The best day of the hockey off-season arrives today, in the form of the opening of the 2009 free agency period.
All season long, the talk was of the big names who would be hitting the open market, which big names would be traded, and so on and so forth. Today is the day in which all the excitement unfolds.
Although free agency doesn't officially begin until 12:00 noon today (thanks again, Gary Bettman!) a few big names have already found new homes, some willingly, some not so willingly.
Scott Gomez and his 7-year, $51.5 Million contract was traded from the New York Rangers to the Montreal Canadiens, as part of a 6-player deal which brought back Christopher Higgins to the Tri-State area.
Gomez loved playing in New York and I can't imagine him being thrilled when he found out he was heading North of the Border.
The deal frees up the Rangers to make a big splash today, something that Glen Sather craves.
The other big name in the news yesterday was Jay Bouwmeester.
He had been a member of the Florida Panthers, before being dealt to the Calgary Flames for Jordan Leopold.
That gave Calgary the exclusive rights to talk to Bouwmeester before he officially hit the open market.
The Flames got the deal done yesterday and are now the proud owner of one of the best Defenseman in the NHL.
Another one of the big story makers yesterday was what did not get done, either.
Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators had "requested" a trade because he was not happy with the playing time he would be receiving under a new head coach.
As is the norm for star players in sports, he has a no-trade clause which allowed him to veto any deal he was not in favor of. He submitted a list of 6 teams that would be open to being a part of. Unfortunately for the Senators, the Edmonton Oilers were not one of those teams.
Even worse for the Oilers, they completed a deal for Heatley that would have instantly made their team better.
Heatley very quickly shot down the proposed deal, which would have brought rising stars Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano to Ottawa.
What complicated matters even further is that he is due a $4 Million bonus if he is still a member of the team by Midnight, July 1st.
Initially there was some confusion as to whether that deadline was on June 30th, or July 1st. It seems now that the deadline is in fact tonight and therefore could still be on the move.
For my money, I would look for one of three players to don the Blue, Red & White by the end of the day.
The typical rumor has Marian Gaborik, he of the Minnesota Wild bringing his exciting European style of play to Broadway. This rumor has been brewing so long, it almost feels like Gaborik has been coming to the Rangers since before he came to America to ply his trade in the NHL.
The next on the list in Martin Havlat, latest of the Chicago Blackhawks. You may remember him last getting his face knocked in by Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals.
He recovered quickly and was able to return, but that injury was far from his first. Before appearing in nearly all of the Blackhawks games this season, he average just about 40 games a season.
Hardly reliable, he's just another athlete who is insanely talented, but because of his reckless nature will always be injured.
The third player, who would be a natural fit in the Big Apple is Marian Hossa.
Hossa has played in the Stanley Cup Finals in each of the last two seasons. He made big news by delaying his big free agent deal to make a move to the Detroit Red Wings for one year, knowing that with even a halfway decent season, he would be able to parlay that into an even bigger deal, which he certainly will receive at some point today.
That is, of course, if he decides to pull another move like he did last year and sign a one-year deal with a contender and hope that he could win his first Stanley Cup and then finally receive his big payday. He's an offensive playmaker who would be perfect on Chris Drury, or Brandon Dubinksy's wing.
Today should be interesting, for the deals that get done and the always surprising places that the big names