The Free Agency game, one both beloved and hated by fans (and probably players alike). It’s the time of year where possibilities are endless and you find yourself anxiously awaiting reports of signings. Now that all the “big names” have been spoken for, it leaves a fan wondering about the potential for the 2012-13 roster. Quite a few teams have been publicly building a hockey army of sorts during the off-season, while others have remained relatively silent since the beginning of free agency on July 1st.
It seems like just yesterday that the LA Kings defeated NJ Devils and hoisted the Stanley Cup. The off-season skates by quickly, and the Kings reign will slowly begin to crumble, as a new season fast approaches. A battle has silently begun brewing in the Western Conference, with Dallas and ultimately Minnesota leading the charge. Dallas recognized the importance of veteran players and signed not one, but two. Both 40-year olds, Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr will highlight the already strong albeit young Stars roster. With Dallas rallying their roster to be a strong contender in the west, it will be all eyes on Minnesota this upcoming season. Both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter found themselves answering the call of the Wild; both players signed $98 millon, 13-year contracts. Before the announcement on July 4th, another Minnesota signing flew under the radar in Torrey Mitchell on July 1st. The young, fast left winger had previously found substantial success with the Sharks and will fit nicely for the next 3-years with the Minnesota franchise.
With the Western Conference suiting up, it’s been relatively quiet in the usually noisy east. Yes, Jordan Staal signed a 10-year, $60 million contract extension with Carolina. Toronto and Philadelphia had a notable trade with James van Riemsdyk heading to the Leafs in return for Luke Schenn being sent to the Flyers. Neither of these moves garner any weight to the free agency game that is now underway. Toronto bought out the remainder of Colby Armstrong’s contract and Armstrong will now lace up with Montreal this coming season.
In terms of Original Six, Montreal appears to be one of the only teams making any real moves during the off-season. Signing left wing Brandon Prust and defenseman Francis Bouillon, should add depth without a high financial risk to the previously struggling Canadiens franchise. Detroit joins Montreal in making minimal signings during free agency, right wings Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson will join the Red Wings roster. In addition Jonas Gustavsson will serve as a backup goaltender for the Wings after signing a 2-year deal. One team who has remained remarkably silent since July 1st, the Boston Bruins. With a lackluster power play the past two seasons, free agency lends hope for change. While the hope is certainly there for Boston, it’s merely a hope, as no moves or discussion is even on the horizon.
With both Parise and Suter off the market, second place defenseman Matt Carle will be heading to Tampa Bay after signing a 6-year deal on July 4th. With all the big names out of the free agency game, it’s important to note that quite a few players remain available, Alexander Semin, Shane Doan, Mike Knuble and Alex Auld to name a few. These players among many others remain waiting, waiting for a contract and a team to call home. The “Nash Watch” is still in full swing as any team, on any given day becomes the new possible home for the 28-year old Blue Jackets captain.
Perhaps your team has been active since free agency start, or they’ve remained silent causing unnecessary anxiety regarding the upcoming season. Whichever the case may be, come summers end and seasons start, every team in the NHL will have a roster comprised of talent, skill and passion; a passion for the game and a constant fight for the ultimate prize. After all, opening night is just the start of the quest for the cup.