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New zip codes for plenty of NHL forwards

by Brian Compton

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks have added forward Todd Bertuzzi to an already potent lineup.
The 2007-08 season is upon us, and it’s primed to be buzzing with excitement. Several of the sport’s top forwards have new addresses, and some have even switched rivals.

With that in mind, takes a look at some well-known forwards who will be wearing different sweaters this season:

Todd Bertuzzi, Anaheim Ducks -- The power forward returned from a back injury late last season and put up 11 points in 15 games between the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings.

Obviously, Ducks GM Brian Burke saw enough to hand the 32-year-old a two-year deal worth $8 million. With Dustin Penner bolting for Edmonton, Bertuzzi will be heavily relied upon to light the lamp for the reigning champs.

Jason Blake, Toronto Maple Leafs -- Coming off his first 40-goal season, the New York Islanders refused to hand the speedy winger the five-year contract the 34-year-old was seeking. Desperate to return to the postseason, the Leafs obliged.

If anything, Blake will provide Toronto with a 110-percent effort every night. Whether he can repeat his output from last season – he had never scored 30 goals until 2006-07 – remains to be seen.


Daniel Briere, Philadelphia Flyers -- Another crushing blow for the Sabres, as the soon-to-be 30-year-old (Oct. 6) bolted western New York to sign an eight-year, $52 million deal with the Flyers.

Now, it will be up to the two-time 30-goal scorer to earn his paycheck. He’ll need to have more seasons like the 2006-07 campaign, when he had 95 points for the Sabres. The biggest output he had prior to last season was when he had 65 points (also with Buffalo) in 2003-04.

Mike Comrie, New York Islanders -- In his first six NHL seasons, the 27-year-old Comrie had never been presented with an opportunity to be a No. 1 center. Until now.

Signed to a one-year deal by the Isles on July 5, Comrie has a chance to show the League that he can carry the load offensively. He has reached the 30-goal and 60-point plateau twice in his career, and he had 13 goals and 12 assists down the stretch for the Ottawa Senators last season.

Chris Drury, New York Rangers -- The kid from Connecticut realized his dream on July 1 by signing a huge contract of his own with the Blueshirts that will pay him $35.25 million over the next five years.

One of the best leaders in the game, Drury is a solid two-way center and a phenomenal playoff performer. The 31-year-old potted 37 goals last season with the Buffalo Sabres and is ready to shine bright on Broadway.

Scott Gomez, New York Rangers -- The Alaska native crossed the Hudson River on the opening day of free agency by signing a seven-year, $51.5 million deal with the Rangers.

While he only scored 13 goals last season for the New Jersey Devils and has only scored 20 or more goals once in seven NHL seasons, Gomez is an excellent play-maker. His tremendous hands and vision should translate into plenty of opportunities for Jaromir Jagr, should the pair have good chemistry.

Bill Guerin, New York Islanders -- With the departures of Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov, Ryan Smyth and Alexei Yashin, Isles GM Garth Snow had several offensive holes to fill this summer.

So the Islanders went out and signed Guerin – who had 36 goals last season between St. Louis and San Jose – and immediately named him captain. Even though he’ll be 37 in November, Guerin still is deadly between the circles. More importantly, he will be a respected leader both on and off the ice.

Paul Kariya could be the missing piece that gets the St. Louis Blues back to the playoffs.
Paul Kariya, St. Louis Blues -- St. Louis President John Davidson was looking for that one veteran player this summer to build his team around, and he’s confident Kariya is the man for the job.

Signed to a three-year, $18 million deal on the opening day of free agency, Kariya will attempt to help the Blues return to the playoffs after missing out by 15 points last season. Kariya looks to still possess plenty of firepower, judging by the 24 goals and 52 assists he posted last season in Nashville.

Owen Nolan, Calgary Flames -- In search of a wily veteran, the Flames inked the 15-year veteran with hopes of providing those intangibles that can be so hard to find.

The 35-year-old showed he can still chip in offensively last season, when he tallied 16 goals and 24 assists for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Michael Peca, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Several teams vied for Peca’s services, but it was Ken Hitchcock’s club that plucked him in the end. Now, it’s time for the two-time Selke Trophy winner to show he’s still got it.

Injuries limited Peca to just 35 games last season in Toronto, where he scored only four goals and 11 assists. It looks as if his best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean a healthy Peca can’t contribute, especially as a voice in the locker room.

Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers -- Anaheim Ducks GM called the move “gutless.” Nonetheless, Oilers GM Kevin Lowe had every right to sign the 6-foot-4, 243-pound Penner to a five-year, $21.25 million offer sheet, which Burke and the Ducks declined to match in July.

Now, it’s up to the 25-year-old to build off last season, when he scored 29 goals for the Ducks. Otherwise, it will be Burke who gets the last laugh.

Ryan Smyth, Colorado Avalanche -- He took less money than what the New York Islanders offered so he could play with his buddy, Joe Sakic. A throwback in every sense of the word, Smyth should turn out to be everything the Avs are hoping for – and more.

Smyth – who had 36 goals last season – should not only put Colorado back in the playoffs, but return it to prominence.

Petr Sykora, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Closing in on his 31st birthday (Nov. 19), Sykora still has gas in the tank. The Pens certainly believe so, which was why they signed him to a two-year deal in July.

Sykora, who scored 22 goals for the Edmonton Oilers last season, could be primed for a big year. Surrounded by a tremendous amount of young talent, it’s hard to imagine the Czech forward not reaping such benefits.

Dainius Zubrus, New Jersey Devils -- It’s going to be difficult to replace Scott Gomez, but Devils GM Lou Lamoriello tried to do just that early in the free agency period by signing Zubrus to a six-year contract.

The pressure will be on Zubrus early and often to produce, considering he’s never reached the 60-point plateau in his 10-year NHL career.

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