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Live from free agency

The News' live coverage from NHL draft day is here. Aren't you excited?! I am, now that I finished my two hot dogs from the cart girl on the corner of Scott and Washington.

Anyway, already a few big signings. Mike Green, a restricted free agent, re-signs with Washington for four years and $21 million. New Jersey keeps several players, including Bryce Salvadore (four years, $11.6 million) and Jay Pandolfo (to be determined).

Well, it's 12:01, and the phones are ringing in agents' offices. Darcy Regier said a half-hour ago he expected to make calls right away, so we'll soon see how that goes.

12:04 p.m.: TSN.ca reports that another defenseman is off the market, as the Detroit Red Wings re-sign Brad Stuart for four years at an average of $3.75 million per year. As I blogged recently, all these blue-line signings are driving up the cost of those who are still on the market. Brooks Orpik may soon have more money than he knows what to do with.

Also, the Penguins reportedly are close to giving Evgeni Malkin the same money as Sidney Crosby, $8.7 million per season. Worth it?

12:09 p.m.: Penguins re-sign forward Pascal Dupuis. I was impressed by him because he was consistently the best player on the ice against the Sabres while he was with Atlanta.

12:17 p.m.: The second notable trade of the day comes in, as Carolina trades Erik Cole to Edmonton for restricted free-agent defenseman Joni Pitkanen. Earlier, the Oilers sent Raffi Torres to Columbus for 21-year-old Gilbert Brule. I'd rather have Creme Brulee at Jacque-Imo's Cafe in New Orleans. The BBQ shrimp there rules, too.

12:22 p.m.: Anaheim lost Dustin Penner via restricted free agency last year, but they are keeping Corey Perry off that market with a five-year deal worth $5.325 million per season.

Regier said this morning the Sabres would be open to making offer sheets to restricted free agents "if it made sense." They still don't think last year's offer for Thomas Vanek made sense, but they are now open to using all parts of the collective bargaining agreement.

12:47 p.m.: Tampa Bay continues its impressive offseason, signing Radim Vrbata (27 goals) away from Phoenix. The Lightning should be a playoff team if goalie Mike Smith plays well (which I figure he will), so that's another team the Sabres have to keep pace with.

1:08 p.m.: Ooooh, first time I said "ooooh" when I saw a signing today. Curtis Joseph goes back to Toronto to be a backup, according to Sportsnet.ca. Not huge by any means, but he was fun to watch with the Leafs. It also means he won't be backing up Ryan Miller.

1:18 p.m.: To answer a question here and a similar one I've been e-mailed a few times, I don't think the Sabres will sign a forward. They have 15 NHL-ready forwards now, and that's obviously too many. They won't add more until they are certain they can trade a few to thin the ranks to a reasonable number. Will they trade for a center? That's a possibility, but they'll have to get rid of a forward or two in the deal.

1:38 p.m.: Another trade, another defenseman. Nashville trades power-play blue-liner Marek Zidlicky to Minnesota for a college kid and a draft pick. Defensemen are obviously available for teams that want one (Sabres).

2:19 p.m.: Two reports of offers but not signings regarding two of the biggest names. Sportsnet says Penguins have given an offer to Jaromir Jagr. Can't see him taking a back seat to Crosby and Malkin and enjoying it. TSN says someone offered Mats Sundin $10 million for one year. He's good, but he ain't that good.

2:38 p.m.: Penguins sign defenseman Mark Eaton to two-year, $2 million deal. Don't think he could crack the Sabres' blue line.

2:41 p.m.: TSN's latest on Sundin has Vancouver offering two years and $20 million. Nuts. I think the Kokanee is flowing a little too well on Canada Day in the Pacific Northwest.

2:54 p.m.: St. Pete Times reporting that Lightning continues to strike and close in on deal with Olaf Kolzig to back up Smith. Once again, impressive offseason for Bolts. That would be two veteran backups off the market. Didn't know backup goalies would be in such high demand on Day One.

