Monday, June 30, 2008

Let The Impulse Buying Commence!

Well, the Tampa Bay Lightning just couldn't wait until July 1st to start signing free agents. After acquiring the negotiating rights to Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts over the weekend, they followed through and signed them both this morning. To his credit, Penguins GM Ray Shero just got the team a 2009 third-round draft pick in exchange for two players he was never going to bring back anyway. It's the little things...

So the Lightning are now on the hook for $31.5 million to Ryan Malone over the next 7 years. I'm sure this will be a heavily discussed topic this offseason, but you can put me in with the people who think this is too much money for Malone. If that is the kind of money it was going to take to keep Malone, then I think Shero made the right move in letting him walk, regardless of the other contracts he is dealing with. $4.5 million per season is too much to pay a guy who has as many 30-goal seasons in the NHL as I do (yes, that is none).

Tampa did do one thing right with the Malone contract though. By heavily front loading the deal, it will be easy to part ways with Malone in a couple years if necessary. With almost half of the total payout coming Malone's way in the next two seasons, it will be much easier for the Lightning to either trade, waive, or buyout Malone after the 2009-10 season if they need to. Of course if the salary cap continues to go up this contract might not look so bad by then. It is also nice to see that the whole "Sign with us and we'll give your dad a job" trick isn't just for college football any more.

All in all I am not going to totally hammer the Lightning for this signing. I think they did the best they could with the numbers involved and clearly the new owners are committed to turning this team around in a hurry. That being said, I am happy the Penguins are not the ones on the hook for Malone's new contract. I do like the Roberts signing for Tampa. He will be a good presence in their locker room and they were (again) smart with the way they structured the contract. I do think it is interesting that there is already talk of having to move Dan Boyle as a result of these contracts. Maybe Koules and Barrie should have looked over the financial paperwork a little more before whipping out the checkbook this off-season.

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!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Atlantic Division 2008 Free Agency Preview

Well, it's time for the last stop on the incredible journey that has been the 2008 Free Agency Preview. This probably won't be the last time I touch on free agency between now and July 1st, but I'll probably take a step back and see if anything interesting goes down at this weekend's draft in Ottawa. In the meantime, let's break down how things look for the teams in the Atlantic Divsion.

New Jersey Devils
Pending UFA's:
  • Bryce Salvador ($1,500,000)
  • Karel Rachunek ($1,400,000)
  • Jay Pandolfo ($836,000)
  • Aaron Asham ($700,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • David Clarkson ($555,000)
  • Rod Pelley ($522,000)
  • Barry Tallackson ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $39.8 million
Notes: I don't expect much movement from the Devils. I'm sure they will continue to depend on Martin Brodeur and milk whatever offense they can out of their current roster. Having said that, Jay Pandolfo really deserves a raise. He is a very underrated player and probably deserves to at least double his salary from last season.

New York Islanders
Pending UFA's:
  • Miroslav Satan ($4,500,000)
  • Ruslan Fedotenko ($2,900,000)
  • Josef Vasicek ($750,000)
  • Bryan Berard ($725,000)
  • Rob Davison ($525,000)
  • Wade Dubielewicz ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Sean Bergenheim ($500,000)
  • Bruno Gervais ($475,000)
  • Aaron Johnson ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $31.3 million
Notes: The Isles are in a pretty good position to begin a rebuilding process with hopes of being competitive in a couple years. Vasicek and Berard have both been solid performers and probably deserve pay hikes, but the money they spent last season on Satan and Fedotenko could definitely be put to better use. They might want to make a run at one relatively young, big name free agent, but they need to come up with a plan for remaking most of their roster if they want to have a chance in the Atlantic. One can only wonder if GM Garth Snow is up to the task.

