2) We'll start with the big names first:
- Daniel Briere- For one, as we have stated repeatedly he's NOT going to Montreal. Not staying in Buffalo. So where? The teams most interested seem to come from out west. Colorado, SJ or LA. What needs to be asked(as it can for many of these guys) is he worth a 7 year, 50 million dollar deal? In our opinion, NO!
- Chris Drury- The Sabres will work hard to keep him in Buffalo. If that doesn't work out the same teams that are looking at Briere would have the most interest, with a return to the Avs the most possible. For a 5 year 30 million dollar deal. A lot for a real # 2 center!
- Sheldon Souray- He should give Kimmo Timonen a % of his deal! Once the former Pred signed on the dotted line in Phillie for 6.2 mil it set Souray's price well above what the Habs offered(4.5) As the only real top offensive d-man available, it will be a sellers market. As such Sheldon will get big bucks! The Caps have the cap space and the need for what he brings. If they don't step up and(overpay) other teams like the Islanders/Wings/BlackHawks/ will be in play. He is NOT worth the 6+ mil he WILL get from one of these teams.
- Scott Gomez- He will NOT be back in NJ! In fact a return to the Eastern time zone is doubtful. Like the other big name UFA centers available, the teams we keep hearing about are the Kings and Avs. The Kings are most interested in Gomez of the 'big 4.' 'Gomer' wants to go west and the fit seems to work. He is NOT worth the 7 million he will get. He has scored 20 goals once. Another 2nd line center who'll get 1st line center money. Will he blossom once he's set free of NJ's defense first philosophy? Its a gamble many will take/pay for.
- Ryan Smyth- The Isles coveted him so much they made an absurd 8 year offer to retain him. Its become obvious the only way Smyth stays on the Island is if no other team can come close to matching that offer. Assured, the money will be there from several other suitors. Most from the Western Conference where Smyth would prefer to end up. The Leafs will make a huge push, and make an offer for Captain Canada. However, we are hearing that a return to Edmonton is NOT out of the question. Is his grit/leadership skills, etc worth 7 mil/year?
- Jason Blake- The Isles had a chance to lock him up, but figured they'd need to save that cap space for a Smyth deal. Now it looks like they will lose both. Blake will get considerable interest from the Wild, but also the Ducks who coveted his speed and thought they had a trade to acquire him at the deadline. Will largely depend upon cap space in Disneyland if they are a bidder, else the Wild, Canucks or Flyers may be in play.
- Brian Rafalski- After Souray, the best offensive defensemen available. However he is a much better all around defensemen that Souray. He will get 5 year/15 mil offers from SJ/Detroit or Montreal. The Oilers may also get in to the mix.
- Michael Nylander- Many, including FAUXRUMORS thought this was a slam dunk Ranger resigning. However Nylander cleverly held out to see what the market would say he was worth. The Rangers offered a little over 3.5, but with the anticipated deals of over 6-7 for the top UFA centers, Michael is now more in line for 5+ mil given his decent stats and good play-off run. He will probably still play in Gothem, but not at the discount Sather thought he'd have. If that falls through look for him to land in one of the cities that fail to get one of the top 4.
- Michal Handzus- Originally thought to be a possible bargain(being he's coming off ACL surgery), but we're hearing that teams may take a chance on him, and elevate his asking price above the 3 mil we originally thought. The Hawks will work hard to retain him, but don't be surprised to see a return to Philly where 'Zeus' had his best seasons. Also the Blues may place a bid.
- Billy Guerin- Clearly has lost a step. His stock may have taken a bit of a hit with his invisible playoff performance, but his regular season was solid. A return to the Blues is possible, as is a return to Dallas where he was well liked by the fans.
- Dainus Zubrus- Had a solid, if unspectacular playoff with the Sabres after a late season trade from the Caps. He was dealt after he refused the Cap's contract offer. Believing he'd get a 5 year/25 mil offer on the UFA market. Before the Hartnell signing we felt that unlikely, now its possible. A return to DC isn't out of the question if his contract request was reduced slightly to a modest 4 year 15 mil. If not there the Isles have shown interest in the Lithuanian.
- Roman Hamrlik- With the Flames deal of Aucoin the resigning of Roman became less likely. Still has decent skills, and is under appreciated for his defense. He will get plenty of interest as he would be a good addition for a team looking to add a top 4 blue liner. The Kings have shown interest, as have many SE division(other than TB) teams. He will get a 3 year 12+ mil deal.
- Paul Kariya- The 'Jap-Kid' isn't a top 5 NHL-er anymore, but he still is dangerous and would make a good addition to any offensively starved team. Originally we believed the Preds would certainly retain him, but now with ownership in flux, its less likely. The Canucks have their sites set on their home town boy, but will they have the cap room to make the needed 3 year/15+ mil offer to get him there? If not them then the Caps, Habs and Isles have shown limited interest if other options fail.
- Peter Forsberg- First the obvious-He's NOT staying in Nashville. After that the rumors are all over the place. He's only 33, but damaged goods none the less. Does he even want to play anymore? Is his foot OK? We don't have any Swedish sources so right now we're in the dark. Last winter our source kept telling us that Peter would come back to the NHL ONLY with the Flyers. As we haven't been told otherwise we will stick to that, but look for the inevitable Colorado rumors to pop up(if they haven't already)
- Todd Bertuzzi- Looked decent in spurts (when healthy) for the Wings. They want him back BUT only at the right price. T-Bert is NOT worth the 5 million he 'stole' from Florida last season. If Detroit falls out of the running the Maple Leafs, who seem to love old, over the hill power forwards,(see Lindros) will make an offer.
- Keith Tkachuk- As we were told all spring, he would return to St.Louis. Its all but assured he will. Too bad for Blues fans as we don't think they can/will ever win as long as the Massachusetts perennial underachiever is on the team.(Can you tell we're not big fans of Keith?) LOL
3) There are several other notable UFAs available. We will reference our 4 UFA analysis posts made a few weeks back. As we mentioned from the outset, the UFA signing period differs significantly from the trade deadline. Here as many as 10+ teams may be interested in the same player and make offers for his services. Additionally, one signing can cause teams to reevaluate and change/withdraw previous offers. One thing is certain, the next 72 hours will be VERY exciting. As always, keep it here for all the latest!