2011 NHL Free Agency Live Blog/Open Thread

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21: Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager David Poile of the Nashville Predators addresses the media at the 2011 NHL Awards nominee media availability at the Palms Casino Resort on June 21, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Starting at 11 AM Central, NHL's unrestricted free agents are free to sign with any team. Restricted free agents will also be able to field offer sheets. And throughout the frenzy of speculations and announcements, I'll be live blogging the day's events in this post. I'll try to get some analysis up for each signing, more in cases that directly affect the Preds and their rivals. So lean into that function 5 key and get ready to discuss our inevitable annual disappointment! 

For a preview of what the Predators might be thinking, here's audio of David Poile on Thom Abraham Show yesterday. And if you're a little behind, here's where the Predators stand, heading into this afternoon:

  • They bought out J.P. Dumont's contract, reducing his cap hit and making him an UFA.
  • Joel Ward and Marcel Goc will hit UFA status this afternoon, with a return for the Preds possible for each.
  • Steve Sullivan and Shane O'Brien will become UFAs, but will not receive offers from Nashville.

Here's Dirk's Preds-specific free agency preview, detailing the pros and cons of players in Nashville's price range. The live blog starts after the jump...

9:20: The Red Wings have reportedly resigned two players, pending UFA Jonathon Ericsson and Patrick Eaves. Ericsson, another late-round Scandinavian steal for Detroit, is a good second-pairing D-man and figures to have a bigger role with Rafalski gone. Eaves is a bottom-6 winger with some scoring punch, a la Ryan Jones. Nothing Earth-shattering here. 

9:27: The Canucks re-sign Sami Saloapparently for 1-yr/$2M. This deal makes the Erhoff contract with Buffalo seem even more ridiculous. Salo is injury-prone, but 1/$2M vs. 10/$40M for arguably equally-valuable players...

9:42: Minnesota resigns goalie Josh Harding 1/$750K. Good deal. They get the injury discount on a capable 1A. 

9:57: Columbus has signed James Wisniewski for 6/$33M ($5.5M per year). He's a good first-line power play defenseman, but he's not worth that much money. For one, he's a bit of a one-year wonder. And the Blue Jackets are basically paying him to be a top-line defenseman, and his defensive game isn't good enough for that role. Columbus is spending a lot of money in questionable ways, but they clearly want to compete next year. 

10:25: Per Josh Cooper, Poile says he's looking for a top-6 guy in the UFA class. Cooper speculates on a few possible names: Upshall, Higgins, Gagne, D'Agonstini, and Leino. I wouldn't really call any of those guys top 6. But count me in on Upshall, Gagne, and D'Agonstini. 

10:29: Buffalo re-signs Cody McCormick for 3 years, $1.2M per. Decent depth center, too many penalties. 11 can't come soon enough. 

10:51: Penguins confirm they withdrew a 1-year $2M offer to Jaromir Jagr. #JagrWatch

11:02: We're underway! And there's two pieces of news to report. Tyler Kennedy re-ups with the Penguis for $2 years/$4M ($2M per). Kennedy is a great, versatile winger. Paying a 45-point player $2M is an absolute steal. Also to report, Chris Higgins gets nearly the same deal, 2 years, $1.9M per. That's a good sign for Vancouver, for similar reasons--very versatile, pushes the play, good secondary scorer. These two could be said to be comparables for Joel Ward, and I'd gladly take him back for the same money. 

11:38: The Red Wings sign depth forward Drew Miller to a 2-year/$1.6M contract. He provides 10 goals a year for his $800K, not a bad return. 

11:44: Goalie Mathieu Garon signs with Tampa Bay for 2-years/$2.6M. He's not very good, but that's not much money. He figures to get chances, backing up the aging Dwayne Roloson

11:52: 2 signings. Jamal Mayers goes to the Blackhawks for 1-year/$550K. He's bad, fights, and commits lots of penalties. I hope he makes the Hawks. Ben Eager has signed with the Oilers. He's also bad. But Edmonton just gave him 3 years/$3M, so the joke's on them.

11:58: Florida signs Jose Theodore for 2-years/$3M. The drop from Voukon to him is astounding (.917 career SV% to .909). The Panthers might lose a ton of games next year. 

12:10: Adam Pardy signs with Dallas for 2-years/$2M. Gotta wonder about a guy who plays the softest minutes in the league and averages 1 goal per year. It's hard to make a disaster $2M signing, but the Stars are trying. 

12:30: Lots to cover here. 

