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Free Agent Frenzy 2015: Live Blog

MGreen

Sunshine State Hockey will be live blogging from 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM EST during the first day of NHL free agency. Stick with us all day for updates on the biggest signings and possible trades.

11:32 AM – We are officially live and just 28 minutes away from the start of free agency. Some early reports indicate that more than eight teams are interested in Joel Ward, including his current team, the Washington Capitals.

11:40 AM – David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reports that the Bruins and Red Wings are in the mix for Mike Green. On the trade front, it seems Calgary and Toronto have talked about a deal for Phil Kessel, but nothing incoming yet.

11:45 AM – The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalie Karri Ramo to a one year contract. That takes him off of our top 30 UFA list.

11:52 AM – A highlight reel of the good and bad free agent signings from 2014 is being shown on the NHL Network. Dave Bolland was the first player shown on the bad list.

11:57 AM – The Penguins are currently the front runners for Phil Kessel.

12:00 PM – Free agent frenzy begins now!

12:02 PM – Blackhawks have signed newly acquired forward Artem Anisimov to a five year contract. Anisimov was traded to Chicago in the seven player deal for Brandon Saad.

12:10 PM – Toronto signs Matt Hunwick

12:11 PM – The signings are rolling in. Colorado signs Beauchemin to a three year contract. Goalie Thomas Greiss has signed with the Islanders for two years, $1.5 million per year.

12:14 PM – Adam Pardy re-signs with Winnipeg for one year while Washington signs Taylor Chorney.

12:21 PM – Just a reminder for Panthers fans. Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky, and Brad Boyes are all free agents and will not be brought back to Florida.

12:27 PM – Hearing both Mark Letestu and Andrej Sekera are close to signing with the Edmonton Oilers.

12:38 PM – Paul Martin inks a four year deal with the San Jose Sharks.

12:41 PM – Andrej Sekera and Mark Letestu have signed with the Edmonton Oilers. Sekera will receive $5.5 million per for six years.

12:45 PM – Forward Blake Comeau goes to Colorado for three years. Chicago brings Viktor Tikhonov back to the NHL.

12:47 PM – TSN’s Bob McKenzie reporting that Michael Frolik might be heading to Calgary, nothing official yet but it seems to be a long term deal.

12:48 PM – David Pagnotta reporting that Michal Neuvirth has signed with Philadelphia.

12:49 PM – Brad Richardson and Steve Downie have signed with the Arizona Coyotes.

12:51 PM – Panthers seem to be searching for a backup goalie. That market is shrinking fast.

12:54 PM – Phil Kessel has been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Kasperi Kapanen, Harrington, and a first round pick.

12:58 PM – Michael Frolik to Calgary is now official.

1:02 PM – Goalie Anders Lindback signs a one year contract with Arizona.

1:05 PM – Panthers quiet so far today. George Richards reporting that Tallon is working on a new contract for Huberdeau.

1:13 PM – Vancouver signs Matt Bartkowski to a one year contract worth $1.75 million.

1:16 PM – Barret Jackman moving from the Blues to the Predators for two years, $4 million per year.

1:19 PM – Florida Panthers sign three minor league players, goaltender Mike McKenna, forward Shane Harper, and defenseman Sena Acolatse.

1:21 PM – Zbynek Michalek is heading back to Arizona on a two year deal.

1:29 PM – Another backup goalie off the table as Jhonas Enroth signs a one year deal with LA.

1:31 PM – More pieces to that Phil Kessel deal. Details still coming in but Nick Spaling is heading to Toronto as part of the trade.

1:37 PM – Alex Burmistrov is coming back to North America, and back to the Jets on a two year contract.

1:51 PM – Rangers sign Diaz.

1:53 PM – Tampa Bay Lightning sign Eric Condra to a three year contract.

2:08 PM – Cody Hodgson signs with the Nashville Predators.

2:14 PM – Vancouver trades Kassian and a 5th round pick to Montreal for Prust.

