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Holy Jumpin! - A Darren Pang Blog
 
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FREE AGENT DAY FRENZY

Tuesday, 07.01.2008 / 9:35 PM / Holy Jumpin! - a Blog by Darren Pang
By Darren Pang
I am sitting at the desk of TSN in Canada, alongside analysts Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire, Darren Dreger, Bob McKenzie, Gord Miller and host James Duthie as 30 teams attempt to inject summertime enthusiasm into their fan base and rosters.

The signings are expected and some big boys are high on the list of many teams. The leaders are Marian Hossa, Mats Sundin and Brian Campbell, that signed an enormous deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, averaging $7.1 M for 8 years.

Some deals seem exciting at the time, and later on become buy outs and terrible franchise decisions. The Maple Leafs have been set back for years by signings that included Pavel Kubina, Bryan McCabe, Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker. They are all good players in their own right and for the right money it can work. But not at the overpriced and inflated number that is attached with no movement and no trade clauses, which basically stifles any possible trade or waiver choice if things don't work out.

Coyotes sign defenseman Kurt Sauer to a four year contract.
I am not picking on the Leafs, just using them as an example. Their GM at the time, John Ferguson, was inexperienced and in the pressure cooker of the center of the hockey Universe, Toronto. The players are all good players, at the right number. On this day, free agent day, there are very few consequences and everyone is enamored and full of hope. It doesn't always work out that way.

Today there are many huge signings and the NHLPA is ecstatic.

Jeff Finger has played less than 100 NHL games, scored 8 goals last year on the Avalanche blueline and received a 4 year, $3.5 M per year deal. Most GM's picture him as a 4,5,6 defenseman. He can move the puck. He has paid his dues. It is a lot of money for a guy that is not in the top 4 though.

Somehow (winning would do it) the Red Wings get veteran Top 4 defenseman to take a slight pay cut (4 yrs / $ 3.75 M per year) to stay in Detroit. They say to players, " Do you want a chance to win? Play in a hockey market?.....then here is our offer. If that doesn't work, we can go elsewhere for a similar player.

Coyotes sign left wing Todd Fedoruk to a three year contract.
The Blackhawks GM, Dale Tallon is in a situation where his ownership group now tells him to spend the max, get the players you want and lets win now. He signs Campbell and then signs goalie Christobal Huet to a 4 yr / $5.6 M per year deal. He now has 2 goalies (Khabibulin) that are just over $12 M . It has raised a few eyebrows. Tallon plans to keep them both for now, anyway.

The Blue Jackets signed defenseman Mike Commodore to a 5 yr / $3.75 M per year average contract. I am sure many of our fans in Phoenix know him as the guy in the play offs with the big, red beard.

I like what Don Maloney has done. He hasn't over reacted. You can't afford to make mistakes, especially when you are a franchise that is not making money and building a strong base of young forwards, to compliment a solid group of "D" and tremendous goaltending.

He moved Ballard and Boynton to get a big center in Oli Jokinen. It was a trade that was good for both teams and places a big center to be mixed in with young, smaller players like Kyle Turris.

Today he signed a good, solid shut down defenseman in Kurt Sauer to a very smart 4 year deal that averages $1.75 M per season. He played almost 20:00 per game, and was paired against the other teams top guys. Maybe he slides in there with Derek Morris and essentially takes the spot of Ballard on the #1 shut down unit. At times during the season he may fall to a # 5 or 6 guy. But he has a great attitude and works hard, while knowing his strengths and weaknesses.

Don signed tough, versatile winger Todd "the Fridge" Fedoruk as well and this, along with Brian McGratton, will allow Dan Carcillo to be a solid, reliable forward with the hopes he can score 20-25 goals and limit his PIM's.

The Coyotes were also quick to sign 1st rounders Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov to 3 year entry level deals after showing their stuff in the prospects camp last week. Don didn't let this linger. He and his staff, led by Keith Gretzky, drafted the players they wanted when they set foot in Ottawa, and have followed through to let everyone know where they stand. They are wanted and they know it. Both have excellent shots at making this team when October rolls around.

The Coyotes lost forward Radim Vrbata and Craig Weller to free agency as Vrbata went to Tampa with a 3 year/ $9 M deal while Weller went to the Wild.

Vrbata follows former Coyotes employees Rick Tocchet, Tom Kurvers, Greg Malone and Greg Royce (scouts) to Tampa Bay and their new ownership group.

On another note, Wayne Gretzky's 1st Ford Wayne Gretzky Nationwide Golf Tournament was an enormous success. It was a thrill to be there and play in the event. I played with a great pro, Todd Fischer, who is a huge hockey fan, and he finished -9 for the tourney. I didn't play well enough for him, as we missed the cut on the Pro/Am side by 6 shots. Wayne and his family were incredible hosts and look forward to the next 2 years. It is in Collingwood, Ontario and if you get a chance, make plans to watch it next summer. You can also go to gretzky.com to see more from this years tourney.


Panger

 
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