Free agency this year is like a hike. You either stay on the trail or you can go into the bushes and risk stratching and clawing your way to where you want to go. Once you're on the trail you're locked in and once you're in the bushes you get lost and are locked in as well. The trail really represent the lucrative contracts that have been handed out to the Drurys and the Brieres and the Gomezes. The trail is like the market, once a Drury gets a huge contract then Briere gets a huge contract, except it happened the other way around this year in terms of timing. Once one person chooses the trail, then other people follow. With the bushes, you scratch and claw your way to the finish but you get there faster and are less worn out than your competitors. Teams that were willing to make the sacrifice and hit the bushes will benefit in the long run. The Anaheim Ducks were somewhat in the bushes in that they had to come up with a pretty darn good plan to "replace" Scott Niedermayer, should he retire. He is leaning in that direction and I think Brian Burke did an astute thing in signing Schneider to a deal that is less that what Souray will likely get. Schneider is slightly more defensively gifted than Souray and can still provide an offensive spark. If Niedermayer doesn't return, then the Ducks defense drops a level, but they can still scratch and claw their way into playoff and Stanley Cup contention. If Niedermayer returns, the Ducks will field one of the best defenses, if not the best defense the league has ever seen. But even after one day of free agency, we aren't even close to the end of the trail. This is just the deciding point of where teams decide to go: the bushes or the trail.
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