2:19 PM – John Moore heads to New Jersey for three years.

2:26 PM – The finalized Phil Kessel trade can be seen on Sunshine State Hockey by clicking here.

2:27 PM – Senators sign Zack Stortini.

2:33 PM – The Flames sign Derek Grant, former Ottawa center, to a two way deal.

2:40 PM – We lost one in the shuffle of this frenzy. Toronto signed P.A. Parenteau.

2:42 PM – Aside from those minor league trades earlier in the day Florida has been completely silent so far. It is possible that they make no moves this year, which puts pressure on the young guys to carry the Panthers to a playoff berth this year.

2:52 PM – TSN’s Darren Dreger reporting that Viktor Stalberg is now a member of the New York Rangers.

2:54 PM – The Buffalo Sabres have signed 2015, 2nd overall pick Jack Eichel to a three year, entry level contract.

3:01 PM – Ruslan Fedotenko signs a two way contract with the Minnesota Wild.

3:10 PM – Blues LW Vladimir Tarasenko has received an offer sheet from the Dallas Stars for six years, $45 million, reports are that St. Louis will match.

3:11 PM – Carolina inks TJ Hensick.

3:14 PM – Mike Kostka signs a two way deal with the Ottawa Senators.

3:30 PM – We will be live blogging for 30 more minutes. It seems the signings and trades are starting to slow down.

3:31 PM – Former Blue Jackets player Brian Gibbons has signed with the Rangers.

3:41 PM – Penguins sign D-man David Warsofsky to a one year contract.

3:46 PM – George Richards just tweeted this quote from Panthers GM Dale Tallon: “We would have signed someone if it was a bargain. We weren’t going to overpay and block one of the kids.”

3:51 PM – The biggest signing of the day, Detroit inks defenseman Mike Green to a three year contract. Green was listed as our top available free agent.

3:56 PM – We will be live for just four more minutes. There are still plenty of big names available for the taking, such as Martin St. Louis, Justin Williams, and Joel Ward. Be sure to check all the major NHL news networks for any breaking deals after 4:00 PM. If the Panthers make any moves after 4:00 PM we will report them as soon as they happen.

4:00 PM – It is time for us to sign off for the evening. Thank you for joining us today and we hope everyone enjoyed our coverage of the 2015 free agent frenzy.

Get Mad

When talks of another lockout began I swore that Sunshine State Hockey would not feed the egos of the National Hockey League, its commissioner, the owners, or the players association by publishing articles talking about the childish argument over money that may very well lead to another missed season. I decided last night, after seeing players like James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets use the hashtag #thefans on Twitter, that I had finally seen enough and it was time to speak my mind about this dollar sign duel. Being a fan of hockey, and more importantly the NHL, for almost 15 years means that I had the displeasure of experiencing the 2004-2005 full season lockout. At this point, since both sides have retreated into their holes without any common ground, it is a very real possibility that another 82 game lockout may be on the way.

Obviously this is something nobody wants, not even the greedy owners or players. The NHL generated record revenues last year, so missing out on the 2012-2013 season would be a big blow to a league that took so long to recover from the previous lockout. Let us also not forget about the success of non-traditional teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers during 2011-2012. Florida won their first ever SouthEast division championship and qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 12 years, gaining ground in a crowded sports marketplace while, just three short months ago, the LA Kings won their first ever Stanley Cup by putting together one of the most dominant playoff performances in NHL history. There is no doubt that any type of a lockout would hurt the momentum built by both franchises last season.

The most interesting aspect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement arguments is the fact that fans are actually picking sides because they actually believe the league and its players care about them. I think it has become pretty obvious at this point that the only thing both sides care about is the almighty dollar. Of course this should come as no surprise considering the fact that the NHL is nothing more than a business, just like all other professional sports’ leagues. As fans we always here “it’s just the nature of the business” or “that’s the business side of the sport for you”. Just like in 2004, we are being given a strong example of what those quotes truly mean.