New York Rangers
Pending UFA's:
  • Jaromir Jagr ($8,360,000)
  • Martin Straka ($3,300,000)
  • Paul Mara ($3,000,000)
  • Brendan Shanahan ($2,500,000)
  • Marek Malik ($2,500,000)
  • Michal Rozsival ($2,300,000)
  • Sean Avery ($1,900,000)
  • Stephen Valiquette ($635,000)
  • Jason Strudwick ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Fredrik Sjostrom ($800,000)
  • Nigel Dawes ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $31.2 million
Notes: It will be real interesting to see what the Rangers do this offseason. They have some pretty big contracts on the books (see Gomez and Drury), but they also have a lot of UFA's who they could simply not bring back. That would give the Rangers a lot of cap room to work with and most of the buzz around this team seems to have them wanting to upgrade on the blue line. Could Glen Sather be getting a monster bid for Brian Campbell ready, or we he aim a little lower and go after someone like John-Michael Liles, Wade Redden, or Mark Streit? It will also be interesting to see what Sean Avery does as I'm sure he has not forgotten all the less than flattering things the Rangers had to say about him in arbitration last year.

Philadelphia Flyers
Pending UFA's:
  • Jason Smith ($1,976,000)
  • Jaroslav Modry ($1,200,000)
  • Jim Down ($500,000)
  • Riley Cote ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • R.J. Umberger ($1,250,000)
  • Jeff Carter ($942,000)
  • Patrick Thoresen ($542,000)
  • Randy Jones ($525,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $48.3 million
Notes: The Flyers are really in a bind against the cap. They spent big last offseason in an effort to turn their team around overnight, but now they are going to have a hard time keeping the young players they have developed themselves. The smart money says that either Carter or Umberger won't be back next season. Personally I wouldn't be shocked if other teams managed to snatch up Carter, Umberger, and Jones thanks to the Flyers lack of cap room.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Pending UFA's:
  • Marian Hossa ($7,000,000)
  • Gary Roberts ($2,500,000)
  • Mark Eaton ($1,600,000)
  • Ryan Malone ($1,450,000)
  • Georges Laraque ($1,300,000)
  • Jarkko Ruutu ($1,150,000)
  • Brooks Orpik ($1,075,000)
  • Pascal Dupuis ($880,000)
  • Kris Beech ($585,000)
  • Adam Hall ($525,000)
  • Ty Conklin ($500,000)
  • Jeff Taffe ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • none
Cap $$$ Committed: $26.8 million
Notes: Where to begin here? The good news is that Marc-Andre Fleury was offered arbitration by the Penguins, so that will keep him from becoming a RFA and give the team a longer window to negotiate with him. Ryan Malone is gone. He is going to take the biggest offer he gets and that won't be from the Penguins. It is hard to blame Malone as his stock will likely never be higher. Signing Hossa and Orpik seem to be the top priorities and both players have gone on record that they would take less money for the chance to stay in Pittsburgh and get back to the Finals. I believe it from Orpik, but I'm just not sure I'm buying it from Hossa. Beyond them I think Ruutu, Laraque, Dupuis, and Hall will all be back. Dupuis may even want to think about signing a one-year deal and then trying to really cash in next July after spending a season on Sidney Crosby's wing. Gary Roberts could be back for one more go, but it will have to be at a cheaper price. This is shaping up to be the most interesting offseason in Penguins history, and I'm not even taking into account all the insane Evgeni Malkin trade rumors.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Northeast Division 2008 Free Agency Preview

It is time to turn our attention to the Northeast Division as we look at what July 1st has in store for teams in the NHL. This is always an intriguing division and I don't expect that to change in 2008-09. Between coaching changes, playoff disappointments, and fan expectations every team in the Northeast has something to get fired up about this summer.

Boston Bruins
Pending UFA's:
  • Alex Auld ($600,000)
  • Glen Metropolit ($500,000)
  • Bobby Allen ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Petteri Nokelainen ($984,000)
  • Mark Stuart ($942,000)
  • Dennis Wideman ($600,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $43.5 million
Notes: The Bruins don't have many holes to fill and they will enter next season with more or less the same roster as last season. That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask. Getting Patrice Bergeron back should be a big boost for the Bruins. Looking beyond next season, the Bruins need to start coming up with a long term plan in net as Manny Fernandez and Tim Thomas are both going into the final years of their contracts.

