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Cullen: A look at the free agent frenzy signings

Scott Cullen
7/6/2011 4:53:28 PM
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For all the numbers on the signings in the first week of the NHL free agent period, check out Scott Cullen's Numbers Game articles as well as this wrap-up of 68 additional early July NHL player moves.

There have been plenty of significant moves in the first week of July, including the following Numbers Game pieces:
Sabres sign Ehrhoff
Blue Jackets add Wisniewski
Jagr back in the NHL, signs with Flyers
Canadiens mining for Cole
Avalanche add a pair of free agent goaltenders
Richards chooses New York Rangers
Maple Leafs bring in Connolly
Vokoun winds up in Washington
Leino joins new-look Sabres
Leafs add Franson, Lombardi
Heatley and Havlat switch places
Kaberle to Carolina; Corvo to Boston
Kings sign Gagne

For the other transactions, mostly free agent signings, that don't quite warrant full Numbers Game treatment, and involved players actually changing places, I have a couple of lines on each one here:

GARON to LIGHTNING (two years, $2.6M)
A steady backup, 33-year-old Mathieu Garon has played 71 games the last two seasons with Columbus, so he should be able to handle a significant workload -- say, 40% of the starts -- as the number two behind Dwayne Roloson in Tampa Bay.

Garon's career save percentage of .904 is indicative of his place as backup goaltender, but he's one of the better ones and his reliability will be well-rewarded, as only a handful of backup goaltenders come at a cap hit of more than $1.3-million.
 
MAYERS to BLACKHAWKS (one year, $550K)
A 36-year-old who played for San Jose last season, Jamal Mayers had his first plus season since 2002-2003 and he's proven to be a tough customer, dropping the gloves 39 times over the last three seasons as his role has reduced, playing under nine minutes per game over the last couple seasons.

Mayers has played a lot of centre throughout his career, but played primarily on the wing in San Jose last season.

EAGER to OILERS (three years, $3.3M)
27-year-old Ben Eager skates very well for a big man and has proven to be an adequate fourth-line enforcer, putting up 25 goals and 48 points over the last three seasons, while fighting 24 times.

Considering the Oilers' young, skilled forwards, they could use some muscle that can play regularly and provide some protection, so that will be Eager's role. The challenge for Edmonton will be keeping Eager focused on the task at hand -- his playoff meltdown against Vancouver showed just how discipline can be a problem for him.

THEODORE to PANTHERS (two years, $3M)
Jose Theodore, a 34-year-old who played a second-string role in Minnesota last season, has been rather effective in recent seasons, posting a save percentage higher than his career mark of .909 in three of the last four seasons.

In Florida, with Scott Clemmensen signed as the backup and Tomas Vokoun on his way out as an unrestricted free agent, Theodore should be a looking at a starter's role in Florida, a chance to play 50 games and likely face a lot of shots.

The signing makes sense for the Panthers because they have top prospect Jacob Markstrom on the way and Clemmensen is going into the last year of his deal, which means Theodore could share the net or backup Markstrom in the 2012-2013 season. 

PARDY to STARS (two years, $4M)
Injuries limited 27-year-old Adam Pardy to 30 games last season and while he was reasonably effective for Calgary in limited and protected minutes, it's still stunning that he's going to get $2-million per season.

Presumably, at that price, Pardy will be expected to play as a regular among the Stars' top six defencemen, a significant responsibility for a player that has played 147 games.

O'DONNELL to BLACKHAWKS (one year, $850K)
Nearing 40-years-old, Sean O'Donnell is a reliable physical presence for the third pairing. He's missed a total of a dozen games over the last seven seasons and is still big, strong and ornery enough to drop the gloves when the situation calls for it.

He's not going to be asked to play a lot in Chicago, but O'Donnell was effective in 15:33 for the Flyers last season and that should be the same kind of role that he fulfills in Chicago.

Also of note, O'Donnell hasn't been a minus player since 1996-1997.

HALPERN to CAPITALS (one year, $825K)
A 35-year-old native of Potomac, Maryland, Jeff Halpern is a very rare local product who played for the Capitals between 1999 and 2006 and is coming off an effective season in Montreal. He played 12:44 per game and chipped in 26 points.

The Capitals lost Boyd Gordon to free agency, so Halpern provides solid depth down the middle for Washington. Obviously, at this point in his career, expectations will be modest.

