2) What is different now is that with the salary cap teams can't just throw big $$ to any or every player. Thought is required (or should be Mr. Sather) before a big contract is signed as the ramifications of a bad signing in a salary capped league can be detrimental. With that in mind here is our abridged list of players who can be had as of today. We will list the player, his former team and what we are hearing with regard to possible destinations and what it will take to get him signed. Going from Goalies, defensemen, then finally forwards.
- Nikolai KHABIBULIN: Probably the cream of the UFA goalie crop, was initially trade bait for the hawks going into the season, but outplayed new goalie Huet to reclaim the top spot in net. Won't be back in Chicago, and will have to take a pay cut fro the absurd 6.25 mil he made under his previous bloated deal. The Avalanche, and Maple Leafs have shown interest in his services and it would probably take a 3 year 15 million commitment to get the Bulin wall signed
- Craig ANDERSON: Had a very solid season backing up Vokoun in Florida. Would be a relatively affordable starter, but has yet to play an entire season as the #1 guy. Edmonton might be the destination if they can't convince Roloson to sign for less than what he got last season. Other interested teams include the NY Islanders and Blues. Craig looking for a multi year deal at 2+ million
- Martin BIRON: With the Ray Emery signing the Biron era in Philly ended. He had a decent playoff last year, but this this past seaosn was a disapointment. Will find a taker at a 2.5 mil 2 year deal. If the leafs fail to get Khabibulin they would turn to Biron as 'plan B.' Also. see above Edmonton)
- Dwayne ROLOSON: First choice is Edmonton, but his demands of a multi year deal at similar money that he made this season could be a deal breaker. Could be headed to TO or Colorado if that happens.
- Brent JOHNSON: Our sources tell us that although Brent would have preferred to stay in DC another season or two, he's not in their plans. His second choice would be to play for his grandfather's team (Sid Abel) in Detroit as a possible replacement for Ty Conklin.
- Ty CONKLIN: (See above) Had a decent season as a backup in Detroit, but showed once again why he isn't considered a #1, but a good back up type. As such Ty won't get any multi year offers and under 900K. However there won't be a shortage of suitors for his services
- Scott CLEMMENSEN: Earned a contract when he played nearly 1/2 the season as NJ's top goalie. No one expected he'd steal the spot from Weekes when Brodeur got injured, but Scott carried the team. Lou Lamarello would like to have Scott be the backup next year, but it'll cost him at least a mil/year a bit more than he'd like, but Lou is loyal to the players who go the extra mile for his team. expect Scott to sign a multi year deal and stay in NJ
- Martin GERBER: The 34 year old Swiss goalie may have trouble finding a top job after getting waived by Ottawa late last season and not impressing Toronto late in the year. A return to Europe may be in store for the 'bad' Marty'.
4) Next defensemen. This year's crop is far superior to what was available last season.
- Scott NIEDERMAYER: Forced by the Ducks to make a decision early this time around, his decision was seen as why the Ducks dealt Chris Pronger last week. Although there are rumours that Scott could sign elsewhere, its not going to happen. He'd prefer that his brother and fellow UFA Rob also be signed by the Ducks. Look for both to get one year perhaps with a player option for a second season, with Scott offered about 6 million
- Jay BOUWMEESTER: His rights were traded by Florida at the draft to Calgary for a 3rd rounder. They and Edmonton have been the favourites to get his services. Our only advice is 'buyer beware'. As one scout put it, " jay is talented, but not a go to guy". His isn't worth 6-7 million. He'll probably get it from one of the Alberta teams, but there will be buyers remorse this time next year!
- Rob BLAKE: Coming off a solid rebound type season in SJ, but another post season tumble tarnished the year for all players in the Silicon valley. That said the sharks want Blake back BUT only with a one year commitment for the 39 year old and probably for about 4 million
- Mike KOMISAREK: Let the rumours of his impending signing by the Islanders commence. After all that's where Mike is from, and the isles have the cap space, so it seems like a natural fit, right? Sorry Isles fans we don't see it. With the Witt resigning and already having Sutton, there is no need for another stay at home defender. Mike is most likely staying put in Montreal at 5 mil for 5 years
- Derek MORRIS:Almost a guarantee Morris won't be returning to the Rangers. In fact its unlikely Derek will opt to stay in the eastern Conference, but he'll have to realize the days of making close to 4 million/season are over. The Canucks, Senators and Kings have shown interest.
- Francios BEAUCHEMIN: Naturally the Habs are rumoured to be interested. He's French, so of course! LOL That said, the Ducks are most likely going to retain his services. he'll have to be more realistic if he believes he's gonna get 4+ million anywhere. 3.5 for 3-4 years is more realistic and the Ducks already have such a deal on the table waiting for him.
- Matt OHLUND: Looks like Mat wants to stay out West. He'd prefer to stay in Vancouver but that is looking more doubtful by the day. LA has might be interested but failing that the Hawks also have expressed interest in the solid, yet unflashy veteran Swede defender.
- Matt SCHNEIDER: The 40 year old NY,NY native had a solid season and will return for his 21st NHL season. Where is the question. If he's willing to take a pay cut to around 3 million for a one year deal the Habs would gladly have him back. Don't rule out a return to NY, either, more likely in his native Manhattan than out on the island, although that's also possible.
