(1) Philadelphia – Foresberg, if he stays healthy (mentally and physically) was the best signing of the year. Derian Hatcher and Rathje too.
(2) Edmonton – Pronger and Peca will make this team tough to score on for the first time ever. If the rumors are true and they add Paul Kariya, this team has a chance at some hardware.
(3) Anaheim – This team is built for the new NHL rules. Automatically a contender in the west with the Niedermayer signing.
(4) Pittsburg – If Sid the Kid is what they say, this team could be hockey’s new harlem globetrotters. Sergei Gonchar is a pickup they never would have made before. Will they add CuJo?
(5) Chicago – They have to bounce ahead of LA here. Khabibulin is the reigning stanley cup winning goalie. This team hasn’t had championship goaltending in forever. (And they traded away two before they gained that status).
(6) LA – Roenick is too old and beat up to justify the headlines he’s getting. Luc Robitaille claims that the team is now a championship contender. No way, but it does put them in a better position to make the playoffs. No one is winning anything with Roman Cechmanek.
(7) Calgary – Calgary did better this year simply by being able to retain their ace. Anyone think they’ll trade for Al Macinnis? Adding some veteran help didn’t hurt either.
(8) Islanders – Peca and Yashin weren’t compatible and we don’t know if Satan will be either, but some addition by subtraction and a deal with Satan were classic Mad Mike plays.
(9) Boston – They should have tried harder to keep Gonchar instead of signing Graybeard Leetch, but this team has added a lot of role players that will make them win more games.
(10) Florida – Upon further review, this team’s signings are for purposes of golf, not hockey–but at least they’re trying…
which is more than can be said about …
(1) Colorado – Don’t tell us Kurt Sauer is the next Adam Foote, and don’t tell us that with the new rules Hejduk and Tangay will be able to make their Lady Byng image irrelevant. And no one else was as offended as me by Joe Sakic’s 52-goal contract year performance and immediate fall off, but something tells me Joe is going to mail it in this year too. ESPN would be foolish to hype this team as much as they have been.
(2) Detroit – This team ought to be the charter member of the Senior NHL. You read it here first: they miss the playoffs in this new, fast, young west.
(3) Rangers – Players weren’t even returning their calls. The only reason to ever go play in this shitty team was money, and that isn’t a factor anymore. If they don’t go into full rebuild this year, they’re craizer than we thought.
(4) San Jose – They predicably lost the Nieder race, but haven’t done anything else but hemmorage players. They might land Selanne or Kariya, but they have lost their chance to do anything to put them back on the map. If they make the playoffs, it’s a surprise.
(5) T.O. – Their GM should hire extra body guards, and watch for a pat quinn knife in his back. This team hasn’t done anything either. They will fall apart too. Jason Allison? Dude — they should sign him and Lindros, because they seem to be the team the most willing to intentionally injure other players.
Apologists for these teams say they are “waiting for next year’s crop.” What a crock of shit. There’s no guarantee that those players will be available anyway, since a deadline trade would leave the new team plenty of time to woo them and offer them the max. Furthermore, it’s a lie to suggest that they weren’t trying. Forsberg said no to Colorado. Niedermayer flatly rejected New York. Don’t believe that. It’s a new NHL.
The ten biggest winners in this free agency signing period:
(5) Los Angeles
(10) New Jersey (even still, yes.)
And the five biggest losers
(4) San Jose
What a reversal! Only Philadelphia is on the good list in both CBAs. Edmonton is all of a sudden a power in the west, and with no red line, the one-two punch of Niedermayer and Ozolinsh with Sergei Fedorov and Petr Sykora up front makes the Mighty Ducks as Mighty as they’ve ever been.