Buffalo Sabres
Pending UFA's:
  • Teppo Numminen ($2,600,000)
  • Dmitri Kalinin ($2,250,000)
  • Jocelyn Thibault ($760,000)
  • Nolan Pratt ($550,000)
  • Michael Ryan ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Steve Bernier ($850,000)
  • Paul Gaustad ($750,000)
  • Dan Paille ($585,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $37.8 million
Notes: The Sabres have a good group of young, talented forwards to work with, but their blue line is thin and they need to get Ryan Miller signed to a long term deal ASAP. John-Michael Liles would probably make a nice addition to their defensive corps and he could be had for less than what they offered Brian Campbell before they traded him to San Jose.

Montreal Canadiens
Pending UFA's:
  • Michael Ryder ($2,950,000)
  • Bryan Smolinski ($2,000,000)
  • Patrice Brisebois ($700,000)
  • Mark Streit ($600,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Mikhail Grabovski ($700,000)
  • Andrei Kostitsyn ($612,000)
  • Ryan O'Byrne ($590,000)
  • Jaroslav Halak ($500,000)
  • Josh Gorges ($495,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $32.5 million
Notes: Michael Ryder is a goner, let's get that out of the way right from the get go. Beyond that, they need to take care of locking up all of their RFA's and they would be wise to take care of Mark Streit as he was a big part of what made their league leading power play tick. They are also rumored to be going after Mats Sundin in a big way, which would only serve to fuel what is already one of the league's nastier rivalries.

Ottawa Senators
Pending UFA's:
  • Wade Redden ($6,500,000)
  • Martin Lapointe ($2,400,000)
  • Cory Stillman ($1,750,000)
  • Mike Commodore ($1,300,000)
  • Chris Kelly ($1,262,000)
  • Shean Donovan ($925,000)
  • Randy Robitaille ($625,000)
  • Luke Richardson ($500,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Antoine Vermette ($1,075,000)
  • Andrej Meszaros ($984,000)
  • Brian McGrattan ($550,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $28.8 million
Notes: In all likelihood the Ottawa Senators are going to be a very different looking team next season. They have a slew of UFA's and stand to lose most of them. Re-signing Chris Kelly should be a top priority for the Ottawa front office and they would be well served to bring back Stillman and Commodore if they can get them at the right price. Wade Redden is all but gone, but locking up Meszaros could help to ease that loss. Like seemingly every other team in the Northeast (except for the Habs) they need to come up with a plan in goal beyond 2008-09. Ray Emery will likely be bought out at any moment and Martin Gerber is too inconsistent to be a viable long term option for a team with realistic hopes of challenging for the Cup.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Pending UFA's:
  • Mats Sundin ($5,500,000)
  • Dominic Moore ($700,000)
  • John Pohl ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Matt Stajan ($950,000)
  • Kyle Wellwood ($950,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $38.7 million
Notes: Like the Bruins the Leafs have most of last season's roster under contract, and like the Bruins that may not be great news. The big story will be what happens with Mats Sundin. The Leafs will undoubtedly do all they can to bring him back, but will he reverse his stance of wanting to remain a Leaf and head to Detroit or Montreal? The Leafs also have a lot of good buyout candidates in Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft, and even Bryan McCabe. The Leafs may be forced to take a few steps back this offseason in order to begin the rebuilding process under new coach Ron Wilson.

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.

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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Northwest Division 2008 Free Agency Preview

It's time for the next installment in my analysis leading up to the 2008 free agency period. Today I'll be looking at they ultra competitive Northwest Division. As always, player's 2007-08 salaries are in parenthesis.

