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Free Agent Opening Day Live Blog

Saturday, 07.02.2011 / 12:03 AM / NHL Free Agency 2011

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Free Agent Opening Day Live Blog
NHL.com's Shawn P. Roarke  covers all the signings as free agency officially opens.
12:00 a.m. We've made it through Day 1 of free agency -- more than 60 players signed and upwards of $260 million in salary commitments. Those numbers don't include Brad Richards, who is saying he'll make up his mind on Saturday. Media reports say the field is down to four teams -- the Rangers, Kings, Flames and Maple Leafs.

For now, it's time to call it a night -- but come back to NHL.com on Saturday to find out who Richards opts to sign with. Don't forget that though more than five dozen free agents made their decisions on Friday, there are dozens more still looking for new homes (or return engagements in their previous ones).

11:20 p.m. Brad Richards apparently will make his decision Saturday -- no sooner, but no later. Tony Ambrogio of Rogers SportsNet quotes Richards as saying he "really didn't expect it to turn into this" in terms of interest -- and that there's "no need to drag it" past Saturday." So how much money are we talking: TSN's Bob McKenzie says it could be something in the realm of 9 years and $64 million -- and that the Flames, Kings, Leafs and Rangers are the top contenders.

10:50 p.m. While they wait to see if Brad Richards will take their money, the New York Rangers found a few dollars lying around to keep Ruslan Fedotenko. The Ukranian forward known as "Tank," re-upped with the Rangers late Friday night. TSN and the New York Daily News and Post, among others, say it's for one year and $1.4 million.

10:30 p.m. Looks like Brad Richards is going to do what a lot of us do when we've got to make a decision -- sleep on it. Multiple reports in the hockey media say Richards won't make a decision until tomorrow. With all the pitches he saw Friday, not a bad idea to take a step back. One thing you can be sure of: When he does make up his mind, he's going to make one team happy.

10:15 p.m.
It's been a quiet day on the restricted free agent front, but things might get a little warmer now that a few dozen of the UFAs have found new homes. TSN's Bob McKenzie is tweeting that the Phoenix Coyotes is likely to weigh its options on All-Star defenseman Keith Yandle, an RFA. Yandle is do for a big pay hike, and the Coyotes could decide they'd rather let someone else pick up the tab for Yandle's breakout season.

9:35 p.m.
Don't look now, but the Calgary Flames appear to be emerging as contenders in the Brad Richards sweepstakes. Multiple media reports say the Flames have made a big push to get Richards to come to Calgary, where he would likely play with Jarome Iginla. Reaching a deal tonight would be a great birthday present for the Flames' captain, who turned 34 on Friday.

9:15 p.m. Looks like the Florida Panthers weren't done despite signing five players earlier in the day. A few minutes ago, they announced a four-year deal with forward Sean Bergenheim, the former Islander who had 9 playoff goals for Tampa Bay this spring. TSN says the deal is four years and $11 million. The Panthers are obviously hoping that Bergenheim is a late bloomer and not just a player who's never had more than 15 goals in a full season but had a big spring.

8:45 p.m
.  Not every free agent is looking for every last dollar. Case in point: Radim Vrbata, who had 19 goals and 48 points for Phoenix, likely could have gone after a raise but opted to stay with the Coyotes for three more years at the same $3 million he made this past season. Vrbata left the Coyotes once before, signing a big deal with Tampa Bay, only to find out he was a lot happier in Phoenix. He wound up leaving Tampa Bay to play out the 2008-09 season in the Czech Republic, then returned to Phoenix and has been productive in each of the past two seasons. GM Don Maloney said Vrbata is "a terrific fit for our organziation" and is glad to have him back.

8:15 p.m. The pace is starting to slow down as we hesd into Friday evening. But there may still be a few moves left before Friday turns into Saturday. San Jose has signed center Michal Handzus to a two-year deal that TSN  says is worth $5 million. Handzus would be a force as a third-line team like the Sharks. Another smart move by Doug Wilson.

