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June 25, 2007
Focus shifts to free agency
TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta, back from Columbus, explains why the first three days of free agency will be wild.

(TORONTO, ON) -- The NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, and much to everyone's disappointment, only a few teams made some noise during the annual event.

Outside of the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring goalie Vesa Toskala and winger Mark Bell from the San Jose Sharks, and the Florida Panthers landing netminder Tomas Vokoun from the Nashville Predators, Friday's first-round didn't live up to the hype...

...unless you attended the event, were a member of the media, or had a position on one of the 30 NHL clubs.

Yes, the 2007 draft was a lively one. Unfortunately, in the public eye, it failed to produce any real blockbuster trades. That doesn't mean, however, that teams didn't try (and I don't consider the trades of Toskala/Bell or Vokoun to be minor deals).

This year's draft was filled with excitement and trade anticipation. All 30 teams were involved, in some way, in trade discussions with another club. Other than trying to move up or down in the draft, there was plenty of player-related trade talk that hovered over the entire city of Columbus (which, by the way, is a great town).


Several GMs told me they were close to completing a deal, but decided against rushing into any decisions.

The New York Islanders received plenty of calls from teams inquiring about Ryan Smyth, an impending unrestricted free agent. The Calgary Flames and Leafs both tried to acquire the rights to negotiate with him.

The Minnesota Wild was busy entertaining offers for goaltender Manny Fernandez. While they rejected an offer from the Boston Bruins, they may have set the groundwork for a deal to be completed in the coming weeks.

The Phoenix Coyotes, shopping for a goalie, were believed to be looking to trade defensemen Nick Boynton and Derek Morris, and the Edmonton Oilers were desperately trying to upgrade their roster and were exploring several possibilities.

The Anaheim Ducks listened to offers for goalie Ilyz Bryzgalov; the Buffalo Sabres has no interest in dealing the rights to Daniel Briere or Chris Drury; the Montreal Canadiens were shopping for a top-six scoring forward; the Vancouver Canucks tried to acquire the first-overall pick; the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers were involved in serious trade discussions; and the San Jose Sharks mulled over deals for center Patrick Marleau.

And that was just a handful of the ongoing events surrounding the draft.

With the draft now complete, teams will gear up and prepare for July 1, the first day of free agency.

Much of the draft-day trade-talk will continue and could evolve into completed transactions (Remember, these things take time. Some trades take months before they're finally agreed upon). That being said, while GMs listen to trade offers, or make them, they will be putting together offer sheets for some of the top free agents set to hit the market this Sunday.

Teams can begin speaking with unrestricted free agents as soon as the clock hits midnight ET on July 1, but signings will not be made official until noon ET. You can be sure the likes of Briere, Smyth, Drury, Jason Blake, Sheldon Souray and Paul Kariya, among others, will be getting a tone of phone calls and faxes.

The first few days of free agency should be very exciting. Most of the teams already know who they're going to target and the majority of UFAs would rather seal their fate as quickly as possible.

The draft may not have ended with a flurry of trades, but it set teams up for the weeks ahead. Those clubs unable to sign their prized targets will return back to the drawing board and revisit their options.

If you haven't marked July 1 on your calendars, I suggest you do so. It's going to be a wild day in the NHL.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for He is also a contributing writer for



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