Calgary Flames
Pending UFA's:
  • Craig Conroy ($2,850,000)
  • Daymond Langkow ($2,442,000)
  • Owen Nolan ($1,750,000)
  • Curtis Joseph ($1,500,000)
  • Kristian Huselius ($1,400,000)
  • Stephane Yelle ($1,250,000)
  • Jim Vandermeer ($1,225,000)
  • Eric Nystrom ($693,000)
  • David Hale ($590,000)
  • Mark Smith ($487,000)
  • Eric Godard ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • none
Cap $$$ Committed: $44.8 million
Notes: This offseason could have long term effects on the Calgary Flames. While it's nice for them to not have any noteworthy RFA's, having your top three centers all be UFA's could be something of a problem. My guess is that Langkow and Yelle will be back, but I think Conroy will move on to greener pastures. Beyond that, we all know that Huselius is gone. That was pretty much guaranteed the second Mike Keenan was hired. Most of the others, with the possible exception of Curtis Joseph, will probably be back for the Flames next season, but they could end up a lot closer to the cap limit than I'm sure they would like to be.

Colorado Avalanche
Pending UFA's:
  • Joe Sakic ($6,750,000)
  • Jose Theodore ($6,000,000)
  • Peter Forsberg ($5,000,000)
  • Adam Foote ($4,600,000)
  • Andrew Brunette ($1,600,000)
  • John-Michael Liles ($1,400,000)
  • Kurt Sauer ($719,000)
  • Jaroslav Hlinka ($600,000)
  • Jeff Finger ($475,000)
  • Scott Parker ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Marek Svatos ($1,200,000)
  • Wotjek Wolski ($860,000)
  • Cody McLeod ($490,000)
  • Cody McCormick ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $28.6 million
Notes: Colorado has quite a few big name free agents, but they also have the cap flexibility to deal with them as they wish. Sakic should be back if for no other reason than I wouldn't be able to handle seeing Joe with another franchise, and Foote will most likely return making significantly less than before. Forsberg is most likely done for, but you can never say never with Foppa. Svatos and Wolski will both command hefty raises, but they will be back. The biggest question mark here is what to do with Jose Theodore? If I am the Avs front office I probably make a run at someone like Dan Ellis before bringing Theodore back. Yes, Jose had a great comeback season, but the larger body of work is nothing to write home about and he more or less singlehandedly did the team in against Detroit in the second round of the playoffs. The Avalanche would be smart to explore other options in net.

Edmonton Oilers
Pending UFA's:
  • Geoff Sanderson ($1,500,000)
  • Marty Reasoner ($950,000)
  • Curtis Glencross ($522,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Joni Pitkanen ($2,400,000)
  • Jarret Stoll ($2,200,000)
  • Zack Stortini ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $41 million
Notes: Bashing Kevin Lowe has become old hat by now, but when you look at the current salary structure in Edmonton you really get a feel for how screwed up things are in Edmonton. They have a decent amount of cap space to bring back whoever they want to this season, but they have a couple of contracts (Souray and Penner) that may really handcuff the Oilers in the near future. Kevin Lowe's foolish moves may end up costing the Oilers a lot more than draft picks in the coming seasons.

Minnesota Wild
Pending UFA's:
  • Pavol Demitra ($4,500,000)
  • Brian Rolston ($2,432,000)
  • Keith Carney ($2,100,000)
  • Petteri Nummelin ($1,200,000)
  • Todd Fedoruk ($875,000)
  • Matt Foy ($506,000)
  • Steve Kelly ($500,000)
  • Sean Hill ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Pierre-Marc Bouchard ($2,600,000)
  • Kurtis Foster ($1,025,000)
  • Stephane Veilleux ($595,000)
  • Aaron Voros ($495,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $32.5 million
Notes: The three names that immediately jump out at you off of these lists are Demitra, Rolston, and Bouchard. I think Bouchard and Rolston will both be back, but I have a gut feeling that Demitra ends up in another uniform for next season. It will be interesting to see what Marian Gaborik has to say if that happens. Petteri Nummelin could also find some takers on the open market, especially considering his history of success in shootouts.

