Free Agency Recap: July 2

Yesterday wasn’t as packed with the number of transactions as Friday, but there was just as much fireworks and we haven’t even reached Independence Day here in the United States. The biggest move of the day was goaltender Tomas Vokoun signing a single-season contract with the Washington Capitals. The other highlighted move of the day was the end of the Brad Richards sweepstakes as he is taking his talents to Broadway to play with the New York Rangers.

The signing of Vokoun leaves hockey fans outside of the District scratching their heads as they were led to believe the departure of Semyon Varlamov would leave the goaltending duties to youngsters Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. But Caps GM George McPhee said he wanted to add an “elite veteran goaltender”, which I consider to be a stretch because although Vokoun is a solid goalie, he isn’t considered elite as he has been stuck on a bad team the last four seasons in Florida. His numbers last season were 22-28-5 with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. His save percentage has been .919 or higher in each of the last six seasons. He also has the second-best save percentage (.923) among the 15 NHL goaltenders who have made at least 5,000 saves in the past four years. His contract is reported to be around $1.5 million.

The New York Rangers came out winning the Brad Richards sweepstakes, with one of the biggest names on the free-agent market heading to Madison Square Garden with a reported nine-year, $60 million contract. The deal will reunite Richards with bench boss John Tortrella, the man that made Richards a Stanley Cup champion and Con Smythe Award winner in 2004 with Tampa Bay. Richards long said he wanted to play for a franchise with stable ownership, something he didn’t have at the end of his tenure with Tampa Bay and Dallas. Throw in the benefit of playing in a large market and one of the Original Six franchises and it was a perfect match for both sides.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t all about the money because the Rangers weren’t offering the most money. Quite a few teams outbid New York including Toronto, Los Angeles, and Calgary but those teams couldn’t offer everything else that he desired. The Rangers expect him to center the top line and the power play unit with Marian Gaborik playing on the right wing.

In other news coming out of Toronto Sunday morning, the Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators announced a four-player swap, with Brett Lebda and minor league forward Robert Stanley going to the Music City in exchange for Cody Franson and Mathew Lombardi.

The deal does come with stipulations, the Leafs will send its fourth-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft to Nashville if Lombardi plays a total of 60 games or more over the course of the next two seasons. In the event that Lombardi plays less than 60 games in that span, Nashville will instead send its fourth-round selection from the 2013 Entry Draft to Toronto. Either way, a fourth-round selection in 2013 is at stake in the deal.

Lombardi, 29, was impressive during his 53-point season in 2009-10 with Phoenix, but after signing a three-year deal with Nashville last July he managed to play in only two games due to a concussion suffered in a preseason game. Franson scored 8 goals and 21 assists last season for the Predators.

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