Thursday, June 12, 2008

Central Division 2008 Free Agency Preview

Well kids, today we will be wrapping up our stay in the Western Conference as we look at the free agency picture of the Central Division. As has been the case for a few seasons now, this division more or less amounts to the Detroit Red Wings and everyone else. With Detroit taking the Cup last week they'll have an even bigger bullseye than usual on their back. Will any of their Central Division foes be able to make the right moves to challenge them in 2008-09?

Chicago Blackhawks
Pending UFA's:
  • Jason Williams ($1,600,000)
  • Yanic Perreault ($1,500,000)
  • Andrei Zyuzin ($1,475,000)
  • Patrick Lalime ($950,000)
  • Kevyn Adams ($650,000)
  • David Koci ($525,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Andrew Ladd ($984,000)
  • Rene Bourque ($900,000)
  • Dustin Byfuglien ($675,000)
  • James Wisniewski ($650,000)
  • Adam Burish ($575,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $29.6 million
Notes: The Hawks are a young team on the rise and have that feel the Penguins had a year or two ago. They have plenty of cap space, but would be smart to stay the course and be in position to lock up their young talent when their entry level contracts expire. Being conservative now would also allow them to make additions at the trade deadline if they find themselves in the thick of the Western Conference playoff battle. Patrick Lalime had a good season and could draw interest from other teams. Re-signing Lalime, Williams and Byfuglien should be the top priority for the Blackhawks front office.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Pending UFA's:
  • David Vyborny ($2,200,000)
  • Dick Tarnstrom ($2,000,000)
  • Michael Peca ($1,315,000)
  • Ron Hainsey ($900,000)
  • Derek MacKenzie ($500,000)
  • Zenon Konopka ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Pascal Leclaire ($1,400,000)
  • Dan Fritsche ($750,000)
  • Clay Wilson ($585,000)
  • Joakim Lindstrom ($525,000)
  • Aaron Rome ($495,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $22.3 million
Notes: The Blue Jackets have a lot of salary cap space to work with this offseason, but unlike the Blackhawks there is not as much reason for optimism in Columbus. The honeymoon is beyond over for the Blue Jackets and instead of being viewed as an expansion team still trying to find their way, they are just another bad team. If I were the Jackets front office I would do the following three things on July 1st:
  1. Give Marian Hossa a 5-year, $45 million contract (more if needed).
  2. Give Brian Campbell a 7-year, $52 million contract (more if needed).
  3. Give Marc-Andre Fleury an 8-year, $44 million contract (Re-sign Leclaire if the Penguins match).
Bring in those three to go alongside Rick Nash and then fill out the remaining roster spots with spare parts. It's time for the Blue Jackets to make some noise if they want to be taken seriously.

Detroit Red Wings
Pending UFA's:
  • Brad Stuart ($3,500,000)
  • Andreas Lilja ($1,000,000)
  • Chris Chelios ($850,000)
  • Dallas Drake ($550,000)
  • Darren McCarty ($535,000)
  • Aaron Downey ($525,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Valterri Filppula ($850,000)
  • Jimmy Howard ($850,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $39 million
Notes: Most media outlets went above and beyond the call of duty to point out what a great situation the Red Wings are in financially. I have to admit that at first glance things look really good for the defending champs (paying your starting goalie slightly over $1 million for each of the next three seasons can have that affect). If you dig a little deeper though you see that Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are both entering the final years of their contracts and can be UFA's next offseason. That means Detroit will need to be fairly conservative this offseason as those two could easily be taking up $15 million in cap space combined by this time next year.

Nashville Predators
Pending UFA's:
  • Martin Gelinas ($1,250,000)
  • Jan Hlavac ($700,000)
  • Darcy Hordichuk ($517,000)
  • Dan Ellis ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Ryan Suter ($942,000)
  • Brandon Bochenski ($600,000)
  • Kevin Klein ($500,000)
  • Rich Peverley ($490,000)
  • Shea Weber ($475,000)
  • Ville Koistinen ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $38.1 million
Notes: I just don't know what to make of the Predators. Are they a veteran team looking to take the next step or are they a young team trying to build for the future? A look at their forwards would suggest that they are trying to win now, while looking at their defense corps suggests that they are still a couple years away at least from becoming a legitimate threat in the West. The Predators need to find a way to lock up Ellis, Weber, and Suter while still leaving themselves enough flexibility under the cap to tweak their roster if needed. They should be able to pull that off under the new $55 million salary cap, but it wouldn't shock me if they found a way to screw it up. Especially considering Dan Ellis is unrestricted.

St. Louis Blues
Pending UFA's:
  • Martin Rucinsky ($3,000,000)
  • Ryan Johnson ($800,000)
  • Mike Johnson ($750,000)
  • Matt Walker ($600,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • David Backes ($802,000)
  • Jay McClement ($700,000)
  • Jeff Woywitka ($690,000)
  • Hannu Toivonen ($532,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $39.6 million
Notes: The Blues are a lot like the Predators to me. Are they trying to win now, or are they building for the future. I do think St. Louis is in a little better position than Nashville since they have some big ticket items about ready to hang 'em up for good (Tkachuk and Kariya come to mind). They will also probably pull off their annual sign and then eventually trade Doug Weight move. They don't have a ton of cap space to work with so don't expect any big moves from the Blues this offseason, but they might want to look into moving Jay McKee, or more specifically his contract. They should also start looking into a long-term solution in net as Manny Legace isn't getting any younger.

1 comment:

Hooks Orpik said...

"Give Marc-Andre Fleury an 8-year, $44 million contract (Re-sign Leclaire if the Penguins match)."

The Penguins are taking Fleury to arbitration so he's ineligble to be signed by any other team.