Vancouver Canucks
Pending UFA's:
  • Markus Naslund ($6,000,000)
  • Brendan Morrison ($3,200,000)
  • Aaron Miller ($1,500,000)
  • Byron Ritchie ($675,000)
  • Curtis Sanford ($600,000)
  • Mike Weaver ($600,000)
  • Brad Isbister ($525,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Ryan Shannon ($550,000)
  • Nathan McIver ($495,000)
  • Rick Rypien ($475,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $35.2 million
Notes: This is a crucial offseason for the Canucks and their fans. Not only are they dealing with the disappointment of last season, the retirement of "Mr. Canuck" Trevor Linden, and the tragic loss of Luc Bourdon, but they also have a new GM who is charged with trying to get this franchise turned around. You get the feeling that the Canucks need to bring in a big name signing just to energize the locker room and the fan base. Could this be the year those Joe Sakic to Vancouver rumors finally come true? They should at least benefit from being able to bring Markus Naslund back at a discounted rate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pacific Division 2008 Free Agency Preview

As promised, here is the breakdown for what teams in the Pacific Division are looking at in regards to free agency come July 1st. This is the first in a six part (obviously) series that will run through next Thursday. We'll be starting on the West Coast and heading east. Lists are broken up into restricted free agents (RFA's) and unrestricted free agents (UFA's) with their 2007-08 salaries in parenthesis.

Anaheim Ducks
Pending UFA's:
  • Doug Weight ($3,500,000)
  • Teemu Selanne ($1,500,000)
  • Joe DiPenta ($700,000)
  • Mark Mowers ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Corey Perry ($494,000)
  • Brian Sutherby ($800,000)
  • Jonas Hiller ($850,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $49.8 million
Notes: The Ducks are in pretty bad shape in regards to the salary cap. I have to believe there is a GM out there who is going to make a big run at signing Corey Perry, knowing that there won't be a lot of options for Anaheim to match. One other very interesting thing about the Anaheim roster, they have zero defensemen signed beyond next season. Brian Burke really has a mess on his hands in Anaheim.

Dallas Stars
Pending UFA's:
  • Stu Barnes ($900,000)
  • Antti Miettinen ($885,000)
  • Niklas Hagman ($675,000)
  • Brad Winchester ($475,000)
  • Johan Holmqvist ($1,000,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Loui Eriksson ($650,000)
  • Francis Wathier ($475,000)
  • Brandon Crombeen ($675,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $46.5 million
Notes: The Stars don't have a ton of cap space, but they already have most of their roster coming back for next season. One big hole to fill will be the recently retired Mattias Norstrom. They may want to explore their options in regards to finding a backup for Marty Turco as well. I think Stu Barnes will be back, but I wouldn't be surprised if Niklas Hagman left for a better offer as he has shown flashes of ability in Dallas.

Los Angeles Kings
Pending UFA's:
  • Rob Blake ($6,000,000)
  • Ladislav Nagy ($3,570,000)
  • Scott Thornton ($1,500,000)
  • Brian Willsie ($900,000)
  • Jon Klemm ($500,000)
  • Kevin Dallman ($490,000)
  • Jeff Giuliano ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Patrick O'Sullivan ($650,000)
  • Erik Ersberg ($575,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $32 million
Notes: The Kings have plenty of cap space to spend, which should be a good thing for this perpetually rebuilding club. Patrick O'Sullivan should get a healthy raise and Rob Blake will probably be back, but beyond that is anyone's guess. Maybe they could be the club to make a run at cross town rival Anaheim's Corey Perry.

Phoenix Coyotes
Pending UFA's:
  • Radim Vrbata ($1,225,000)
  • Mike York ($1,000,000)
  • Niko Kapanen ($900,000)
  • Craig Weller ($475,000)
  • Mathias Tjarnqvist ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Marcel Hossa ($780,000)
  • Daniel Carcillo ($525,000)
  • Joel Perrault ($495,000)
  • Matt Jones ($522,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $29.9 million
Notes: Much like the Kings, the Coyotes have a lot of cap space and nowhere to go in the standings but up. Unlike the Kings, Phoenix seems to have a better nucleus of players in place and thus more reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season. I would expect guys like Hossa and Vrbata to be back next season, but it will be real interesting to see how they deal with Daniel Carcillo. Wayne Gretzky seems to think Carcillo has a lot of potential in the NHL, but he has also been frustrated by his continuing lack of maturity. This team would probably do well to try to upgrade their blue line through free agency. If I were them I would probably throw a big contract at Brian Campbell and cross my fingers that he would take it.