UPSHALL to PANTHERS (four years, $14M)
Scott Upshall, who will be 28 next season, is coming off a season split between Phoenix and Columbus during which he scored a career-high 22 goals and tied a career-high with 34 points.

A speedy winger who can play a feisty game as well, Upshall will get a tremendous opportunity in Florida. Given the Panthers' need to reach the salary floor, Upshall has received a significant financial commitment and that should also come with more ice time than he's ever played before.

He's never played more than the 15:03 per game that he did in 2009-2010, so if Upshall would get 17 or 18 minutes per game, with power play time in Florida, Upshall could be a consistent 20-goal scorer for the life of this deal. 

TORRES to COYOTES (two years, $3.5M)
A 30-year-old jackhammer winger, Raffi Torres will add some muscle to the bottom six forwards in Phoenix. He is capable of contributing a little offensively, scoring 107 goals in the last six seasons, and doing it in limited ice time (13:03 per game over his career).

Torres should be a decent fit in Phoenix, where his hard-hitting style will make the Coyotes hard to play against and he gets a nice raise, from his previous $1M cap hit, to make the move from Vancouver.

SMITH to COYOTES (two years, $4M)
A 29-year-old who hasn't been able to secure a starting job, despite opportunities in Tampa Bay, Mike Smith is going to get another chance to be a number one goaltender in Phoenix.

Smith has never played more than 42 games in a season, but will likely have a chance to play more in Phoenix, provided he can perform. Certainly, given Phoenix's defensive system under head coach Dave Tippett, Smith should have an opportunity to put up decent numbers.

What the Smith signing does, however, is give Phoenix backup Jason LaBarbera more value (ie. he could play more), as Smith doesn't have the same pedigree as previous number one starter, Ilya Bryzgalov.  

MANCARI to CANUCKS (one year, $525K)
He may be destined for the AHL, where he's put up 137 points in 130 games over the last two seasons, but 25-year-old right winger Mark Mancari also contributed eight points in 20 games with the Sabres last season. As a complementary scoring winger, he might be able to help in small doses.

GORDON to COYOTES (two years, $2.65M)
A 27-year-old checking centre with good size, Boyd Gordon doesn't provide a lot of offence (85 points in 363 career games), but he's an ace in the faceoff circle, winning 58.0% of his draws last season.

Injuries have plagued Gordon, as he's played a total of 226 games over the last four seasons, but he can fulfill a checking centre role, if only he can stay healthy.

DVORAK to STARS (one year, $1.5M)
A veteran checker, who can still fill a role as a penalty killer, 34-year-old Radek Dvorak has played more than 1100 games so the stars know what they're getting.

Whether he's still capable of doing the job or not, Dvorak took tough defensive assignments last year (www.behindthenet.ca), at least while he was in Florida. His role decreased after he was traded to Atlanta at the deadline.

BRENT TO HURRICANES (two years, $1.5M)
Finally sticking in the league for a full season in 2010-2011, 27-year-old Tim Brent proved that he belongs, contributing 20 points and winning 52% of his draws.

He's a reasonably-priced, high-character fourth-line centre for the Hurricanes who finally gets some security with a multi-year NHL deal.

HEJDA to AVALANCHE (four years, $13M)
A 33-year-old defensive defenceman, Jan Hejda has played more than 21 minutes per game in his career and led the Blue Jackets in even strength time on ice per game last season.

Hejda goes 6-foot-4, 237 pounds, so he can be a formidable presence and he was one of six defencemen in the league who had both 150 hits and 150 blocked shots last season.

He'll add stability to the Colorado defence, though it's fair to wonder whether he'll still provide value by the end of the contract -- that's the risk any team is going to take in free agency when they sign a player to a deal that will take him into his late thirties.

JOVANOVSKI to PANTHERS (four years, $16.5M)
There would have been a time, not so long ago, that Ed Jovanovski would have warranted a Numbers Game column, a full breakdown of his impact on his new team, but at 35-years-old, coming off a year in which he finished with a career-low 14 points, the impact isn't going to match his sizeable new contract.

Jovanovski started playing a more defensive role with the Coyotes in the second half of the 2009-2010 and carried on in that role last season, still playing more than 20 minutes per game.

