Greetings from One News Plaza, where the Subway BMT and the Crystal Beach loganberry are standing by. (The whiskey will come after the shift, I'm sure.) It's not even noon yet, the official start of free agency, and likely the biggest signing of the day is already in.
The Vancouver Canucks have re-signed twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The identical brothers have received matching five-year contracts, worth $6.1 million season.
"Daniel and Henrik Sedin are this club's offensive leaders and players we want to build around," General Manager Mike Gillis said in a statement. "Their level of performance in every area of the game is exceptional. Both Daniel and Henrik are committed to winning, and we want them to succeed as Vancouver Canucks."
And with that, let the madness begin!
12:01 p.m.: The free agent game is officially on. Just got word that former Sabres coach Ted Nolan will be named the VP of hockey operations for the Rochester Amerks.
12:11 p.m.: TSN is reporting that Dwayne Roloson, who like nearly all Sabres backup goaltenders was much better everywhere else, will test the market. That leaves Edmonton needing a goalie, and Martin Biron would look good for the Oil. Thing is, not sure his mouth could keep chatting with the minus-20 degree weather.
Which brings us to Dany Heatley. I understand when you sign a contact with a no-trade clause, you have certain rights. But when you ask to be traded, those rights should disappear. The high-scoring whiner was getting traded to Edmonton from Ottawa, but apparently he'd rather go to New York. Who wouldn't? Fact is, you ask to get traded, the team trades you ... you should go.
12:21 p.m.: Sportsnet.ca is reporting that defenseman Mattias Ohlund has signed a seven-year, $22 million deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning strikes often in the summer, but the winter is a different story.
With these early deals, though, it seems the woes brought on by long-term contracts aren't keeping teams from handing them out.
12:32 p.m.: I'm absolutely shocked no one has swooped in to snatch up Maxim Afinogenov yet. I mean, really, how you not want 98 turnovers and two goals on your team? There's a good chance he'll be skating his enigmatic self to Russia's KHL.
12:35 p.m.: A little more on Ohlund, a 12-year vet who's been playing in Vancouver his whole career. He's 32. Even with my shoddy math, it stands to reason he'll be 39 when the seven-year deal ends. Granted, TSN is saying that $22 million of the now $26.25 million deal will come in the first five years, but still -- why give a 32-year-old a seven-year deal?
But that's why July 1 is such a treat.
12:45 p.m.: Florida re-signs winger Radek Dvorak to a two-year deal, according to TSN. Here's a chance to say to goodbye to the Panthers' Richard Zednik, who signed to play in Russia. As long as the Sabres don't host any KHL teams, he should be OK health-wise. A skate to the throat, a puck to the head ... yeah, I'd go to Russia, too.
Well, maybe not Russia. Venice would be nice. Or Rome. Or anyplace with a beach and good margaritas.
1:01 p.m.: Well, quiet thus far. But (wink, wink) teams couldn't start negotiating with players until the clock struck noon. Yes, no agent chatted with any GM before the last hour. OK, and I'm not wishing I had brought that whiskey into the office, either.
1:03 p.m.: By the way, feel free to open another browser and check out Jerry Sullivan's live chat. He's breaking out in laughter -- just like Bucky Gleason does when he talks of Sully's golf game -- so there must be some good comments over there. Oh, and now he just swore. Good stuff.
The over-under on the number of profanities by me and Sully this afternoon is 4,532. None on the board here, of course.
1:09 p.m.: Sportsnet is saying Montreal is close to keeping Alex Kovalev for two years in the $9 million range. They've got cash to spend and stalls to fill, as our story today stated.
1:14 p.m.: We have our first Northeast Division move, and it's fitting. Battlin' Brian Burke signs tough guy Colton Orr from the Rangers for four years and $1 million per year, according to TSN. Burke's widely-known team-building philosophy: Two forward lines that can score, two lines that make you fear for your life.
And as far as Venice, I did mean Italy. But I said OR anyplace with a beach. I love being on the water. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller also does and photographs lake scenes often. He said it's because of our astrological Cancer sign, which is a crab. His birthday is July 17, and mine is July 9 -- just in case you wanted to buy either of us a present.
1:22 p.m.: I was too busy expanding on my sign to expand on the Orr signing -- it's with Toronto.
