Today was day one of the free agent feeding frenzy, and what a day it was! All the big money guys are officially gone already. The Buffalo co-captains have both moved on. Ryan Smyth went back west and Scott Gomez is now a Ranger. There was also a major trade between Philadelphia and Edmonton. More than a couple of teams will have a completely different look than they had last year. All of this going on so far, and to think that it's only the beginning!
With all the excitement, I failed to mention that the Canes signed a free agent themselves! Jeff Hamilton, a center who played with the Blackhawks last year was signed by Carolina for 2 years at $800,000 each year. Jeff has some speed and some skill, but is he the answer to the Canes' question at 3rd line center? Your guess is as good as mine. Is this another Trevor Letowski signing, or is he another Matt Cullen diamond in the rough? Hamilton's career up to this point does not mirror Cullen's before he came to Carolina. Before last year, Jeff has been nothing more than a career AHL player. Granted, he had a good year last year, but as we all know one good year does not a career make. Joe Vasicek led this team in scoring a couple of years ago, did that make him a dependable commodity the following year? Nope, it didn't. If this signing was to fill a need at 4rth line center, I'm very happy. If Hamilton is expected to center Ladd and Walker full time, I'm concerned. The good thing about this is that it's still early, there are plenty of good players still available, and the Canes still have money to spend. I have a feeling that this is just the beginning for Jim Rutherford as well. At least he didn't over-spend for anyone.
The Canes' supposed number one target, Todd White signed a 4 year deal with division rival Atlanta. I think 4 years is too long to commit to him, in my opinion. He has a tendency to get injured often and can be inconsistent. I guess we'll find out about that as we'll see him 8 times next year, (if he stays healthy all year, which I'd bet he doesn't). The Wild fans aren't shedding any tears about his departure from Minnesota.
If you are feeling a bit unexcited about the Canes' signing, how do you think it feels to be a Sabres fan about now? How in the world are they going to replace both of their captains? On the other end of the spectrum, Flyers fans have to be sky high. But, not only did they over-pay for Timonen and Hartnell, they gave Briere an 8 year, 52 million dollar contract. I'm not saying they over-paid a lot for him, but 8 years is a long time. They better hope these huge signings don't come back to haunt them. The Rangers got both Drury and Gomez. How many leaders does that team need? Who will clash with Jagr? Where does this leave Shanahan, Nylander, and Cullen? There are a lot more questions than answers about that team right now, even after those signings.
Fans that are happy and fans that aren't so happy should take a deep breath and stop to realize that Cups are not won on the first day of free agent signings. I'm sure the Canes aren't finished yet, and neither are any of the other teams in the league. While the Flyers and Rangers look pretty good on paper right now, all of these big deals guarantee nothing. Personally, in most cases I'd rather have the younger, hungrier under paid player than the highly paid mega-star. But that's just one blogger's opinion. More analysis tomorrow night.
Happy Canada Day to our Canadian friends!