Friday, July 6, 2007

Post-Free Agency Boom: East - Atlantic

Well, I didn't exactly keep you up to date on the first week of free agency, but that's okay, because I'm sure you wouldn't have stopped here first anyways. However, I will offer you my thoughts on the current progress - who succeeded, failed and stayed at status-quo this July.

Atlantic Division
The Atlantic Division will be the division to watch this year. With Crosby's Penguins coming off an astonishing regular season performance, alongside the Devil's and the retooled Rangers and Flyers, anyone's guess is as good as mine to who is going to win. What is clear is that with the current number of divisional games, the intense competition may leave a talent-filled team with fewer wins than they expected. You can expect four teams from this conference to make the playoffs.

New Jersey Devils:
You've got to think losing Gomez and Rafalski will sting. Rumor has it the Devils have been interested in Souray. You've got to wonder why they would release Rafalski (+4) to the market while going after an arguably less well-rounded, -28 acruing, big bucks seeking Souray. The signing of goaltender Kevin Weekes will give Brodeur a bit more of a rest, while Dainus Zubrus will be responsible for providing secondary scoring as Parise gets bumped to the first line.

New York Islanders:
The beginning of the Islander's free agency splash was a bit of a belly flop. It's now described more like a roller coaster. After cutting ties with their salary-eating captain Yashin; after being unable to ink Smyth only months after he arrived; as well as losing Blake, Poti, Kozlov, Zednik and Hill, it looked like Garth Snow being in charge was fulfilling its prophecy of disaster. But he once again redeemed himself by locking up Guerin, Comrie, Fedetenko and Sim. Although this will soften the blow, it is clear that the net talent of the team has declined. Guerin will be the focus of attention as the aging star will be called upon to fill the leadership void as he already dons the 'C'. Comrie will also be an important piece, arguably having the most upside of the newest signings. But the fact is that the fate of the Islanders may not be in their hands this season. With all four other teams in the division improving on paper and hypothetically from last season, it's clear that the Islanders will have a tough 32 divisional games. If anything, this will sink them to the depths of the Eastern Conference standings.

New York Rangers:
Oh boy. The Rangers may have lost Nylander, but they landed both Drury and Gomez. Their talents will be synergetic alonside the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan and Petr Prucha. They might even have some cap room overall to make a few depth moves. The real question is, where are they all going to fit on the depth chart? Getting both was likely unneccessary, and in my opinion they should have gone for Hannan, Hamrlik, Rafalski or Schneider.

Philadelphia Flyers:
There had been a vibe to the team ever since the departure of Forsberg that the team was ready to turn the page, having learned from their post-lockout mistakes. Dispite losing Pitkanen, the team has vastly improved. Signings of Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul add to an already impressive offense, while Timonen and Smith giving a huge upgrade in both offense and defense from the blue line.

Pittsburgh Penguins:
It's safe to say that the Penguins don't need to change much in their roster. Sykora, Sabourn and Sydor will all be key additions, but its safe to say that aside from small changes, their roster is basically set, and well under the salary cap.



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