Free Agency Frenzy has blown through the NHL and the trick is sorting through more than 40 transactions and all the changes and improvements. The Blackhawks have to be near the top of the list. To go along with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg
and Duncan Keith, the ‘Hawks added 40-goal scorer Marian Hossa from rival Detroit and one of the best defensive forwards in the game in John Madden
The Panthers should be pumped by the fact they get to play the ‘Hawks first next season when the teams open the NHL season in Helsinki.
The Canadiens were also active. After adding Scott Gomez from the Rangers before free agency, they added additional offense with 39-goal scorer Mike Cammalleri and 20-goal scorer Brian Gionta as well as defenseman Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill. It will be interesting to see how this group comes together for coach Jacques Martin.
Meanwhile, the Rangers added much-needed offense by signing Marian Gaborik and replaced tough guy Colton Orr with Donald Brashear. And the Maple Leafs got bigger and stronger with Mike Komisarek, Garnet Exelby and Orr.
In the Southeast Division, where the Panthers reside, the Capitals added winger Mike Knuble, who’s scored 20 or more goals the last six seasons and 25 or more goals four of the last five years. Meanwhile, the Lightning shored up their defense with the addition of former Canuck Mattias Ohlund and former Blackhawk Matt Walker. In Atlanta, the Thrashers strengthened their defense by adding former Maple Leaf Pavel Kubina and pumped up their offense with Nik Antropov. Carolina resigned Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose and Erik Cole.
As for the Panthers? They locked up David Booth for 6-years, giving them a good six forward core along with Stephen Weiss
, Cory Stillman, Nathan Horton, Michael Frolik and Steve Reinprecht. The offense also includes Radek Dvorak, who signed on for another two years. The Panthers also solved their dilemma in goal by adding Scott Clemmensen
, who helped carry the Devils last season in Martin Brodeur’s absence. He and Tomas Vokoun should make a strong tandem. And they added defensemen Jordan Leopold, Ville Koistinen (who judging by his stats in the Finnish Elite League has a lot more to show than he got the opportunity in Nashville) and Clay Wilson.
The Panthers are still looking to add a few wrinkles, according to assistant GM Randy Sexton. Hopefully, they can get a healthy season from Bryan Allen and a couple of the kids – Shawn Matthias
, Michal Repik
, Dmitry Kulikov
– can step up and make a difference.