Apparently, miss a few hours today, and you miss a ton. So, here’s a round-up of what else happened in the NHL today, plus some reaction from various pundits.
Newsday and ESPN both reporting that the Rangers have signed Marian Gaborik to a five year, $37.5 million contract. It’s a lot of money, but Gaborik is 27 and is a top notch scorer when healthy. Okay, that’s a big question mark with him. He missed all but 17 games last year for Minnesota with a hip injury, although he recorded 13 points in the games that he did play, and scored 42 goals just two years ago. Also, his salary would be comparable to the now-departed Scott Gomez, and again, assuming good health, Gaborik’s definitely a better scorer than Gomez while still being able to set up others too. Which means Rangers GM Glen Sather turned Gomez into three players (Gaborik, Chris Higgins, and Ryan McDonagh) who could all contribute in the years to come, probably for no more than an extra $1-2 million per year. Potentially very good business on his part. After Marian Hossa, Gaborik was the most coveted winger in the free agency pool.
They also lost Fredrik Sjostrom to Calgary. No surprise there. He wanted a pay raise, and is a good penalty killer. Still, even at $750,000 a year, he was dispensable. Rookies probably could give them about the same, and for something closer to the league’s minimum salary. On the other hand, adding Sjostrom to the signing of Jay Bouwmeester must make Miikka Kiprusoff very happy in the Flames’ crease.
Montreal continued to splash the cash and remake its team (sounds like longtime captain Saku Koivu is headed elsewhere), and tonight their arch-rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs were heard from too. The Habs added Mike Cammaleri and Brian Gionta. Both are solid scorers, and if Cammaleri’s 31 goal outburst last year wasn’t a fluke, his $6 million per year price could soon become a bargain. Gionta at $5 million seems a bit pricey, although he has scored 20+ goals in each of the past four seasons for New Jersey. Checking line standout Steve Begin headed to Montreal’s other rival, Boston. Meanwhile, Toronto traded Pavel Kubina to Atlanta for Garnet Exelby (a couple of other relatively minor names were involved too). The Leafs clear a bad contract, while Atlanta adds some veteran leadership to their young blueline, which features 20-somethings Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom. Also, while Toronto didn’t sign Cammaleri, a a Toronto-area native, they did win the bidding war with several teams for now ex-Canadien Mike Komisarek. Good defensive defenseman, and if he takes fewer penalties while maintaining his physical presence, look out. Toronto should improve next season, and they could leave plenty of bruises on teams even in defeat.
Minnesota acted swiftly to replace Marian Gaborik, signing Martin Havlat, who was made redundant in Chicago by the signing of Marian Hossa. They have also offered Saku Koivu a deal (his brother Mikko plays for the Wild) and might get an answer within a day or two.
Finally, a quick round-up of some other deals. Some fairly notable players changed addresses, including John Madden and Sami Pahlsson, while Chris Neil chose to stay in Ottawa. The National Post (Canada) has an even more extensive list, plus some quotes on a few of the bigger moves.
So now let’s hear from the peanut gallery. SI’s Allan Muir joined me and others in questioning the day’s big move, Hossa’s big score with the Blackhawks. Again, it was about the length of the deal and how the Blackhawks intend to pay for some of their other stars once they get off of entry-level contracts. This Detroit fan was pleased that his team didn’t match what the Wings’ rivals offered.
Muir also sounded off on perceived winners and losers. Personally, I think the Knuble and Ohlund signings will make a bigger impact than those of Komisarek and Khabibulin- even if he can help the Oilers persuade Dany Heatley to waive his no-trade-clause to join them.
This Panthers fan had a somewhat light-hearted, somewhat cynical take on the day.
Puck Daddy likes the Gaborik signing, as well as what the Blue Jackets did (adding Pahlsson and back-up goalie Mathieu Garon). He’s not so sure about Montreal’s team construction. They might score goals, but he is right about their sudden size issues. Wouldn’t surprise me if they get worn down by physical teams unless they fix this over the next three months. Bob McKenzie is also unsure what to expect from the Canadiens next season.
Other Ranger fans seem mixed on Gaborik, based on posts to blog threads or their own commentaries. SNY’s bloggers worry about the injury problems but appreciate his obvious talent. Rangers Review definitely likes the move. Hockey Rodent thinks there’s more to come.
Hall-of-Fame reporter Eric Duhatschek thinks Calgary became a serious title contender. Bruce Arthur adds that the Flames have so much money tied up in eight players, that injury problems could lead to a repeat of last year, when they were too close to the cap to dress the full allotment of 20 players for several games. Beyond that, he says, it was a very interesting day in Canada as each team tried to get better. And with the cap and stronger Canadian dollar in place, none of that country’s six teams has an excuse for losing anymore.
I’ll be back some time tomorrow. We’ll run through whatever else transpires, and get into some moves in the NBA and other sports. Oh, baseball’s All Star Game voting ends this week and Manny Ramirez can return from suspension too…