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Twitter @SabreHess • 28 Years Old • Male
Now that the initial adrenaline rush of free agency is behind us we can gain perspective on the off-season thus far. Now of course every signing and trade comes with a measure of risk, but these are the 5 that i have identified to be the riskiest. Without further ado:

Buffalo Sabres sign Ville Leino for 6yrs/27$mil (4.5mil annual cap hit)

If you read my Ville Leino boom or bust blog you know why i think there is a significant risk with this deal. Now don't get me wrong, there is also a significant upside, and that's why i like it...it's a gamble. The Sabres biggest weakness is the lack of playmaking talent at center, there is Derek Roy and nobody else. Tim Connolly has moved on, Gaustad isn't a top 6 center, and Luke Adam is likely not ready for that role. There is much discussion that Leino may be moved to center where he played earlier in his career in Finland. Leino has great vision and playmaking skills making him a solid choice for center ice. However the Red Wings didn't think he fit in well in their system as a center and moved him to wing, then in Philadelphia he got some spot starts at center when the Flyers had some injury issues and he looked over-matched against the opponents top lines and Laviolette moved him back to wing and shifted Andreas Nodl to center. The risk here lies in that if Leino does not adapt well to being a center in Buffalo and he is ultimately moved to the wing, than he just becomes another winger making 4+ million on a team stacked with talent on the wings. If he can't play center he doesn't fill the holes in the Sabres roster, and the reward may not have been worth the risk. RISK LEVEL: MODERATE TO HIGH

Columbus Blue Jackets acquire Jeff Carter from Philadelphia for Jakub Voracek and the 8th overall pick in 2011 (Sean Couturier)

On one hand Columbus dramatically upgrades their immediate talent level up front, as Voracek still isn't fully developed and whomever they would have selected with the 8th overall pick would surely be a season or two away from contributing if they kept the pick. However the Blue Jackets have had one of the games best scorers in Rick Nash for a while now and have never given him a top flight center to play with in order to maximize his potential. Jeff Carter is a first line talent, but the risk here is that he isn't the type of center that makes his wingers better. Carter is a scorer not a playmaker. Carter and Nash were both in the top ten in terms of shots on goal last year, and this move means they are now the only two players in the league to finish in the top ten in SOG and play on the same team. Surely they can't co-exist on the same line? Are there enough pucks? Now the risk isn't dramatic because despite the potential for Carter and Nash to not fit together, there is nothing wrong with spreading them out amongst two lines and giving them something they have rarely ever had...gasp...scoring depth! But when you give up a top ten pick and your top prospect you like to get a first line player back. RISK LEVEL: MODERATE

Toronto Maple Leafs sign Tim Connolly for 2yrs/9.5$mil (4.75 annual cap hit)

After Brad Richards was off the board the pool of playmaking centers (see a theme here with all of these guys so far?) was non-existent. Tim Connolly is the epitome of high risk, high reward. This a player who possesses elite playmaking abilities but also has a high propensity for significant injuries, specifically concussions. Not to mention he ended his season this past year with his most recent concussion. The thing that boggles my mind most about this deal is that he got a raise from his previous contract with Buffalo. I guess that was the fallout from Brad Richards. The other factor that makes this move so risky for Toronto is that it is coupled with the signing of Matthew Lombardi who is similar in the fact that he is a talented 2nd or 3rd line center who is also injury prone and coming off a serious concussion. Connolly can certainly provide veteran leadership, solid defensive play, and improved playmaking ability to an up and coming Maple Leafs team, but he can't do any of those things if he's not on the ice. RISK LEVEL: HIGH

New Jersey Devils file for arbitration with RFA Zach Parise

No there was no player movement involved in this one, but there is still plenty of risk. The usually tactful Uncle Lou is playing a high speed game of chicken with his prized young forward. Obviously the notion of the team filing for arbitration was to block potential offer sheets and give the Devils front office more time to negotiate. Parise's arbitration date is nearing (August 3rd) and a deal prior to that date does not appear to be imminent. Arbitration is an ugly process where the player has to listen to his employers run him through the mill in order to save a few bucks and it can create some animosity between the player and the organization. If the Devils and Parise go to arbitration he will likely be awarded a 1 year deal in the 6 to 6.5 million dollar range for next season. If the Devils get off to another poor start he could be moved at the deadline because next season Zach would be a UFA and this summer's ordeal could lead him to look elsewhere for a job...and if that happens, he'll have plenty of offers. The Devils still have a week to sign Zach to a long term deal and this could be a moot point, but if he goes to arbitration i don't see this ending well for NJ. RISK LEVEL: HIGH

