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"Inside the Stripes..."
Edmonton, AB • Canada • 22 Years Old • Male
With all of the big new contracts signed this year, there are a lot of players with big shoes to fill. There are a lot of players with a new responsibility to be "the guy" for their respective clubs. There are a lot of players that need to step it up this season and show why they were worth the big bucks that their teams threw at them.

So which players are actually going to live up to those big bucks, and be "the guy"? It's hard to say just yet, but let's look at the guys to be watching when the puck drops this October.

Continued from Part 1:

4. Scott Hannan - Colorado. Scott Hannan isn't a guy that you will notice on the score-sheet every game, unless you look at minutes logged. He is accustomed to playing a lot of big minutes, and playing against teams top lines. He has never been a minus player in his NHL career, his worst being an even rating in 02-03. His job will be done if he can shut down the other teams top scoring units, and put up around 30 points and a plus rating. He will be a good compliment for John-Michael Liles (his most likely partner), an offensive specialist.

Verdict: Scott is a great pickup by the Avs. The length of the deal makes sense for both sides. The money may be slightly much compared to what a player like Hannan would normally make, but with the available defensemen this off-season, it was necessary to lock him up. The only thing about this deal is, Hannan may not be the guy to lead the young Colorado defensive group. He will do his thing and do it well, but I'm not sure that he is the #1 guy to build around, which is probably what the Avalanche are hoping he will be. They have never truly replaced Rob Blake and Adam Foote, so while Hannan is a great #2 guy, he can't replace what those other two guys brought. I would have liked the Avs to make a pitch for someone else in addition to Hannan, because if their defense can hold up, the could make some serious noise this season.

5. Paul Kariya - St. Louis. This one is pretty simple. Kariya is a seven time All-Star, has won two Lady Byngs, has over a point per game over his career, is usually a plus player (+/-) and has been back on his game since the lockout. He has great speed, amazing hands, and a great shot. When on his game, there are few more dangerous offensive players in the game today. Kariya is the type of player that isn't just a great player, he makes the players around him better every shift. Once he left Anaheim he seemed to disappear, but don't let that fool you, he is still a big-game player.

Verdict: A no-brainer, great pick-up by the Blues, exactly what they needed. He will continue to put up big numbers as he has in the past. He truly is going to be "the go-to-guy" when it comes to the Blues offense this year. He is established, and a player that a lot of teams would have loved to have had this off-season. One of the best signings this summer. It is a good length (three years), although I would have liked it a little better if it was $5 million instead of $6 million per season.

6. Kimmo Timonen - Philadelphia. Last season the Flyers had an absolutely awful defense corps. Their top guys were an aging group of immobile d-men that don't exactly fit what the new NHL was going for. The Flyers recognized that issue and realized that they needed a big-game, offensive, puck moving defensemen to be the cornerstone of what will soon be a very young group of defenders (with guys like Parent, Picard, Coburn and Kukkonen). The list of impending UFA's to fill that role was limited; Timonen, Souray, Schneider and Rafalski were the top names out there. Schneider was too old to sign to a long term deal (which is what the Flyers wanted, a long deal), and Souray is great offensively, but his defensive capabilities are sometimes questionable. That left the Flyers with the option of going after Timonen or Rafalski. Timonen is a terrific skater, can rush the puck, quarterback the PP, will put up 50 points a season, and is dependable on his own side of the rink. He is a little smaller than some would like a #1 defenseman to be, but he can hold his own. But almost the exact same thing can be said for Rafalski...

Verdict: The Flyers locked up Timonen for the next six years, at a high price, but the contract is heavily front-loaded which allows for some flexibility later on (only $3 million in the last year of the deal). The numbers are a little high for what he may be worth ($8 million the next two seasons) but did the Flyers really have any choice? They needed a top defenseman, and there were not many available, they had to pounce on their opportunity. The one question mark that there is with Timonen is his very limited playoff experience (the one edge that Rafalski definitely has on him), although Kimmo is a good enough player that it should not be an issue. But I am split on this one. Just because of there being such a similar player out there in Rafalski that signed for less money (slightly less). Had Rafalski not been a UFA then I say great signing by Philly, they saw a need and addressed it in a competitive market. But I may have gone after Rafalski instead, after all he does have some Stanley Cup rings.

Also, just a note. The Flyers didn't give up on Pitkanen by signing Kimmo. Pitkanen is going to be just as good if not better than Timonen, (just not for a little while) and I'm sure the Flyers know that. But they are looking to make a run at the cup, and realized that they could not wait for Pitkanen to develop, they needed their #1 guy right now.

These are definitely not all of the guys to keep an eye on though this season who just earned themselves some juicy contracts. Watch out for Ladislav Nagy, Derek Roy, Nathan Hortan and Brian Rafalski as well. Nagy is a strong pick up for the Kings, who made some good signings this offseason, Roy and Horton are really hitting their respective strides in the league and could be in for great breakthrough seasons, and Rafalski, well...is Rafalski, just on a better team this year. He could make a big impact.
Filed Under:   Timonen   Blues   Hannan   Kariya   Flyers   Avalanche  
August 14, 2007 10:09 AM ET | Delete
Are you going to analyze the RFA raises and offer sheets? (vanek and penner)?Great work, I'm enjoying these.
August 14, 2007 11:11 AM ET | Delete
I would have a hard time imagining any team not loving those players on their roster, of course 8 million is just plain and simple too much for Timonen regardless of the front end loading. The average gets put against the cap so he's simply over paid, a great d, but over paid so if the title of your blog is living up to the bucks he'd have to put up a 25 and get 80 points in my opinion!
August 14, 2007 11:44 AM ET | Delete
8 mil doesnt matter. Its not a factor, excpt for luring in guys and getting rid of them more easily if they dont produce in their later years. I will take a #1PP D that can play both ends of the ice and was a captain on a good team last year playing top minutes for 6.5M. In fact I was affraid Philly was going to offer him 7 and then I would have been pissed. Now Hartnell on the other hand? Rafalski is older and more of a gamble IMHO, if not only because he played in the NJ system. However he is right handed and they arnt a dime a dozen in the NHL. I also like that Timonen is a Fin and part owner of a team in Helsinki with Kapanen= potentially good comradory with several fins on our team and on the phantoms.
August 14, 2007 4:26 PM ET | Delete
I think all three signings were worth the cash although the market value of all three surprised me. When weighed against other signings and offer sheets they don't seem that outlandish. On the other hand, your side point about the Flyers and Pitkanen is a little off base. I don't see him having a career anywhere close to Timmonen's. I've been behind him from the beginning but he's so defensively inconsistent that it's painful. He doesn't seem to get any better. He was poised, in my opinion, to take off prior to the injury in 2005 but after he came back he developed bad habits. His propensity for skating the puck the behind the net in the offensive zone only to dump it aimlessly in front was maddening. Top that with his give aways at centre ice and his teeth clenching cross ice passes on the powerplay and what you have is a higher scoring version of Janne Ninnima. There were plenty of rumours about his stand-offishness with teammates and his inability to grasp even John Stevens simplified defensive schemes. The biggest irony is that he finds himself in Edmonton where the Oiler's fans will once again be victims of a former Flyer's defenseman who can't fulfill his potential. I'll be watching him on centre ice and pulling for him if only so Kevin Lowe doesn't look like a boob.
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