Habs’ division rivals not quiet

SteveOTT

Despite the news that Jaromir Jagr wanted to play for the Habs but got no interest, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has earned praise for his moves in the last couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, some of the Habs’ Northeast Division rivals were also pretty active as the first week of free agency wound down. Here’s a rundown of what the other Northeast clubs have done.

Buffalo – With a couple of acquisitions, the Sabres have matched the Canadiens in the grit department. Still smarting from Milan Lucic’s freight-training of Ryan Miller early last season, they first traded centre Derek Roy to Dallas for agitator Steve Ott (pictured above), generally regarded as the best trash-talker/shift disturber in the NHL, someone who can throw opponents off their game. He and P.K. Subban should have some noteworthy encounters next season. Ott may not have Roy’s offensive upside, but he’s a hard worker, can kill penalties and take faceoffs plus he can play any forward position.

Along with Ott came Adam Pardy, a depth defenceman who has good size at 6-foot-4, isn’t much on speed or skill, but keeps things basic on the back end.

The Sabres then signed UFA defenceman/left John Scott. It’s less important which position Scott plays than what he does when he plays, which is to fight. At 6-foot-8, 270 pounds, he’s got Zdeno Chara size. He also has little of Chara’s skating ability, defensive acumen or puck skills. As a Ranger last year, Scott played very sparingly, not able to regularly find his way into John Tortorella’s lineup. He had one assist and was a minus-1, averaging 6:42 in the 35 games he played. He also racked up 53 PiMs. He has one goal and five assists and 236 penalty minutes in five NHL seasons. It will be interesting to see if Lindy Ruff finds more use for Scott than Tortorella did.

Besides Roy, who was openly critical of the Sabres organization, Buffalo let Brad Boyes and his declining offensive production walk away as a free agent. He signed with the Islanders. If the Sabres are going for team toughness — and it looks like they are — Boyes no longer fit in. The Sabres probably aren’t done adding pieces. They’ll need some scoring punch and lack a top centre. But they won’t be pushed around any longer.

Senators — Ottawa lost Erik Karlsson’s partner when Filip Kuba, who’s 35, inked a two-year $8 million UFA deal with Florida. Bryan Murray wasn’t going to pay that. In Kuba’s slot, the Sens shipped Nick Foligno to Columbus for Ottawa homeboy Marc Methot, a very good veteran defensive defenceman — which they need — whose biggest problem has been staying healthy.

Taking Foligno’s spot, they signed ex-Hab Guillaume Latendresse, who finally looked like the NHLer the Habs projected for him until his recent run of injuries, especially concussion-related. If they can stay healthy and perform at their best — no guarantees of that — they’ll be important additions.

Another UFA defector from the Sens, Matt Carkner, signed with the Islanders, but Murray picked up Mike Lundin, who played well for the Lightning in their 2011 playoff run. More mobile, well-rounded and with a better hockey IQ than Carkner, Lundin also has had injury issues.

Murray says he’s done in the free agent market for this summer.

While the Sens expressed interest in the Rick Nash hunt, the Columbus winger let it be known he didn’t want to be traded there, which his NTC allows. Habs Nation certainly was happy to learn of that. But Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun believes the Senators could be in the hunt for Bobby Ryan. Maybe, maybe not.

As for Daniel Alfredsson, while the Sens believe he’ll be coming back for one more year, he hasn’t confirmed that so no one is sure just now whether he will. That seems to include Alfredsson himself.

Maple Leafs — Trading Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk prior to the draft gave the Leafs some much-needed scoring potential, although JVR did not enjoy the breakout year for the Flyers last season that was predicted for him following his excellent play in the 2011 playoffs. Injuries played a role in that, but so did his own inconsistency.

The Leafs cut ties with Colby Armstrong, much to Bergevin’s delight, and Joey Crabb, who signed with Washington. They did pick up a good veteran defensive centre and penalty killer in Jay McClement, a UFA who played for the Avalanche and the Blues before that. Coach Randy Carlyle reportedly told his bosses he would like McClement on his team.

But Toronto’s biggest need remains in goal and while Roberto Luongo is the name most often connected with the Leafs, there doesn’t seem to be a match between what the Canucks want and what the Leafs have to offer, not to mention the fact that Luongo prefers returning to Florida and his NTC puts him in the driver’s seat.

The Leafs could start the season with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in goal.

Bruins — One of the quieter teams so far this summer, the B’s seem content that with most of their Cup-winning team from 2011 returning, they’re in no rush to make any big moves. They dealt Benoit Pouliot to Tampa Bay for Michel Ouellet and a fifth round pick at the draft. Then they didn’t give Ouellet a qualifying offer, essentially cutting him lose. Jordan Caron is slated to replace Pouliot.

They also re-signed their three key depth forwards who were headed to free agency (Gregory Campbell, Dan Paille and Chris Kelly), but have a bigger hole to fill with Tim Thomas apparently sitting out the season. Tuukka Rask has been the Number 1 goalie in Boston before (2009-10), but the B’s still need a backup. There’s some thought they might move Thomas’s $5 million contract, clearing cap space and giving that sum to a team that needs to get to the salary cap floor as the season draws near.

They also have to address their need for depth on defence, where they lost Joe Corvo and Greg Zannon as UFAs this week. GM Peter Chiarelli has referenced the “secondary market” in free agency and trades as the places he’d focus on filling those holes. With most of the big names signed, that secondary market seems ready to open.

They do have 19-year-old Doug Hamilton, the blue chip blue line prospect, but it’s uncertain if he’s ready to make the jump from junior, where he was the CHL Defenceman of the Year or needs some more time.

In May, the B’s traded with Washington for Ray Bourque’s son, Chris, 26, a small, fast winger who has a played a few NHL games, forechecks well but isn’t much like his dad in most other respects. The B’s hierarchy said he may get a look or two in the NHL during the season, although for the moment he’s probably ticketed for Providence.

The relative lack of action by Chiarelli has some B’s watchers impatient, perhaps forgetting that Boston has the least available cap space of any team in the NHL. “When your team wins the Stanley Cup, you also receive a free pass for twelve months of bragging rights,” writes Wayne Whittaker of The Hockey Writers. “Once those twelve months expire, unless you’re once again holding a 35 pound trophy over your head, it’s time to move on.”

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