Personnel Parade

It’s not as good as watching live hockey, because few things are. But the NHL’s wave of offseason activity is a fun dance to watch. Thirty teams are all trying to get better, and it starts this week with the NHL Entry Draft and kicks into high gear next week with the opening of the league’s annual Free Agent Overspending Emporium, where a $2 million defenseman become $4.5 million defensemen with the simple turning of a calendar page. Can’t wait for that.

Truth be told, the wave of activity is already underway. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I was out of town over the weekend. Missed the whole NHL Awards fiasco and everything. Did see where the transaction wire is starting to buzz with a bit of activity, and found a few of the moves interesting.

First, the Panthers sent center Chris Gratton to Tampa Bay for a second-round pick in the weekend draft. Since the Swamp Cats picked up a second-rounder when they shipped Todd Bertuzzi to the Motor City in late February, they’ve got three second-round choices now. The Panthers free up about $1.5 million and open up a space for one of their kids, maybe a Michael Frolik but more likely a Kamil Kreps or someone further up the food chain.

The Lightning add a little bit of reasonably priced depth to what has been a two-line team. Gratton has become a third line center over the years, and he’ll fit in nicely in the Tampa Bay lineup.

Chicago took a chance and took on a hefty salary for the upcoming season when it obtained forward Sergei Samsonov from Montreal. The Hawks need some offensive firepower and creativity and a happy Samsonov is capable of providing both. He had a brutal year with the Habs last season, and Montreal was going to buy out the remaining year on his deal. Montreal GM Bob Gainey instead found a taker, and he receives defenseman Jassen Cullimore and forward Tony Salmelainen in the swap. Rather than buying out the last year of Samsonov’s deal, Gainey will instead buy out Cullimore’s final year at a fraction of the cost. The speedy Salmelainen may or may not be in the mix for varsity job with the Canadiens in 2007-08. If not, he’ll likely return to his native Finland. The Hawks have all the upside on this one. Montreal is just taking a flea treatment here.

Minnesota signed big blueliner Andre Lakos, a 1999 draft choice of the New Jersey Devils (third round, 95th overall). Lakos is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound defenseman who is reported to have a big point shot. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has 229 games worth of AHL experience and has been playing professionally in his native Austria.

There were also some strange goings on in upper management around the league. For the second straight summer, the Bruins have waited until June to whack their head coach. One year after firing Mike Sullivan in favor of giving Dave Lewis a four-year deal, the B’s will eat the remaining three years on the Lewis pact. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli may wish he had simply stayed with Sullivan, a good man and good coach who will one day run an NHL bench again. Now the B’s are in the market for another bench boss, while Sullivan has signed on as an assistant in Tampa Bay.

Mike Keenan continues his tour of the league. About 15 years ago, Keenan was the head man in Chicago and Darryl Sutter was an associate coach under him. Now Flames GM Sutter has hired Keenan to coach the Calgary Flames, Keenan’s eighth head coaching stop. It’s worth noting that Keenan last coached an NHL playoff game in 1996. His last seven seasons behind the bench resulted in him either getting fired in midseason or missing the playoffs. Jim Playfair, who coached the Flames in 2006-07, will stay on as an assistant. Should be interesting.

Up in Ottawa, getting to the Stanley Cup finals isn’t enough to keep your job if you’re John Muckler. Muckler resigned today (yeah, sure) and will be replaced in the GM chair by former Caps coach and current Sens coach Bryan Murray. Murray has worn the GM hat elsewhere, namely in Detroit, Florida and Anaheim. No word yet on whether he will remain behind the bench, too.

And that’s just the beginning, folks. Many more moves, deals and signings to come in the days and weeks ahead.

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One Comment on “Personnel Parade”

  1. GoBucks9 Says:

    Couple of things…there has been talk of bigger nets in the past few weeks. If you could get rid of the shootout but you had to accept bigger nets, would you?

    How about the Flyers spending 50-some million?! Outrageous.

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