San Jose Sharks
Pending UFA's:
  • Brian Campbell ($1,750,000)
  • Curtis Brown ($700,000)
  • Patrick Rissmiller ($595,000)
  • Jody Shelley ($650,000)
  • Alexei Semenov ($650,000)
  • Sandis Ozolinsh ($625,000)
  • Jeremy Roenick ($500,000)
  • Tomas Plihal ($500,000)
  • Brian Boucher ($490,000)
  • Brad Norton ($475,000)
Pending RFA's:
  • Christian Ehrhoff ($900,000)
  • Joe Pavelski ($810,000)
  • Marcel Goc ($800,000)
  • Ryan Clowe ($600,000)
Cap $$$ Committed: $38 million
Notes: The big name that jumps out here is obviously Brian Campbell. The Sharks gave up a lot to bring Campbell at the deadline and though he fit in right away during the regular season, Campbell had a disappointing playoff. The Sharks will undoubtedly try to keep Campbell, but they may have a tough time as they have a few talented youngsters (Pavelski, Rissmiller, and Clowe in particular) up for new contracts who will be looking for significant raises. I think the Sharks may have a fight on their hands to keep Campbell as there should be plenty of teams lining up to sign him. Especially since he came off at the trade deadline as a guy who is more interested in getting the biggest contract than anything else.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Looking Back To Look Ahead

It's housekeeping time here at TOFTT. I have a few items to discuss as I ramp up for what I hope will be a busy, entertaining, and insightful off-season. First of all, I published my last article for, which you can read here, this week. My contract is now at an end for them, but hopefully I'll be able to work something out so that I can continue writing for them in the future. I think it was a nice exercise for me to have a format and deadlines and I would like the chance to take it to another level in 2008-09.

Now, let's talk about what you can expect to see here in the coming weeks. First up, I will be doing a free agency preview for each division, starting tomorrow with the Pacific. My plan is to do one division per day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week and next. I am going to start with the Pacific Division tomorrow and then work east until I wrap it all up with the Atlantic Division next Thursday. I will also more than likely mix in some other free agency commentary between now and July 1st.

Beyond that, I have other irons in the fire for the summer months. I will be doing another Salary Cap Challenge as well as another Prediction Panel. As before I will be enlisting the help of some of the blogosphere's best and brightest to participate in those posts. I also want to continue my analysis using Offensive Involvement Percentage (OI%) to break down the true top scorers of the NHL's past. My tentative plan with that is to break down the scoring leaders in each season by decade and see how they stack up. I will most likely tackle one decade per week (starting with the 1940's) and then keep a running list of the top 10 OI%'s in modern NHL history. So that is what I have planned so far. I will also be working on The Flower Shop so be sure to check in there as well. As always I'm open to feedback and ideas, so if you have any thoughts on where I should take this site during the harsh months of summer please by all means shoot me an e-mail.

Finally, I have a little gift out there for all hockey fans, but Penguins fans in particular. You can say what you will about the NHL, but in my opinion they are by far the best major sports league when it comes to using the internet to make their game more accessible to fans. With that in mind, I give you the classic Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Just in case you have 3 hours to kill.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

2008 Playoffs: Wrapping Up Game 6 And The Finals

The better team won. Let's just get the clear from the start here. The Detroit Red Wings are your 2008 Stanley Cup Champions thanks to their 3-2 Game 6 win in Pittsburgh. The Penguins gave it all they had, but they were flat for most of the game and two (really) bad goals did them in. They made a game out of it with Marian Hossa's late deflection goal, but it was all for naught as Chris Osgood made one final glove save to seal the deal for Detroit.

Detroit was the better team in this series, but the Pens did themselves in by playing so poorly in the two opening games in Detroit. As good as this Penguins team was, they were not going to be able to take four out of five from this Red Wings team. Hats off to the Wings, they earned it.