He'll be able to play 20 minutes per game, and maybe a more offensive role, for a Panthers team with a young defence, but JovoCop will need to halt time to somehow avoid being overpaid, relative to his impact, by the time this deal is complete.

FIDDLER to STARS (three years, $5.4M)
With Radek Dvorak signed, the Stars further enhanced their defensive forward ranks with the addition of 31-year-old Vernon Fiddler, who played a career-high 15:33 per game for the Coyotes last season.

Fiddler has won 53% of his draws over the last two seasons and was a plus-16 over the last two seasons in Phoenix, so he should represent an upgrade for the Stars' third line. He'll be well-compensated for it, but Fiddler would have surely been in demand, as most teams can use a player that provides his skills.

BRUNETTE TO BLACKHAWKS (one year, $2M)
A 37-year-old winger who shows up to work every night, Brunette has missed only three games in the last nine years, and even though he's not particularly fleet afoot, he has made a career out of having sensational hands, which makes him very dangerous around the net.

Brunette scored 46 points for Minnesota last season, the 11th straight season that he's scored at least 45 points, and should provide some complementary scoring for the Blackhawks. A nice signing for Chicago; short term at a reasonable cost.

GOC to PANTHERS (three years, $5.19M)
A 27-year-old checking centre, Marcel Goc evolved into a little more than that in his two years with Nashville, playing on a scoring line at times, when injuries necessitated it and he was reasonably productive (remember, everything is relative), contributing 54 points in 124 games with the Predators.

Goc should be a good fit in a third line role with the Panthers, and the term of the contract only takes him to age 30, so the Panthers should get his prime years.

TALBOT to FLYERS (five years, $9.0M)
A gritty 27-year-old forward, Maxime Talbot played all 82 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and was effective in a third-line checking role, playing just over 15 minutes per game.

Talbot has scored between 21 and 26 points in four of the last five seasons, so he's not going to change the offensive landscape in Philadelphia, but he'll hustle and hit and generally be difficult to play against. A good character guy, who is getting a rather long-term deal given his skill set.

BOUCHER to HURRICANES (two years, $1.9M)
34-year-old goaltender Brian Boucher played 34 games for the Flyers last season, his most in a season since 2003-2004 and has appeared in 21 playoff games over the last two seasons, so he's much more experienced than Carolina's backup last season, Justin Peters.

Boucher shouldn't be needed to play quite as much behind Cam Ward, but it won't hurt the Hurricanes if they feel they can trust their backup to give the team a chance to win.

BUDAJ to CANADIENS (two years, $2.3M)
While the initial reaction to signing a 28-year-old with a .901 save percentage may not initially be a positive one, it's important to consider the role that Peter Budaj will have in Montreal.

As the backup to franchise goaltender Carey Price, Budaj won't be asked to play very often -- Alex Auld played 16 games in that role last season -- and the only time in Budaj's career that he had that kind of workload was in 2009-2010, when he played 15 games behind Avalanche starter Craig Anderson, and he finished with a career-high .917 save percentage.

Now that there is no debate over whether Budaj is going to be a starter, an optimist might hope that he can settle into the backup role and perform as he did for Colorado in 2009-2010.

RUPP to RANGERS (three years, $4.5M)
A 6-foot-5, 230-pound fourth-line banger, Mike Rupp was a coveted role player and he could give the Rangers a fearsome crash line if he skates alongside 6-foot-7 Brian Boyle.

Boyle is the only player in the league to have scored at least 20 goals over the last two seasons while playing fewer than 10 minutes per game and has fought 40 times over the last three seasons. He's capable of playing centre, but figures to primarily be a winger in New York, where the Blueshirts already have enough depth down the middle.

COMMODORE to RED WINGS (one year, $1M)
It was a rough season for Mike Commodore, the 31-year-old defenceman who was demoted to the AHL after going minus-8 in 20 games with Columbus, but he'll have a chance to resurrect his career in Detroit after he was bought out of the final year of his deal with the Blue Jackets.

Commodore's lack of mobility can leave him vulnerable to speedy forwards but, if he's protected by his Red Wings teammates, Commodore's size and strength can be an asset in a defensive role.

SULLIVAN to PENGUINS (one year, $1.5M)
Small, aging and injury-prone, soon-to-be 37-year-old winger Steve Sullivan nevertheless presents a worthwhile risk for the Penguins. While Sullivan has played more than 60 games just once since 2005-2006, he still has the skill level to be an effective offensive contributor.

