The biggest free agent signing in National Hockey League history took place 41 years ago; and when The Maven says “big”, that means LARGE.
You may have heard of him since some folks believe he was — sorry, Sir Sidney — the greatest player of all-time. None other than Bobby Orr.
Talk about “Free Agent Frenzy,” this was the penultimate, super-duper of all time; and not exactly Kosher, at that.
Orr’s agent, Alan Eagleson, neglected to tell Bobby that the Bruins not only offered cash, but a piece of the team so as to keep him in Beantown. Eagleson was nudging him toward the Windy City, but Bobby found out ‘way too late.
As a result on June 24, 1976, Orr moved to the Chicago Blackhawks and — as a free agent — signed a huge deal that made him the highest-paid NHLer, by three country miles.
There won’t be any Orr-type deal to stun the hockey world this time around. But on July 1, you have to figure in a blockbuster deal, or three.
Here’s The Maven’s Free Agent Look-Ahead (helmets are mandatory in case of an earthquake-type signing):
MAVEN’S TOP FORWARDS:
ALEXANDER RADULOV – The 30-year-old right wing from Nizhny Tagil, Russia was a dominant Canadien this past season. Now that the Habs have obtained Jonathan Drouin, The Rad Man would be very appealing to clubs like the Kings or one of our Met Area outfits. This guy can be dominant, and the Rangers just might go for that type of shooter. [Cap hit: $5.75 Million]
MARTIN HANZAL – Starring for the Wild, this large center, age 30, from Pisek, Czech Republic would flourish on just about any team. Personally, I would love to see the Islanders get him ahead of either San Jose or Philly. [Cap hit: $3.10 Million]
MAVEN’S TOP DEFENSEMAN:
KEVIN SHATTENKIRK – We’ll keep hearing his name ’til the cows come home. Because he is from suburban Westchester County, New York — a slap shot from the Rangers’ training base — the Blueshirts are mentioned most as his destination. Wherever Kevin goes, the 28-year-old will get a pot o’ gold and star on the power play. As for his defensive game, the best I can say is “We’ll see”. [Cap hit: $4.25 Million]
RON HAINSEY – Fresh from his Pittsburgh Cup win the Bolton, Connecticut native may be on the downside of his career, but he sure didn’t show it helping Pitt to the Cup. The Hockey News figures the Devils will be very interested. [Cap hit: $2.38 Million]
MAVEN’S TOP GOALIES:
STEVE MASON – He’s unrestricted and was the main man between the pipes for the Flyers since the 2012-13 season. He failed in Philly. Period! To some experts, signing Mason is a gamble. Others agree that his experience on Broad Street was not a good barometer for his future potential. Now 29, Mason figures to have plenty of puck-stopping in his veins. If the Caps lose Philipp Grubauer, Mason might find a nice home in Washington.
RYAN MILLER: He’s unrestricted and if he doesn’t re-sign with Vancouver, he could shine with a contender, given a sensible workload. At age 38, he would be best served as a backup for a contender. The Hockey News, figures him to re-up with the Canucks.
BEST BARGAIN – NIKITA NESTEROV
Skating for the Canadiens and the Bolts, he made only $725,000 and is due for an increase in pay. A middle-of-the-pack defenseman, this guy would be a nice fit anywhere.
BEST DEAL – MICHAEL STONE
Stone is only 27-years-old, but helped the Flames make it into the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. He has good offensive ability with a stable presence defensively. Michael has also shown the ability to stay healthy. It seems he can also be inserted anywhere on the back end and find a way to contribute.
BEST AFTERTHOUGHT – DWIGHT KING
King could be a nice fit for a contender. He’s only 27, and at 6-3, would add a big body to an offense that could use size and another scoring threat on the third or fourth line.
BEST OLD-TIMER – SHANE DOAN
At 40, he’s a senior citizen; but look at what Jaromir Jagr has done since passing the four-oh-mark. Doan is a steady, veteran presence who could fortify a young sextet. A character guy like Shane should not be overlooked.
BEST UNDERRATED ADDITION – DAVID DESHARNAIS
Under the radar, maybe. But Desharnais is a speedy, aggressive forward who could bolster a team’s bottom six roster. The 30-year old wouldn’t cost a ton and has produced solid numbers in the past. As a bonus, Dauntless David would also push the younger studs a notch better in their performance.
BOTTOM LINE – There’s no one near a Bobby Orr in the lot!