7:50 p.m.
The Kings are apparently using every resource at their command to try to lure Brad Richards to Southern California. Larry Brooks of the New York Post said via Twitter that the Kings enlisted Wayne Grtezky (though not in person) to try to persuade Richards to come to L.A. Nick Kypreos tweets that video included Gretzky and Kobe Bryant selling the virtues of Los Angeles. Now that's bringing in the big guns.

7:45 p.m. The newly named Winnipeg Jets reportedly have made their second signing of the day. Multiple media reports say Tanner Glass will move from Vancouver to Winnipeg after he OK'd a one-year deal worth $750,000.

7:30 p.m. Great job by Shawn Roarke keeping you updated through one of the wildest days in NHL free-agent history -- the most recent count is 60 players and about $247 million. That includes Dan Carcillo, who wasn't qualified by Philadelphia but didn't need long to find a new home. Chicago signed the rambunctious forward to a one-year deal reported worth $775.000.

7:00 p.m. That's it for me. After almost 11 hours at the helm of the Free Agent Friday blog, I'm calling it quits for the day. Never fear, though, the fun is not finished yet. My esteemed night shift colleague John Kreiser is taking over the duties and will keep you informed and entertained until midnight. I'm looking forward to reading him and hope you are too. Thanks for joining me today and have a great holiday weekend.

6:28 p.m.
The wave has crested it appears. I even had time to grab a quick bite to eat, first food since the morning donuts from Tim Horton. That's what they call playing though (hunger) pains. There are still a few big names out there -- Tomas Vokoun, Tomas Kaberle, Simon Gagne to name a few -- and some interesting rumors (see the Philadelphia Flyers) out there, but the volume has certainly subsided. There's still a ton to digest, however, and I'm going to spend a little time doing that.

5:38 p.m.
Oh yeah, a trade was made during the meeting, too. Anaheim traded Andy Sutton to Edmonton in exchange for Kurtis Foster. Remind me not to take any more breaks.  

5:35 p.m.
A 20-min budget meeting and another goalie signs. Can't say I'm surprised any more. This time it is Brian Elliott joining the St. Louis Blues system.

5:07 p.m.
So much for my break. Things keep happening here. Now the goalie carousel has spun again as Curtis Sanford lands the backup role in Columbus. With all the movement that has happened at this position, it's amazing that Tomas Vokoun remains unsigned -- especially with the pace players at other positions have been signed in the first four hours of free agency. Where will Vokoun fit now? It's anybody's guess.

5:01 p.m.
Florida can't be stopped. Dale Tallon strikes again, signing Tomas Fleischmann to a four-year, $18-million deal. Fleischmann has battled blood clots for the past two years of his career, but has received a clean bill of health. Clearly, Tallon is banking on the dynamic winger he saw developing in Washington before the onset of his medical problems.

4:54 p.m.
I spoke a bit too soon. Reports now have Calgary making a big pitch for Brad Richards. That's a bit out of left field. Colleague Dan Rosen has been following the Richards' story all day and has all the details. It's a good read.

4:51 p.m.
It appears we have hit our first lull of the day. Time to exhale and try to process what has happened. We are at more than 50 deals now. That's a lot of movement. I'm going to take a minute and try to get it all in order before I return.

4:43 p.m.
Sheldon Souray is back in the NHL now. Exiled to the AHL last season because of a hefty contract, Souray was bought out by the Oilers earlier this week. Friday afternoon, he signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars, who have added six roster players today. Souray's deal is very similar to the one signed by Mike Commodore with Detroit earlier in the afternoon.

4:32 p.m.
Colorado's goalie situation just got a bit weirder. Less than three hours after trading a first- and second-round pick to Washington for Semyon Varlamov, the Avs signed free-agent goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere to a deal. There's the assumption that Giguere will be the backup here after the bounty Colorado paid for Varlamov, but Giguere has made it clear he doesn't believe his days as a starter are complete. If Giguere has beaten the leg problems that caused him so many headaches last season, he could give Varlamov a run for his money.