In Pittsburgh, Sullivan should be blessed with more skilled playmaking centres than he ever had in Nashville, so there is at least the potential for Sullivan to score 20 goals, a threshold he's hit eight times in his career. If Sullivan manages to stay healthy, his presence could allow the Penguins to move Pascal Dupuis into a checking role but, if Sullivan runs into injury problems, the Penguins' investment is minimal enough to not cause any long-term trouble.

Nashville has some internal candidates to play the wing on a scoring line, in Sullivan's place, whether it's Colin Wilson or Blake Geoffrion, but the Predators may also need to seek out some bargain free agent help at some point.

WARD to CAPITALS (four years, $12M)
A highly sought-after commodity following his strong playoff performance (when he scored 13 points in 12 games), 30-year-old Joel Ward landed a big payday for his efforts.

A late-bloomer, who was nearly 25 by the time he started in pro hockey, Ward played three seasons in Nashville, establishing his credentials as a checking winger.

That he has the ability to chip in offensively makes him all the more valuable as a third-liner, but Ward figures to get less ice time in Washington, as only five Capitals forwards played more than Ward's 17:04 per game last season.

REASONER to ISLANDERS (two years, $2.7M)
For all the Islanders' young offensive talent, they could use a reliable veteran centre that can check, take faceoffs and kill penalties and 34-year-old Reasoner fits the bill.

Reasoner played a career-high 17:10 per game with the Panthers last season, tying a career-high with 14 goals and finishing with a plus-2 rating despite generally facing tougher defensive assignments. Reasoner is also capable of playing the wing, if need be.

Amid all the Panthers' acquisitions on the first day of free agency, they brought in Marcel Goc, who is seven years younger but capable of playing a similar enough role to Reasoner.

HAMRLIK to CAPITALS (two years, $7.5M)
While 37-year-old Roman Hamrlik may have had trouble getting a multi-year offer because he's older than 35, his performance in recent seasons with Montreal makes Washington's offer entirely reasonable.

In four seasons with Montreal, Hamrlik played more than 22 minutes per game, while missing a total of 16 games. Over those four seasons, Hamrlik scored 119 points, which was good enough to be ranked 42nd among NHL defenceman in that time and he's not going to be required to play a significant offensive role when the Capitals already have Mike Green, Dennis Wideman and John Carlson on the roster.

Hamrlik also happened to face the toughest defensive assignments in Montreal, so he can take over the defensive responsibility that fell to Scott Hannan in Washington last season and Hamrlik is a better all-around defenceman. This is an upgrade at a reasonable price for the Caps. 

HORDICHUK to OILERS (one year, $800K)
30-year-old enforcer Darcy Hordichuk is moving to his sixth franchise (following his second stint in Florida) and even though his penalty minutes were down last year, it was his ninth straight season with at least ten fights (www.hockeyfights.com).

With young talent looking for room to operate at the top of the depth chart, Hordichuk will pair with Ben Eager to give the Oilers plenty of muscle on the fourth line.

BARKER to OILERS (one year, $2.25M)
After scoring 40 points in 2008-2009, 25-year-old Cam Barker will try to resurrect his career in Edmonton. Barker has offensive instincts that serve him well on the power play, but he was lost in Minnesota last season, scoring five points and finishing with a minus-10 rating, despite having the most protected ice time among Wild defencemen (www.behindthenet.ca).

He goes to Edmonton, where they aren't particularly deep on defence, and it's a chance for Barker to get his career back on track. While the price seems a tad lofty given the season he just finished, the short term means that the Oilers aren't committed to anything and if Barker doesn't pan out, they're none the worse off; a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained.

AULD to SENATORS (one year, $1M)
A 30-year-old backup goaltender that has played for eight teams in the last six seasons, Alex Auld returns to one of those teams, signing with the Senators.

Auld was effective in limited action for the Canadiens last season, his .914 save percentage was the best of his career when playing at least 10 games. He may be needed to play a few more games as Craig Anderson's backup, but Auld should be able to play the role of the solid veteran backup.

RYDER to STARS (two years, $7M)
Michael Ryder, 31, is a decent enough scorer, coming off a strong playoff run for the Cup-winning Bruins, during which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 25 games. His playoff performance probably helped lift his market value, as back-to-back 18-goal seasons only has so much appeal.