3 p.m.: Goalie market still hot, as Capitals hand the crease over to Jose Theodore after failing to sign Cristobal Huet. Theodore had great season last year after forgetting how to stop pucks for a while and running into problems with hair products.

3:04 p.m.: TSN has big blue-liner Kurt Sauer going to Phoenix on four-year deal worth $1.75 million per season. He's 6-foot-4 ("and full of muscle") and 220 pounds.

3:06 p.m.: Another signing, another goalie. Andrew Raycroft off to Colorado. Leafs goalie had a terrible year -- except for that time in November when he shut out the Sabres.

3:11 p.m.: Scratch Ty Conklin from your wish list. He's going to Detroit to back up Chris Osgood for $750,000. Again, goalie market is hot. I'd love to see Mika Noronen come back. Seriously, I would.

Oh, and get back to work, Bone.

3:20 p.m.: Unrestricted goaltenders out there still include J.S. Aubin (he and Miller could tell Mama jokes all day again), Fred Braithwaite, Ray Emery (Round Two for him and Andrew Peters would take place in training camp), Alex Auld, Jocelyn Thibault (great guy, but won't be back unless market continues seeing a guy disappear every four minutes), John Grahame and Johan Holmqvist (two guys who regularly got zapped with Lightning), Patrick Lalime, Yann Danis, Stephen Valiquette (remember when the Sabres had like five V's on the roster?), David Aebischer, Marc Denis and Curtis Sanford (and son).

Well, they were available when I started typing this list. They may all be gone by now.

3:30 p.m.: As usually happens in the hockey world, Toronto gets the Finger. This time, it's defenseman Jeff Finger, a 6-1, 205-pounder who had 19 points and a plus-12 in Colorado. Finger will earn $3.5 million per year for four seasons. Seriously?! Never even heard of him, I'm sad to admit. If he's getting that, Orpik has to be in the $5 million range.

3:34 p.m.: Just heard John Wawrow exclaim from the Associated Press office, "Who?!" I yelled back, "Jeff Finger." He came out laughing, "$3.5 million? In Toronto?" Yup, they'll be booing that guy from the second he even thinks about taking the ice. He's played 94 NHL games and was an eighth-round pick. Yup, $3.5 million. Per year (according to TSN). The Sabres should always be glad the Leafs are in their division.

3:44 p.m.: Goalie Cristobal Huet, who was not on Sabres' radar, reportedly heading to Chicago. Cory Stillman joins his eighth team on a three-year, $10.6 million deal with Florida, according to TSN.

Still waiting to see if that Finger thing gets changed. Oh, and Wawrow said Grahame has signed with a Russian team, so that's one less goalie who will get a game per month in Buffalo.

3:51 p.m.: Sportsnet also has Finger at $3.5 million per season. Thumbs down on that Finger. (I have a good joke available, but unfortunately it's not appropriate for this setting, which is why you got the cheesy "thumbs down" line.)

3:58 p.m.: First time I ever saw Nathan Gerbe was in Portland, Maine, at the USA world championship camp. He was standing next to David Backes, and came up to the shoulder of the 6-3 winger. I was like whoa. Why should you care? It segues into this: Vancouver has reportedly signed Backes to an offer sheet worth $2.5 million per season. St. Louis has a week to match the offer to the restricted free agent. 

4:05 p.m.: The first Darcy to sign is Darcy Tucker, going to Colorado on a two-year deal for $4.5 million.

4:17 p.m.: Quiet time. All the other GMs must be laughing at Cliff Fletcher, or else they are making sure Finger's agent doesn't have incriminating pictures of them, too. That's got to be the only reason for that deal, right? Sure, after reading about Finger it sounds like his game is pointed in the right direction, but $3.5 million? Come on, the guy made $475,000 last year. I need his agent.

4:22 p.m.: Yeah, Dom, I caught that just after I pushed publish. Thanks. I was too busy trying to find a way to clean my joke up and get it in.

4:31 p.m.: Auld synes, er, signs with Ottawa. Take another goalie off your wish list. What a run on netminders. Seriously, Mika might be the best option left.

