Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke was said to be quiet heading into this year's free-agent frenzy, with only depth on his radar, after all, what else did he need to do as his team had just won the Stanley Cup...how much better can you get?
But with Conn Smythe winner and team captain Scott Niedermayer still pondering retirement, Burke went all out and picked up former Red Wings defenceman Mathieu Schneider, signing the 38-year old to a 2-year contract worth $11.25 million.
With this signing, speculation fled around the NHL that Niedermayer had indeed decided to retire and that Schneider was his eventual replacement.
Later on, Niedermayer called a press conference, with everyone including my grandma, expecting him to call it a career and hang 'em up.
However, in a surprising twist, he did not announce his retirement and reports indicated that he was unsure of what to do, and that he will have made up mind between now and the start of the 2007-2008 season.
With his salary still counting against the salary cap at a hefty $6.75 million, the Ducks have only $2 million left in wiggle room and that doesn't even include Teemu Selanne, who is technically still an unrestricted free-agent, but it's expected he will either re-sign with Anaheim or retire.
After playing in just a little over one thousand career games, the Finnish-born winger finally won hockey's revered trophy for the first time in his sixteen season career.
Burke also took the liberty of finding a potential replacement for his prized winger, by reuniting himself with an old friend from back in Vancouver, Todd Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi's signing came as a shock to most people, and his the terms of his deal nearly knocked them out.
$4 million a season over the course of the next two seasons is a lot of money for a guy who hasn't been successful since his days in Vancouver with...what a surprise...Brian Burke.
Burke feels Bertuzzi still has some steam left in the tank, even if he hasn't been entirely healthy or on his game since...what a surprise...his days with Brian Burke up in Vancouver.
I really think that this signing will totally backfire on Burke and the Ducks, Bertuzzi hasn't proven he's worth the money he got, especially after a terrible postseason in Detroit.
It seems to me Burke is forgetting Bertuzzi's past few years, his multiple injuries, his inconsistency and his inability to play a full season.
This is also a strong sign that that Burke's still desperately in love with the player he was in Vancouver, the "old" Bertuzzi, if we can call him that, but this isn't the player Burke's signed on to get.
Come on Brian! Wake up and smell the sunshine, we're not in Vancouver here, this isn't the player you adored, that all Canucks fans adored before he labeled himself a total bonehead by nearly killing Steve Moore on the ice.
The player you'll get is the player you see, I doubt Bertuzzi ever becomes what he used to be again, he's just not that kind of player.
Sure he'll put up a decent point total, but it's nothing compared to what the RESPECTED (emphasis on RESPECTED) and gentlemanly Teemu Selanne brought to the table.
Not only did he bring a dangerous offensive game, but he was also able to play a smart two-way game, on both ends of the ice, he made excellent decisions with the puck and always seemed to score when his team needed it most.
But this all comes to down to Niedermayer.
If he retires, Schneider's signing is validated, a good move, a worthy replacement for a future hall-of-fame defenceman and then there's cap space to bring back Selanne, should he want to return with the club.
However, if he does not retire (which would utterly surprise me, to say the least) then Mathieu Schneider's signing is a waste.
A waste in many ways:
1) Cap-wise, a wasted $5.5 million considering Selanne is still unsigned (this goes for Bertuzzi too)
2) Player-wise, pushing Kent Huskins out of the lineup and into the pressbox and rendering the nicely developped defenceman very unhappy.
Well, you make the call, this can go one way for Burke, or entirely the other way.
He did a fairly good job of attempting to replace those two players he may lose, but, when all's said an done, you can't replace what Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne brought to the team, and you can't do it with a 38-year old pointman coming off a serious injury, and a questionable forward whose ability to be effective and contribute to a hockey team consistently still up in the air.