It’s UFA Day in the NHL – one of the most exciting, yet, over analyzed days of the year.
In the 4 1/2 hours since free agency opened there have been a boatload of deals; 21 to be exact. The deepest position in this year’s free agent pool is defense and the bulk of today’s signings have been on the back-end.
Sergei Gonchar (Ottawa), Zbynek Michalek (Pittsburgh), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh) and Buffalo’s UFA pair of Toni Lydman (Anaheim) and Henrik Tallinder (New Jersey) all went quickly.
Only a handful of forwards are off the “board” but, my favorite for the Sabres to bring in, Colby Armstrong, went to Toronto for more than I think he is worth. Perhaps the second biggest forward name, behind Ilya Kovalchuk, is gone as well – Ray Whitney signed with Phoenix this afternoon.
Now that the biggest names (defensively) have been picked clean, I expect things to slow to a crawl in terms of signings. You won’t see the rat race for the big names that you see in the first few hours. However, there are always good value players that don’t go early who can contribute on a high level for teams. So, fans around the league can’t get too discouraged if their teams don’t make a major splash right off the bat.
More to come later, including a full wrap-up of day one of free agency.