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D-men galore on first day of '10 free agency

by Greg Picker
Each summer general managers and fans eagerly await the beginning of July as it marks the first day of unrestricted free agency. In the last few years it seems as if teams are attempting to lock-up their potential unrestricted free agents before they hit the open market. Although this may be the case, there still is plenty of talent available each summer as teams try to bolster their rosters in an attempt to make a run for the Stanley Cup.

As we are hours away from the start of the 2011 free agency season, let's take a look back one year to see how some of the moves of the first day of free agency 2010 worked.

D Sergei Gonchar: Ottawa Senators, 3 years, $16.5 million -- After five seasons with the Penguins, which included a Stanley Cup and another trip to the Final, Gonchar decided to sign with Ottawa. Unfortunately for Gonchar and the Senators, the defenseman’s point total dropped from 50 in 2009-10 to 27 in his first season with Ottawa. The Senators finished the season with 74 points, their fewest since 1995-96.

LW Ray Whitney: Phoenix Coyotes, 2 years, $6 million -- The well-traveled forward decided to move on after five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes for a two-year deal to play in the desert. The decision went well for Whitney as he finished the season third on the team with 57 points, despite the fact that the 39-year-old was the oldest player to suit up for the Coyotes last season.

D Dan Hamhuis: Vancouver Canucks, 6 years, $27 million -- In a story that seems very familiar to former teammate Christian Ehrhoff this year, Hamhuis was signed by the Canucks after his negotiating rights had been traded twice -- from Nashville to Philadelphia, and then from the Flyers to Pittsburgh. In his first season with the Canucks, he had 23 points and was third on the team with a plus-29 rating. Hamhuis played a major role in the Canucks winning the Presidents' Trophy and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, but he missed the final six games against Boston because of a lower-body injury. One can only wonder if Hamhuis’ presence in the rest of the series could have been the difference for the Canucks.

C Olli Jokinen: Calgary Flames, 2 years $6 million -- After failing to score in a shootout in the final game of the regular season in 2009-10 to help eliminate his New York Rangers from playoff contention, Jokinen went back to Calgary, where he played parts of the two previous seasons. Playing a full season for the first time with the Flames, Jokinen finished third on the team with 54 points, but Calgary failed to qualify for the postseason for the second consecutive season.

D Anton Volchenkov: New Jersey Devils, 6 years, $25.5 million -- With the threat of losing mainstay Paul Martin on defense, the Devils signed two blueliners on the first of day of free agency last year. Volchenkov had spent his first seven NHL seasons with Ottawa prior to moving to New Jersey. Not well-known for his offense to begin with, Volchenkov’s numbers dipped to a career-low 8 points. Volchenkov, however, was second on the team in hits with 125.

D Henrik Tallinder: New Jersey Devils, 4 years, $13.5 million -- Just like Volchenkov, Tallinder moved to the Devils after spending his entire NHL career with a team in the Northeast Division. Tallinder had spent his first eight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, but hoped for the best with a change of scenery. Although New Jersey did not make the playoffs for the first time since 1996, all was not lost for the Devils. After a terrible start, Volchenkov and Tallinder helped the Devils go on a 23-3-2 run late in the season that nearly got them into the postseason.


RECORD: 21-10-7
SV%: .898 | GAA: 2.77 | SO: 2

G Dan Ellis: Tampa Bay Lightning, 2 years, $3 million -- For the first four seasons of Ellis’ career, he spent most of his time in a platoon role, playing just about half of his teams’ games when he was with the Nashville Predators. Last July he signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning in hopes of earning a starting role. However, he was inconsistent and when the Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson, he was relegated to backup duty. On Feb. 24, he was traded to Anaheim, where he split time with Jonas Hiller and Ray Emery. In 44 games, he went 21-10-7 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. He also started the Ducks' postseason opener, allowing four goals on 24 shots against the Nashville Predators.

C Saku Koivu: Anaheim Ducks, 2 years, $5 million -- In the summer of 2009, Saku Koivu left Montreal after 13 seasons to sign a one-year deal with the Ducks. He had 52 points, and enjoyed his time there so much, he signed a two-year deal last July. The result was a solid 15 goals and 30 assists, plus 7 points in six playoff games.

D Jordan Leopold: Buffalo Sabres, 3 years, $9 million
-- Leopold opted to sign with his fifth team in six seasons when he inked a three-year deal with Buffalo last July. Leopold more than lived up to the terms of his contract this season when scored a career-best 35 points.

D Paul Martin: Pittsburgh Penguins, 5 years, $25 million -- Looking to replace Gonchar on the blue line, the Penguins signed Martin away from the Devils. Coming back from an injury-riddled 2009-10 season which limited him to 22 games, Martin rebounded with 3 goals and 21 assists in 77 games with the Penguins.

G Chris Mason: Atlanta Thrashers, 2 years, $3.7 million -- Following two seasons as the St. Louis Blues' starting goaltender, Mason signed with Atlanta to compete with young netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who ended up winning the majority of the starts. Mason still played in 33 games, posting a 13-13-3 record and one shutout.

D Toni Lydman: Anaheim Ducks, 3 years, $9 million -- Anaheim decided to shore up its blue line with Lydman. In his first season he had 25 points, the third-most he's ever scored in a season. Lydman was aggressive in his own end, leading the team with 178 blocked shots and the team's defensemen with 141 hits.

D Derek Morris: Phoenix Coyotes, 4 years, $11 million -- Morris had spent parts of five seasons with the Coyotes from 2004 until he was traded to the Rangers in 2009.  After parts of two seasons in the Eastern Conference, with the Rangers and the Bruins, Morris was traded back to Phoenix at the 2010 trade deadline. He decided to remain with the Coyotes to try to bring Phoenix to the postseason for the second consecutive season. He did just that, with 16 points in 77 regular-season games, but he missed all four games of the Coyotes' first-round loss to the Detroit Red Wings with an upper-body injury.

D Zbynek Michalek: Pittsburgh Penguins, 5 years, $20 million -- Paul Martin wasn’t the only addition to the Pittsburgh blue line last July 1. Michalek had 5 goals and 14 assists in 73 games, and he also blocked a team-high 149 shots.

LW Alex Tanguay: Calgary Flames, 1 year, $1.7 million -- Just like Olli Jokinen, Tanguay opted to sign back with the Calgary Flames last summer. Although the Flames failed to reach the postseason, the move paid dividends for Tanguay, as he posted his best season statistically since 2006-07, posting 22 goals and finishing second on the team with 69 points.

G Martin Biron: New York Rangers, 2 years, $1.725 million -- Biron, who started his career with the Buffalo Sabres and spent the 2009-10 season with the New York Islanders, completed the New York State trifecta when he signed with the Rangers last July. Only Jason Dawe, Mike Donnelly and Pat Lafontaine also have played for all three Empire State squads. Serving as Henrik Lundqvist's backup, Biron went 8-6-0 with a 2.13 GAA and .923 save percentage, but had his season ended prematurely due to a broken collarbone in early February.
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