The first day of free agency in the NHL is in the books and it certainly proved to be a crazy day. There were a number of things done yesterday that had me scratching my head. For example, take the smart signing of Martin Biron by the Rangers only to follow up with a multiyear deal for Boogaard who has 2 goals in 5 years and who's only contribution on the ice is pounding other guys in the face. That icing on the cake for the day though had to belong to the Calgary Flames who brought back Olli Jokinen, a guy they couldn't get rid of fast enough last season.
The Devils didn't have a bad day and they certainly threw around the checkbook which is a little uncharacteristic for them on July 1. If you partied too much on Canada Day and completely missed what happened, you are in luck as I am going to recap and add my thoughts in on what went down with the Devils yesterday.
Paul Martin - In the end. he apparently didn't have much of a place on this team. Last season he made 4.5 million dollars and he went out and signed a contract with the Penguins that paid him 5 million per season. A small increase, something Lou probably could have afforded and you can't expect a guy to take a loss in salary on July 1 when you are as young as Paul Martin is. That right there tells me Lou was ready to go in another direction going into the frenzy. Will the Devils miss Martin? Maybe but it's not a guarentee like it was when Niedermayer left us. What I think ultimately hurt Martin's chance of returning was that the Devils won without him last season and when he did return, he was extremely ineffective against the Flyers in the first round. Martin can certainly move the puck around very well and we do lose a little with him leaving but he isn't irreplaceable.
Henrik Tallinder - 4 years for 13.5 million dollars. Tallinder alone is not going to be a replacement for what was lost in Paul Martin. In fact, these two play such a different game that I don't think you can really compare them head to head. Paul Martin is a puck distributor where as Tallinder excels at closing gaps. Tallinder did two things for the Sabres that I expect to happen while he is here. He didn't contribute much in the way of goals or assists but seemed to boost the Sabres goal scoring while he was on the ice. He spent most of the season playing with rookie sensation, Tyler Myers and will certainly be looked upon to help groom Swedish prospects Alexander Urbom, Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson whenever they arrive in NJ.
Anton Volchenkov - 6 years for 25.5 million, no trade clause. Volchenkov certainly brings size to the Devils defense and is renowned as one of the most physical shut-down defensemen in the league, who regularly ranks amongst the top shot-blockers. If this is the case, I am sure he'll quickly become one of Marty's best friends as we haven't had this element to our defense in quite some time. Like Tallinder he doesn't contribute much in the way of offense but that just might not matter so much if he does his job on defense.
Johan Hedberg - 1 year for 1.5 million and a no trade clause. Ok, lets get the silly out of the way. A no-trade clause for a 37 year old with a 1 year contract? Really?? We hear it every season from the Devils front office that Marty is going to sit more this season and come every April, Marty has played in 70+ games. After the announcement came about Hedberg I was a little annoyed because Biron went for so cheap but if Marty is really going to sit more games this season then Hedberg is a decent guy to have in net and worth the money but only if Marty sits more. The Devils do have 20 back to backs this coming season so realistically in my head that puts Hedberg in net 20 times minimum but that's in my head.
With the signing of these 3 guys yesterday, at first glance it seemed to put the Devils out of the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes but Lou came out last night and said that they will make moves to create the cap space if necessary and that Kovalchuk has never been anything but a priority for him. The Devils have less that 4.25 million in cap space and while I don't believe he will take that much of a discount to play in New Jersey. Someone will have to move, not at the moment because of the 10% cushion but they would have to before the season begins. There are a lot of moves I would be willing to make, a lot that I wouldn't so I guess we have to wait and see what happens. I stand firm in my belief that Kovalchuk will NOT be playing for the Devils next season, I've thought it all along and yesterday really solidified for me.
The final thought I have for today is that for once, we the fans can't complain that the Devils didn't do anything in the offseason because they've been extremely busy over the last 2 days. However, there is plenty more to do. The moves made by the Devils so far don't make the Devils that much better it does improve them in areas that the Flyers certainly took advantage of. We need more and hopefully in the coming days and weeks, we will add more.