  • Scottie Upshall signs with Florida for 3-years $3.25M per. I honestly thought Upshall was going to end up back on the Preds, but not for that money. I don't think that's a bad signing for a team like Florida who needs good players who can bring them to the cap floor. But I don't blame Poile for balking at that price. Check out Dirk's preview for more on Upshall, if you wish.
  • Sean O'Donnell signs with the Blackhawks for $850K. That's a decent gamble for the money, though certainly a downgrade from Campbell (if that comparison is even apt here). Will he pair with Mantador? 
  • Chris Butler signs a 2 year/$2.5M deal with the Flames. He's a fine 3rd pairing defender. 
  • Phoenix gets Mike Smith for 2/$4M. That's a huge downgrade for Bryz and I can only assume they're paying for playoff performance here. 
  • Matt D'Agostini signs with the Blues for 2-years/$3.3M. That's a very good deal for the Blues. D'Agostini put up very similar numbers to Tyler Kennedy this year and got even less. Hopefully the price on Wardo is dropping similarly...
  • Raffi Torres gets 2 years/$3M from the Coyotes. That's a good deal for Phoenix. That Torres took as many D-zone draws as he did last year and scored 29 points is amazing. I still hate him, though. 
  • Jeff Halpern signs with Washington for 1year/$825K. Last year's 11 goals was a S% fluke, but it won't matter much at that money. Still, I wonder if the Caps would be better giving his spot to a younger player.

12:35: 

12:45 (Dirk):
  • Jan Hejda goes from Columbus to Colorado for 4 years. That's a significant loss for the Blue Jackets, who loaded up on some sizzle with Carter and Wizniewski.
  • Philly inks Jakob Vorachek to a one year, $2.25 million contract (he was an RFA after being traded from Columbus as part of the Jeff Carter deal).
  • Ed Jovanovski to Florida for 4 years, $16.5 million.
1:30 (Dirk):
  • Marcel Goc to Florida for 3 years, $5.1 million. Just not enough room at center with Fisher, Legwand, O'Reilly, Smithson, Spaling, Geoffrion, etc.
  • Radim Vrbata re-ups with Phoenix for 3 years, $9 million. A decent scoring winger off the board.
  • Former Predator Andrew Brunette to Chicago for 1 year, $2 million.
  • Max Talbot goes to Philadelphia for 5 years, $9 million (weird deal). Lots of former Penguins in Flyers orange, now!
2:15 (Dirk):
  • Steve Sullivan to Pittsburgh for 1 year, $1.5 million.
2:24: Joel Ward signs with the Washington Capitals for 4-years/$12M. I said the Preds should pay Ward up to $3 million. But I didn't expect him to get it. And for four years? I have no idea how to feel. That's would have been a big risky deal to match. But Joel was a huge part of the Preds' forward corps. Time to panic?

2:38:
  • The Oilers add Darcy Hordichuk for $825K and Cam Barker for $2.25M/1year. 
  • Roman Hamrlik goes to the Caps for 2 years/$7M. Between Hamrlik and Ward, the Caps have made a nice defensive improvement. 
  • Erik Cole signs with Montreal for $18M/4 years. He's going to be a fine player for $4.4M next year. But I wouldn't want to be paying him $4.4M at age 35 and 36.  I don't blame the Preds for passing.
3:07: Kris Versteeg to the Panthers for a 2nd and a 3rd. Slowly the Panthers are becoming a weird amalgamation of the two former teams of their top executives (Preds, Hawks). 

3:17: Ville Leino goes to the Sabres for 6 years/$27M. That's huge money for a guy who doesn't play defense and has his points totals inflated by a coach that would only play him in offensive situations. As bad as you think the Legwand contract is for us, this is going to be that x10. I'm a bit relieved the Preds avoided the shiny object here. 

3:29: Alexei Ponikarovsky goes to Carolina for $1.5M/1 year. Honestly, that's a decent gamble on a player whose best-case scenario is replacing Cole. I had totally forgot Ponikarovsky was even out there.

4:00: ....And the Panthers sign Tomas Fleischmann, the one I really wanted. 4 years, $18M. That's a pretty big contract for an uninsurable player, coming off a season-ending blood disorder. But Fleischmann is a very good player, who could easily be worth that money. Florida continues to ruin today for everyone else with their ridiculous contracts. 

4:14: Sounds like Admirals standout Mark Dekanich has signed with Columbus. Good luck to the dextronaut, I'm sad he never got a chance as Nashville's back up. He's probably better than Steve Mason, anyway. Wouldn't be surprised if he gets some PT. 
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