Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Southeast Division 2008 Free Agency Preview

It's time to kick of week two of my free agency extravaganza! We now find ourselves in the friendly confines of the Eastern Conference, and the Southeast Division to be exact. It is hard not to think of the Southeast as the worst division in the NHL, but that could lead to a lot of activity this off-season. The good news for most of these teams is that it shouldn't be too tough to upgrade their rosters through free agency.

Atlanta Thrashers
Pending UFA's:
  • Bobby Holik ($4,250,000)
  • Mark Recchi ($1,750,000)
  • Steve McCarthy ($725,000)
  • Mark Popovic ($535,000)
  • Eric Boulton ($525,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Kari Lehtonen ($2,200,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $26.9 million
Notes: The Thrashers could be real players in the free agent market. They have plenty of cap space and no noteworthy free agents with the exception of Lehtonen. They also don't have any high end players entering contract years. They figure to be major players in the Marian Hossa sweepstakes if he does not re-sign in Pittsburgh. In reality, the biggest challenge the Thrashers will probably face will be convincing top flight players to come to Atlanta. This team could revamp their roster this season, or they could struggle just to hit the cap minimum. Atlanta should definitely be one of the more interesting teams to watch this off-season.

Carolina Hurricanes
Pending UFA's:
  • Brett Hedican ($2,432,000)
  • Trevor Letowski ($800,000)
  • Wade Brookbank ($500,000)
  • Keith Aucoin ($475,000)
  • Ryan Bayda ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Tuomo Ruutu ($2,250,000)
  • Tim Gleason ($1,175,000)
  • Dennis Seidenberg ($850,000)
  • Tim Conboy ($550,000)
  • Chad Larose ($500,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $39.8 million
Notes: The Hurricanes do not have many holes to fill in their roster this off-season. They do have a little cap room to work with, but Erik Cole and Eric Staal are both entering the final years of their contracts so the Hurricanes brass will need to keep that in mind when planning their spending. Especially when you consider that Staal could easily command $8-$9 million from another team if they were to sign him to an offer sheet. The biggest move the Hurricanes make this off-season should be to sign Staal to a long extension to keep their franchise player in place for many years to come.

Florida Panthers
Pending UFA's:
  • Branislav Mezei ($850,000)
  • Steve Montador ($800,000)
  • Magnus Johansson ($700,000)
  • Wade Belak ($625,000)
  • Jassen Cullimore ($535,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Jay Bouwmeester ($2,250,000)
  • Rostislav Olesz ($984,000)
  • Greg Campbell ($525,000)
  • Kamil Kreps ($495,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $37.4 million
Notes: The Florida Panthers have quite a few above average contracts for such a mediocre team. They could move Olli Jokinen to give themselves some more cap flexibility, but their top priority needs to be locking up Jay Bouwmeester to a long-term contract. Bouwmeester is one of the top young defenders in the NHL and he could realistically get a big offer sheet from another team. The Panthers would almost have to match if that happened, and that could throw their salary structure out of whack for years to come.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Pending UFA's:
  • Chris Gratton ($1,500,000)
  • Andre Roy ($1,000,000)
  • Andreas Karlsson ($500,000)
  • Craig MacDonald ($500,000)
  • Junior Lessard ($500,000)
  • Mathieu Darche ($475,000)
  • Doug Janik ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Craig Ryan ($850,000)
  • Alexandre Picard ($500,000)
  • Karl Stewart ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $35.4 million
Notes: Before Tampa Bay does anything else this summer, they need to figure out what they are going to do with Vincent Lecavalier. If they are going to keep him, they need to sign him to an extension before the season starts and get it over with. If they are going to trade him, his value will only go down the longer they hang onto him. Once that issue is settled the Lightning can move forward with their plan for rebuilding their team. Assuming they have one, which may be a big assumption.

Washington Capitals
Pending UFA's:
  • Sergei Fedorov ($6,080,000)
  • Olaf Kolzig ($5,450,000)
  • Cristobal Huet ($2,750,000)
  • Matt Cooke ($1,525,000)
  • Quintin Laing ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Steve Eminger ($1,000,000)
  • Shaone Morrisonn ($900,000)
  • Mike Green ($850,000)
  • Eric Fehr ($800,000)
  • Brooks Laich ($725,000)
  • Boyd Gordon ($650,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $35.8 million
Notes: The Capitals are in pretty good shape right now as most of their roster players are under contract for at least another year. They should also be able to bring Sergei Fedorov back at a fraction of last season's salary. The two big issues for the Capitals are Mike Green and in goal. Mike Green is the best young defenseman in the NHL for my money and the Caps need to lock him up for the long term. Losing Green to another team, or even letting another club sign him to an big offer sheet could cause a big setback in the development of this promising young club. Cristobal Huet will most likely be back between the pipes for the Capitals, but I wouldn't blame them for taking a run at Pascal Leclaire or Dan Ellis first as either one of them is a better long term option than Huet.

No comments: