Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2008 NHL Free Agency Explosion

The anticipation leading up to free agency on July 1st is more intense than I can ever remember. Being a Penguins fan undoubtedly has a lot to do with that, but you just get the feeling there could be some big changes in the NHL landscape this off-season. So here is my guess at where the big name unrestricted free agents will end up.

  • Marian Hossa - Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa's new owners came right in and said, without naming names, that they are going to go hard after all of the top free agents except for Brian Campbell. I think they are really looking to create a lot of noise in Tampa and I look for them to give Hossa close to the $8.5 million they just ponied up for Vincent Lecavalier and I think Marian will take it. Recent word has Hossa seriously considering a move to Chicago, but I think Tampa will prove to be more enticing for Marian.
  • Brian Campbell - New York Rangers: The Rangers want to upgrade their blue line and Campbell supposedly has family issues luring him back to the Eastern Conference. The Rangers should have plenty of salary cap room to work with and signing Campbell would be just the kind of big move we have all come to expect from the Rangers each summer. The Blackhawks are also looking to make a big push for Campbell's services.
  • Joe Sakic - Colorado Avalanche: I don't think Joe is ready to hang them up yet, and I can't see him playing anywhere else. There is always the chance he heads home to play for the Canucks, but I hope Sakic sticks around for at least one more season in Denver.
  • Mats Sundin - New York Rangers: This deal seems like a foregone conclusion to me. I think Sundin is too worried about his image/legacy to sign with Montreal, which leaves the Rangers as the most likely destination for the big Swede. This deal could even go down before July 1 under the right circumstances.
  • Jaromir Jagr - Pittsburgh Penguins: This may just be wishful thinking on my part, but Jagr would seem to be the perfect person to fill the hole left by Hossa on Sidney Crosby's wing. Ever since the Hossa trade went down I have had this feeling in the back of my mind that if the Penguins could not re-sign him then they should bring back Jagr. Jagr showed in the playoffs that he can still be a force and I think he would thrive back in Pittsburgh where he would not be depended on to shoulder the offensive load. Also, huge props go out to the boys over at The Pensblog for putting this idea front and center today.
  • Kristian Huselius - Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets need to start making some additions. It was no secret they really wanted Ryan Malone, but the feeling does not appear to be mutual. I think they will settle on Huselius instead to add some scoring depth.
  • Sean Avery - New York Islanders: I'm convinced Avery wants to stay in New York. He's not going to re-sign with the Rangers, and I don't see anyway the Devils could bring him in after their testy playoff series. That leaves the Islanders as the prime destination for Avery. I actually think he would be a pretty good fit there too.
  • Wade Redden - Carolina Hurricanes: Carolina appears desperate to upgrade their defense, and Redden may be the best available option to them. Redden's stock has really fallen in the last few months, but I think he has a lot of good hockey left and he could turn out to be a big signing this off-season, much like Brian Rafalski last summer.
  • Markus Naslund - Pittsburgh Penguins: Naslund would be a good fit to play with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and both of them could use a new left winger. Much like with Jagr, Naslund could really thrive in a situation where he is not the focus of the offense.
  • Pavol Demitra - Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver is in need of offense and they look to have holes to fill with their potential departing free agents. Demitra is a big injury risk, but he is a very dynamic offensive player when healthy and could be a great addition for Vancouver.
  • Cristobal Huet - Washington Capitals: There's no way this deal doesn't get done. Huet was an integral part of Washington's late playoff run and should be back to help the Caps try to take the next step towards contention.
  • John-Michael Liles - Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres need to fill the void left by the departure of Brian Campbell, and Liles would be a nice fit. He is a very unheralded defenseman who could turn out to be a good value signing. Colorado and Carolina are also potential destinations for the talented American.
  • Ryan Malone - New York Rangers: I haven't seen this possibility mentioned anywhere, but Malone seems to me like the perfect replacement for Brendan Shanahan. The Rangers could have plenty of cap room to play with and would probably not shy away from meeting Malone's contract demands. Plus, we all know he can be successful in the rugged Atlantic Division. If this doesn't happen, look for Vancouver to come knocking on Malone's door come July 1st.
  • Martin Straka - New Jersey Devils: Marty Straka just seems like he would make a good Devil. He is undersized, but he has plenty of offensive skill, plays hard defense, and isn't afraid to give up his body in his own end. Straka would be an excellent addition for the goal starved Devils, and he should come relatively cheap.
  • Cory Stillman - Tampa Bay Lightning: Stillman already has one successful stint in Tampa under his belt, and he could be a great signing for the retooling Lightning. Depending on his contract demands Stillman could have plenty of suitors, but I think a move back to Tampa would make plenty of sense for him.
  • Miroslav Satan - Phoenix Coyotes: I don't think there will be a ton of interest in Satan's services this off-season, but I don't think he'll return to the Islanders either. He could be a nice compliment to new Coyote Olli Jokinen in Phoenix if the price is right. I could also see him ending up, fittingly, in New Jersey. Tell me that wouldn't be a hot selling jersey!