I already picked my side in this fight months ago when the talks began to pick up. My allegiance is not with the billionaire owners who offered ridiculous contracts to overrated players, only to now demand that those athletes get paid less money. At the same time I refuse to side with a players association that represents $100 million, 10+ year contract holders like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Ilya Kovalchuk who base their arguments around the saying “we only have a limited time to earn money while owners continue to do so”. I proudly support the people stuck in the middle of this battle, the fans and the arena workers that do not make billions or millions of dollars.

The NHL and NHLPA seem to forget the fact that money does not grow on trees. Obviously it must be hard to remember that with all of the “big money” walking in and out of the meetings once a week. The majority of fans for any professional sport come from middle-class families. Even yours truly has trouble paying the price for full season tickets each year, and I live in one of the cheaper hockey markets. I always find a way to because my love for the game is stronger than any price tag attached to it. One would think that if both sides loved the game as much as the fans that they would find anyway possible to play, just like we find anyway possible to pay. It is disappointing to think that hard working fans who choose to spend their money on the NHL might not get what they paid for.

If anyone believes for a second that they will easily get their money back from their favorite team if there is a lockout think again. Unless things have changed since the 2004-2005 no-season anyone who wants their cash back will have to put up a big fight to get it. During the last lockout I had purchased season tickets before the season was cancelled. Once Gary Bettman made the announcement on February 9th, 2005 I had requested my money back from the Florida Panthers, only to be denied. After weeks of arguing back and forth with my ticket representative and COO Michael Yormark they finally agreed to give my hard earned cash back to me, in $100 monthly installments. I cannot confirm if other NHL teams handle their business the same way or if Florida still does, so anyone interested in tickets might want to ask before making a purchase.

As fans we have every right to speak our minds during this frustrating time. We pay thousands of dollars to support our favorite teams and players every year, only to get a slap in the face each time the CBA expires. My recommendation for every angry hockey fan is to do everything you can to have your voices heard. Call, send e-mails, write letters, and meet with those in charge of your favorite team and the league (if possible). Tell them how you truly feel about this greedy disagreement between the NHL and NHLPA that is keeping fans from watching the greatest game on earth.

I will wrap this up with a video that has been making its way around the hockey community. Janne Makkonen, the freelance video editor from Finland that was featured on Sunshine State Hockey back in January (here), has released a new masterpiece regarding the current CBA/lockout situation. The video is titled “Together We Can #nolockout” and sums up the feelings of every hockey fan frustrated by this mess. Please watch, enjoy, and do not forget to speak out against those trying to take our favorite pastime away from us, again.

Source: (Janne Makkonen’s YouTube Channel)

Free Agent Insanity

Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Shane Doan, Jaromir Jagr, Jason Garrison. That reads like a potential line for an NHL All-Star game, when in reality it could be a new line for one of the league’s 30 teams, if they want to spend that kind of money. Having players of that caliber available at this time of year could only mean one thing, free agent frenzy.

The National Hockey League’s free agency period kicks off today at 12:00 PM EST and all 30 NHL GM’s will be looking to improve their respective clubs while also filling the holes created by UFA’s who decide it is time for a change of scenery (or a chance at more money). Speaking of filling holes, that may be the theme of New Jersey’s free agency, especially if they lose both Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur. Shockingly that is a very real possibility considering the team’s current financial issues. It must be a tough time to be Lou Lamoriello.

While there are plenty of big names on the free agent market there are also just as many on the trading block. Columbus continues to try and find a trade partner that will take superstar Rick Nash off their hands but the Jackets are having a tough time doing so because of their understandably high asking price. The Canucks are in a similar position in regards to goaltender Roberto Luongo, but at this point the return they are asking for my not be justified because of his big contract. There are teams interested in Luongo’s services, including the Florida Panthers, but Canucks general manager Mike Gillis will have to lower his asking price before a deal gets done.

