Because the man who built the Chicago Blackhawks into Stanley Cup champions is showing he’s obviously lost his knack for putting together a winning squad with his work for the Panthers.
The Panthers were just one of a number of busy would-be challengers to the Bruins’ Cup crown in the Eastern Conference on “free-agent frenzy day” today. None made the types of moves that would make you sit back and wonder what Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli is going to do as a counter move or how the Bruins are going to handle facing a certain team.
Florida, with a decade of playoff-less springs now behind it, was maybe the most active of those teams with the signings of Ed Jovanovski, Marcel Goc, Tomas Fleischman, Scottie Upshall and Jose Theodore, and the trade for Philadelphia’s Kris Versteeg. Combined with the previously acquired Tomas Kopecky, the Panthers now truly resemble Chicago, if the Blackhawks didn’t have Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrooke. In other words, the Panthers are now the Blackhawks from the start of the decade.
At least the Panthers have reached the salary-cap floor, even if the money’s not going to a good cause or a potential playoff threat.
Closer to Boston in terms of geography and the standings, Buffalo is still in the Brad Richards sweepstakes, so that could change the look of its offseason makeover. But right now, the Sabres’ big additions of Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino — two guys the Bruins had no problem handling in the playoffs. Montreal added Erik Cole, a solid player that they overpaid a bit. The Habs have to like adding his size to a diminutive forward corps. However, we know that the Habs are really banking on a healthy Andrei Markov to lead their D and he hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup for a couple years now.
The Broad Street Bullies got softer, as Philadelphia signed Jaromir Jagr and swapped out Leino for Pittsburgh agitator Max Talbot. If the Flyers don’t land Richards, they’re at a definite talent disadvantage. Pittsburgh lost the toughness of Talbot and Michael Rupp, and I like the Pens’ addition of Steve Sullivan. We know, though, that the only thing that matters right now in the Steel City is the positive prognosis for the health of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. As far as the Pens challenging the Bruins, talk to me when those two stars are on the ice with a clean bill of health.
Lastly among active Eastern contenders are the Washington Capitals, who continue to crack me up. They know they need more toughness, so they keep Brooks Laich and then today overspend to bring back Jeff Halpern and import Joel Ward ($3 million a year). They have enough sandpaper up front now, but then on the back end the Caps sign Roman Hamrlik, who was last season playing tissue-paper pylon for the Canadiens against the Bruins in the playoffs.
Once the Brad Richards situation is cleared up, we’ll have a better idea of which teams are seriously going to challenge the Bruins. Tampa Bay has done well to keep its team together with the re-signing of Dwayne Roloson and a few others while Lightning GM Steve Yzerman tries to get Richards and Steven Stamkos’ deals done.
It’s a long summer, and there could be some big names traded that will blow the mediocre free-agent class out of the water. But as of right now, without making anything more than a minor swap of Michael Ryder for Benoit Pouliot, the Bruins are still the class of the league and the East.