We are more than a week into NHL free agency now and, overall, general managers have been fairly active. The New York Rangers made a splash adding Marian Gaborik and Ales Kotalik to their roster, the Edmonton Oilers signed goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, and the Vancouver Canucks resigned the Sedin twins. However, no teams have been as busy as the Habs or the Hawks. Here’s a comparison of the transactions made by the Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens, two of the more active NHL organizations so far this offseason.
Chicago Blackhawks’ GM Dale Tallon has been rather busy, showing he’s dead serious about another Stanley Cup run in the near future. So far, he has:
- signed Marian Hossa to a $62.8 mil/12 year contract
- signed John Madden to a $2.75 mil/1 year contract
- signed Tomas Kopecky to a $2.4 mil/2 year contract
- signed Cam Barker to a $9.25 mil/3 year contract extension
- resigned Kris Versteeg to a $9.2 mil/3 year contract
- and several other re-signings of key role players
Not only has Tallon managed to keep nearly all of the key, young pieces that made the Hawks such a threat in the 2009 playoffs, but he has also signed former Stanley Cup-winning role players in Madden and Kopecky, and the arguable cream of this year’s free agent crop in Hossa. While some may argue that Hossa is cursed when it comes to winning the holy grail (as he’s managed to play on runners up with the Penguins in ‘08 and now the Wings in ‘09) he should join the faces of the franchise, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, to form a deadly offensive combination in 2009-10. An A+ for you, Mr. Tallon.
Montreal Canadiens’ GM Bob Gainey has been just as busy:
- acquiring Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Michael Busto from the New York Rangers in exchange for Christopher Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, Pavel Valentenko and Doug Janik
- signing Mike Cammalleri to a $30 mil/5 year contract
- signing Brian Gionta to a $25 mil/5 year contract
- signing Jaroslav Spacek to a $11.5 mil/3 year contract
- signing Hal Gill to a $4.5 mil/2 year contract
Unfortunately, just because Bob Gainey was willing to throw some money around on day one of free agency doesn’t necessarily mean he improved his squad. After dealing Higgins and perhaps their top prospect in Ryan McDonagh for a declining Gomez, Gainey then overpaid for two undersized forwards in Cammalleri and Gionta. For these two to justify their new contracts, I think they would need to score at least 70 goals next year between them, which probably isn’t a realistic projection.
Furthermore, after watching the Penguins during this year’s playoffs, I recall noting that their only glaring weakness was Hal Gill. For a hulking defenseman who has little offensive upside, ideally he should be a good shutdown player and a physical presence, and yet he is neither of these. At $2.25 million per year, they probably would have been better off spending a little bit more to resign Mike Komisarek, a much more effective, defensive blueliner. Spacek is the lone bright spot of the Habs’ new acquisitions, and should fit in nicely on the powerplay. The Canadiens will have trouble playing bigger, tougher teams in the Eastern conference this season, and will probably struggle to make the playoffs. Just a C- for you, Mr. Gainey.
One free agent who won’t be signing anywhere this offseason is “Burnaby Joe” Sakic who retired today after 20 spectacular seasons with the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise. Always a class act, Sakic will be missed. All the best in the future Joe!