4:30 p.m.
We are up to 36 deals and more than $200 million in new wages handed out. And, I thought there might be nothing to write about today. How wrong was I? Been a blast, though. No complaints here.

4:23 p.m.
Marco Sturm, who has been battling leg injuries for the past two years, just landed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with vancouver. If he can stay healthy -- and that is a big if -- he will be huge addition for the Presidents' Trophy winners. Also, Alex Ponikarovsky -- yes I sxpelled that without looking it up -- signed a one-year deal with Carolina.

4:13 p.m.
There was a believe that things would be different in Buffalo with new ownership and that belief is becoming reality. The Sabres have pounced on one of the few elite wingers left in the free-agent pool, signing Ville Leino away from the Philadelphia Flyers with an aggressive six-year deal reported to be worth $27 million. Leino became an unsignable asset for Philadelphia after its moves earlier today -- signing Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot.

3:58 p.m.
Florida can't stop adding players. The Panthers have just swung a deal with the equally busy Philadelphia Flyers, adding Kris Versteeg for a pair of draft picks, a second- and third-round pick. Versteeg, a former Blackhawk, was traded to Toronto last summer and struggled before being dealt to Philadelphia. Now, he joins his former GM, Dale Tallon, in Florida as he tries to recapture the magic he displayed in 2009-2010.

3:46 p.m.
The first piece of the Boston championship team is lost through free agency. Michael Ryder, who played the hero on more than one occasion in the postseason to erase a bad regular season, has moved on, signing a two-year deal worth $7 million with the Dallas Stars. Dallas has now signed two Newfoundlanders today after inking Adam Pardy during free agency's first hour.

3:42 p.m.
Will there be any other goalies -- aside from the biggest one, Tomas Vokoun -- be left standing before the end of the day? Ottawa has entered the backup goalie fray, signing Alex Auld to a one-year deal to back up Craig Anderson. The well-traveled Auld is familiar with Ottawa and should be dependable in the 15 or so starts he will see.

3:33 p.m.
Two more huge dominoes have fallen in the past 20 minutes. First Joel Ward, who raised his profile and his worth with a huge playoff performance with Nashville, inked a four year deal with Washington. He will add some two-way grit to a team filled with skill. Then, Erik Cole signed with Montreal, who had been relatively quiet to this point. Cole is a huge deal for the Canadiens, who get a gritty forward that has won a Cup and will add to the leadership core in the Montreal room.

3:14 p.m.
Even in all the craziness that is today, some under-the-radar signings still jump out. In  my opinion, two such signings just happened. Mike Commodore, who was bought out by Columbus this week, just signed a $1 million deal with Detroit. This is a classic no-risk, high-reward signing by GM Ken Holland. He was good enough to get a big deal a few years ago and has Stanley Cup experience. He could fit in seamlessly in Mike Babcock's system. If not, not much is lost. The other signing is Steve Sullivan going to Pittsburgh, a deal that Sullivan appears to have announced on Twitter. If Sullivan, who has had back issues, can stay healthy, he'll put up some pretty decent numbers.

3:12 p.m.
Multiple reports have the Lightning meeting with Pat Morris and Brad Richards at the momemnt. It's going to be a long day in Mississauga.

2:54 p.m.
Goalies continue to fly off the shelf here at Free Agent Friday. Peter Budaj is the new understudy in Montreal, serving as Carey Price's backup. Budaj, a starter for Colorado for parts of the past few seasons, was cut loose by the Avalanche this summer as the team decided to go in a new direction. He should be a good fit for Montreal.

2:47 p.m.
Day 1 has certainly featured a lot of goalie news, headlined by the Semyon Varlamov deal. Carolina just added to the story line by signing Brian Boucher as a backup. The veteran will be a great fit in Carolina, playing an odd game here and there while Cam Ward plays the majority of the games. Forget the meltdowns against Boston in the playoffs for a minute and realize that Boucher was the consummate backup in Philadelphia, even while mayhem was happening all around him in regards to the goaltending situation. 

