As the NHL off-season begins, teams have been quick to jump on marquee free agents, especially the New York Rangers. On the first day of free agency, Glen Sather (GM of the Rangers) signed Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to a seven-year, $51.5 million deal and a five-year, $35.25 million deal respectively. Both are tremendous players with Stanley Cup experience and will make a huge impact immediately. These two terrific acquisitions make the Rangers a favorite for the Stanley Cup next year. Yet, the amount of money and the length of these contracts are astounding. Gomez had 60 points last year, and is entering his prime, but the Rangers are going to be paying for a long time. For over seven million a year, Gomez better have a phenomenal season. The same can be said for Drury who is also making over seven million dollars a year for the next few years. Whether the money is worth it or not, both Gomez and Drury will make huge contributions to the Rangers next year. Though their defense may have its holes, the offense does not as New York now has two of the game’s premiere centers to accompany stars Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan (if they re-sign him). That has to be considered the best offense in the NHL. With Hendrik Lundqvist in between the posts, this team looks like the top of the league going into the 2007-2008 season.
The Rangers were not the only team that opened the off season with a bang. The Flyers’ signing of Daniel Briere, Avalanche acquisition of Ryan Smyth, and Blues’ signing of Paul Kariya all made headlines during day one. After a disappointing (to say the least) season last year, Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren has gone out and spent big bucks to improve his team. He signed Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to six-year $37.8 and $25.2 million dollar contracts respectively. Now they have invested $52 million dollars in Briere for the next eight years. These signings bring excellent players to Philadelphia, but many are questioning if the money is too much. Briere is a great player, but not necessarily worth the amount and length of his contract. The same can be said for Timonen and Hartnell. Yet these huge contracts seemed normal yesterday as players signed large and lengthy deals all over the league (pretty obvious who won the lockout). In Colorado, Smyth agreed to a 5 year, $31.25 million dollar deal. Now Smyth had a good year last year with 53 points, but not $6 million-dollar-a-year good. He is probably worth $3-4 million dollars, but with teams competing heavily over players, contracts are sky-rocketing.
Though not quite as highly touted, Kariya still is a very good player and his three-year contract with the Blues seems like a steal. With players signing massive contracts left and right, the Blues signed Kariya (76 points last year) to a three year deal and Keith Tkachuk (58 points) to a two year deal; No long term commitment or outrageous amounts of money. They both had more points than Smyth and accepted smaller deals. Congrats to Blue’s President John Davidson for stealing away these two.
Last major move of the day was the Capitals’ agreement with Michael Nylander on four-year, $19.5 million dollar deal. This is another deal that makes sense. Nylander had 26 goals and 57 assists last year for 83 points. He is a professional player with playoff experience and good leadership. He fits well into the Capitals game and his deal is respectable in length (though the money may be high). Many other players found new homes yesterday, including other high profile players, but these teams made the biggest splashes, whether smart or stupid.