In Dallas, Ryder will have a chance to be reunited with Mike Ribeiro, whom he experienced his best years with in Montreal from 2003-2004 to 2005-2006. With a few more minutes per game in Big D, Ryder could have a decent opportunity to score 20 goals again.

VERSTEEG to PANTHERS for second and third-round picks
Even though he had an off season, 25-year-old Kris Versteeg has three straight 20-goal seasons, which makes him one of 46 NHLers to have hit that milestone in the last three years, but he's on his way to his fourth team since winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010.

The Flyers have undergone some radical changes on their forward lines, so Versteeg's departure isn't going to be quite as notable as some others. Given what remains, they could probably use another winger to play in their top nine, but one that comes cheaper than Versteeg's $3.083M cap hit.

Florida has a significant influx of new forwards, which means there will be some shaking out and, considering the talent, Versteeg figures to be a top six forward and a top six forward should have a shot at another 20-goal season.

POULIOT to BRUINS (one year, $1M)
A 24-year-old, 6-foot-3 winger, Benoit Pouliot did score 28 goals in 118 games with Montreal, but it wasn't enough to get a qualiyfing offer from the Habs.

He should be far enough removed from his draft year (2005), that Pouliot shouldn't feel the pressure of expectations any longer. In fact, at this point, he comes in without significant expectations, with the upside that he could possibly score 20 goals if put in an offensive role.

FOSTER to DUCKS, SUTTON to OILERS
Kurtis Foster is a 29-year-old, 6-foot-5 defenceman with a thundering slapshot from the point, but he's coming off a season in which he finished as a minus-12 despite playing the most protected minutes (www.behindthenet.ca) of any Edmonton defenceman.

However, Foster is capable of helping on the second power play unit and has one year, at a $1.8-million cap hit, remaining on his deal.

A 36-year-old veteran bruiser, Andy Sutton had a tough year in 2009-2010, playing 14:45 per game in just 39 games, his lowest ice time per game since 2001-2002. 39 games was lower than even Sutton's typical, but he's missed at least 20 games in four of the last five seasons.

When he does play, Sutton can be an intimidating physical presence, using his 6-foot-6 frame to both hit and block shots. He'll add some bite to the Oilers' defence and, if he's healthy, Sutton could play more significant minutes than he did in Anaheim last season. Sutton's also going into the final year of his deal, with a $2.125M cap hit.

STURM to CANUCKS (one year, $2.25M)
Marco Sturm will be 33 next season and he's coming off a season in which he played 35 games for three teams, scoring just five goals. With knee problems robbing him of his wheels, it's fair to wonder if Sturm has seen his last 20-goal season, a threshold he's reached seven times in his career.

With Mason Raymond possibly not ready for the start of next season, having Sturm as a potential second-line scorer is a reasonable approach, particularly given the short-term investment required.

PONIKAROVSKY to HURRICANES (one year, $1.5M)
31-year-old Alexei Ponikarovsky has seen his career drop off dramatically since leaving Toronto, as he's managed seven goals in 77 games with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles since last year's trade deadline.

Re-united with former Leafs coach Paul Maurice, Ponikarovsky should play a top nine role and perhaps score a little more in line with previous seasons, when he tallied between 18 and 23 goals for five straight years. If he doesn't, he's big and can skate well enough to be an effective checker.

SOURAY to STARS (one year, $1.65M)
Soon-to-be 35-year-old Sheldon Souray has a shot at redemption after he was exhiled to the AHL last season, where he had 19 points and was plus-10 in 40 games. If Souray is suitably motivated, he has a heavy slapshot from the point that can make a difference on the power play and he does bring size and toughness.

What remains a concern with Souray is that he can be a defensive liability, going minus-64 over five seasons from 2005-2006 through 2009-2010 -- Eric Brewer was the only defenceman with a worse plus-minus over those five years. Since Souray won't need to play top four minutes in Dallas, he could be protected defensively with more favourable matchups.

VANDERMEER to SHARKS (one year, $1M)
Jim Vandermeer, 31, is joining his sixth team, coming off a year in which he was a career-worst minus-15 in Edmonton. He doesn't make the best decisions, and has missed at least 20 games in four of the last five seasons, but Vandermeer is a tough customer, who will add a physical dimension to the Sharks blueline.

