Scott Burnside and Craig Custance recap the first day of free agency.
Burnside: Good Sunday evening, Mr. Custance, and a happy Canada Day to you. So, we come to the end of the first day of free agency, and, like last year when free agent gem Brad Richards took the first night to sleep on it before inking a long-term deal with the New York Rangers, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter likewise will rest before making what will no doubt be the most important -- not to mention most lucrative -- decision of their careers.
There were rumors that Suter was leaning toward Detroit, but those were pretty quickly quashed by Suter’s people. But you have to believe the Red Wings will remain dogged in their pursuit of both top-notch free agents. Likewise Pittsburgh and Minnesota, among others.
What’s your gut telling you? Do we see the two signing somewhere as a pair? Does Parise’s relationship with Sidney Crosby (not to mention Crosby’s cap-friendly new 12-year deal) open the door to Parise joining the Pens? Or is it possible some team will emerge from the woodwork and steal the thunder on Monday? What say you?
Custance: I certainly don't blame them for sleeping on such a huge decision. I know a lot of teams made significant offers to both, but these guys are going to get huge deals, and I think it's going to be tough for one team to offer the money necessary to land them as a package deal. If he wanted, a GM could offer Parise or Suter $13 million in signing-bonus money the next two years so that they get $26 million in bonus money by this time next year. That's a lot of dough.
My gut? I think Suter will play for the Red Wings next season. Detroit has the money and history and has earned the respect of Suter over the years. I can only imagine the full-court press being put on right now by fellow University of Wisconsin standout and American Chris Chelios. As for Parise, it certainly would be tough to walk away from a huge offer to play on Crosby's wing for the next decade. But I still think it's going to be hard for him to leave the Devils. Can't imagine he's getting much sleep tonight. Your prediction?
Burnside: Hard to imagine Philadelphia won’t come up with at least one of the big boys, because that’s simply Paul Holmgren’s way. And of course, once the dust settles on the Parise/Suter spending, that should set in motion the next tier of free agents, including Matt Carle and Bryce Salvador and perhaps the long-awaited trades of Rick Nash and even Roberto Luongo.
But let’s talk a little about the players who did move on Sunday. Although there was an overabundance of depth moves, a few caught my eye. For instance, the evolution of the Colorado Avalanche continued with the signing of P.A. Parenteau to a four-year deal worth $16 million. He had 67 points for the Isles last year, and that was more than Brad Richards, Patrick Kane and Teemu Selanne. GM Greg Sherman has been relentless in his retooling of the Avs' forward contingent (he added John Mitchell on Sunday to go with Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie, whom he added at the trade deadline). I’m not sure what kind of team they’re going to be but I like that Sherman, among the lowest-profile of all NHL GMs, continues to march forward with a plan in mind. What do you make of the outcome of the Parenteau sweepstakes (and who knew that such a phrase would ever be uttered regarding the former 264th overall pick in the 2001 draft)?
Custance: His Islanders teammates are certainly disappointed to lose him. I know John Tavares expressed his opinion to the front office that he'd like to see it sign Parenteau, but the Islanders weren't willing to spend the big money he was set to get on the open market. I like the signing for Sherman and think Parenteau could continue to produce playing with the guy selected right after Tavares, Matt Duchene.
Islanders GM Garth Snow does have a knack for finding productive forwards on the cheap, and I wouldn't be surprised if we look back at the Brad Boyes deal today as one of the better-value signings. I actually thought there were a few very reasonable contracts given out by GMs today, which isn’t always the case on July 1. Adrian Aucoin could end up being a very valuable resource for Ryan Murray in Columbus, and he was signed for just $2 million. David Moss signed for not much more than that per season, and that could end up being a value for Phoenix GM Don Maloney, who has a history of being a smart shopper. I also liked Ottawa signing Guillaume Latendresse for a reasonable $1.2 million. There's potential for a nice reward for Bryan Murray.
Burnside: Well, Latendresse comes with significant injury baggage, so judgment will be held in reserve on that signing, and in theory, Aucoin should be a nice mentor to the top defenseman taken in the 2012 draft.
Of course, the Blue Jackets remain a million miles from anywhere pending the resolution of the Rick Nash fiasco, so unless GM Scott Howson hits an absolute home run with the Nash deal, it's hard to imagine the Blue Jackets being anywhere near the playoffs next year. Let’s talk defensemen a bit, though, as I am curious to get your take on Filip Kuba returning to his original NHL team, the Florida Panthers, with whom he was signed to a two-year deal worth $4 million annually to take the place of Jason Garrison, who went home to British Columbia and signed a six-year deal worth $4.6 million annually with the Vancouver Canucks. That’s a lot of term for a team that’s already stuck with Keith Ballard’s long-term deal that, ironically, came from Florida as well. I don’t see how Garrison approaches the 16 goals he delivered last season for the Cats, and maybe he doesn’t have to given that the Canucks already have Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler, who combined for 19 goals last season. But can he provide the kind of defensive play that Alain Vigneault will demand? Big question. Still, an important signing for a Canucks team that had to be a bit stung by Justin Schultz’s decision to sign with Edmonton. As for Kuba, Florida GM Dale Tallon told me he thinks the veteran defenseman will start off playing with Brian Campbell and, with his crop of talented young defensemen, including Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson, maybe Kuba doesn’t have to replicate all of Garrison’s 16 markers to help fill that hole. Thoughts?
Custance: The thing that jumps out to me on both the Kuba and Garrison deal is that Calgary might have overpaid a bit for Dennis Wideman, in giving him a five-year deal worth more than $26 million before free agency kicked off. It was a signal that we might see some huge contracts given to midlevel defensemen, and that wasn’t necessarily the case. I have no issue with the Kuba deal, especially considering it’s only two years. And the $4.6 million average annual salary that Garrison received was less than I thought he’d get. He’ll miss Brian Campbell, but can you imagine that huge shot on the Vancouver power play along with the Sedins and Ryan Kesler? He gets to return home, and the Canucks get a defenseman I thought was the second-best behind Suter. That’s not a bad combo.
I’m looking forward to a Monday that should be filled with action. Hopefully Suter and Parise sign, so we can start our summer vacation plans, but it should also spur the signings of guys like Matt Carle, Alexander Semin and Jiri Hudler. Then come the trades -- should be fun!