1. Marian Hossa, one of the hottest commodities in this summer’s Free Agency Market, stunned the hockey world by signing with defending Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings. Hossa at 29 years of age left several years and millions of potential dollars on the table to go to Hockey Town. Detroit general manager Ken Holland reported that Hossa’s camp actually contacted him about putting Hossa behind the winged wheel. Holland told Hossa that we would need to contact captain Nicklas Lidstrom to see if he would mind having Hossa take his place as the highest paid player in Detroit; however Hossa said that it would not be necessary and settled for a one year, 7.4 million dollar deal. Hossa has averaged 84 points over the past 5 seasons. He was traded from the Ottawa Senators along with Greg De Vries to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for then pariah Dan Heatley. The 2008 trade deadline saw Hossa shipped from Atlanta to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Erik Christenson, Colby Armstrong, and former 1st round draft pick Angelo Esposito. Penguins fans were more than a little sour when Hossa, who put up 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) to rank 2nd in playoff scoring, swapped his black and yellow and a town that had given up so much to attain him, for the dynasty and probable repeat favorites in the red and white. Adding Hossa to an already dynamic offense spells trouble for…well everyone except Detroit.
2. Jose Theodore, a few years removed from his breakout season as a Montreal Canadian in 2002-2003 where he won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, as well as the Hart Trophy as the player considered most valuable to his team, has had an interesting calendar year. After backstopping Montreal to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, and winning those two coveted trophies, Theodore posted 3 straight sub-par seasons, averaging well under a .900 save percentage split amongst the Habs and the Colorado Avalanche who traded David Aebsicher for him in March of 2006. Theodore had an impressive 2007-2008 regular season campaign, wrenching the starting job away from Peter Budaj and playing excellent in the Avs opening playoff series in which they ousted Marion Gaborik and the Minnesota Wild. Theodore’s recumbent season, however, came to a screeching halt at the hands of the soon to be Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings. Theodore has an absolutely terrible series, giving up 15 goals against in only 130:31 of playing time. He posted a meek .809 save percentage and was pulled in 3 out of 4 contests as the Avs were cast aside after 4 straight losses. However, the Washington Capitals, who lost starter Cristbal Huet to the Chicago Blackhawks, and backup Olli Kolzig to the Tampa Bay Lightning, appear to be unnerved by Theodore’s tragic playoff breakdown and signed the free agent to replace Huet as the starter between the pipes for the upcoming season.
3. Pavel Demitra spent his first 3 seasons with the Ottawa Senators from 1993-1996 before being traded to the St. Louis Blues for Christer Olsson. Demitra signed with the Los Angeles Kings in 2005 after several impressive seasons with the Blues, his best being a career high 93 points in 2002-2003 season. Demitra was then traded from LA to the Minnesota Wild for Patrick O’Sullivan and a previously acquired 1st round pick from the Edmonton Oilers. Demitra has been unable to reproduce the success he had in 2002-2003, averaging around 60 points per season ever since. He was supposed to be the catalyst that would propel Marian Gaborik into superstar status and lead Minnesota into a Western Conference powerhouse. However, the 3-time all-star never had the output that was expected of him and entered this year’s free agent market in search of a new home. He was signed by Vancouver Canucks’ general manager Mike Gillis somewhat shortly after the free agency period began. What makes this an interesting story is that it is reported that Demitra was seen in the Vancouver area two weeks before he became a free agent. What makes this story controversial is that Mike Gillis is the former agent of Demitra which has prompted tampering charges filed by Minnesota. It will be interesting to see if the 33 year old Slovakian native will be able to return to his former glory and also to see what action the league takes against Mike Gillis.
4. Ryan Malone spent his first 4 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. During that time, the 6’4 224 lbs Malone had averaged around 42 points per season, posting a career high 51 in 2007-2008. He had become somewhat of fan favorite, which could be expected since he is a native of Pittsburgh. Aside from being a hometown boy, Malone won Penguins fans over with his hard-nosed playing style and tremendous energy that he would bring to each game. Malone’s toughness can be best exemplified in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals series, in which he took a 6’7 240+lbs Hal Gill slap shot directly to the head, and missed only a couple shifts before returning to action with a bruised and swollen face. Malone opted to leave his native Pittsburgh for a 7 year $35.1 million deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The gritty forward has been accused of riding on the coattails of superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. Well, don’t expect his numbers to drop off much if at all, as the overloaded offense in Tampa Bay may see Malone teamed up with all-stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. He is joined by fellow Pittsburgh defector, Gary Roberts along with a long line of free agent signings by the Bolts whose owner has guaranteed a Southeast Division title this season. Is this an attainable goal? Adding the 29 year old Ryan Malone to the roster is a step in the right direction.
5. Mike Cammalleri, former University of Michigan standout has averaged 61 points per season for the Los Angeles Kings for the past 3 seasons after playing partially in two seasons prior. When healthy, he was far-and-away the Kings’ best player, posting a career-high 80 points in the 2006-2007 season while playing in the majority of games. On draft day in 2008, the Calgary Flames sent their first round selection to the Kings in a trade for Cammalleri. The deal brought Cammalleri to Calgary in order to replace despondent Alex Tanguay, who was dealt to the Montreal Canadians. Cammalleri has spent his first 5 NHL seasons as the star player on a young and underachieving team. But now in Calgary, he is in an entirely different situation. It is rumored that the entire city of Calgary pays a special tax that is used primarily to keep their all-star Jerome Iginla in a Calgary Flames jersey. With a strong fan base and supporting cast like winger Iginla, defenseman Deion Phaneuf, and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, Cammalleri’s story in Calgary should be one of success. If the speedy, 5’9 185 lbs center can click with team captain Iggy, expect the two of them to put up impressive statistics and make a bid for the Northwestern Division title. A rough and tumble team by nature, designed by head coach Darryl Sutter, the quick and talented Cammalleri should prove to be a valuable asset, living up to expectations that Alex Tanguay could not.