FLEISCHMANN to PANTHERS (four years, $18M)
A wildcard free agent after his season was shortened by blood clots in his leg, 27-year-old Tomas Fleischmann had 21 points in 22 games with Colorado after coming over in a trade from Washington, playing a more significant offensive role than ever before.

In Florida, Fleischmann will get a similarly prominent role as he'll be counted on to score at least 20 goals, a reasonable enough expectation for a player getting paid $4.5-million per season and that, to his credit, has scored on an impressive 15.4% of his shots over the last three seasons.

BELANGER to OILERS (three years, $5.25M)
A 33-year-old checking centre, Eric Belanger has also played some significant minutes in a scoring role for defensively-minded teams in Phoenix and Minnesota in recent seasons.

He'll add stability and a measure of durability in Edmonton, having missed 17 games over the last five seasons and adding Belanger gives the Oilers a lot of depth up front; potentially enough to make a trade.

KOBASEW to AVALANCHE (two years, $2.5M)
A 29-year-old winger who has managed 31 points over his last two injury-plagued seasons, Chuck Kobasew is a three-time 20-goal scorer, but seems far removed from those days.

Kobasew has the speed to be an effective checker, but he could use a healthy season to re-establish his place as an NHL regular. Fortunately, for Kobasew, Colorado was willing to invest in two years anyway.

DEKANICH to BLUE JACKETS (one year, $575K)
25-year-old goaltender Mark Dekanich is ready for his turn in the NHL after three seasons with Milwaukee in the AHL, finishing the latest season with a 2.02 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 43 games for the Admirals.

Dekanich played one game for the Predators last season, but coming to Columbus, he's could have a chance to play quite a bit behind Steve Mason. Maybe not as much as the 71 games Mathieu Garon played in that role the last two seasons, but that will depend on the play of Mason and Dekanich.

The organization has some depth too, having signed Curtis Sanford to a two-way deal that will make him the No. 3, but 31-year-old Sanford has also been very good in the AHL over the last couple of seasons and has 108 NHL games on his resume.

ELLIOTT to BLUES (one year, $600K)
After a rough year in Ottawa and Colorado, 26-year-old Brian Elliott signed a two-way deal with St. Louis that should put him up against Ben Bishop for the backup job behind Jaroslav Halak.

Elliott is probably more suited to a backup role at the NHL level, and both he and Bishop have two-way deals, so there should be some competition in camp.

CARCILLO to BLACKHAWKS (one year, $775K)
26-year-old Dan Carcillo's role declined in Philadelphia last season and he finished with a carer-low six points ni 57 games while playing a career-low 7:46 per game.

Carcillo does have some offensive skill to go with his havoc-wreaking ways, scoring 73 points to go with his 75 fights in 282 career games. The Blackhawks want more toughness? They've got it. Now it's up to Coach Q to keep Carcillo reined in enough so that he can be an effective player.

GLASS to JETS (one year, $750K)
A physical winger who had 21 points in 140 games with the Canucks over the last two seasons, 27-year-old Tanner Glass will hit and fight while playing 8-10 minutes a game on the fourth line.

EBBETT to CANUCKS (one year, $525K)
A smallish centre who split last season between the AHL (38 points in 37 games) and NHL (five points in 33 games), 28-year-old Andrew Ebbett adds skill and depth down the middle.

He may be hard-pressed to win a regular job in Vancouver, but could be a serviceable extra forward or the offensive focal point of the AHL club in Chicago.

HANDZUS to SHARKS (two years, $5M)
34-year-old Michal Handzus isn't terribly quick, but he's a 6-foot-4 centre who is good on face-offs (taking more than 1300 in each of the last three seasons, winning 52.3%) and primarily responsible for a checking role, though he is a four-time 20-goal scorer.

Handzus had the worst shot differential (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, www.behindthenet.ca) on the Kings last season, but he could be a better fit, perhaps used a little less, in San Jose.

BERGENHEIM to PANTHERS (four years, $11M)
They say to strike while the iron is hot and there's no doubt that 27-year-old Sean Bergenheim picked the right time to have a breakout performance, scoring nine goals in 16 playoff games. Bergeneim had a solid regular season, too, with the best shot differential (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, www.behindthenet.ca) among Lightning players that played at least 60 games, so he's a viable third-line winger for the Panthers.

