TORONTO - While Canada Day festivities were in full force north of the border, the citizens of Buffalo just across the Peace Bridge had their own reason to celebrate.
On July 1, 2011, it became official: Buffalo can now be considered a large-market team, thanks to the deep pockets of new owner Terry Pegula.
Four years after Chris Drury and Danny Briere bolted the Queen City for greener pastures, the Sabres turned into big-time free-agent participants players in the Queen City.
Here's a look at some of the winners and losers on the opening day of free agency.
BUFFALO SABRES: The Sabres overpaid when they shelled out $27 million over six years to forward Ville Leino, but was it really that far out of line on a day where teams went loony with their spending? Leino arguably was the second-ranked UFA forward behind Brad Richards and will augment a Sabres team that already reloaded the past week with the additions of blueliners Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff. Also made a call concerning Richards.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Give Caps GM George McPhee credit. Knowing that he had a potential messy three-headed monster in goal with Michal Neuvirth, Brayden Holtby and Semyon Varlamov, McPhee moved Varlamov to Colorado for first- and second-round picks. The first rounder could end up being a lottery pick in the end, given the Avs woes. Adding Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik and former captain Jeff Halpern were nice tweaks too.
DALLAS STARS: Since Richards made it clear he was moving on, GM Joe Nieuwendyk, acting under the omnipresent dark cloud that is the team's ownership mess, still managed to land some serviceable pieces in Michael Ryder, Vernon Fiddler, Adam Pardy and Radek Dvorak while taking a chance on Sheldon Souray for $1.65 million. Admirable job under less-than-ideal conditions by Hall of Famer Nieuwendyk.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: After shipping out Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the Flyers in the past week brought in Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Max Talbot and Andreas Lilja. Not sure how Jagr's addition will change the dressing room culture the Flyers suggested was needed in explaining the Carter and Richards trades, but time will tell.
NHLPA: When the Joel Wards of the world are netting $3 million per season, the union should be happy. After all, the owners are showing the players the money, baby!
COLORADO AVALANCHE: We have no issues with Varlamov or backup J-S Giguere, who is one of the most standup people yours truly has ever dealt with in more than two decades in this business. But to give up a first-round pick that very well might end up being a lottery selection next summer is a steep price to pay, not to mention a second rounder. Is Jan Hejda a $3.25 million-per-season defenceman? Really?
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Despite the reshuffling in Philly, the Pens are still the early pick here to win the East next season. Having said that, the Jagr situation can't sit well with them. Not only did he not feel their offer was adequate after days of hints that he might like to return to Pittsburgh, he then bolts to the arch-rival Flyers. Not long afterwards, so, too, did 2009 Stanley Cup hero Talbot. For a Pens fan, the verdict is the same as it's always been — Anywhere but Philadelphia!
THE OWNERS: What did they lose? They're sanity, of course. In a free agent pool deemed to be diluted, about $250 million had been shelled out for 60 players by 7 p.m. Friday night. Does that sound like logical spending? Not in this corner, it doesn't. Remember that the next time the owners cry poor.
The jury is out
FLORIDA PANTHERS: The sad-sack Panthers spent about $68 million on Tomas Kopecky, Jose Theodore, Scottie Upshall, an aging Ed Jovanovski, Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann. But keep a couple of points in mind. First off, these additions don't immediately equate into a playoff spot. Secondly, the Panthers had no choice but to dole out their cash because they need to reach the NHL's salary cap floor of $48.6 million. Just because the Panthers were throwing around coin doesn't mean they spent it wisely.