2:36 p.m.
Clearly, the Colorado Avalanche had a plan for Semyon Varlamov all along. Less than an hour afetr surrending a first and a second-round pick to get the negotiating rights to the young goalie, Colorado signed him to a two-year deal, which is reportedly in the same neighborhood as the deal signed by Carey Price in Montreal.

2:33 p.m.
The Brad Richards story gets more interesting by the minute. According to TSN, the Rangers have already made their bid for Richards and have negotiated a right to match any other offers the center receives. According to the same report, the Toronto Maple Leafs just spent more than an hour pitching the benefits of playing for the Maple Leafs.

2:21 p.m.
According to TSN, there have already been 26 signings since the free-agent window opened two-plus hours ago. I can neither count that high or that fast, so I will take their word for it There were only 30 signings on all of Day 1 last year, according to TSN.

2:16 p.m.
Florida's Dale Tallon can't be stopped. He promised last Saturday that he would be active when market opened and he has been true to his word. Panthers just signed Marcel Goc, a German center, to a three-year deal. If Goc stays healthy, he could be a big component for the Panthers as he is an underrated player who does everything well. Florida also signed goalie Jose Theodore, defenseman Ed Jovanovski and forward Scott Upshall.

2:00 p.m.
The fun never stops here on Free Agent Friday. The Colorado Avalanche have made a bold move to address its goalie situation, trading with Washington for the negotiating rights to Semyon Varlamov, a restricted free agent. Colorado gave up a first- and second-round pick to get the deal done. There was a thought that Colorado would go after Tomas Vokoun, but instead they went for the 23-year-old Russian, who was threatening to play in Russia. Vokoun is still sitting out there, but his list of suitors is growing shorter by the hour.

1:55 p.m.
Chicago's Stan Bowman talked last week about how happy he was to get out of salray-cap hell when he dealt Brian Campbell to Florida at the NHL Entry Draft. Well, he has used some of his monetary gains to shore up his lineup with some veteran additions as Hawks preepare for another Cup run. Friday, Bowman added veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell and veteran forwards Jamal Mayers, Brett McLean and Andrew Brunette.

1:40 p.m.
Now I know how legendary broadcaster Bob Cole felt during the playoffs when he famously uttered "Everything's happening!" Everything is happening during Hour No. 2 of Free Agent Friday. Not only has Jagr laned in Philadelphia against all odds, but Ed Jovanovski has signed a four-year deal to go back to Florida, joining another Friday signing in Scott Upshall. That's three deals for Florida today. That Dale Tallon is certainly a wheeler and dealer. Alos, Mike Smith just signed with Phoenix after being displaced in Tampa Bay by the signing of Mathieu Garon.

1:24 p.m.
The Philadelphia Flyers have won the Jaromir Jagr sweepstakes, signing the veteran forward after Pittsburgh and Montreal bowed out. Jagr has spent the past three years in the KHL, but is ready once again for NHL duty. He should be a big hit when he makes divisional road trips to play the Rangers at the Pittsburgh Penguins, two of his former teams. There are various reports that the Pens are extremely livid about the circus the Jagr signing became with his agent involved other teams.

1:08 p.m.
The Florida Panthers have signed Jose Theodore, which has led to rampant speculation that Tomas Vokoun is on his way out of South Florida. That doesn't necessarily have to be the case, but if it is, there are a few interesting destinations for the goalie. The Colorado Avalanche are starved for an elite goalie and goalie depth, so they should be in play. Phoenix could also use a No. 1 goalie, but not sure how high of a price tag they will find palatable.

1:00 p.m.
It appears Pat Morris's office is a pretty busy place. For those of you who don't know, Morris is the agent of Brad Richards, the top free agent on the market in the minds of most people. Teams are lining up outside his suburban Toronto office, making pitches for the free-agent center. The Kings have already admitted to being in on the action, according to published reports, after spending a week trying to downplay their interest. It is also common knowledge that the New York Rangers are in the hunt. There have been reports that Steve Yzerman and Tampa bay have also in line to pay a visit. It appears this could be a long process.

