Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The NHL's free-agency signing period opens Wednesday. The most intriguing free agents:


1. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester: The Calgary Flames acquired his rights from the Florida Panthers, and they're expected to sign the Alberta native in a deal worth at least $6 million per season. Should he choose not to sign, he will have a long line of suitors because he's 24 and his best seasons are still in front of him.

2. The Sedin twins: As this is being written, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is heading to Sweden in what appears to be a final attempt to keep left wing Daniel and center Henrik Sedin. Considering they wanted to stay in Vancouver, it still feels as if a deal will get done. If it doesn't get done, the Sedins' options will be limited if they want to play together. The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs seem they would be a good fit.

3. Right wing Marian Hossa: Unless he's willing to accept a Johan Franzen-style deal (11 years, $44 million, $3.9 million salary cap), the Red Wings can't afford to re-sign him. Never mind his lack of product, he's big, strong, defensively responsible and he can skate. He's like to be a primary target of teams with money to spend, such as the Los Angeles Kings, Montreal or the Canucks, if they don't sign the Sedins.

4. Defenseman Mike Komisarek: He's the big shutdown defenseman that every team covets, particularly in the East where they have to deal with the bigger forwards such as Alex Ovechkin, Eric Staal and Evgeni Malkin, Considering how many teams will want him, it's easy to see the bidding going to $5 million per season. Even in the salary cap era, defensemen, even those without offensive numbers, are commanding big payoffs in the open market.

5. Right wing Martin Havlat: The Blackhawks want to keep him for his goal scoring and his presence, but they have salary cap issues going forward. Creativity will required to keep him in Chicago. If no deal is completed, he will have many interested teams. He scored 29 goals last season, and he was almost a point-per-game player. If you want to know what he is thinking, he twitters for fans regularly.

6. Defenseman Rob Scuderi: When he blocked Johan Franzen's shot near the end of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Finals, he probably picked up another $500,000 in free-agent salary. His reputation was enhanced by his strong performance in the playoffs. Former Pittsburgh player Bob Errey, now a broadcaster, called Scuderi the "best 5-on-3 defenseman" in the league. He likes Pittsburgh and might be willing to give a hometown discount. But he has never had a major payday, and no one is going to blame him for leaving town if he gets offers of more than $3.75 million. That could happen.

7. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin: Based on the salary cap's short history, teams will overpay for a strong, tough, skilled defenseman. Don't be surprised if the bidding on Beauchemin spikes quickly.

8. Right wing Marian Gaborik: Although Gaborik has had some injury issues during his career, there is still a league-wide romance with his game-breaking ability.

9. Defenseman Mattias Ohlund: He's 220 pounds and is an offensive contributor.

10. Center-wing Michael Cammalleri: The Flames couldn't afford to keep him because he scored 39 goals this season, which probably means the bidding starts at $5 million and climbs. He's only 27.

11. Center Saku Koivu: The Canadiens are still trying to re-sign him, but if he becomes a free agent, it seems like a possibility that he would consider playing in Minnesota with his brother Mikko.

12. Center Nik Antropov: Although there are mixed reviews on Antropov, there is such a shortage of centers that multiple teams will be interested in him. The Atlanta Thrashers need a center for Ilya Kovalchuk and he might be a good fit.

13. Right wing Brian Gionta: He's 30 and his goal scoring has dropped each of the past four seasons. He has gone from being a 48-goal scorer to a 20-goal scorer. However, his assist totals have grown the past three seasons and he can still bring speed on the wing.

14. Right wing Alex Kovalev: By all accounts, Kovalev had a rough 2008-09 and he still scored 26 goals. He's a slick stickhandler and he's still a dynamic player, even at age 36.

15. Left wing Erik Cole: Despite his troubles scoring in the playoffs, his combination of speed, offense and snarl make him attractive. But clearly he doesn't have the same reputation as a difference maker that he had four years ago.

16. Right wing Steve Sullivan: The Nashville Predators wanted to keep him, but they are balking at a longer term deal because Sullivan missed more than 600 days with a back injury. Sullivan produced once he returned to the lineup and he wants to be paid like a scorer.

17. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek: The Buffalo Sabres are trying to sign this dependable two-way contributor. Several teams will be courting him.

18. Right wing Mikael Samuelsson: The Red Wings like him, but they have no room in the inn. He's 6-2, 218 and owns a booming shot. He can play the point on the power play. He suffers from confidence problems, but he's capable of playing as a top six forward when he's going well.

19. Left wing Alex Tanguay: The trick of trying to sign Tanguay is trying to figure out his potential at this point of his career. He lost 32 games to injury last season and still managed 16 goals.

20. Right wing Chad LaRose: He had a career year at the right time, scoring 19 goals this past season. He can be feisty.

21. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin: At 34, he's still a top four defenseman who can score 10 to 12 goals per season.

22. Right wing Mike Knuble: At 36, he was a 27-goal scorer last season. He can help a power play without breaking the bank.

23. Defenseman Mathieu Schneider: He just turned 40, but he produced five goals and 12 assists in 23 games after being traded to Montreal. He's not a $5.75 million player, but he will receive a one-year contract from a team looking for a power play point man.

24. Right wing Mike Grier: He's almost 230 pounds and can be a valuable role player.

25. Left wing/center Tomas Kopecky: He would be a quality signing for a team trying to find a diamond in the rough. The 6-3, 210-pounder has been a role player in Detroit, but he has shown a scoring touch when his playing time was increased. He has some spunk.

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