July 2013 is a different kind of July than past NHL free agency parties.
This is the first year in which the NHL allows a pre-free agency flirtation period among pending unrestricted free agents, but this post-lockout summer provides an extra wrinkle: The compliance buyout guys became free agents right away, so they're allowed to dominate attention.
Thanks to the lockout and CBA, things didn't begin on July 1. Thanks to compliance buyouts, Vincent Lecavalier and Danny Briere (among others) could conduct their flirtations even before this July 3-4 flirtation period before all free agents are allowed to sign anew on July 5.
So Lecavalier is already off the market, signed for five years at $4.5 million per by the Flyers. (Of course.) But Broad Street Hockey says this isn't your usual Paul Holmgrem punchline. The best lens: They've upgraded over Daniel Briere while cutting down on the cap cost. It's Philly though, so they still have plenty of cap work to do.
But speaking of Briere, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports a source tells him the Islanders are not among the finalists, and the Devils are. It's safe to say he will end up in the Northeast corridor somewhere, so he will have plenty of chances to haunt his old team and any other team that didn't sign him.
It's unclear how serious the Isles were, but given their lineup, demand for Briere, and his bad 2012-13, it's a good bet they didn't want to break the bank on a commitment to the 35-year-old. If you're bidding on Briere, you hope you're getting something closer to the 33-year-old version for at least a year, and you're hoping you don't have to pay him at age 37 or 38 for something as bad as the age 35 year he just had. (Got that?)
Next are the buyouts, all of whom must first be put on waivers. That includes, officially now, Rick DiPietro. (The occasion of this and Lecavalier's buyout prompts this question from Grantland: Were Any Long-Term NHL Contracts a Good Idea?. More DiPietro fun at the Times with quotes from Charles Wang and Neil Smith on The Contract.)
The buyout list also includes some interesting names like Tom Gilbert in Minnesota and Jeff Schultz in Washington, if you're into the whole Hogan's Heroes thing.
There are reportedly more coming, with the Canadian Press adding Detroit's Carlo Colaiacovo (long-rumored), Vancouver's Keith Ballard (expected) and Buffalo's Nathan Gerbe to the list.
(Of note to Isles fans with sharp memories of obscure loophole escapees, Blake Kessel has not been retained by the Flyers. Of note to Isles fans with fond memories of any goalie with a pulse, the Senators re-signed Nathan Lawson.)
Surely there is more to come.
But in slightly off-topic news that makes many, many people look anonymously stupid, the Professional Hockey Writers Association named right wing Alex Ovechkin to the First Team All-Star Team while also naming him as left wing on the Second Team. The NHL.com story reports this debacle with remarkable understatement.
Remember, this is the same association that had some chapters deciding to punish Islanders players in the balloting a few years ago because of credential decisions that Islanders management made with former PR man-turned-blogger/columnist Chris Botta. Which shows that the association as a whole takes itself very seriously, but not so seriously that it reads the fine print.
(Of course, as with any nation, state, neighborhood, or otherwise branded group of people, the offense is usually from unnamed individuals rather than the group as a whole. We just happen to have a lot of offensive individuals in this case.)