Geneva general manager Joonas Komppa went all in. After all the intrigue and worrying, free agent goalie Kari Lehtonen will stay in a Generals sweater for a long time, making the maximum $9 million per year with a player option for the fourth year.
But a few other general managers made news as well this morning. Helsinki’s Trevor Grimm and Moscow’s Michael Banker hooked some of the best free agent forwards available.
Helsinki added Alex Burrows, who averaged 65 points per year in Oslo, to the left side and Ryan Clowe, who averaged 35 points per season in stints with Stockholm and Cup-winning Paris, to the right side. The $7 million Grimm is paying for the veterans is for one year only. The moves will push some players out of the starting lineup. On the left side, Burrows will knock either 19-year-old Eliezer Sherbatov, 25-year-old Nick Spaling or even veteran Ryan Smyth, 37, out of the lineup from time to time. On the right side, it looks like either Brayden Schenn or Justin Abdelkader will ride some pine. While many EURO teams are of the young, up-and-coming variety, the Jokerit are loaded with experienced veterans. They also acquired a veteran on defense today, adding Carlo Colaiacovo, formerly of Belfast, with a long-term, $2.3 million deal. The one-time St. Louis Blue and Toronto Maple Leaf is immediately Helsinki’s best defensive blueliner and is expected to see a lot of minutes. Helsinki finished seventh in the Northern Conference last season.
Moscow, which placed third in the same conference with 101 points last season , got better at two forward positions today, picking up Chris Higgins and Derek Roy. Higgins, who averaged 51 points in Munich, is great defensively and should work nicely next to Brandon Sutter and Jannik Hansen. Roy, a playmaker who will see significant powerplay time, may have to play an unfamiliar position on the third line with Alexei Kaluzhny and James Van Riemsdyk. Spartak now has four good lines and no holes anywhere in their pursuit of the Northern Conference crown and the Cup.
Copenhagen, which finished first in the regular season, essentially traded a playmaking center for a checking center today. After losing Roy to Moscow, they added Jay McClement. That is in addition to retaining another defensive center and signing an offensive defenseman this morning. McClement, who played a season in Prague and a season in Minsk, is in Denmark now, where he and resigned Boyd Gordon shape up as the centers for the third and fourth lines. Ryan Whitney, an excellent puck mover and passer who is a little soft defensively, was added to the defense corps even though all six starters from last season remain under contract.
Back to Lehtonen’s Geneva for a moment: In addition to shelling out a potential $36 million to secure the goalie position, Komppa added three veteran skaters to the roster today. Defenseman Jordan Leopold moves to Switzerland from Stockholm. He has a good shot and could be plugged into the starting lineup on the third pairing and on the power play. Ruslan Fedotenko, 34, saw his point total drop significantly in Stockholm after a 31-point season in Prague. Today’s move might work out well for him because as it stands now, he should be a regular starter in Geneva and could find himself with Mike Fisher or David Desharnais as his center. Joey Crabb played in 82 games for Frankfurt and 17 in Stockholm the year before. In Geneva, the 30-year-old, $1 million right winger is fourth on the depth chart.
In addition to resigning left wingers Patrik Ellas and Matt Cooke, the Munich Fox were able to sign another left winger in Ray Whitney. That signing is an interesting one for a couple of reasons. Many hockey observers thought Whitney was too old to be effective even when the EURO League first started. But in Bern, Switzerland, playing with Jason Spezza, Whitney was a star. He totaled 41 goals and 95 points. The next season, as a free agent, he accepted a deal to play in his first German city: Berlin. There, things didn’t go nearly as well. He was a putrid minus 34 and his point totals slipped by about 40 percent. But he was still close to being a 20-goal scorer and he generated 220 shots on goal. Those facts didn’t escape Munich GM Paul Faulkner. The lure Faulkner used to snare Whitney was very enticing. He offered $4 million for this year with an option for next season. Too expensive for next season, when Whitney will be 42? Maybe, but there is a good chance Whitney will call it a career after this season, meaning Faulkner’s expensive two-year play would become a foxy one-year deal.
Other free agents on new teams today include:
Madrid: Daniel Cleary, another Stockholm alumnus, joins a crowd on the right wing. The 35-year-old veteran still has good wheels and the finesse and hockey sense to match. And his leadership qualities and experience will make it easier to move Radek Dvorek to the press box for most games. Madrid also resigned 37-year-old left wing Matt Cullen for another season.
Bratislava: J-S Giguere, the backup in Bern to Mike Smith for the past two seasons, will back up Craig Anderson in Slovakia and delay the start of young Leonardo Genoni’s career.
Milan: In a depth move, the Guerriero added Chad Larose to the roster. After playing 69 games in Prague during Season 1 and 58 games in Athens last season, the Canadian will battle for ice time with Mikkel Boedker and Peter Mueller on the right wing.