The Frenzy Before The NHL Free Agent Frenzy (UPDATE)

In the couple of days since the NHL Draft, teams have been hard at work to hold on to key pieces before they hit the open market. There are some big stars that could hit the market and demand a huge price in a bidding war. So who has been re-signed before they hit the market? Find out after the jump.

Keith Tkachuk – St. Louis Blues – 1 year, $2.5M
Tkachuk’s leadership and experience played a key role in the turn around of the Blues last season. He had 49 points last season (25 G, 24 A) and played in 79 games. He can still eat minutes and be a solid contributor on the offensive side. His small cap his gives the Blues a ton of space to re-sign more players.

Dave Bolland – Chicago Blackhawks – 5 years, $3.375M per year
Bolland was a good performer in the playoffs for the Blackhawks. His cap hit troubles me a bit because he went up from about $887K. Next season the Hawks have to re-sign Kane, Toews, and Keith. They are also looking to hold on to Martin Havlat. This year might not be an issue but next summer will be a nightmare for GM Dale Tallon.

Jussi Jokinen – Carolina Hurricanes – 2 years, $1.7M per year
Jokinen wasn’t much of a regular season star (7 G, 20 A) but came alive in the playoffs (7 G, 4 A). He was the cardiac of the Cardiac Canes. The cap hit would naturally be small because he isn’t a regular season guy. As his shootout success indicates, he’s more of a clutch performer than an everyday star.

Bill Guerin – Pittsburgh Penguins – 1 year, $2M
It’s not often that a rental player brought in for a playoff run will re-sign with the team that traded for him. Then again, how often does a rental lead a team to a Cup? Guerin’s 15 points made him one of the star players on the Pens in the post-season. He is also comfortable on Crosby’s wing which makes him worth whatever he asks for. Not many players have thrived playing with him. Speaking of salary demands, his cap hit is down from $4.5M last year. This deal leave about $5.5M left to sign Scuderi, Fedotenko, and Gill.

Peter Budaj – Colorado Avalanche – 1 year, $1.25M
It doesn’t say much when your goalies are Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft. Mind you, I think both are underrated. He work reasonably well in a platoon system with Raycroft last year. His numbers weren’t amazing, especially his .899 save percentage, but only Patrick Roy could have done better with that team last year. Budaj is going to get better with time but he needs to learn from a veteran goalie. Raycroft doesn’t fit that bill.

Rob Blake – San Jose Sharks – 1 year, $3.5M
Blake and Dan Boyle were huge additions to the Sharks’ backend last season. The two were paired together which likely accounted for a lot of growth in Boyle’s game. Teaming the two together again can only help Boyle more. He’s the superstar blueliner of the future for the Sharks so he needs to learn from a future Hall of Famer like Blake. Blake’s salary hasn’t been confirmed but is believed to be $3.5M which is $1.5M less than last year.

Johnny Oduya – New Jersey Devils – 3 years, $3.5M per year
Oduya isn’t a big guy nor does he put up a lot of points (7 G, 22 A last season). He is a solid defensive player and is a quick skater. That fit in well with the Brent Sutter defence-first system. It remains to be seen how we’ll fit in under a new coach when the Devils hire one.

UPDATES

TRADE ALERT:
To NY Rangers: Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko
To Montreal: Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto
With a whole host of impending UFAs, the Habs secure a first or second line centre in Gomez (who is under contract for the next five year). The Rangers big pickup is Higgins who has long been the target of many GMs around the league. Higgins is an RFA and will need to be re-signed. The move is believed to be freeing up cap space for a trade for Dany Heatley.

Jay Bouwmeester – Calgary Flames – 5 years, $6.6M
Jay Bo was poised to be the biggest prize of the free agent defenseman crop and maybe even of the whole free agent pool. Instead, Jay Bo will stay in Calgary for what some are calling a home town discount. I have a problem with that statement because he’s from Edmonton and his cap hit is higher than Dion Phaneuf. Then again, he’s got the potential to be one of the best defensemen in the league and vaults the Flames to the top four of the West. I hope that Florida got a good conditional pick for this because a third round pick and a soon to be free agent blueliner doesn’t seem like much of a return.

TRADE REJECTED:
To Edmonton: Dany Heatley
To Ottawa: Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, Ladislav Smid
Heatley invokes his no trade clause. The trade has not been completed.
I broke this story on my Twitter earlier tonight. I also read someone describe Ottawa’s return as overpaid, overrated and slow which I believe would apply to Penner, Cogliano, and Smid respectively. I guess both teams get rid of some headaches. Heatley wants out and is gone hours before getting a $4M bonus. Penner has been in MacT’s doghouse since he got in town. Cogliano has explosive speed but hasn’t had much offensive punch to combine with that. If he plays with Spezza, he might make something of himself. As for Smid, he’s inconsistent and injury prone.

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