4:39 p.m.: Sorry, was on phone trying to get confirmation of Sabres signing Patrick Lalime to two-year deal. Still waiting, but it looks like it's true. They had to get someone. More on him in a minute (or two).

5:48 p.m.: Just got off the phone with Lalime and went back to the Web sites, and I see the big news of the day so far --- Brian Campbell signs with Chicago. Eight years, $56.8 million! Good for him.

5:55 p.m.: If Campbell had Finger's agent, he may have gotten $76.8 million. Fletcher's statement: "Jeff is a player that will bring a much needed physical element to our team. He showed tremendous improvement in his game last season and he plays a strong positional game at both ends of the ice."

A lot of guys do that. They just don't all deserve that much money.

6:08 p.m.: Another defenseman off the board, as Columbus signs Mike Commodore to a five-year deal worth $18.75 million. That's more in line with what players like that should get. Commodore might have been an interesting fit in Buffalo, but Brooks Orpik is still a possibility. I think Brooks Optik has signed elsewhere, though.

6:12 p.m.: I wonder if the only guys the Sabres have a shot at in free agency are married, family men. As Lalime, a father of three girls, told me: "From the outside you look at Buffalo, you're like, 'Whoa, there doesn't seem like there's much going on.' But everyone I spoke to, they really love it there, and they're going back to live there, so I think it's all positive."

I'm sure a few younger, single players would love Chippewa (several already do), but I can't really think of any unrestricted guys who have signed here lately. Jocelyn Thibault was married, Jaroslav Spacek, too. Unfortunately, don't have time to look up all the signings the past few years, but just a thought.

Oh, and don't consider that a shot from Lalime. He really sounds excited to come here.

6:28 p.m.: Brian Rolston goes back to the Devils, who already were quicker than people give them credit for. Wawrow  just said the Canadian Press adjusted its Campbell numbers to $57.12 million over eight years. Again, good for him. Good for Campbell, I mean, not Wawrow. And for those who remember "Pictures with Lord Stanley," the names omitted from the story were John Wawrow and John Vogl.

I wonder what's going on at the Orpik place in East Amherst.

6:53 p.m.: One of my driving companions from Pittsburgh to Detroit and back to Pittsburgh during the Stanley Cup finals, John Dellapina of the New York Daily News, is reporting the Rangers have re-signed defenseman Michal Roszival. Another defenseman not coming to Buffalo, though he was more in the puck-moving mode than Orpik mode.

6:59 p.m.: The Blues matched the Canucks' offer sheet for Backes. So teams that dole them out are 1 for 3 the past two seasons, with the Ducks getting Penner, the Oilers missing Vanek and the Canucks missing Backes.

7:04 p.m.: The Leafs sign former Dallas forward Nicklas Hagman. No dollar amount yet, but considering he made $675,000 last year and had 27 goals, Toronto probably gave him about $10 million a year, based on its earlier moves. All I can say about Hagman is he's no Finger. What I mean is, I've heard of him.

7:13 p.m.: Hagman gets $3 million a year. I just can't put a finger on why he got less than that other guy.

7:34 p.m.: Just got off the phone with Darcy Regier, and anyone holding their breath for Orpik had better exhale or die. "We did have conversations," Regier told me. "I don't expect to be a part of that going forward."

So, it's trades for any defensemen, it looks like. And one won't be Orpik.

7:45 p.m.: Rangers sign Wade Redden to a six-year contract worth $39 million. If they have Roszival, why Redden? That's a lot of money, so I wonder if they have room for Jaromir Jagr, or if that ship has sailed.

8:23 p.m.: Islanders sign forward/defenseman Mark Streit from Canadiens for five years, $20.5 million.

9:11 p.m.: Well, that's it for me on the live blogging. Thanks to all for reading and writing, and thanks to TSN and Sportsnet for their great reporting. In closing, I can't believe that as I sign off, Brooks Orpik doesn't have a job and Jeff Finger is a multimillionaire. (But honestly, good for him. And good luck in Toronto, it ain't gonna be easy.) What a wacky day.

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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