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Bieksa, Laich locked up before free agency

The Canucks defenseman and the Caps center would have been two of the more attractive free-agent pieces when the bidding opens on Friday, but neither made it. Bieksa signed a five-year, $23-million deal yesterday and Laich signed a six-year, $27-million deal today.

Both deals make sense for teams that fancy themselves contenders. The Canucks would also like to re-sign Christian Ehrhoff to keep their D corps relatively intact (goodbye, Sami Salo, in all likelihood). And Vancouver has the cap space to give Ehrhoff a decent deal, somewhere around the $4.6-million average annual value of Bieksa's deal.

As for Washington, it paid a big price to keep their most responsible forward, a high-character guy who would have been a good addition to a young squad. But the Caps are not exactly loaded with leaders. Alex Ovechkin is a unique captain, but the rest of the group doesn't exactly scream mature all the time, so keeping Laich, even at $4.5-million AAV for a 16-goal scorer, was smart.

How does this impact the Rangers? It doesn't. Brad Richards is still their main target on Friday; if they miss out on him, they wouldn't have gone after Laich to fill that role. And there's no room for a major addition to the defense.

The Isles, on the other hand, might have liked a crack at Bieksa, even if it would have been a long shot, as it was with Dan Hamhuis last summer. And Laich would have been a good addition to their room; it seems the Penguins are trying to lock up Tyler Kennedy before Friday, but if they don't, the Isles might do well to take a crack at signing the young but experienced center.


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