Speaking of the Panthers, they have come up in many conversations on the eve of free agency. Florida is rumored to be interested in such names as Ray Whitney, PA Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, and even Martin Brodeur. We would have to believe that the Cats signing Brodeur would only happen if Tallon and Co. remove themselves from the Luongo talks. At this point it is too early to tell what the Panthers plans are entering free agency, but one thing is certain. It is definitely exciting to hear Florida mentioned with the likes of Brodeur and Luongo. This just goes to show that having good ownership and management goes a long way in earning respect from the other 29 teams in the league and the players.

Marc’s take:

If anyone would have told me at the end of the playoffs that the Panthers would be involved in talks regarding Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur I would have laughed in their face. Now there is a very real possibility that one of the two superstar goalies (or both?) will end up in South Florida. Bringing in either netminder would be good for business in the sense of ticket sales, but if I were in the position Dale Tallon is in I would easily choose Brodeur over Luongo. While it may be a fun novelty to some to have Roberto return to Sunrise let’s not forget that there is this 22 year old goaltender in San Antonio named Jacob Markstrom that has been pegged as “the best goalie not playing in the National Hockey League” waiting for his turn between the Florida pipes. Martin Brodeur is the better choice at this time because of Luongo’s long contract, unless the Panthers have given up on Markstrom because of his recent injuries. That would be an entirely different, and highly disappointing, situation. No matter what happens between now and the start of the 2012-2013 season we all just have to remember “in Tallon we trust”. Right?

The following links are from various sources regarding free agency. We figured that this would make it easier on everyone to follow the insanity that is about to unfold. Be sure to keep checking back with Sunshine State Hockey for updates during this very busy time for the Florida Panthers and the 29 other teams in the NHL.

Top 30 UFA’s – The Fourth Period

Open For Business – On Frozen Pond

Eastern Conference Free Agents – TSN

Western Conference Free Agents – TSN

Free Agent Tracker – TSN

Don’t forget to tune in to the NHL Network’s live coverage of the first day of free agency starting at 12:00 PM EST.

Source(s): TFP, Miami Herald, TSN

Kings Win Cup, Quick Wins Conn Smythe

The Los Angeles Kings are the 2012 Stanley Cup champions. LA defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in game 6 to claim Lord Stanley’s hardware for the first time in franchise history. A 5-minute boarding major assessed to Steve Bernier in the first period led to three consecutive power-play goals for the Kings. At the start of the second period Los Angeles forward Jeff Carter, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Columbus, scored his second goal of the game to put his team up 4-0, a deficit that was just too large for New Jersey to overcome.

Also handed out on this night was the Conn Smythe Trophy, an award that is given to the player “judged to be the most valuable to his team during the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoffs”. Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was the clear winner of the hardware because of his impressive play in the post-season. Quick finished with 16 wins, a .946 save percentage, and a 1.43 goals against average.

Everyone at Sunshine State Hockey would like to congratulate the LA Kings and their fans on winning their first ever Stanley Cup. We would also like to congratulate the New Jersey Devils, even though they eliminated our Florida Panthers, on a surprising but great post-season run.

Oilers Win Third Straight Draft Lottery

The Edmonton Oilers may have issues winning on the ice but they certainly know how to win when it comes to the draft lottery. The NHL held their annual draft lottery earlier this evening and the Oilers came out on top for the third year in a row, even though the Columbus Blue Jackets had the best chance of winning. After tonight’s lottery the draft order for the bottom 14 teams shapes up like this:

2012 NHL Draft Order

1. Edmonton Oilers
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. New York Islanders
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. Minnesota Wild
8. Carolina Hurricanes
9. Winnipeg Jets
10. Tampa Bay Lightning
11. Washington Capitals (From Colorado)
12. Buffalo Sabres
13. Dallas Stars
14. Calgary Flames

The remaining draft order of the first round will be determined after the playoffs are finished.