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January 17, 2019
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Detroit Red Wings: The Detroit Douchebags have found a new king. Marian Hossa should feel right at home in Motown. Not only will he join Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to give the Wings three of the top 10 forwards in hockey, Hossa will now be able to take full advantage of the (sunshining) (sunshine) carpool lane each day on his way to work. (Sunshine) Hossa in the ear with Bea Arthur's (sunshine).
Personal hatred for Hossa and Detroit aside, it's hard to argue with what the filthy Wings have been able to do so far. They added an elite forward for less than market value, they brought in a decent backup goaltender in Ty Conklin on the cheap, and they managed to retain the services of Brad Stuart. (Sunshine) Detroit.
New Jersey Devils: I love myself some Brian Rolston. Anyone who has the sack to take a slapper on a penalty shot is A No. 1 in my book. But giving a 35-year-old winger a four-year contract worth $5 million a year is absurd. Still, the Devils at least gauranteed they'll be better next season, welcoming home Rolston and Bobby Holik. They also re-signed the vastly underrated Jay Pandolfo, ensuring their checking line will remain one of the league's best. El Diablo will once again challenge for the Atlantic title.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sure, Pittsburgh took some serious hits in free agency, losing Hossa, Conklin, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque, Jarkko Ruutu, and Adam Hall, but the Birds managed to keep their blue line intact, inking Brooks Orpik to a six-year, $22.5-million deal.
A punishing defender, Orpik has totaled 628 hits since the lockout, trailing only Mike Komisarek (659) and Zdeno Chara (649) among defensemen, although Orpik's average of 2.96 hits per game is tops over that time. His four-hit shift against the Wings in the Finals made him a cult hero in Pittsburgh. Taking less money to stay in the Steel City only enhanced the legend.
Despite the turnover, it's still been a banner off-season for Ray Shero. First, he managed to get some draft picks out of Tampa Bay for Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts, even when it was clear neither one was going to return. He re-signed the speedy Pascal Dupuis, brought in Eric Godard to replace Laraque at half the price, and secured Orpik for the next six years at a substantial hometown discount. Once Hossa bolted, Shero was quick to sign Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko to reasonable one-year deals, meaning both enigmatic wingers will be playing for contracts. He also purchased a Finnish lottery ticket with winger Janne Pesonen. Hey, it's worth a shot.
But Shero's best work came in locking up Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury to long-term deals. Those were the two best signings of the summer.
San Jose Sharks: The Fish were wise to let Brian Campbell walk. That dude is so bad, he's terrible. And San Jose still managed to upgrade its defense, signing Rob Blake to a one-year contract worth $5 million and trading Matt Carle and picks to the Lightning Bolts for Dan Boyle.
With Blake on the back line, the Sharks finally have a leader and a proven winner to whip clowns like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau into shape. While he isn't the force he once was, he's still a presence on and off the ice. He'll have a dramatic impact on the San Jose room. And don't underestimate the influence he'll have on a youngster like Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Even though Blake can still drop the hammer from the point, Boyle will be the true power-play quarterback the club has lacked since the days of Sandis Ozolinsh. San Jose will topple Detroit. Book it.
Atlanta Thrashers: Where's contraction when you need it? It's over in Atlanta. The Thrashers were so desperate to sign someone, anyone, they gave Ron Hainsey $22.5 million over five years. That's right. Ron Hainsey. He's very good.
Boston Bruins: The Bears were supposed to be major players in free agency, but all they could get done was a three-year, $12-million deal with Michael Ryder. That's money well wasted. Then again, maybe if the Bruins put Ryder's paychecks in front of the net, he'll never cash them.
Chicago Blackhawks: Dale Tallon gave Brian f'ing Campbell $56.8 million over seven years. Egad! John Koncak thinks that's a bad contract. Campbell is not a No. 1 defenseman. He's a complimentary player. This is the kind of mistake that can cripple a franchise.
The truly baffling aspect of the Huet signing, though, is that Nikolai Khabibulin is still under contract for next season at $6 million. Huet should never have been signed unless Khabby was on his way out the door. But Tallon has said he expects to go into the season with both goalies. He must have been dropped on his head as a child.
So let's review. The Hawks will have $18 million tied up between Campbell, Khabibulin, and Huet. Good luck with that.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus traded Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche to the Rangers for Christian Backman and Fedor Tyutin. I've been drinking all morning and that move still doesn't make any sense. But never fear; the Jackets then went out and signed the great Kristian Huselius for $19 million over four years. Oh, and they also signed Mike Commodore to a five-year deal worth $18.75 million. Hmm ha. Same as it ever was in Columbus.
Actually, bringing in Huselius, Backman, Tyutin, Commodore, Raffi Torres, and R.J. Umberger will make the Jackets better next season. I just find it hard to believe they couldn't get more for Zherdev. And they still need a center to play with Rich Nash.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Remember when the Leafs were one of the marquee teams in the league? Yeah, me neither. But I'm sure those glory days are just around the corner now that they've signed Jeff Finger, Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski, and Curtis Joseph. Wow, first the "The Love Guru" and now this. Tough times in Toronto. Jeff Finger? Really?