Pretty quiet July 1st for the Rangers this year. It was heartbreaking to watch Brandon Prust sign elsewhere, but good for him getting the contract and secondary city that he wanted. I don't mind the Arron Asham signing to help ease the pain. Asham is one of those guys you hate to play against. He toes the line on being dirty at times, but does his job well and will drop the gloves. Also, by signing with the Rangers, Asham has completed his tour of the Atlantic conference. He will have played for all five teams over a span of seven seasons. Must be racking up the miles on his car. Glad we opted to bring Stu Bickel back, too. Hes a tough kid and his defensive game improved as the season wore on. Heck, he even saw some time on the fourth forward line, and speaking of fourth linemen.. I guess the Michael Haley signing is for the CT Whale, because there's no way he cracks the Rangers lineup.
The Nash trade rumors should start swirling ever larger once Parise signs somewhere. As of right now, it's looking like the Rangers are the frontrunner, but teams missing out on Parise are bound to up their offers. The one thing the Rangers have going for them is that Nash is willing to accept a trade to New York, something that it seems can't be said for a number of the other teams that will jump in the race. I've been happy to hear Larry Brooks repeatedly state that the Rangers have refused to include Kreider, Stepan or McDonagh in a Nash trade after hearing Friday that the Rangers had offered McDonagh. Trading McDonagh right now would be a huge mistake, the kid's gonna be a star.
Hearing that Suter and Parise are close to signing with the Wings and Pens, respectively, but since nothing is official, I will wait til tomorrow to address them.
Quick rundown of some teams that caught my eye on July 1:
Signings - Brandon Prust 4y/$10M, Colby Armstrong 1y/$1M, Francis Bouillon 1y/$1.5M
My take - Well, as a Ranger fan I obviously love Brandon Prust. People have said they overpaid for him, but I think he's worth every penny. The guy works harder than anyone in the league and will do absolutely anything his coach asks of him. Good penalty killer who will play solid 3rd line minutes and fight anyone that needs to be fought. The Colby Armstrong deal is a great low risk, high reward signing. Cut loose by the Leafs just the day before, Armstrong took a discount to play for team he grew up cheering for and to try to prove that he can still be an effective NHL player after a frustrating, injury-filled season in Toronto. He'll never match his numbers from his rookie season, when he had 40 points in 47 games playing with Sid the Kid, but he can be an effective 15-20 goal guy who goes to the dirty areas. Both he and Prust could end up playing a lot with the newly re-signed Travis Moen. The Francis Bouillon signing is questionable, but at $1.5M he will be a depth veteran defenseman who has spent many seasons in Montreal.
Overall a really solid first free agent frenzy day for new GM Marc Bergevin. He injected a lot of grit into a lineup that was widely viewed as soft last season. To be able to effectively address a major need for your club while only adding $5M to the teams cap-hit has to be viewed as a big win.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Signings - Benoit Pouliot 1y/$1.8M, Sami Salo 2y/$7.5M
My Take - Benoit Pouliot is a great third line winger with a hard shot. He could also possibly play on the second PP unit because of his shot/size combination. He is coming off back-to-back 30 point seasons and has become a consistent 15 goal guy. He's a big body and plays to contact, something that Tampa will certainly expect of him next season. Sami Salo gives Tampa some much needed defensive stability, especially considering how unprepared Victor Hedman looked last season when leaned upon. Salo also brings a heavy shot and is a big bodied veteran defenseman who will play top 4 minutes. However, Salo also brings with him a pretty epic injury history, as he has not played more than 69 games in any of his last seven seasons. Tampa will have to keep their fingers crossed that he is able to stay healthy.
Much like Montreal, Tampa made two solid signings that addressed areas of need. Salo, along with newly acquired goalie Anders Lindback, should help a team that gave up a whopping 278 goals last season, good for 3.39/game and dead last in the NHL. It doesn't look like Mattias Ohlund will be back next season, if at all, either, so I would still expect Tampa to go after another defenseman or two. Pouliot gives the Tampa bottom six a bit more size and scoring punch, which will help their very top heavy offense.
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