2) No longer will teams like the Sabres have a 'no negotiating with players during the season' rule. They were burned when BOTH of their co-captains (Drury/Briere) bolted for big UFA paydays in July. Our source in Buffalo tells us that Regier thought he would have no problem signing Drury, as they had informal discussion in the fall last year, but Drury was upset that the team refused to go further than informal discussions and he cut off all talks until June. By that time his asking price was far more than what he wanted in November.
3) The 'no negotiating before summer' was almost always true of players who were to be RFA. In the past those players were free agents in name only. With it being next to never that another team would even think about trying to cherry pick another team's property. With the 2 Lowe offer sheets to Vanek and Penner, the latter acquired by the Oilers, the Pandora's box has been opened, and GM's have to now be wary. Any player with significant talent can't be allowed to become a RFA. If no other reason than it allows another team to dictate the terms of a deal, even if they match. Any team with cap space is a potential offer sheet originator.
4) Therefore we are hearing that quite a few players who would be UFA/ and RFA's are already being approached by teams to get extensions done NOW! As we have seen, as the salary cap escalates, so does the price for the elite players. Not everyone will take a discount, as Thornton, Iginla, and to some extent Sid Crosby did this past summer. To that end we are hearing that teams are in deep negotiations with several of the more well known potential 2008 free agents. Below is NOT a comprehensive list, but the folks who we believe if they went on the open market would get considerable attention from around the league
5) This list is in no particular order, and contains BOTH UFA as well as RFA. As we already mentioned; a year or so ago that distinction would have been important, but now its blurred.
- Miikka Kiprusoff- The star tender of the Flames is in his final year of a deal that pays him 3.6 mil. The team can NOT afford to allow him to go on the open market next summer. He'll ask and probably get at least what his counter part in Anaheim, Giguere received 4 years 24 mil.
- Alex Ovechkin- Alexander the Gr-8 as they call him the Verizon, is coming off two VERY impressive seasons for the lowly Capitals. Scoring 98 goals and 198 point s in his first 2 seasons, the Crapitals simply can NOT afford to allow him to be a RFA next summer. There is NO doubt he'd get an offer from someone. The Caps and GMGM would be wise to lock up their franchise player NOW before the distraction of it gets too much. To this point the Ovechkin family has handled AO's negotiating. Things are still cordial, but there have been a few 'uncomfortable moments' recently when the concept of a long term deal was broached by the Ovechkin camp only to be put off by McPhee. Seems they want to wait until mid season if they can. HUGE mistake in our opinion!
- Dion Phaneuf- Coming off his rookie deal which pays him barely 800K, he most defiantly would get interest around the league as a RFA. The Flames would be wise to offer a lucrative long term(5 years) deal to the budding star defensemen. Unfortunately there aren't too many precedents that can be used to judge what is a far price. We are hearing the Flames are offering a 3 mil average, while his agent is looking for an outlandish 5. He would get the 5 if he were a UFA. We will see compromise and this will get done before he gets to the next offseason
- Dany Heatley- Would most likely be the most sought after UFA available next summer if available. After 2 50+ goal, 100+ point seasons it will probably take at least 9 mil to retain him. As one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NHL, the Senators NEED to lock him up NOW! The only negative we can come up with was his poor Cup finals, but he did have 22 points in 20 playoff games. He IS the real deal.
- Dan Boyle- Simply is an irreplaceable cog of the Lightning offense. The quintessential power lay QB, Dan has (relatively) quietly put up fairly impressive offensive number the last few years. Garnering a 20 goals and 63 points last season. At 30 he has quite a few seasons of productivity remaining so we are hearing that Feaster is trying to juggle his cap to be able to offer the rearguard a deal that he can't refuse. Else Boyle would be one of the more attractive UFA's available next summer
- Ryan Getzlaf- Was a revelation last year. Came into his own as an up and coming power forward with the champion Ducks. Finishing his rookie contract, the Ducks are eager to avoid another 'Penner situation' next summer. Burke won't offer up quite Penner money, but instead will offer a nice salary and security of a 4-5 year deal in the 3.5 mil range. Ryan we're told is likely to accept the offer.
