It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Not Christmas. The lead up to the NHL Draft and the beginning of free agency. It started, in earnest, today. Now the following nine days leading up to July 1st will be full of trade fodder and moves to improve teams for the 2010-11 season.

Today saw, perhaps, the most deals since the end of the Cup finals. But, the wheeling and dealing really took off on June 17th when the Canadiens made a major splash by sending playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues. I wish that I had put my thinking into words on this space because, the move cleared cap room for the team to sign Tomas Plekanec to an extension. In addition, the trade that saw Nathan Horton sent to Boston for Denis Wideman and a pick this afternoon.

Two days later, the Nashville Predators had a fire sale, of sorts, when they shipped Jason Arnott and Dam Hamhuis to the Devils and Flyers, respectively. The Preds received pieces to build with, not around – like the two stars they just dumped. Arnott has one year left on his current deal, we will see where he ends up after next season. According to trade rumors (thanks Spectors Hockey), Hamhuis will likely be signed by the end of the week.

So, with Friday’s draft looming the rumor mills are picking up some serious steam. My go-to site is Spectors Hockey (linked above) plus, following Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger on Twitter. Hockey Buzz has always been about quantity over quality in terms of rumors and possible free agent destinations. But it isn’t a bad tool when you want to cover all of your bases.

The possible deals that I am most interested in keeping track of is the Tomas Kaberle and Jason Spezza situations. While I don’t think either of these players will end up in Buffalo, it doesn’t hurt to hope. I will delve into this topic later on.

The fact of the matter is, we are months away from seeing regular season hockey. But, we now have an entire summer to keep track of deals and to prognosticate their possible consequences. July 1st is the big day, but more and more NHL GMs are realizing teams cannot be built around big-name free agent signings.

Nevertheless, I love this time of year because every time you check the internet there is a chance that a major deal has been dropped.

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