New York Rangers
Glen Sather has been the Rangers GM since 2000 and during his nine seasons in charge the Blueshirts have made four playoff appearances and never advanced past the second round. Slats has signed three of the worst contracts currently in hockey (Drury, Gomez, Redden) and just massively overpaid for Derek Boogard (4 years, $6.6 million), who hasn't scored a goal in his last 190 games. There is no question that Boogard is one bad hombre who will protect his teammates and strike fear in opposing players, but he plays about five minutes a game. Crazy.
Too long for Dan Hamhuis (six years), too much for Manny Malholtra ($2.5 a year), and it may end up costing them Mason Raymond. I can totally understand adding either Hamhuis or Ballard, but grabbing both of them seems redundant. It looks like Mike Gillis, who now has six defenceman earning at least $3.25 million, has gone to the Brian Burke school of building a blue line. Obviously, that is not a good thing.
If I were a Sens fan and was looking at paying a total of $15.3 million (or roughly 26% of my cap space) next year to Alex Kovalev, Sergei Gonchar and Pascal Leclaire...well, let's just say Bryan Murray would not be on my Christmas card list. Gonchar has been one of if not the elite point producing defenceman in the league over the last ten years, but at 36, and after playing only 87 of a possible 164 games the last two years, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to give him three years AND a raise.
Over-paid for a washed up Jordan Leopold (three years, $9 million) instead of spending an extra $375k a year to keep Henrik Tallinder even though they have more than $10 million in available cap space. This was dumb on two levels: 1) Tallinder is 1000 times the player that Leopold is, and 2) he paired with and mentored Tyler Myers all of last year and allowed him to blossom into a bonafide force. Buffalo will need the pre-Olympic version of Ryan Miller just to squeak into the playoffs next year.
The Winners:Tampa Bay Lightning
Stevie Y knows what he's doing. The rookie GM somehow convinced the Flyers to take Andrej Mezaros off his hands (Paul Holmgren and his scouting staff didn't watch Tampa play the last two years?) and then more than replaced him with a superior and cost-effective Pavel Kubina (two years, $7.7 million), rewarded a deserving Martin St.Louis with an extension and topped it off by signing a quality goalie (Dan Ellis) to a short-term deal (two years, $3 million). If Yzerman manages to send Vinny Lecavalier to LA, he may have won the 2010-11 GM of the Year Award before the season even starts.
New Jersey Devils
Anton Volchenkov was made to play in the Devils system and while the length of his new contract might be a little longer than I would like (six years), the price was more than fair ($4.25 million per). Sweet Lou also added Henrik Tallinder to give them their best defensive unit since the Scott Stevens/Scott Niedermayer days. If the Kovalchuk deal goes through and they don't have to give up Zajac to make room for him, I very much like Jersey's chances next year.
San Jose Sharks
After nine years with Evgeni Nabokov as their starter that resulted in limited post-season success, it was absolutely the right time to let him walk. The fact that Doug Wilson then jumped onboard the cheap goaltending train makes it even better. Antero Nittimaki (two years, $4 million) is definitely good enough to win with, and for all we know, Thomas Greiss might be too.
Darryl Sutter has been getting absolutely crushed by the Canadian media, particularly for his moves on July 1st, but I actually like both of the signings. Olli Jokinen is coming off of two disappointing seasons and never quite found his groove in Calgary during his first go-around, but at that price ($3 million per for only two years) I think the risk is worth the potential reward. Same thing goes for Alex Tanguay, who will earn $1.7 million on a one year deal and can also play in the Flames top-6.