Even if Bergenheim can put up something similar to the 14 goals and 29 points he had for Tampa Bay last season, while providing energy in a checking role, it does seem rather risky to commit four years to a winger that has never scored 30 points in a season.

Unless this year's playoff performance was merely the beginning of his offensive breakout, then Bergenheim is the type of player that would be easy enough to replace, rendering such a long-term commitment unnecessary.

GILROY to LIGHTNING (one year, $1M)
Matt Gilroy's pro career hasn't quite panned out as hoped, with his role reduced (14:11 per game in 58 games) in his second season with the New York Rangers. Now, the 26-year-old 2009 Hobey Baker winner will try a fresh start with the Lightning.

While Gilroy had the best shot differential among Rangers defencemen last season (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, www.behindthenet.ca), he also played the most protected minutes. In Tampa Bay, he could easily get similar treatment, at least in terms of having third pair duties.

Gilroy has the mobility and puck skills to handle the job, but probably has to be more physical if he's going to rise above the fringe of an NHL lineup. 

STEWART to HURRICANES (two years, $1.8M)
26-year-old power forward Anthony Stewart had what was easily his best NHL season last year, scoring 14 goals and 39 points while playing 80 games, but finished the season on a 23-game goalless streak (during which he was minus-13).

There are openings on the wings in Carolina, so Stewart will have a chance to earn a spot on a scoring line, but he's on a contract that will fit lower on the depth chart if that's where he ends up fitting in.

BOLDUC to COYOTES (one year, $575K)
While 26-year-old Alexandre Bolduc hasn't made much of an impact in 46 NHL games over the last three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, he can lay claim to having suffered just one regulation loss in the 24 games he played with Vancouver last season.

Effectively, Bolduc switches spots with Andrew Ebbett, as an organizational centre on the edge of the NHL lineup, providing a little more grit and not as much skill.

WHITE to RED WINGS (two year, $5.75M)
After playing for Calgary, Carolina and San Jose last season, 27-year-old Ian White should find stability in Detroit. Ostensibly White fills the void of the mobile, puck-moving, right-shooting defenceman that the Red Wings lost when Brian Rafalski retired, though White isn't up to Rafalski's level.

Nevertheless, White has played 20 minutes per game for three years running and should see that kind of time with the Red Wings, with a chance to put up more points than the 26 he's scored in three of his five NHL seasons if his right-handed shot turns out to be a fit on the power play.

JONES to JETS (one year, $1.15M)
Randy Jones' game has slipped after he had 31 points and played 19:24 per game for the Flyers in 2007-2008. Last season, in Tampa Bay, he had 13 points, while playing 17:03 in 61 games and then saw hardly any time in the postseason.

Unless the Jets unload one of their six returning defencemen (assuming RFA Zach Bogosian gets re-signed), Jones looks like he's in a battle for a regular spot unless he can pull ahead of Mark Stuart for a spot.

HUSKINS to BLUES (one year, $1M)
32-year-old Kent Huskins is a stay-at-home defenceman who played 50 games for the Sharks last season, after playing all 82 the year before. Even though he's 6-foot-4, Huskins is far from physical -- his 18 hits were the lowest total for any defenceman that played 30 games last season.

Nevertheless, as a seventh defencema or third pairing guy, he's steady when he manages to stay healthy.

RYPIEN to JETS (one year, $700K)
After missing much of last season on a personal leave, 27-year-old Rick Rypien will stay in Winnipeg after finishing last season with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

Though he's not big, Rypien has fearsome fists. He scrapped 16 times in the 2009-2010 season, often up in weight class, and fared well, playing a career-high 69 games.

If makes the Jets, Rypien will likely be a fan favourite, wreaking havoc on the fourth line. He has 16 points in 119 career NHL games, so he's not going to be expected to do more than bang bodies.

BERGFORS to PREDATORS (one year, $575K)
24-year-old Niclas Bergfors joins his fourth NHL franchise after he didn't receive a qualifying offer from Florida. It's more than a little concerning that Florida, a team with a dearth of talent, would voluntarily cut Bergfors loose, but he did manage just one goal in 20 games for the Panthers, so it may not have been his best audition.

As a rookie in 2009-2010, Bergfors scored 21 goals and 44 points, so he does have the skill to produce offensively. What he needs to show more consistently is a willingness to battle. With 12 hits in 72 games last season, Bergfors was one of three forwards to have so few hits while playing at least 70 games (Phil Kessel and Milan Hejduk were the others).