  • Brian Rolston - Minnesota Wild: I don't think the Wild are ready to part ways with Rolston yet. He has been an excellent player for the Wild since coming to Minnesota as a free agent from Boston and I think he'll stay put when all is said and done. If he can't come to terms with the Wild, Rolston could turn up in a Blackhawks or Canucks sweater.
  • Jose Theodore - Colorado Avalanche: Theodore doesn't have a whole lot of options if he wants to be a starter and Colorado would likely welcome him back at the right price. I just can't think of another team that would be interested in Theodore at this point. Ottawa maybe? Again that would depend on how cheap they could sign him for.
  • Brooks Orpik - Pittsburgh Penguins: This candy won't be free, but I expect Orpik to make good on his talk of giving the Pens a hometown discount for his services. Orpik really matured into a key player for the Penguins this season and it would be a shame for them to lose him now after all the patience they have shown with his development.
  • Brendan Morrison - New Jersey Devils: Another player returning to his old stomping grounds. Morrison is not the player he once was, but he would still be an upgrade for the Devils in the offensive zone. He could be the guy to help Brian Gionta find his scoring touch again.
  • Ray Emery - Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa Bay's new owners, and head coach Barry Melrose for that matter, strike me as cocky confident enough to think they can keep Emery in line. Like the guy or not, you have to admit that there is still significant upside with Emery and Tampa's goaltending situation is questionable enough to make taking a chance on Emery a decent move. I also get images of Emery in a Caps jersey from time to time. Make of that what you will.
  • Gary Roberts - Buffalo Sabres: Gary will not be back with the Penguins, so what options does that leave? First instinct is to assume he will end up in either Toronto or Ottawa, largely for family reasons. A little more thought makes both of those scenarios unlikely as he would seem to have no interest in Ottawa and bringing in Roberts would not be the soundest move for the rebuilding Leafs. Look a little south though and you see the up and coming Sabres. They could definitely use a guy like Roberts to come in and fill the same kind of mentor role he held down for the Penguins. Look for Montreal to show interest in Roberts as well.
  • Sergei Fedorov - Washington Capitals: Fedorov seems to have found a home in Washington and I look for him to re-sign with the Caps and finish out his career as the elder statesman on an up and coming Capitals squad. Fedorov still has some good hockey in him, and he could definitely have a Gary Roberts-esque impact in the Capitals locker room.
  • Darcy Tucker - Montreal Canadiens: Doesn't Tucker seem like the kind of guy who would sign with the Habs just to stick it to the Leafs? He got a nice chunk of change from his buyout, so money should not be much of an issue in signing Tucker. He could bring that edge/nastiness that Montreal seems to lack up front right now.
  • Brendan Shanahan - Detroit Red Wings: Shanny doesn't appear to have much left in the tank, but Detroit wouldn't need too much from him. Plus advanced age never seems to be a deterrent to the Red Wings front office.
  • Michael Ryder - St. Louis Blues: Ryder has to end up somewhere, right? St. Louis could be a good fit for Ryder as he would get a chance to skate with set up men like Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya. It is one of those moves that looks minor on the surface, but could really pay off in the end.
  • Daymond Langkow - Calgary Flames: I read somewhere a week or two ago that a new deal with the Flames was all but done for Langkow, and that makes sense. Langkow has been an underrated player in Calgary (and throughout his career really) and I think it definitely in Calgary's best interests to bring him back.
  • Mark Recchi - Atlanta Thrashers: Recchi had a pretty successful go in Atlanta last season so I don't see much reason for him to leave. Plus, there wouldn't seem to be much of a market for bitter, old guys who can't skate a lick.
  • Rob Blake - Los Angeles Kings: If Blake was going to leave L.A. he would have by now. He'll still be the topic of trade rumors all season long, but I think Blake is perfectly happy playing out the string for the Kings.
  • Adam Foote - Colorado Avalanche: It would just be weird if Foote didn't re-sign with Colorado after the stink he made to get traded there in the first place. 2008-09 could be the grand farewell tour for Sakic and Foote.
  • Pascal Dupuis - Pittsburgh Penguins: If I am Pascal Dupuis I sign a one-year deal with the Pens, hopefully spend the season riding shotgun for Sid, and then try to really cash in next season on the open market. Plus that whole potential Stanley Cup Championship is alluring as well.
  • Dominic Moore - Pittsburgh Penguins: No Moore isn't a big name player, but he was a good soldier during his previous stint in Pittsburgh and I would love to see him come back. It's the power of positive thinking people!


Going Five Hole said...

Re: Moore...the Pens would already have a speedy forward that has trouble scoring, Dupuis :)

Loser Chris said...

Maybe, but he would be another good PK'er and add some help in the faceoff circle. Especially if Adam Hall takes his services elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Ugh dont joke about Shannahan coming back to the Wings. Id rather see Keith Premeau or Uwe Krupp come out of retirement to play for Detroit again than accept Shannahan back. If he felt like it was "time to move on" two years ago it would be more than obvious he was just coming back because the Wings proved they could win without him: it would be one last chance for him to coat-tail his way to success. Dear "Shanny," stay away from the Detroit, we dont want you anymore.