12:44 p.m.
Tampa Bay has signed Mathieu Garon to a two-year deal as the backup to Dwayne Roloson, according to multiple reports. Garon will be a solid fit in Tampa Bay, but this also means that Mike Smith's time with the Lightning is done. In one year's time, Tampa has parted ways with both the goalies oinvolved in their much-balyhooed tandem last season -- Dan Ellis (traded) and Smith.

12:39 p.m.
The first official signing of free agency goes to the New Jersey Devils, who re-signed defenseman Andy Greene just minutes after he hit free agency. Greene wanted to stay in New Jersey, but could not get a deal done in time. Reportedly, four teams contacted him after 12 p.m. today, but he made the decision to stay with Devils and got a four-year deal for his commitment.

12:28 p.m. 
Misinformation is a peril of the occupation on days like today. Never is that more evident than in the case of Michal Handzus and the Philadelphia Flyers. Several reporters on that beat are saying Handzus has agreed to terms with the Flyers. Yet, the player's agent has said he has not even been in touch with the organization. I think this is a case of where there is smoke there is fire, but nothing is done yet.

12:10 p.m.
The Detroit Red Wings, according to several reports, are out of the bidding for Jaromir Jagr, as well. That is two teams that have dropped out in the past 60 minutes. Philadelphia and Montreal are believed to be the front-runners now for Jagr's services. According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune, the Penguins became disenchanted because Jagr's people brought in additional teams at the last minute.

12:00 p.m.
And, we are off. the free-agent window is officilaly open for business. Enjoy the ride.

11:57
a.m. Clearly, the Vancouver Canucks believe the team that took the organization to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is a team that can do some damage again next season. The Canucks, according to reports, have just inked Chris Higgins to a two-year deal. The gritty forward enjoyed a renaissancewith the Canucks this season and was a key contributor in the postseason. That is the third free-agent-to-be that the Canucks have signed in the past two days. Defenseman Sami Salo was signed earlier Friday and Kevin Bieksa was inked Thursday.

11:56 a.m.
As free agency looms less than five minutes away, here is the official list of free agents, as provided by Central Registry.

11:35 a.m.
There will be no Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh next season. The Pittsburgh Penguins have withdrawn their offer for the Czech forward, a move they announced by e-mail just minutes ago. "We made what we thought was a very fair contract offer to Jaromir on Tuesday, based on his stated interest of returning to the Penguins," GM Ray Shero said in the statement. "We made our best offer from the start, given our salary cap structure, in an attempt to facilitate the deal. But now, after several days, with an extended time frame for making a decision, and additional teams getting involved, we have decided to move in a different direction. It was never our intention to get involved in a free-agent bidding war, and we have to focus on our team. Jaromir is one of the greatest pLayers in Penguins history and we wish him all the best."

11:26 a.m.
Buffalo, according to reports, has inked Cody McCormick to the same three-year, $3.6 million deal that Detroit's Patrick Eaves signed an hour or so ago. That is what you call reading the market correctly, folks. Read and react is one of the majot tenets of a day like today. Also, Dan Rosen has the first take on the signing of James Wisniewski in Columbus.

11:07 a.m.
The frenzy is now on, more than an hour before the free-agent period opens. The Columbus Blue Jackets just announced that they have signed free-agent-to-be defenseman James Wisniewski to a six-year deal for $33 million. It has been a busy summer already for the Blue Jackets, who traded for forward Jeff Carter 8 days ago. The Blue Jackets were able to sign Wisniewski before the free-agent period started because they traded for his negotiating rights earlier this week.

10:35 a.m.
And, just like that, we have our first signing of the day. Maybe I should complain about things being slow more often. In a story first reported by Nick Kypreos and then confirmed by Craig Custance of The Sporting News, Vancouver has signed defenseman Sami Salo to a one-year deal for $2 million. Salo played in just 27 games last season for the Canucks, but was solid in team's run to Stanley cup Final where he played in 21 games and had 5 points.