1:24 p.m.: Kovalev's agent going full bore on all the national outlets saying Kovalev has not agreed to anything with Montreal yet.
1:26 p.m.: And before anyone gets any ideas, Ryan Miller and I have never been on a beach together, nor will we be. But if there's any single ladies out there ...
1:41 p.m.: Sportsnet reporting a second Maple Leafs move: Defenseman Pavel Kubina and his $5 million salary are on their way to Atlanta. More details to come.
1:49 p.m.: First goaltender moves as Craig Anderson, who shined in Florida, signs a two-year deal with Colorado. Goalies started moving quickly last year, so maybe Marty Biron will be getting a home soon.
1:57 p.m.: Florida keeps winger David Booth for six years and $25.5 million. That length makes a lot more sense since he's only 24.
2:01 p.m.: ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, as respected as they come, is reporting that Chicago has signed the biggest fish on the market: Marian Hossa. Details to come, but LeBrun is saying it's for 12 years!
2:02 p.m.: I have no idea what Chicago is doing. They have Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Jack Skille as their prime restricted free agents after the season, and rookie of the year candidate Kris Versteeg is an RFA now. They need money to keep the guys that have re-energized the moribund fan base, yet they go wild with Hossa. People are already complaining there that Brian Campbell's deal is too long and too much.
Sure, Hossa is a star, but they already have stars who play well together. Head scratcher for sure, but if they manage to keep everyone this year and win the Stanley Cup ...
2:08 p.m.: Hossa, by the way, is 30 years old. Yup, I can see him tearing up the league at age 42. Come on.
2:10 p.m.: Reports have Hossa's deal at 12 years at $5.2 million per season. That's $2 million less than he made this year in Detroit, but all hockey contracts are guaranteed, so in 12 years he'll still be counting against the cap and getting paid -- unless he likely gets bought out down the road. But if that's the Blackhawks' plan, don't sign him for that long!
2:13 p.m.: The next goalie to go has a local connection, but it's not Marty. It's Ty Conklin, who TSN says has signed with the St. Louis Blues for two years and $1.3 million per year. Place your bets on the Blues to make the Cup finals. Conklin's last two teams (Pittsburgh and Detroit) did. The Sabres, of course, did not when he played for them.
2:19 p.m.: TSN saying that $53 million of the Hossa deal is in the first seven years. I understand that adding years at lower prices lowers the cap hit. But that's mortgaging the future for now, and I think there's a company (and country) or two that has found trouble doing that.
2:24 p.m.: TSN (which, by the way, is being simulcast on the NHL Network) says another goalie with Sabres ties has signed. And, again, it's not Marty. The Islanders have signed Roloson for two years. And, yes, the Isles still have oft-injured Rick DiPietro signed to play goal for at least seven more years.
2:27 p.m.: Two e-mail issues. 1) You can buy out a player's contract at two-thirds the cost of the remaining dollars. 2) Someone told me their birthday is July 18, and they also love water. Gotta be something to that Cancer thing.
2:34 p.m.: BREAKING BUFFALO SABRES NEWS: Sabres sign defenseman Steve Montador to a two-year deal. The 6-foot, 211-pound blue-liner was traded from Anaheim to Boston and finished season with four goals, 17 assists and a plus-17 rating with 143 penalty minutes.
Here's the tough guy's fight card.
2:45 p.m.: The Montador deal is worth $3.1 million. Solid price for the Sabres.
2:54 p.m.: Two quick updates as I try to get ahold of Montador. The Rangers replace Orr by signing Donald Brashear. Also, longtime Philadelphia Flyer Mike Knuble goes to Washington on a two-year deal at $2.8 per season, according to TSN.
3:15 p.m.: Talked with Steve Kasper, the former Bruins player who is Montador's agent, and here is the link to that.
3:22 p.m.: Scott Niedermayer stays in Anaheim on a one-year deal for $6 million.
3:29 p.m.: Just got off the phone with Montador and going to take a few minutes to transcribe the quotes, but he's excited to be coming to Buffalo. He grew up in the Toronto area and was sold on the Sabres today when both Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff called him shortly after noon to pitch the team to him.
3:33 p.m.: Just got a message from a source saying wait until I see the dollars Jaroslav Spacek gets. It was termed "outrageous." It won't be from Buffalo, obviously.
