the type of lunch-pail attitude head coach John Tortorella wants. McDonagh was a first round pick only a couple of years ago and scouts give him strong marks for his speed and talents as a “defensive defenseman.” Gomez can be a terrific playmaker, should improve Montreal’s offense, and in general, the Canadiens need to clean their house after an ugly finish to last season. Still, they gave up a lot for him, not to mention the amount of money they have to pick up. Might be a sign that Montreal doesn’t expect to recruit any major free agents, and if so, Gomez doesn’t really bring them much closer to Stanley Cup contention on his own, even if he can put up the numbers he once did in New Jersey. Puck Daddy rounds up some of the other blogospher reactions.
And in the last hour or so, The Fourth Period is also reporting that Jay Bouwmeester has signed with Calgary for five years and $33 million. CBC and the Flames have confirmed the deal. The Flames acquired his rights from Florida over the weekend for Jordan Leopold (who is also supposed to become a free agent tomorrow) and a draft pick. This was not a small risk, because Bouwmeester was definitely going to be the most coveted free agent of the summer. Still, he is originally from Edmonton, will be joining a pretty good team led by Jarome Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, and he’s probably not leaving more than about $1 million per year on the table. Kudos to the Flames for this one.
Tomorrow could be pretty wild, so hold on tight!