Florida Panthers entire off-season


The Florida Panthers needed a massive talent upgrade, and with the cap floor being raised to 48 million they had no choice but to go out and spend some money this off-season. Spending money is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you spend it wisely, and whether or not Florida has done that is up to debate. I'm not even going to get into the numbers of how they may have overpaid Fleischman, Kopecky, and Upshall but rather look at the bigger picture with the team. The overpayment is more of a problem for the rest of the league than Florida because those guys raised the UFA value across the board, but for the Panthers who needed to add salary it doesn't affect them dramatically. The two biggest risks i see them taking were absorbing the massive Brian Campbell contract and putting faith in the duo of Theodore and Clemmensen for the upcoming season. Campbell has an annual cap hit of 7.1 million dollars eclipsing that of Lidstrom, Pronger, and Chara. In fact he has the highest cap hit of any defenseman in the league, and there is no justification for that...Umberger hit aside. Moreover, spending all that money and not doing anything further to replace the loss of Vokoun than signing and over the hill Theodore for 2 years is a risky proposition as well. Despite the talent upgrade up front, the Panthers have likely the worst goaltending situation in the league, and although they have a top prospect in the Swedish netminder Jacob Markstrom he is unlikely to see the NHL crease for a season or two. Essentially the risk here is that the money the spent was not spent wisely and the Campbell contract could be a handcuff down the road. RISK LEVEL: MODERATE

Notes:

I know everyone's reaction will be to say how could i not mention the Minnesota/San Jose trades as well as the exodus of Philadelphia's top two centers, but i have my reasons. Honestly Minnesota needed to shake things up and add some scoring, so i think they got fair value in Setoguchi and Heatley, as well as a good prospect in Charlie Coyle. San Jose needed some new blood to help get them over the playoff hump (something Heatley couldn't do) and the additions of Havlat and Burns could be that missing piece. I don't see too much risk because even if neither move works to perfection i don't see them being much worse off than they were prior to the moves. As for the Flyers, yes there is a huge risk that Voracek doesn't develop much further, JVR's play this postseason was a fluke, Schenn and Couturier are busts and Bryzgalov doesn't play out his huge contract. However one thing they did well for themselves was put together a more flexible salary structure and if things don't pan out the Flyers will have some flexibility to continue to make moves to get better. And if one things is for certain...Holmgren WILL make the moves.
Filed Under:   Leino   Carter   Parise   Sabres   Flyers   Toronto  
July 28, 2011 9:37 AM ET | Delete
July 28, 2011 10:02 AM ET | Delete
I can't wait to watch Carter and Nash. They will figure it out. Both are too talented not to. They can get into a 2-man game and cycle all day. Great move for CBus.
July 28, 2011 10:19 AM ET | Delete
I believe, without a doubt, that the Varlamov trade should definitely be included in here somewhere.
July 28, 2011 10:26 AM ET | Delete
I thought about Varlamov, and he could have been on this list, but would you rather have Giggy and Varlamov or Theodore and Clemmensen? I think the Avs will be OK in net.
July 28, 2011 10:48 AM ET | Delete
Oh, im not saying the combo or Varly and Giggy isnt great. Im just saying that the first rounder being included by a team that just finished 2nd to last, is risky.
July 28, 2011 11:36 AM ET | Delete
How about the Preds doing nothing but watching experienced vets walk out the door and relying on rookies to fill the gaps.
July 28, 2011 1:40 PM ET | Delete
July 28, 2011 2:31 PM ET | Delete
Colorado probably traded a top 5 pick for Varlamov, who is injury prone. It should be in there.
July 28, 2011 3:51 PM ET | Delete
Thanks for all the comments, you guys really got me thinking hard about the Varlamov deal. It definitely could have been in the top 5 over Florida. Maybe i'm being naive but i don't see that pick being a top 5 pick. Is Colorado that bad!? I see them finishing just outside the playoffs out west, making that a 12-17 pick in the first round. Either way it is a risky move...guess i should have made this a top 6 list!
July 28, 2011 6:53 PM ET | Delete
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July 28, 2011 8:00 PM ET | Delete
Connolly and leadership? Isn't that an oxymoron?
August 1, 2011 11:26 PM ET | Delete
August 1, 2011 11:30 PM ET | Delete
Look at it this way-The Sabres knew that they were out of the Richards sweepstakes. Do they overpay Connelly at 4.5m, or Leino at 4.5m? I believe that these were the options. I still think that they are going to unload either D or wing to get the center they need.
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