Some big names signed new contracts yesterday, while others, such as Ilya Kovalchuk, still seek a large deal. Here’s a brief recap of some of the biggest signings from Day 1 of free agency:
Sergei Gonchar – Gonchar had enough of the winning ways in Pittsburgh. Apparently last seasons early playoff exit was enough to make him seek employment elsewhere. Apparently money was also a factor. Gonchar signed a 3 year deal with the Ottawa Senators worth $5.5 million per season. This is a bit more than Pittsburgh could afford, so the two parted ways.
Zbynek Michalek – After losing Gonchar, Pittsburgh acted quickly to negotiate a lengthy deal with an up and coming defenseman. Michalek is a big, strong defenseman and should provide great depth for Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, he won’t replace the offensive numbers put up by Gonchar in past seasons.
Paul Martin – Another skilled defenseman signed by Pittsburgh. He’s coming off a season in New Jersey where he missed 59 games due to a broken arm. His offensive skills are better than Michalek, and he should fit in well with the Penguins. Signed for 5 years at $5 million per season.
Ray Whitney – The Hurricanes continue to get younger, and things really aren’t looking good for them next season. Whitney signs a 2 year deal worth $6 million to play in the desert next season. An already strong Phoenix team will look even better with the veteran left winger in the lineup. He’s 38 years old, but can still put up points at a pretty good pace.
Matt Cullen – Cullen leaves Ottawa and signs a 3 year deal with Minnesota at $3.5 million per season. Cullen has been consistent since the lockout, putting up 40-50 points per season. Cullen should see time as the second line center next season.
Tomas Plekanec – Signs a 6 year deal worth $30 million to stay in Montreal. This is a big signing for Montreal, but Plekanec has yet to stay consistent with his production in the NHL. He showed signs of life in the first round playoff series against Washington, but quickly died out after that.
Dan Hamhuis – The former Nashville defenseman signed a 6 year deal worth $27 million to go play in Vancouver. The Canucks will certainly benefit from having another strong defenseman in their lineup. With one of the most potent scoring lineups in the NHL, and a defensive corps that is adding depth, I would expect Vancouver to make a good run next season.
Colby Armstrong – Toronto continued to add to its arsenal by adding Armstrong for 3 years. He played well during his stint with Atlanta, but not as well as he did alongside Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. Expect a much improved Toronto team next season with the additions of Armstrong, Kris Versteeg, and a full season with new captain Dion Phaneuf.
For the rest of the list, check out TSN’s 2010 Sortable Free Agent Tracker