- John ODUYA: Who? Exactly! John quietly enjoyed a second straight solid season in NJ, with almost 30 points and an impressive +21. He is solid in his own zone and as one source told us 'could be a real steal for a contender in need of defensive help.' Of course Lamarello knows this well too, but its gonna take much more than the 600K the Devils paid the 27 year old Swede. Probably a four-year deal in the $3-4 mil range
- Nick BOYNTON: The 30 year old who is already completing his 9th NHL season had a solid, if unspectacular season in Florida. He was sent home in late February when the team wasn't pleased with some of his efforts so its unlikely Nick sticks with the Panthers. The Penguins, Rangers, LA or Dallas are in the running
- Jaroslav SPACEK: The Sabres would like to have him back, but are they willing to acquiesce to his demands of a multi year deal? He had a solid season at both ends of the ice and would be missed in Buffalo is he leaves. You can bet more than one team would be wiling to give Jaroslav a 3 year 12 million deal, so will the Sabres step up? Probably not. The Habs might look to replace Komarsarek with this guy? LA also has interest
5) Finally forwards. Quite a few top notch forwards are available, but as with the other positions players may be in for a rude awakening when the offers are smaller than in previous summers.
- Henrik/Daniel SEDIN: (See double-trouble) Want absurd money/years. Some sap will give it to them.
- Marian GABORIK: Yes, when he is healthy he can be one of the more exciting offensive players i the game. Unfortunately, he has been hurt more often than not on and off throughout his career. he was foolish to turn down a mega million/year deal with the wild last fall. Sure, he'll get a nice contract somewhere for 6 or so mil, but NOT anywhere near the 8+ he was asking last summer. In our opinion we'd pass, and use the 6 mil to sign 2 solid 2nd line forwards
- Marian HOSSA: If the rumor of an offer of 1 year 4 million to return to Detroit are true, it doesn't bode well for other big name UFA forwards. That's a steep decline from the 7.45 he made this past year. Marian had an excellent season in Mo-town. He could undoubtedly get bigger offers elsewhere, but does he want to finally play on the Cup winner and not the runner up, again? Our guess he ends up where he can make a bigger contract this time around
- Mike CAMMALLERI: With the other high priced players on the team one likely casualty will be Cammalleri. He had a career season at just the right time, and he'll likely command in excess of 5 million per season. Too many teams to list who are interested, but an Eastern Conference team is likely, and don't be shocked to see the usual Toronto rumours pan out in this instance
- Martin HAVLAT: Much like Gaborik, when healthy is a dynamically gifted forward. problem is, its not often enough. He manged to stay injury free in his contract year. Coincidence? We'd be wary of making him a big offer. The BlackHawks would like to retain the wing, but at a somewhat discounted salary from he 6 million he made this past year. If they fail to reach an accord the Habs, Oilers and the Islanders are ready to make multi year offers.
- Alex KOVALEV: Another potential Hab UFA to leave the city this summer? It might be time for Kovalev to move on from Montreal and see if a change of scenery would reignite his career after a disappointing 08-09. He may have to lower his salary expectations from the 4.5 mil he made this season. Might Alex be headed out West? We believe that's where he might end up if Pittsburgh doesn't make an offer.
- Mats SUNDIN: Anyone give a crap where he ends up? We sure don't after reading about this guy for a better part of a year+ before signing and not helping the Canucks this past season. We're sure he'll get interest, but any G who believes he will be the missing piece should have their heads examined/given a drug test!
- Nik ANTROPOV: The epitome of the word 'enigma'. Has size and a great skill set, but seldomly uses both on a regular basis. For that reason its unlikely the Rangers will try to re-up the forward at his asking price of 4+ million. That said, he will likely get close to that on the open market
- Alex TANGUAY:Essentially a lost season for the Hab's other Alex. Tanguay missed 30+ games with injuries and never seemed to fit in. as such his numbers were down and no where near earned his hefty 5.4 million price tag. Its probably a safe bet he'll have to take a modest pay cut this time around, but he'll be sure to get plenty of offers.
- Brian GIONTA: Amazingly he is now four seasons removed from his career high 48-goal season, but Gionta enjoyed a solid season in NJ picking up 60 points. Its unlikely the Devils will/can match the 4 million he made this past season so unless he's willing to give a huge home town discount, don't expect Brian to remain a dev.
- Saku KOIVU:Our sources tell us that the Habs would love to have Saku back. After all he has been the Habs captain and emotional leader for nearly a decade. When he was in the lineup he was productive enough to earn another contract in the 4 million range
- Chris NEIL: Is there any doubt he's going to the leafs? Its a perfect fit. Brian Burke loves these kinds of players and the leafs are desperate for some muscle.
6) Note(s) to readers, this post was written over the past 48 hours. Since then several signings/trades have taken place. Johnny Oduya was signed for about what we expected. The Flames were able to secure Bowmeester for an absurd 6.8 million, and most amazingly stupid, the Habs traded for Scott Gomez and his 7 million cap hit for Chris Higgins and several top prospects. We'll get into the 'winners/losers of draft/free agency in the next couple of weeks but suffice to say Bob Gainey has taken a giant leap towards 'loser'!