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Tumbling Dice - Signing Free Agents is a Gamble

Tomorrow will be the beginning of a new era for several free agents who will receive a contract which will set them up for life. Many teams and their fans will be hoping that a key signing or two will be enough to put them into the top echelon of the NHL.

Sometimes it works out that way, but sometimes it doesn't.

For instance, last year the Los Angeles Kings thought that they were strengthening their club when they signed highly sought after forwards Michal Handzus and Kyle Calder. Handzus signed for $16 million over 4 years but ended up only scoring 7 goals in 82 games last year. Ouch.

Calder was a bit better as he scored 7 goals in 65 games for 2.7 million, but that is still a ton of money for low production.

At this time last year, the Kings had to feel pretty good about themselves because they had signed two of their targets. So be careful what you wish for Caniacs.

On the otherhand, a General Manager can't sit on his hands for too long and end up empty-handed. The fan base won't stand for it, and it's impossible to improve your squad if you don't attempt to make changes.

I have had a chance to read some of the local news and I've seen that Jim Rutherford was quoted as saying that this will be a busy week. Regardless, I don't see a huge free agent signing for the Canes, although as mentioned previously, there could be a couple of minor acquisitions.

Rutherford is known for biding his time and looking for bargains in the free agent market. The best bargains don't usually manifest on opening day, so Caniacs shouldn't be holding their breath waiting for announcements at noon tomorrow.

Today, John Forslund was quoted as saying that Anton Babchuk is close to being signed. That is not a huge surprise as we have been noting that possibility here on the blog over the past few weeks.

Of course there is also a possible major trade looming which could be announced at any time.

It's an exciting time, and it's fun to watch the player movements all around the league.

Speaking of which, the Tampa Bay Lightning are opening eyes around the league with their moves. They signed Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts and also acquired the rights to Brian Rolston. This team could be one to watch next season.

While Barry Melrose has been out of the coaching ranks for umpteen years, the man is not an idiot. He has had his fingertip on the pulse of the league for several years while working for ESPN and he might not be the push-over many in the league think he will be. I'm still impressed with this ownership group.

Will the "Southleast" Division make a statement next season?

On a personal front, my vacation is going by quickly but it's been enjoyable. I have "tumbling dice" on my mind because of some recent luck on the craps tables at the Turning Stone Casino. It's a vice, but it is hard to match the adrenaline rush of a hot table when the shooter is hitting his points.

But as we all know, the dice can giveth and the dice can taketh away. I just make up my mind ahead of time that I will make a certain annual contribution to the Oneida Indian Reservation, and if I come out ahead of that, then I can't complain.

Before I sign off, I hope all of our Canadian friends have a Happy Canada Day!

Rolling Stones