- Henrik Lundqvist- After a slow start was probably the best goalie the second half. propelling his team into the playoffs. There is little doubt that the Rangers took Henrik to arbitration for no other reason than fear that a team would make an offer sheet that would be difficult for the cap-strapped rangers to match. Henrik, as we've discussed on a few occasions LOVES playing in NYC. It was instant love between the Swede and the area. A bit too much so early on, but once he curtailed the partying, he was OK. Its VERY unlikely Lundqvist will be available come July. Talk to get a long term deal have started and probably before the new year we will be hearing about a 4-5 year deal in the 25+ or so mil range.
- Michael Ryder- Seems odd to talk about a 27 year old as a potential UFA, but Michael would be one IF the Habs decide/ or can't get a deal done before next July 1. The former Calder runner-up has had consecutive post lock out 30 goal campaigns. Despite this it seems the Habs are not yet certain he is worth an investment as they have on the last 2 years signed him only to one year deals. You can bet he'll get plenty of interest if he has another 30+ goal season, so Gainey better decide soon. He'll likely be favourite trade rumor fodder for the Montreal/Canadian media
- Jason Spezza- The 24 year old Ottawa forward is coming off 2 pretty impressive regular seasons. Playing the pivot with Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, they make up one of the most feared lines in the league,. That said the Finals really illustrated a big issue some have found in Jason's game; his knack for being a perimeter player and lack of toughness. Still, the Sens would be hard pressed to be able to easily find an affordable replacement so they will have to find a way to get Jason signed before next summer. he may be a RFA, but you can be sure he'd be offer sheet material if available
- Jeff Carter- After a good rookie season last year is one Jeff, and the entire Flyer team for that matter, would like to forget. However he is still only 22. He has shown that he has excellent offensive potential and has the size to be able to dominate. With the recent acquisitions their should be little pressure on Jeff, but he will have to work hard to get quality ice time. If healthy he can become the 1st line center the Flyers believe they drafted in 2003.
- Marc-Andre Fleury- Almost forgotten in all the Crosby, etc hype around Pit is the fact that Fleury was the number 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft. Its also forgotten that he is a mere 22. A young age for a goalie entering his 3rd season. Now without an experienced back up he must be capable of putting the franchise on his shoulders, and expectations will be high for a goaltender chosen first overall. If he is successful he won't be cheap to resign and that could be a problem for a team chock-full of super stars in the making. However the precedent has been set with Sid taking a bit less, so it might be expected that Marc would be willing to accept a long term deal at slightly less than market value. We haven't heard yet if he would be willing to do that. Stay tuned. It will be an interesting season on and off the ice in Steel Town!
- Andrej Meszaros- The 21 year old Ottawa defensemen burst on to the scene 2 years ago and quickly became a top 4 defensemen. He's mature beyond his years and has displayed a knack for his ability to lead the rush in transition. He can only improve with time so he would be a prime target to be cherry picked if he somehow were available. We do NOT see that as a likely possibility
- Marian Hossa- The 28 year old Slovak forward is completing the last year of a lucrative deal he signed just before his trade from Ottawa. Thus far he has affirmed the reasons for the deal. he has great regular seasons, but disappears in the playoffs. he actually wasn't even the best Hossa in the Thrasher's thrashing by the Rangers. That said, Atlanta has every intention of attempting to retain him. Teaming up with Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk , they have been a force to be reckoned with. Incompetent GM Waddell is already in contact with Hossa about possible 3 year 24 mil extension to keep him in Atlanta
- Davis Vyborny- has been one of the better Jackets the last 2 post lockout seasons. No spring chicken at 32, he has earned his relatively modest 2 mil salary with consecutive 60+ point seasons. Columus would prefer to get him signed to a 2 year extension before he becomes an attractive UFA next summer
- Barret Jackman- The 26 year old former 1999 1st rounder has been somewhat of a disappointment with his limited offense, but he is extremely aggressive and an excellent bodychecker. He also plays a sound defensive game and has plenty of leadership qualities. For those reasons the Blues will try hard to retain the Trail, B.C native.
- Markus Naslund- The 33 year old Canuck will be completing his deal which pays him 6 mil. Though he hasn't earned it the past 2 years, can the Canucks afford to lose him? They may offer him an extension, but at a lower, more affordable salary. Right now we are hearing he may either opt to test the open market and hope he has a good contract year, or return home to his native Sweden unless the 'Nucks offer is more than the 3 year 9 mil extension that our sources tell us is on the table.