NICHOL to BLUES (one year, $600K)
A veteran disturber who is an ace in the faceoff circle (59.4% winning last season), 36-year-old Scott Nichol only 9:45 per game in 50 games for the Sharks last season.

His relentless style has led to quite a few injuries in recent seasons -- he's missed 148 games in six seasons since the lockout -- but he fits with the Blues' desire to add veteran leadership for their young core.

KONOPKA to SENATORS (one year, $700K)
30-year-old centre Zenon Konopka didn't stick in the NHL until the 2009-2010 season and he's done it with one of the rarest combinations of assets, mixing a willingness to drop the gloves at a moment's notice (58 fights the last two seasons) with adept skills in the faceoff circle (59.1% over the last two years).

Otherwise, his game is as limited as one would expect from a forward with 22 points in 195 career games.

PICARD to PENGUINS (one year, $600K)
Alexandre Picard is a 26-year-old defenceman that has managed to hang around as a seventh defenceman for the most part, playing between 24 and 62 games in each of the last five seasons.

He led Canadiens defencemen in shot differential (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, www.behindthenet.ca), but played the easiest minutes on the club, so he was spotted in effectively. Figure on a similar reserve role with Pittsburgh, if he sticks in the NHL.

ARNOTT and LANGENBRUNNER to BLUES (one year, $2.5M, with bonuses up to $2.8M each)
There might have been a time, not so long ago, when Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner signing would have been cause for a Numbers Game blowout but, at this point, their best days are behind them.

Arnott, 36, played pretty well once he was acquired by Washington (13 points, plus-7 in 20 games -- regular season and playoffs), but was having a miserable year in New Jersey prior to that.

In St. Louis, Arnott won't be expected to play a prominent offensive role, as he and Langenbrunner may both be suited to a third-line role, with some power play time mixed in.

Langenbrunner, who turns 36 on July 24, endured a rought season, split between New Jersey and Dallas, during which he finished with a career-low nine goals and minus-18 rating.

As long as there aren't expectations placed on Arnott and Langenbrunner to play significant offensive roles, they should be able to add maturity and leadership to a young Blues team that needs to learn how to win and might be able to glean a little bit -- including on how to deal with adversity -- from the two vets.

POWE to WILD
An earlier trade that got overlooked here. 26-year-old Darroll Powe is a hard-hitting penalty killer who has 379 hits over the last two seasons in Philadelphia.

Powe, who has 43 points in 204 career games, was a restricted free agent and has since signed a three-year deal worth a total of $3.2M.

MARTINEK to BLUE JACKETS (one year, $2.2M)
34-year-old Radek Martinek is a reliable defensive defenceman, though he's in Sami Salo's class for his ability to get hurt, having played more than 70 games in a season once in his career and having missed 167 games over the last five seasons.

When he does play, Martinek will provide 20 minutes a night of no-frills defence. He was minus-10 in 453 career games with the Isles. 

JACQUES to DUCKS (one year, $650K)
26-year-old Jean-Francois Jacques couldn't put it together in Edmonton, managing 17 points (and 13 fights) in 160 career games and he may be a more likely candidate for the AHL, but he does have the size to be a fourth-line banger in Anaheim.   

PYATT to LIGHTNING (one year)
Not qualified by the Canadiens, Tom Pyatt is a hard-working 24-year-old forward that played half a season for current Lightning coach Guy Boucher in 2008-2009 when both were with Hamilton of the AHL.

Pyatt doesn't shortchange on effort, but with 12 points and 19 penalty minutes in 101 career games, he's batting to earn a full-time NHL job.

GORDON to DUCKS (two years, $1.075M)
25-year-old Andrew Gordon has been a productive AHLer, scoring 128 points in 129 games over the last two seasons and may find himself in the AHL again, but his contract is one-way in 2012-2013 and he may have as good a shot as any at earning a depth spot for the Ducks.

DUPUIS to MAPLE LEAFS (one year, $650K)
Philippe Dupuis finally stuck in the NHL for a full season in 2010-2011, then the 26-year-old didn't get a qualifying offer from the Avalanche. He's a hitter, ranking second among Colorado forwards with 128 in 74 games despite playing only nine minutes per game, so he should have the kind of attitude that is required to centre the fourth line in Toronto.

Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

 




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