3:44 p.m.: The Boston Globe has just backed what my source said, reporting that Spacek has signed with the Montreal Canadiens for three years and $11.5 million. That's a nice contract for the 35-year-old, who signed with the Sabres for three years and $10 million. Spacek's instantly recognizable voice and wit will be missed in the dressing room.
3:57 p.m.: A couple of Montador quotes have been added to the other post.
4:07 p.m.: Another goalie not named Martin Biron is off the market. The Edmonton Oilers sign Nikolai Khabibulin to replace Roloson.
4:13 p.m.: I can't think of too many teams needing a starting goalie anymore. Atlanta maybe for Marty?
4:15 p.m.: Darcy Regier is scheduled to talk in HSBC Arena in a half-hour. If anyone wants to stand on the corner of Scott and Washington streets with either A) a Budweiser or B) two Budweisers, I'd appreciate it during my block-long walk from The News.
4:19 p.m.: I guess I should add I'll be walking by at about 4:35 ...
4:31 p.m.: OK, heading over to the arena in a minute. If you have the "sodas" and aren't sure what I look like, I've got a striped shirt, jeans and old-school Nikes on. I'm also on the left in this picture, but my body is a little bigger in real life. Quality illustration by Zak, though.
Stay tuned, though, as I'll be back soon.
4:33 p.m.: But before I go, yet another goalie goes not named Marty Biron. The Panthers sign Scott Clemmenson. Marty is too good to not have a job.
5:07 p.m.: I'm back from the arena. There was actually someone standing on the corner of Scott and Washington! Alas, he was waiting for a bus and not waiting to hand me a Budweiser. And after a hellacious night Tuesday, one I'd like to forget, I really could have used one. Oh well.
5:10 p.m.: Regier, meanwhile, was pleased with the Montador signing. He said he knew Tuesday that Spacek would be offered a longer-term deal than the Sabres were prepared to give, so he set about finding a replacement. Montador was the one.
Reiger, like me, finds it hard to believe so many teams continue to hand out long-term deals, but he sees it as twofold: 1) teams won't learn until it happens to them; and 2) big-market teams have money to burn by buying players out or sending them to the minors to clear cap space. The Sabres will never be in that practice.
He also expects Chris Butler to supply the offense that has left with Spacek.
5:13 p.m.: So while I was gone, the biggest deals it seems were Montreal adding another piece to its defense, getting Hal Gill for two years and $4.5 million, and Carolina keeping Erik Cole for two years and $2.8 million.
Oh, just found another one. Ian Laperierre, who fits the "compete" mold the Sabres are seeking, agreed to go to the Flyers for three years and $3.5 million. Flyers are going to be tough to play against with Lappy, Chris Pronger and Dan Carcillo, not to mention their skill players.
5:18 p.m.: Sportsnet is reporting Montreal isn't done and is close to getting Michael Cammalleri. That'd be a big addition.
5:27 p.m.: TSN reports that Leafs complete Kubina trade and clear cap space by taking back Garnet Exelby. Leafs get tougher player, less offense and money to spend.
5:37 p.m.: Montreal deal for Cammalleri confirmed at five years, $30 million. The Habs had money, they had space, and they found ways to get rid of both.
Regier, meanwhile, was going back upstairs to make more calls, he said.
5:56 p.m.: Battlin' Brian Burke continues to add toughness, and this time it means the Sabres will continue to face Mike Komisarek six times a year. TSN says Komisarek is heading to the Centre of the Hockey Universe from Montreal. I had a poll last year and a lot of Sabres said Zdeno Chara is their least-favorite player to get hit by, but Komisarek just scares me. He looks like there's a kindness filter missing when he's on the ice. Which is how it's supposed to be for defensive defensemen.
6:02 p.m.: And this year's Overinflated Contract goes to ... Komisarek. Although he's exactly what I described -- scary tough -- he records only slightly more points than me. Yet he is getting $4.5 million per year, according to TSN. Way to much for one-dimensional players.
6:05 p.m.: Well, I think that will do it for the live blogging for today. Still have to write my stories for Thursday's paper and will be in the office for a while, so I'll: A) start new posts if something breaks; and B) keep an eye out for any of you delivering beer or whiskey.
As always, thanks for reading.