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Ehrhoff traded, Roloson back to Tampa as free agency begins tomorrow

It was a whirlwind 20 hours for the Islanders, who tried to make a pre-free agency splash by sending a fourth-round pick to the Canucks for the right to sign Christian Ehrhoff before July 1.

The Isles made their pitch -- $33-million over six years, pretty evenly distributed along the lines of the $5.5-million average annual value of the deal -- and Ehrhoff said no. Garth Snow offered Ehrhoff's rights back around the league, and somehow, the Sabres bit, giving Snow back his fourth-rounder next year for an even smaller window of exclusive negotiating rights.

Snow's gamble was unlikely, given the Islanders' aversion to front-loading contracts; the Sabres and their new owner, Terry Pegula, are willing to spend, it seems, so perhaps GM Darcy Regier knows something the rest of the league doesn't. But it seems even more unlikely that, given Ehrhoff turned down a team that has some good, young talent and plays in a pretty nice area of the state, he would suddenly perk up to a pre-FA offer from a team that has slightly better talent and plays in a less desirable area of the state.

Ah well. The doors open for free agency tomorrow at noon and the Isles basically swapped fourth-round picks a few spots.

The free-agent pool dwindled a bit further yesterday when ex-Isle Dwayne Roloson re-upped in Tampa for a year at $3-million, the same money he made on the two-year Islanders contract that was about to expire. Considering he's turning 42 in a couple months, holding off a pay cut was a win for the goaltender and, as Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said, this was a must for his team.

They have another must in re-signing Steven Stamkos. Despite twittering about another team making a huge run at Stamkos on Friday -- if the AAV of an offer sheet to a RFA is above $7.5-million, that team surrenders four first-round picks -- there is no chance the Lightning let Stamkos go. Tampa still has the cap space to match any offer, and I'm guessing that Yzerman would rather buy out just about any other player on the roster to make room for Stamkos.

Yzerman did say Sean Bergenheim's asking price is too high for the team, so he could get a whopper of a raise from the $700,000 he made last season.

The Jaromir Jagr story got a little stranger yesterday. His agent said he was flying into New York to make a decision on a contract -- his offers are from the Penguins, Wings and Avangard of the KHL -- but then Jagr couldn't be found in the evening, delaying the big decision to today at least.

Wonder if either Pittsburgh or Detroit is suddenly having second thoughts about bringing the Jagr show to town. It's an awful lot of fanfare for a great, great player who's played an average of 52 games each of the last three seasons in the KHL. Good luck to whomever signs him.

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