The July 4th holiday weekend didn't put a stop to any wheeling and dealing during this first week of the free agent season. The same goes with any signings being completed.
Activity may have slowed to a crawl since Thursday, but there was a significant trade made on Friday.
Since they had lost Brian Campbell with his new free agent contract signing by the Chicago Blackhawks, the San Jose Sharks were able to find a viable replacement three days later. After getting defenseman Dan Boyle to waive his no-trade clause, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent Boyle and Brad Lukowich to the Sharks for defensemen Matt Carle and Ty Wishart, a 2009 first round draft pick and a 2010 fourth round draft pick.
The Lightning have undergone an overhaul of their team since Oren Koules and Len Barrie took over as co-owners of the franchise. Already documented was bringing in Barry Melrose to coach the team and then had brought in eight new players to the organization. Acquiring forward Ryan Malone was Tampa Bay's most important acquistion besides drafting this year's top draft pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Steve Stamkos. Kept on the team is the franchise player in captain Vincent Lacavalier and fellow star forward Martin St. Louis.
But with the major overhaul of the roster around Lacavalier and St. Louis and having to keep the payroll under the $56.7 million salary cap, the Lightning felt they had to trade Boyle, their most valuable defenseman. Just one day before the February 26th trade deadline, Boyle had signed a new 6-year, $40 million contract to remain in Tampa and silenced trade rumors swirling around him even back then.
As the free agent season began nearly a week ago, rumors began again that the team this time wanted Boyle to waive his no-trade clause. Boyle expressed a desire to stay, but that didn't change the minds of those upstairs where the final decisions were made. And after he reluctantly waived the no-trade clause and was traded to San Jose, Boyle didn't hold back in his disappointment with the turn of events.
"I understand at the end of the day that it's a business, this is a business. I understand that more than anybody. But there is a way to conduct business, and the way that my situation was handled was absolutely not the way to do it," Boyle told Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune on Friday. "I, for a long time now, have been under the impression that I was part of this team going forward, wanting input from me on other players, and never in a million years did I think that I was one of the guys that needed to go. Just a few days ago (media were told) that the rumors were a joke, Dan Boyle is going to play 25 minutes, he's not being traded, he's not going anywhere. They made it clear that we are not going to go after an offensive-defenseman (in free agency) because we have the best one in the league. Now, going back to business-is-business, when I find out from an absolutely ton of different sources that my (butt) has been on the trading block since I signed the extension, that to me, is not the way you do business. If (they) wanted to get rid of me, let me know. There is a way to do that, it's been done in the past, just say that 'Danny, it's just not going to work', just let me know. And that's just not the way it's done. And that really pisses me off."
Boyle continued to vent his frustration.
"It got to the point where once it probably a few days ago, when I was threatened, that they just didn't care and that my (butt) is going to end up on waivers and end up in Atlanta. That's just not the way you do business. I don't know if I have too much class or what, because I don't want to say exactly what was said, but when it gets personal like it did, the line was crossed. When my work ethic is questioned, my off-season work ethic and the way I get ready for games and what I do is questioned, and it gets personal, and I'm threatened, that is absolutely the way not to do business. And I feel sad because I can't say one thing bad, even with all the ups and downs and battles I had with (former coach John Tortorella), at the end of the day there was respect. In this case I was absolutely blindsided by this whole situation. I know what the response is, that things happen quickly, it's a business, but that's not the case when I'm told one thing and I find out months later that the complete opposite went on behind my back."
It will be interesting to see if there will be any residual bitterness from Boyle and if a rift between him and the new Lightning owners comes back into the spotlight the next time the Lightning and Sharks face each other in a game.
San Jose didn't stop with the acquisition of Boyle in overhauling their blueline. They also traded defenseman Craig Rivet and a 2010 7th round draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres for a second round draft in each of the next two years. With Campbell, Carle and Rivet gone and Boyle, Lukowich and Rob Blake in the fold, observers will have to see if this helps translate into more success defensively next season.
I'll have more on this later, but former New York Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr made his departure from the National Hockey League official on Friday by accepting a 2-year contract to play for Avangard Omsk of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. According to TSN, Jagr is expected to receive a total salary of $10 million.
To replace the kind of contributions that Jarkko Ruutu brought to the Pittsburgh Penguins after he signed with the Ottawa Senators three days earlier, the team signed former Washington Capitals forward Matt Cooke to 2-year, $2.4 million contract yesterday. Cooke was acquired by the Capitals at last season's trade deadline from the Vancouver Canucks and had a total of 23 points in 78 games for the 2007-2008 campaign.
And the Minnesota Wild announced they signed 36-year-old forward Owen Nolan to a 2-year, $5.5 million deal.
"Owen Nolan is a true power winger who can score goals, play a physical brand, play either wing and take faceoffs," Wild general manager Doug Risebrough said in a team news release. "We are excited to add a player of his experience and versatility."