1. Olli Jokinen, the longest tenured player in the NHL never to make the playoffs goes from the Florida Panthers to the Phoenix Coyotes…and how thrilled he must be. The Finland native, who was dealt from the New York Islanders to Florida with Roberto Luongo in exchange for Mark Parish and Oleg Kvasha…making then GM Mike Milbury my nominee for bonehead of the decade, must have some pretty thin blood by now with as much time as he spends in the deep south (don’t worry, everyone from Arizona reassures me it’s a “dry heat”). Well you can bet coach Wayne Gretzky and the *ahem Phoenix Phaithful will be expecting no less than the 84 points he’s been averaging over the last 3 seasons. The Coyotes shipped off some young defensemen in this attempt to amp up their offense. This is an interesting move since they’re playing Ed Jovonovski $6.5 million to be their cornerstone on the back end. Wait a minute, did I read that right? The “Jovo Cop” is being paid $6.5 million? Good luck to you Olli. I hope you like killing off all of Dan Carcillo’s penalty minutes. How much did the Panthers use this 6’5 230lbs center on their penalty kill? Uh oh…Dan better cool it if they’re going to use the big Fin to his full potential.
2. Brian Campbell, the most sought after defenseman this off-season finds himself a home with the Blackhawks. Averaging around 51 points over the past 4 seasons, he certainly built himself up to get this $7.1 million dollar a year deal. Whether he has earned this incredible amount of money is yet to be seen. Although he had a career high 62 points last season split between the Buffalo Sabres and the San Jose Sharks, he floundered in the post season as Sharks exited the playoffs in the second round, earlier than most expected, losing in 6 games to the Dallas Stars. Question: who remembers that hit that Campbell had on R.J. Umberger that will go down as one of the hardest clean checks of this era? Well they’re in the same (Central) division now…keep that head up R.J.! Campbell should feel right at home with his spin-o-rama having Denis Savard as a head coach, he might even learn a thing or two. Regardless, it is time for Campbell to prove that he is worth the investment as the fifth highest paid defenseman in the league.
3. Cristobal Huet, another recent arrival in the windy city has arguably been one of the most under-rated goalies in a time where bulging equipment has made some net-minders ridiculously over-rated (yes, YOU Sean-Sebastian Giguere). Over the past 3 seasons, playing the majority in Montreal before being traded to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline, Huet posted over .921 save percentage while collecting 13 shutouts. Despite his above average numbers, he was still chased out of Montreal by the up-and-coming Carey Price, who is supposed to be the future of the franchise. I don’t know if anyone saw the move out of Washington coming, as Huet played his heart out for the Caps in his brief tenure there. I was still surprised that Montreal let him go, given that Huet is a native of France, something the citizens of Quebec all should admire. It seems that Cristobal will play well for a team, and yet he still gets moved around. Oh, and the 32 year old will be making $5.6 million a year, which is decent starter money. Did I mention that Chicago already has a starter? Nikolai Khabibulin is already making $6.5 million in his last year. There is no way that there is room for $12.1 million on any roster (Los Angeles Kings excluded) to spend between the pipes.
4. Markus Naslund is New York’s newest Ranger. After putting up 90 points in 2001-2002, 104 points in 2002-2003, and 84 points in 2003-2004, he has averaged near a modest 65 points over the past 3 seasons. It appears that Steve Moore’s neck wasn’t the only thing destroyed in that Todd Bertuzzi incident, but the careers of Bertuzzi and Naslund as well, who has never been the same since Bert left town. He was run out of Vancouver after faltering when the Canucks counted on him to put the team’s scoring load on his back. Can we really blame them for turning on him? I mean, Anson Carter scored 30+ goals in one season playing with Sedin twins; I don’t think it’s unfair to expect the same, if not more from a star like Naslund. Well, with a new team and fresh start in a different conference, we shall see if the Swede can reprise his old role as a leading scorer and a valuable player. If not, the “Blue Shirts” are in trouble without Jaromir Jagr, which means that the scrutinizing fans and press of the Big Apple will be looking for a new scapegoat.
5. Erik Cole, the 29 year old New York native heads west to the Edmonton Oilers by way of trade from Carolina Hurricanes. The gritty American forward standing at 6’2 and 205 lbs should fit right in to the rough and tumble Western Conference style of play. Averaging 57 points over the last 3 seasons (which will be a welcome addition to a team with a team-high total of 71 points by Ales Hesmky), he adds veteran leadership, with two Eastern Conference Championships plus a Stanley Cup Ring, and a surly disposition. Cole led all Hurricanes in the checking department last season with 186 hits which put him 11th overall in the league for forwards. He will be a good fit into Craig MacTavish’s “old time hockey” system. Edmonton fans are hopeful that Cole will be helping alleviate any losses in the scoring department caused by possible sophomore slumps of the sensational Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. With solid puck moving defensemen, Lubomir Visnovsky now in the mix, that always so tight Northwestern Division just got a little tighter. After sending away Raffi Torres to Columbus in exchange for the talented and young Gilbert Brule, getting Erik Cole will make the Oilers a better team.