The free agency period officially kicked off at 12:01 p.m. July 1, and within ten minutes Pens' d-man Sergei Gonchar had inked a lucrative deal with the Ottawa Senators. While the Caps faithful waited to see if GM George McPhee would make a splash with a signing of a second line center or bruising, shot-blocking blueliner, the hours ticked by and the Caps saw no movement. Many Caps fans wondered if McPhee had forgotten the date or forgot to set his alarm, judging by the numerous funny "tweets" on Twitter. But the head honcho has his plan (stick tap to Tarik El-Bashir) and that does not include paying the ridiculous prices commanded by some of the heralded free agents like Dan Hamhuis, Anton Volchenkov and Ilya Kovalchuk, among others.
Hockey Mom likens McPhee's plan to a Nordstrom shoe sale. When you've got several lovely pairs of Jimmy Choos in the closet, why go out and buy a similar shoe of lesser quality (until they go on sale, which they eventually will). While shot-blocker extraordinaire Volchenkov topped many fans' free agent wish lists, the Capitals didn't want to trade the farm for the $25.5 million he got from the New Jersey Devils. Several free agent defensemen found new homes on July 1, including Paul Martin (Devils) and Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix), who'll be shoring up the blueline over on the dark side (that would be Pittsburgh of course). The highly sought after Dan Hamhuis (Nashville) will be joining my second favorite team, the Vancouver Canucks. Meanwhile, several teams in Washington's Southeast Division (often jokingly referred to as "Southleast") bolstered their rosters. The Atlanta Thrashers added goalie Chris Mason from the St. Louis Blues after aquiring Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel from the Cup-winning Blackhawks. Florida Panther's GM Dale Tallon (who is the one behind building the current Blackhawks team) made a few moves of his own, adding Christopher Higgins. The Cats also did some wheeling and dealing during the draft, trading picks and picking up Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner from the Canucks and Dennis Wideman from Boston. And new Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was a busy bee, extending the contract for sniper Marty St. Louis, and aquiring goalie Dan Ellis (Nashville), d-man Pavel Kubina (Atlanta) and dealing winger Alex Tanquay to Calgary.
Back at the ranch, George McPhee did make a few minor moves, one of which included the signing of goaltender Dany Sabourin. Sabourin is a 10-year professional who has played 57 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. He spent 2009-10 with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL), posting a 28-27-0 record in 56 appearances with a 2.67 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and three shutouts. He finished third in the AHL in saves (1,579), fourth in minutes (3,278) and tied for sixth in wins. He'll likely aid Braden Holtby in Hershey as Varlamov and Neuvirth should be be donning Caps sweaters this season.
And we bid farewell to Hershey Bear fan fave Alexandre Giroux, who is headed to the Edmonton Oilers. Fellow Bear Kyle Wilson will also be leaving Chocolate Town to join the Columbus Blue Jackets. Caps fans also have to say goodbye (again) to big man Milan Jurcina, who is headed up the road to play for the New York Islanders. Gee Juice, we hardly knew ya. The Isles are rumoured to be front runners in the Ilya Kovalchuk race. Kovy is a seeking a phat, multi-year contract for his talents and the rumor mill has been off the charts since the free agency period began.
So that's it for now. Hope all you sports fans have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July and HM will be sure to keep you posted if any fireworks of the free agency sort spark! Cheers....