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Duffer's Digest: Free-agent frenzy defines 2009-10

by Brian Duff
The importance of July 1 in the team-building process cannot be overstated.

Last summer alone there were 49 signings on the day that marks the official start of free agency. Many have had enormous implications on this season -- and presumably there are many more to come.

Although it never really seemed like they were going to leave, can you imagine the Vancouver Canucks right now without the Sedins? The twins -- Henrik and Daniel -- represent two of the 16 players that re-signed in their current market, forgoing the opportunity to make a new start elsewhere.

Other notables in that category would be Steve Sullivan in Nashville, Scott Niedermayer with the Ducks, and, surprisingly, Andy Greene in New Jersey.

But the majority of the headlines that day focused on those -- specifically the snipers -- who moved on to "greener" pastures -- Marian Hossa to Chicago, Marian Gaborik to the Rangers, and Mike Cammalleri to Montreal.

Bolting blueliners included Mathias Ohlund to Tampa, Mike Komisarek to Toronto, and Jaroslav Spacek to Montreal.

But in the end, what do we talk about most on a nightly basis?


The free-agent goalie pool in 2009 was not a deep one -- and you know what they saw about shallow water. No diving!

But that didn't stop the Oilers from making an outrageous splash to the tune of four years and $15 million for 2004 Stanley Cup champion Nikolai Khabibulin.

Why? What team was their competition?

So few teams were searching for a No. 1 goalie that day, the terms -- specifically the years -- just seemed to be off. And now, one day after turning 37 -- (Happy Birthday?) -- Khabibulin is undergoing back surgery and is most likely done for the season.

That will mean in the last four seasons his games played totals will have declined from 60, to 50, to 42, to 18.

I remember chatting with Oilers coach Pat Quinn on AM640 in Toronto the day they signed him. His focus wasn't so much on the goaltender, but rather, as he put it "what was under the hood," in regards to the entire team.

Quinn and his staff were really trying to get a handle on what good parts this Edmonton vehicle had, and what areas needed an overhaul. It would appear as though even some of the most experienced mechanics (Quinn, Tom Renney, and staff) are having a difficult time plugging what may have been an Oil leak in years past, but now is viewed in the eyes of some of its fans as a complete write-off.

It definitely doesn't help matters to know that Dwayne Roloson left the Oilers for Long Island on a two-year deal and has been terrific, and division rival Colorado brought in Craig Anderson on an equally affordable two-year plan and have been blown away by his consistency.

The Avalanche finished 16 points behind Edmonton in 2008-09 and are now 21 ahead. The Islanders were 24 back and are now 11 ahead. It's not all about what happened July 1, but that day certainly played a role.

Farewell Cujo -- Still with goaltending, and with an Edmonton connection, Curtis Joseph has officially retired. And it seems no one can let him do so with starting the Hall of Fame debate.

All I know is that he won't get in based on being a great quote. Considering how nice a person he is, his nickname could have been Van-Jo for his vanilla offerings to the media. Of course, behind the scenes at Leafs TV in 2001 he was known as "Jo-Cu" after a hard-to-believe mistake went to air.

We had just launched the network, and I want to say this happened during the night of our first live game telecast. Regardless, it was time for the night's Three Stars, and there on the screen – slotted in at Second Star, was none other than Joseph Curtis!

So much for respect from the home broadcaster.
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