- Matt Stajan- The forward may not yet be a top 6 forward, but he has been progressing well enough that its a distinct possibility. He been quite versatile playing all 3 forward positions. Look for the leafs to give the youngster additional offensive responsibility this season. We hear that they will hedge their bets and wait to see how he responds to this before discussing extension.
- Brent Seabrook- The former 1st rounder is coming off back to back solid NHL seasons as a very young defensemen on a poor Chicago team. He has been one of their bright spots on dismal seasons. They would prefer to not lose him. However this IS still a William Wirtz owned team so logic/doing the right thing isn't a guarantee with this team.
- Corey Perry- Like his teammate Getzlaf, Cory was a highly touted junior prospect who finally seemed to put it all together last year. Playing with Ryan he along with Penner former a very formidable power trio in the playoffs that were hard to stop. Though not quite as highly regarded as Getzlaf he does have as much, if not more offensive upside. The Ducks will do their best to get him signed long before July 08.
- Trent Hunter- After the first 30 or so games it looked like Trent had lost all his offensive ability. Though he never lost the confidence of his coach ted Nolan. Trent never stopped working(which is why Nolan never stopped playing him) and that work paid off with a very nice second half where he was one of the best players and that carried over into the Isles brief playoff appearance, scoring 3 goals in the 5 games. We hear that discussions for a 3 year deal are already underway, and there is little chance that Trent will be playing elsewhere in 2008
- Sean Avery- The pesky, Darcy Fucker-like forward really came into his own once he was dealt to NY. Despite his negative persona he always displays all-out hustle and is a tireless forechecker. His work produced a respectable 48 points as a checking forward. If he continues to keep his mouth and tendency to take bad penalties in check he can become a very versatile all around forward. The Rangers got him relatively cheap at 1.9 mil. If he has a 50+ point season his value will require the Blueshirts to pony up double that figure at least to keep him. No talks have taken place yet, but you can be certain that if he starts out fast the garden brass will be contacting Sean's agent.
- Mike Richards- (No he didn't play Kramer on Seinfeld.) Often lumped/mistaken for/with his team mate Carter. Wasn't as impressive as a rookie as Jeff, but unfortunately had the same injury bug that plagued his larger teammate. Scouts have said that he plays a smart, two-way game and possesses outstanding leadership qualities. Can kill penalties and also be a playmaker on the power play. Also only 22 the Flyers will be patient and hope he develops into the player they believe he can be.
- Kari Lehtonen- The Finn is completing the second year of a 2 year deal that pays him about 2 mil. He finally seemed to be coming into his own last year after an injury plagued 2005-06. However, his poor performance in the playoffs(along with ALL the Thrashers) has affected the teams approach to negotiations. They don't want to shell out big bucks unless/until they can see more consistent results. As we believe he is arbitration eligible, the Thrashers have that option if a long term arrangement isn't agreed to before July.
- Jay Bouwmeester- The best defenseman that no one knows about. If he played in Canada or a big US market everyone would be talking future Norris candidate. As scouts have said: Has incredible skating ability, a keen sense of when to join the rush, size and hockey smarts. Sounds a bit like Mr Pronger in Anaheim. The Panthers know that he is a corner stone player and will NOT allow him to be picked off via an offer sheet. The 23 year old Edmonton native should see a nice bump up in salary from the 2.25 mil he's set to make this season.
- Alexander Semin- The flaky shy Russian came on to the scene in a big way last year. Pegged to be a 2nd line LW, his offense was a welcome addition to the anemic capitals attack. If he has another near 40 goal season GMGM may have to make a difficult decision. A team can't realistically pay top dollar to 2 players at the same position. No one with in the organization is talking what their plans are at this time with the 'other Alex'. Our feeling is they would like to keep him, but if it appears his demands are too steep they will have to deal him.
- Paul Gaustad- The 25 year old hulking forward has yet to breakthrough in the NHL, but has shown signs in limited ice time that he belongs in the bigs. Is solid at both ends of the ice, and a deft play maker. He probably will get added ice time and a chance to show more offensive consistency. The sabres will probably wait until at least mid season before deciding if they want to extend his deal
6) Just a reminder of our zero tolerance policy: http://newfaux.blogspot.com/2007/09/zero-tolerance.html#links Also as promised our season preview set to be released in 2 parts will be ready by week's end. As always, keep it here for the latest!