My other random musings:

  • The Pens were really flat for most of this game. They were losing just about every race to a loose puck and they weren't going to beat Detroit playing like that.
  • That third goal for Detroit (the Cup clincher) was one of the most painful things I ever watched. I could easily throw Brooks Orpik under the bus for not dealing with the loose puck in the crease, but he was trying to protect his goalie and I'll never fault a player for that.
  • I am legitimately happy for Brian Rafalski. Red Wing or not, I really like him as a player.
  • I feel completely opposite about Johan Franzen. He's the guy I really learned to hate during this series.
  • Nice of Kris Draper to take a run at Sergei Gonchar from behind early in the game. Isn't this the same team the whined about Gary Roberts going after Franzen in Game 2?
  • The refs were terrible tonight from start to finish. I'm not saying that as a Penguins fan either, but just as a hockey fan. The NHL officials really need to get it together.
  • Evgeni Malkin finally had the kind of game we had all been waiting for. Better late than never I guess.
  • For about the last 10 minutes of the game I kept telling myself over and over "Ron Francis in Game 7 against the Islanders". Marian Hossa almost made my wish come true. Complete with the brilliant deflection on a wrister from the point. Almost...
  • I wouldn't be shocked to see these two teams battle for the Cup again next year.
  • The next few weeks are going to be real interesting for the Penguins as Ray Shero and company begin to deal with their glut of free agents.
The Conn Five
  1. Henrik Zetterberg
  2. Sidney Crosby
  3. Marc-Andre Fleury
  4. Johan Franzen
  5. Chris Osgood

Tiger Woods Takes Time Out Of His Busy Schedule To Bash Hockey

In a recent teleconference leading up to his next leisurely stroll golf tournament Tiger Woods was asked who he was rooting for in the Stanley Cup Finals. Here was his response:

"I don't really care. Let's talk about the Dodgers. I don't think anybody really watches hockey anymore."
Quite a bold stance from a guy who is about as PC as they come. This is a bit surprising to me that he would say that considering a lot of hockey players are big into golf. Then again, Tiger is a big a-hole so I doubt any of them hang with him. Except for maybe Sean Avery.

I could go on and on here about what a jerk Tiger (and seriously, you're a grown man, do we really need to call you Tiger?) is, but I'm not going to waste my time. Woods has probably never seen a hockey game in his life and should really just keep his mouth shut on this topic. Stick to complaining about people making noises on the course and bossing around your caddy Tiger. Leave all the talk about real sports to the people who have a clue.

And for the record, the only person I know who watches golf is my dad, and only because it's "good to sleep through".

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

2008 Playoffs: Wrapping Up Game 5 Of The Finals

Just wow. That's about all I can say. We are just minutes removed from Petr Sykora's triple overtime goal and all the pressure in this series is now squarely on the shoulders of the Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins are back in the Stanley Cup Finals in a big way and they are heading home for Game 6. For the fourth game in a row, many of these young Penguins will be playing in the biggest game of their lives. At some point they just get used to it and get on with life I'm sure.

My notes on Game 5:

  • When his team needed him the most, Marc-Andre Fleury was at his best. MAF's contract demands probably just got bumped up a little bit. Again.

  • Huge performance by the Penguins defense tonight. After losing Sergei Gonchar the 5 remaining Penguin blue liners circled the wagons and took care of business. Ryan Whitney in particular was outstanding as he led all skaters in ice time and left it all on the ice.
  • People will be talking about Sykora calling his shot for years. That was the stuff of legends.
  • Evgeni Malkin picked up an assist on the winner. Could that be the start of something big?
  • It seems like forever ago but... Max Freaking Talbot!!

  • 30 minutes ago I hated Jiri Hudler. Now he's possibly my favorite Red Wing ever. Nice stickwork there joke.
  • It has been said many times but it still holds true, nothing around beats playoff overtime hockey.
  • Game 6 can't get here soon enough. The Igloo is gonna be rocking!
The Conn Five
  1. Henrik Zetterberg
  2. Sidney Crosby
  3. Marc-Andre Fleury
  4. Johan Franzen
  5. Chris Osgood