Tomorrow at 12:01 P.M. EST hunting season for free agents officially opens. GMs are loading up the trucks with ammunition (new practice facilities, hot young superstars) and sustenance (a hefty increase in the salary cap to over $50 million), prepared to wait in the tall weeds for that trophy to hang over their mantle.
...okay, I have to stop the hunting metaphor there, because...ick.
It is, next to trade deadline day, one of the biggest personnel movement days of the year in the NHL. The days leading up to it are filled with whirlwind predictions and frantic last minute signings of players on the cusp of becoming UFAs. Undoubtedly the decisions made tomorrow and over the next few days will be picked apart by so-called "experts" and armchair GMs alike - the reality is only time will tell which signings are blockbuster deals and which ones are busts.
But whether you buy into the NHL spin of this year's pool being extremely deep or the more pessimistic (and likely more realistic) point of view of SI's Allan Muir, it's sure to be entertainment. Will Tampa finally get the goaltender who won't become a liability...or a scapegoat? Can the Ducks hold onto the core of their Cup-winning roster? How many Buffalo fans will leap off their roofs as Drury and Briere hightail it out of town?
And most importantly here in DC, will the Caps address the few gaping holes in their lineup that everyone knows are there? If you read the pundits, of course, you know that we're going to sign Daniel Briere and Brian Rafalski. No, wait - make that Scotty Gomez and Scotty Hannan. Or...hmm. How about Jeremy Roenick and Andy Sutton? (At least Mike Green's head would be safe.)
Hey, I hear Peter Bondra may be available. For a change.
The important thing to remember, something that far too many people forget this time of year, is that it's not about making a big splash necessarily. It's about making the right one. You need more than future hall-of-famers to win Stanley Cups, and the Caps aren't going to win it with one offseason of signings. Do they need to make some noise, be it by free agency or trades? Absolutely. Will I weep into my pillow if they don't sign a Chris Drury or a Scott Hannan? No.
Hell, I'll take a Michael Nylander and a Tom Preissing and sleep well - they're not sexy names compared to some of the others but they're hard-working, character guys with, get this...skill. I'm sold.
And don't be scared off by the lack of rumblings in the rumor mill involving the Caps. If you know this team and this organization at all you know that GMGM keeps his dealings close to the vest, revealing nothing until he has to. Maybe he should have been in charge of the uniform unveiling...
Of course, let us not forget what July 1 also represents - Canada Day! On July 1, 1867 the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec were officially combined to form the Canadian confederation. And although complete (sort of) independence from the British crown wasn't fully achieved until 1982, it marks the beginnings of their very long path to becoming the great hockey-loving nation we know today.
So in honor of the country that took me in for four years and the province that gave me my beloved Habs, let's all join in together with the Canadian national anthem the way it's meant to be sung, en français and in English:
Ton histoire est une épopée
Glorious and free
HAPPY (kind of) BIRTHDAY, CANADA!