Tuesday, August 02, 2005


NHL: Silly Season Starts!

The silliest offseason in NHL kicked off with a few mid-level signings, but few bombshells. Nervous GM's, agents, and players are all trying to wade through a new NHL landscape while trying to figure out how to best benefit themselves (or their clubs).

The first big signing was Adam Foote going to stink up Columbus with a 3 year/$13.5mil deal that will take him through to his 37th birthday.

Adam Foote is a good defensive defenseman, and somebody I would want on him team. The problem is, Columbus has overpaid for old guys in the past (Luke Richardson and Todd Marchant, for example), and this contract is pretty expensive for a defensive defenseman who is probably going to look every one of his 37 years old after this contract expires. Why does Columbus continue to saddle themselves with albatross contracts? While Foote will help improve the Jackets' weak defence, they really did pay a stiff price given the new economic landscape and Foote's age. (There were also rumours of a no-trade clause, which would really be an anchor on that deal)

Tom Benjamin seems to think Adam Foote can't help the Jackets much because they aren't a legit playoff team. While I agree that the Avalanche' roster makeup helped minimize his weaknesses and emphasize his strengths (something I feel has more to do with good coaching than roster management), the fact is that the Jackets can't get better by simply doing nothing. If Foote can help the Avalanche, he can help any team. As long as the Jackets don't make the mistake in thinking Foote will run their Power Play and provide uber-offense(like the Lightning thought Brian Marchment would do), his role as a defensive stopper for the Jackets will be a valuable one. I expect Foote will also have a positive impact on guys like Rostislav Klesla and Duvie Westcott, who have long needed some leadership and guidance.

The Florida Panthers made a pretty good pair of signings in snagging Leafers Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts 2 year/$4.5mil contracts. Given their age and skill level, these salaries aren't too exhorbitant. Given the youth on the Panthers roster, Roberts and Nieuwendyk really give the Panthers the veteran leadership they need to help develop the J-Bo's...not to mention the defensive upgrade each of them will bring to a lineup that constantly gave Roberto Luongo fits.

The Chicago Blackhawks shocked the world when they opened up Bill Wirtz's dusty chequebook and signed Adrian Aucoin, 32, to a 4 year/$16 mil contract. Aucoin is a very productive 2-way defenseman that can play over 25 minutes a night very easily.
Aucoin has quietly become one of the more valuable defensemen in the NHL and I think this is a great signing for the Hawks. You better believe that the Hawks had to pay a high price to sign any free agent (Don't expect any players to WANT to play for the Hawks unless they are paid a premium), and Aucoin is one of the free agents in this market worth spending money on. Aucoin can give the Hawks the defensive anchor they haven't had since Chris Chelios, and his salary is reasonable. The term might be a little long, but that is the price the Hawks had to spend. If the Hawks were going to spend big, I believe Aucoin was the type of player they should be signing. It might be nice for Hawks fans that the front office is showing some signs of life. Perhaps Wirtz will be inspired to spend a bit more knowing that the NHL achieved some form of salary control. Now, if only he'd televise some home games...

The St. Louis Blues went out and signed another piece of filler in 6'0" 220lbs tank Aaron Downey. With Rycroft and Low already on the roster, I don't understand how Downey will help the club, other than give the Blues someone who has played in the NHL before. I was afraid of the Blues going out and filling out the roster with the bottom of the barrel.

"He brings a high-energy, physical style of play to our team," general manager Larry Pleau said. "Aaron finishes his checks and immediately will inject enthusiasm into our lineup."

It's too bad he can't provide any offence, Larry. It takes some kind of talent to produce 5 points in 120 career NHL games. *Sigh*. The salary figures weren't released, so I'll update the Blues roster file once I see how much they are paying him (Hopefully not above the league minimum).

Speaking of signing the Blues, Pavol Demitra told the Slovak media that he will not be back in St. Louis. Demitra felt that the Blues treated him poorly over the years and he doesn't feel very welcome by the club. While Pavol was leading the club offensively for many years, the club refused to give him a nice contract and forced him to arbitration to get the money he deserved. Basically, it's time for him to move on. Pavol also said he'd play in both Canada and the USA, but would prefer the USA.

To finish off, I'd like to comment on the LA Kings signing Tom Kostopoulos to a free agent contract.

Tom who?

Tom is a hard-working forward who, I feel, would be a solid 2-way 3rd liner if given the chance in the NHL. The Penguins, for some odd reason, dicked around with him and he had a hard time earning real shot at the NHL. Tom produced 22 points in 60 games with the Penguinos in 03/04, and then played last year with Manchester in the AHL and racked up 71 points in 64 games. Tom is a 26 year-old and coming into his prime. He is a very hard-working player and could give the Kings 30-40 points at a very low price.

These are the types of signings that will be key in the new NHL: Spend low to get quality depth players that slip under the radar, and then use that extra cap room to sign the star players. Being able to identify 'value' signings like Kostopoulos has always been important, but not so much as it is nowadays.

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