UFA’s – The Second Wave
By Darryl Dobbs
Free agency opened in the NHL last weekend, and from noon that Saturday until the following Sunday many of the elite players were scooped up by GM’s hungry for that missing piece that will put their team over the top.
The daily action has since slowed down over the past week, but many significant moves still occurred. Here are some of the signings/deals with the most impact on your fantasy squad:
St.Louis locks up Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, Petr Cajanek, and Dan Hinote. Weight had a taste of life as a third-liner, and he didn’t like it. He also obviously felt that being on the second line wasn’t for him either. So that leaves St.Louis, the one city where he can be a first-line center at the age of 35. Fellow American Olympian Bill Guerin’s fantasy value was at an all-time low, but signing with a team that will give him all the quality ice time he needs has certainly changed that. Weight, Guerin, and Keith Tkachuk will form an All American Line that, although long in the tooth. Expect Weight to produce about the same this year as last, while Guerin and Tkachuk will both have excellent comeback seasons.
Tampa Bay picks up Filip Kuba, Marc Denis, and Doug Janik. The Lightning also traded away Darryl Sydor to Dallas. While the acquisition of Denis resolved their goaltending situation once and for all, Kuba and Janik will not make up for the offense lost when Pavel Kubina fled to Toronto. However, the downgrade is only a small one. Kuba should reach the 30-point mark for the first time in his career, and Denis should start 60 games.
N.Y. Rangers sign Martin Straka, Aaron Ward, and Brendan Shanahan. The Rangers needed some size up front, some experience, and they needed to replace the offense of Petr Sykora and Martin Rucinsky. In Shanahan, they accomplished that in one signing. At 37, Shanny may not have another 40 goals in him, but he will easily get 30 and perhaps 70 points. More importantly, he adds the intangibles that a team needs to bring things up a notch. In Straka, he will be returning to the team he played on last year, and he will be returning to his meal ticket, named Jaromir Jagr. Expect a repeat of last year.
N.Y. Islanders sign Brendan Witt, Andy Hilbert, and Tom Poti. Poti has a an outside shot of succeeding as an offensive defenseman in Long Island, but he will have to outplay Alexei Zhitnik and Chris Campoli to do it. Furthermore, Bruno Gervais is an offensive defenseman who may be ready to make the jump, and there are a handful of other prospects that fit the same role in the pipeline. My money is on Poti failing to reach the 30-point mark for the third straight year. As for Hilbert, if he could have found a way to stay with Pittsburgh, he should have taken it. A chance to continue playing with Sidney Crosby, whom he was clicking with at the end of last season, means a big payday down the road. Now, he will battle Sean Bergenheim for the second-line left winger’s spot. He may succeed in that fight, but the prize isn’t Sid the Kid as a linemate. Fifty points is likely out of range for him as a result.
Edmonton signs/acquires Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, Marty Reasoner, and Daniel Tjarnqvist. The Oilers got great return for Pronger, especially given that the trade was forced. That doesn’t make them a better team for it, though. They also lost Jaroslav Spacek to free agency, and Tjarnqvist and Smid do not make up for the two losses. Smid is an elite prospect, but he is a few years away from becoming a star. That said, the openings that have occurred on the blueline should see to it that he makes the team this year. Marc-Andre Bergeron will be the new power-play quarterback. As for Lupul, his numbers will improve this year and he will be a star in a couple of years – regardless if he played for Anaheim or Edmonton. This trade doesn’t change a thing, fantasy-wise.
Buffalo signs Teppo Numminen and Jaroslav Spacek. Spacek’s numbers will explode this season in Buffalo. A lethal power play, and seemingly hundreds of offensively-skilled forwards to pass to, will combine to give Spacek a career year.
Atlanta grabs Steve Rucchin, along with a ton of smaller signings. The Thrashers are in a bit of a budget/cap crunch, and they are trying to fill their roster with cheap players. Rucchin just may be the Atlanta fiscally responsible answer to a No.1 center. With all of the skilled centers scooped up off the free agent market (Jason Allison, excepted), Rucchin could wind up playing with Kovalchuk. Then again, he had a shot at playing with Jaromir Jagr last year and look how that turned out.
Phoenix scoops up Jeremy Roenick and Georges Laraque. If you take a look at the Phoenix depth chart, you’ll see that it is really not all that bad. When they grabbed Ed Jovanovski last week, they gave themselves arguably the best one through six defense corps in the NHL. Jeremy Roenick should inject 55 points, plus a ton of leadership, into this lineup. He will also be a good mentor for Mike Comrie, who may be poised to show some of that vast promise that has thus far eluded him.