The Predators haven't been one of the more notable teams in the off-season so far, the market has only been open a few days, but the one splash they did make was trying to cash in on the career year that Jason Arnott had in Dallas. With Yanic Perreault still on the market, the Predators were obviously keen on filling the number one centre role and much like the previous summer, they came out of nowhere to get one of the bigger names on the market (last summer's acquisition being Paul Kariya). I would still look to Nashville for one or two more moves that may rise some eyebrows.
On Long Island, the new management & coaching staff want to really muck it out in 2006/'07 and you can tell by their new signings. Brendan Witt, Andy Hilbert and Mike Sillinger, all physical type guys headline their free-agent acquisition list. They don't really play out too well in the Hockey Pool realm of things, but if they're really looking to grind out a few games and keep the puck out of their net, Rick DiPietro might be a decent pick for your team in the late-second to mid-third rounds.
When Glen Sather likes a plan, he'll use it. Even if it's someone elses. Ha ha. Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen have come to the Big Apple from Carolina in the Free Agent season. He must have like what Jim Rutherford was doing in Raleigh and decided to take some of his players for himself. Aaron Ward is a guy who knows how to win, having three Cups to his name and Cullen is a good depth player... but neither of which should really factor, unless you're in a deep pool.
Speak of the Cullens... as Matt has gone to New York, Mark has gone to Philadelphia... along with Randy Robitalle and Nolan Baumgartner. Again, nothing major in the development of any pool teams, nor does it really help a lot of players that you'd take from Philly for your pool. Bob Clarke's pick-ups are mostly filler on a team that needs some talent to jump in their pool.
Now the Coyotes... they've been rather busy spending some money. Ed Jovanovski, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Morrison and Georges Laraque have all joined the dogs in the desert and there could be some pool ramifications here. Gretzky and Company want to progress with everyone in the West, even if that means that they want to give J.R. another shot with the franchise. With previous trades and signings, the Coyotes now boast a responsible blueline in Ballard, Jovo, Morris, Boynton & O'Donnell as their first five. That's not too bad. With CuJo staying on for another season, the upgrades up front should make the Coyotes a little less prominent as road kill.
Pittsburgh's additions since July 1... Jarkko Ruutu and Mark Eaton. The shadow of Evgeni Malkin looms large here as they are now able to bring the Russian big man over to North America, that all other signings and moves may pale in comparison... especially Ruutu and Eaton.
Where did the Sharks really need to improve from last season? They had lots of scoring (even secondary scoring to some degree), grit, solid defensemen and okay goaltending. What they probably didn't have was playoff savvy more than anything... which the Oilers (their eventual slayers) had in spades. The additions of Mike Grier and Curtis Brown don't give the Sharks that savvy quite yet, but maybe another shot in the playoffs will. There are still some more veterans on the market, there could be a splash there somewhere.
Can't really say I'm overly too sure what GM Larry Pleau is doing in St. Louis at the moment. If there was anything we learned over the last 10 years in hockey is that if your team struggles, you can't just throw money at players and expect a solution to pan out. You have to know that Doug Weight & Bill Guerin were not cheap and throwing $4 million at Jay McKee (for blocking shots like he did in the playoffs) is not going to solve much of anything. Good players for lots of money is not the way to win.
The Lightning only made some changes to their blueline from the marketplace, adding Filip Kuba from Minnesota and Andy Delmore from Columbus. Kuba, who has slowly been blossoming into the type of defender that Pavel Kubina is... who in fact they are trying to replace with said players. Delmore used to be a blue-chip prospect whose shoulders could never really hold onto the expectations placed upon him offensively. Kuba might have a slight raise in his stock, since the Tampa Bay game is a lot more free-flowing than the one with the Wild.
The Maple Leafs also shifted the blue line a bit adding Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill from Boston. Both players are a bit bigger and add some more stability to the blueline, which wasn't necessarily the Leafs problem last season. In Kubina, they get a third offensive defenseman, behind McCabe and Kaberle and in Gill, they get a punishing 4th defenseman who also can generate a few points here and there. Some offensive talent up front is what they really need... especially if these two defensemen are gonna get points for you in the pool.
A team that really needs to make some moves doesn't seem to be in a big hurry to do so at the moment. Willie Mitchell is the only unrestricted free agent to come to the coast and at a hefty cost as well. There is still a lot of work to be done, but more about the Canucks can be found at my other column, Canucks Rush.
The year of the free agent defensemen is also somewhat notable in Washington as well. They signed up Brian Pothier from Ottawa, who had a pretty decent season with the Sens and should figure in the middle of the defensive pack for the Capitals. His 35 points should increase to 40 to 45 with the added ice time, not being behind both a Redden or a Chara.