So Mike Keenan fires the first shot in the 'Free Agent Wars' in the Whole New NHL. Keenan, in what is a particularly astute move, signed Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many believe that Nieuwendyk and Roberts are well past their prime. Well that may be, but both men are fanatical about conditioning. Both are veterans that have seen and done everything in hockey-including win championships. Florida is where some snowbirds go to retire but Nieuwendyk and Roberts are going to build a contender. A great move by the Florida Panthers.
Don't be surprised at the "package deal" like Nieuwendyk and Roberts. It has been well documented that Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund have expressed a desire to play together for the right team. Naslund put it the best: "Who wouldn't want to play with Peter Forsberg?" He's right: Forsberg is the best player on the planet. Team him with Naslund and, well, I just hope they're either playing for the Sharks or in the Eastern Conference. Don't forget Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya are on the market as well. Even though the Avalanche experiment didn't go as planned, Teemu and Paul are still great players that can make an average team a dangerous team.
Doug McLean GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets may have pulled the best early deal by signing Adam Foote away from the Colorado Avalanche. Foote signed a 3-year, 13.5 million dollar deal with the Jackets. Foote is the kind of D-Man that can instantly change the make-up of a team. He's got the ability to contribute good numbers from the point while maintaining that mean-as-a-rattlesnake defensive posture. Not to mention his leadership traits and two-time Stanley Cup Championship background. Foote should be a fountain of knowledge that Rick Nash can absorb in order to quench Columbus' thirst for a playoff berth.
Even though Adam Foote is a great signing, Scott Niedermayer, the best defenseman on the planet, would be the signing of the season.
The interesting aspect of the whole new NHL is the dollar figures every team is playing with. The 39 million dollar cap is an apparition. It's based on total revenues being 1.7 billion dollars this season. And just because a team has room "under" the cap-doesn't mean they are willing to spend it. Many teams spent less than 39 million on players and still lost money last time the NHL was in business. GM's will have to fully immerse themselves into a well-educated guessing game and a "wait and see what the other guy offers but we can't wait too long or we're going to miss out" attitude. It's like when you went to your first school dance. All the guys (GM's) would stand together leaning against one wall of the gym. The girls (those beautiful UFA's) would stand directly across. Nobody would make a move. Fears of rejection and scorn permeated every being. Until one guy had the sand to walk those lonely steps across the gym floor. Dozens of eyes fixated on him. The girls would hold their breath. Thoughts from "is he going to ask me"? to "God I hope he doesn't ask me" hung in the air like the multi coloured streamers put up hours ago. Then, he asks and she yes. The other boys take the cue and rush across the gym like Dan Rusanowsky to a free press lunch.
For In the Crease, I'm Drew Remenda.
*Note: Please forgive me, my 25th High School Reunion was this past summer and I'm still fixated on it.