If Ray Shero came over to my apartment and told me what cereal I should eat then I would immediately go to the store and buy 15 boxes of that kind of cereal. Dude is just that good. Free agency started early today and it started off with a bang. I was a pretty big believer that tomorrow was going to be a much more intense day than today, boy was I dead wrong. Names were being signed, rumors were made and lives changed.
The first deal of the day came at 12:14 when Sergei Gonchar signed with the Ottawa Senators for three years with a yearly earning of $5.5 million. Pretty interesting on a lot of fronts. It was very interesting because it only took Ottawa 14 minutes to get ahold of Gonchar's agent and bang out a contract. Hum, seems to me that doesn't seem right. Whatever. Gonchar got the extra year that he wants and I hope he retires after two years so I can laugh at Ottawa.
Ray Shero wasted no time and signed two top-notch defensive players in the next couple of hours. The Penguins signed TSN's number five ranked defenseman in ex-Phoenix Coyote Zbynek Michalek. Michalek is relatively unknown, mostly becuase he is playing in Phoenix, but is great at what he does. Last season he tallied three goals and 14 assists while playing in 72 games. He has 115 career points in 415 games, but eats up a ton of minutes. He led the Coyotes in ice time per game last season at 22:38 and in short-handed ice time per game at 3:16. He also played close to a minute and a half per game on the power play, but he will never be confused with Sergei Gonchar.
Michalek is said to have been the Penguins response to losing Rob Scuderi last off season. I like what I see with Michalek, he made pennies to what he will make with the Penguins. Shero nabbed him for five years at four million a year. Michalek is only 27 years old so he is definatly going to be entering his prime.
A little while later Shero made another splash, again on defense. TSN's topped ranked UFA defenseman, Paul Martin. Martin was not retained by the New Jersey Devils so that makes it even better. You know what else is awesome? The Penguins will have Martin under control for five years (at five million per) and he is only 29 years old. Also prime hockey playing form.
Listening to NJ Devil people they are very sad to see Martin leave, and Penguins fans, at least the ones I saw, are extatic to have him in the fold. A very good day.
Martin played six seasons in New Jersey, picking up 163 points and a plus-55 rating in 400 games. He can play on the power play and is also pretty good play positional defense. That is exactly what the Penguins needed. Two guys that can play positional defense and can move the puck. Both can skate and both have a good first pass, which has been a little problem for the Penguins last year.
Thank God we won't be seeing this any more:
Shero saw what was going wrong with this team last year and fixed it. The defense was a little soft and he went out and got two of the big name defensive free agents on the market. In his presser Shero said that Michalek was his first call. Pretty decent first call. Shero knows what he is doing. Hell, we could have the nut bags that run the Rangers or Flyers. Thank God.
The Penguins now have Martin, Michalek, LeTang, GoGo, Orpik and Lovejoy. Man that is a pretty nasty group of defenders.
For those of you who are bitching about losing Hamhuis and the third round pick we traded for his rights, get real. Talking to Hamhuis before the deadline gave Shero a good look at what he was getting into and didn't have to do all that dance today at noon. Hamhuis knew what he had here in Pittsburgh and because of that he could get on the horn early with Michalek and get something done. Who knows if Michalek is there if we didn't trade for Hamhuis' rights and talked to him first. That is why Ray Shero is a big deal.
You know why else we know Ray Shero is the truth? Because he didn't spending $3 million a year on Colby Armstrong. What a joke.
Would it be nice to have some wings? Sure. Would I rather have a strong defense at this point? Yes. Colby Armstrong was the fifth best UFA forward according to TSN. How deep is the pool if that is the case.