10:24
Things are off to a slow start here on Free Agent Friday, but the news room is a beehive of activity as reporters chase down stories and do some video work for NHL.com. Dave Lozo is a real pro at this, by the way. Just walked in on one of his shoots. While we wait for some stuff to happen, here is a bit of a reading list to get ready. Here is a big-picture look at what lies ahead later today and for the next serveral days. Our intern, Greg Picker, looks at July 1, 2010 in an attempt to learn from the past. And, Christian Ehrhoff has already set the preliminary market by signing with Buffalo late Thursday night.

9:28 a.m.
Sergei Shirokov is a restricted free agent for the Vancouver Canucks, but it appears he has left for the Kontinental Hockey League, according to several reports. Noah Welch and Jesse Joensuu are Sweden-bound, according to reports, as well. Also, former Bruin farmhand Hannu Toivenen has reportedly signed a deal with Malmo in the Swedish Elite League.

8:46 a.m.
Well it appears that one storyline has already bitten the dust today. According to the always reliable Tim Panaccio at CSN Philly, the Flyers will not be tendering an offer sheet to restricted free agent Steven Stamkos. GM Paul Holmgren told Panaccio that no offer sheets are part of their pLan for the free agency period, in fact. Oh well, there is still plenty more to follow today, including the fact that Dareen Dreger is reporting that the Flyers may jump into the Jaromir Jagr swepstakes.


8:27 a.m.
Welcome to Free Agent Friday from free-agent central here at NHL.com. Despite the brilliant weather here in the New York City area, the NHL.com offices are starting to fill up in anticipation for what should be a news-filled day. It is one of the rare all-hands-on-decks days of the summer here, so we should have you covered from every possible angle. Plus, I brought in some Tim Hortons donuts for the gang (it is Canada Day after all), so the staff should be probably sugared up -- at least for the morning. What will happen on the free-agent market? Nobody knows, but all the signings and rumors will be documented here, so I hope you can join us for what should be a wildly entertaining day.

12:01 a.m.
Friday is Canada Day north of the 49th parallel and the start of the long holiday weekend in the United States. But for a lot of hockey fans, it's Christmas in July.

July 1 is Day 1 of free agency, though this year doesn't figure to be as wild as in some past years -- Dallas center Brad Richards is the only really big name on the unrestricted market, while prime restricted free agents like Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) and Drew Doughty (Los Angeles) would cost a potential suitor a fortune in money and draft picks, making it unlikely (but not impossible) that they'll receive offers from other teams. If they do, their current teams can match.

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman reportedly had multiple conversations with Stamkos and his agent, Don Meehan, but the St. Pete Times reports that no deal was reached. The two sides will talk again Friday.

Richards, a top-10 scorer and the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP with the Lightning, has been linked in media reports to the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers; TSN reported that he'll be in suburban Toronto when teams can start making their pitches at noon ET on Friday.

There were rumors that the Philadelphia Flyers, who dealt centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last week, might make an offer to Stamkos. However, the Philadelphia Daily News reports that they won't do so. Among the reasons -- the Lightning would have seven days to match, and that would likely keep the Flyers from being able to pursue any other free agents, including their own Ville Leino.

Several potential free agents have come off the market by signing new deals. The biggest one came Thursday night when Buffalo inked defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to what the team called "a long-term" deal -- one that's reportedly worth $40 million over 10 years. A few hours before, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford wrapped up a busy week by locking up forward Jussi Jokinen to a three-year, $9 million deal -- making Jokinen the third Hurricane in as many days to decide to stay in Carolina. Late Thursday, Detroit re-upped potential UFA defenseman Joanthan Ericsson, reportedly for three years and $9.75 million.

Also, Chicago inked former Sabre blueliner Steve Montador to a four-year deal reportedly worth $11 million. He'll be expected to take some of the ice time that opened when the Hawks sent Brian Campbell to Florida last Saturday.

With the salary cap rising to $64.3 million for 2011-12, lots of teams figure to have money to spend -- many clubs will have to open their wallets just to get to the floor of $48.3 million.
Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins