NHL Free Agency: One Player Each Team Will Be Happy to Let Go
With the NHL playoffs hitting their stride, the majority of the league is preparing for the draft next month and the free agency to follow. While the last of the playoff beards are being trimmed away, general managers around the league will be trimming their rosters.
A top heavy free agent market and draft means that teams will be going strong to fill their rosters quickly and expensively. Some ridiculous contracts are coming to an end this year, while others are sure to be signed this summer.
With parity at an all time high in the NHL, the playing field has never been more level. A salary cap that has most teams at a competitive level will make this year's offseason interesting. While only one team gets to lift the Stanley Cup in June, 29 others will be looking to fix what went wrong.
Here are the players from each team who will look much better in their employer's rear-view mirror.
Salary figures courtesy of CapGeek.com
Anaheim Ducks, Jason Blake
Jason Blake earned himself a cool $4 million last year with the Ducks for his seven goals and five assists. Though it could be argued that Blake only played in 45 games last year, I'm pretty sure he was collecting game checks for the 37 games he missed.
Don't expect to see him in a Ducks sweater next year, at least not at that price.
Boston Bruins, Brian Rolston
Brian Rolston got rescued from hockey purgatory courtesy of a trade deadline deal that landed him with the defending Stanley Cup champs and a shot at a long postseason run.
The final year of a four-year, $20-million deal made Rolston a cheap deadline acquisition with playoff experience.
The Bruins' early exit from the playoffs more than likely is the end of Rolston's run in Beantown.
Buffalo Sabres, Brad Boyes
Here's a fun activity for all of you spark plugs on the Internet. Do a Google image search for Brad Boyes. About 95 percent of the pictures show Boyes in a St. Louis Blues uniform.
It's probably a collective effort by the Sabres and Boyes to conceal the fact that Boyes has actually been on the Sabres roster since 2011.
Since signing a four-year, $16-million deal, Boyes has had one solid year before the Blues dealt him to Buffalo and obscurity. Hope he saved his loot, because his next deal will not be nearly as lucrative.
Calgary Flames, Cory Sarich
Winning a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay gives NHL people pause.
It makes them wonder about the credibility of a franchise in the southern states. Cory Sarich's credibility as a member of the 2003-04 Cup champs was impressive enough for the Calgary Flames to sign him to a five-year, $18 million free agent deal.
Five years and an underwhelming 57 points later, Sarich hits the open market again this summer. The Sarich contract line forms to the left, gentlemen.
Carolina Hurricanes, Jaroslav Spacek
At 38 years old, Jaroslav Spacek is still a solid NHL defenseman. At his 2011-12 salary, he is a burden to the Carolina Hurricanes. Another year of watching the playoffs means that the 'Canes need to get better and younger.
Spacek's $3.8 million will be better spent elsewhere this offseason.
Chicago Blackhawks, Cristobal Huet
Cristobal Huet was signed on the first day of unrestricted NHL free agency in July 2008 to a four-year deal worth $22.4 million. His mission was to bring the Stanley Cup to the windy city. Four years later, mission accomplished. Huet has his ring and will never have to work hard at anything for the rest of his life.
The real story is that Huet couldn't keep the starting gig on the Hawks and let Antti Niemi and Nikolai Khabibulin beat him out for the starting job. The Blackhawks won the Cup with Niemi, and Huet went on to star for HC Fribourg-Gotteron SA of the Swiss National League A.
The Blackhawks loaned him out to the Swiss team as a salary cap relief move. Since the move is considered a "loan," does that mean the Hawks want him back?
Colorado Avalanche, Milan Hedjuk
Sometimes you just have to say goodbye.
The Av's lone hold over from the Stanley Cup days will be lucky to stay on with the youth movement in Denver. His $3 million cap hit will be a tough sell in Colorado this offseason if Hedjuk decides to return.
The Avs would be best served to move on and add some depth to their defense.
Columbus Blue Jackets, Kristian Huselius
Kristian Huselius only played two games this past year in Columbus. Once upon a time he used to be a solid player, and a near point-per-game scorer. With another rebuild in Columbus, Huselius is probably not in the Jackets' plans for the future.
His $4.75 million salary in 2011-12 will certainly not be matched in Columbus. He'll be lucky to get anything near that number elsewhere.
Dallas Stars, Radek Dvorak
Radek Dvorak has made a nice little career for himself, playing for six different teams over the course of 15 years. With four goals and 17 assists for the Dallas Stars this year, Dvorak's best days are long gone.
The Stars' failure to make the playoffs means that under-performing veterans will not be brought back in to help the team. Dvorak and his $1.5 million 2011 salary will more than likely be changing zip codes.
Detroit Red Wings, Tomas Holmstrom
No player in the NHL has taken as much of a beating as Tomas Holmstrom.
For a guy who never fights, Holmstrom takes a whooping night after night from the defense and often the opposing goalie. His office sits right in front of the opponent's crease, and has for the past 14 years.
All that being said, Homer is 39 years old and has taken three careers worth of abuse from opponents. His numbers have declined rapidly over the past few years, and the Red Wings will need his salary figure to be aggressive in the free agent market.
Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Smyth
Ryan Smyth may have the best hair in Edmonton, but his salary and age make him an endangered species. Though Smyth chose to come back to the Oilers this season after stops in Long Island, Denver and L.A., his best years are long gone.
His style seems a bit dated with the young, fast Oilers, and with a sticker price of $6.25 million, it makes no sense to bring him back.
Florida Panthers, Wojtek Wolski
The man with two W's in his name will probably have to take his talents away from South Beach next fall. The Panthers had a nice season, winning a division title before bowing out in a seven-game series to the Devils.
Wolski played only 31 games for the Panthers, but earned $3.8 million for his efforts. After peaking in 2009-10, Wolski has seen his numbers go down at an alarming rate for a 26-year-old.
Expect a new home and a fresh start for Wolski next year.
Los Angeles Kings, Dustin Penner
Finally, the Dustin Penner deal is coming to an end.
Guess who decided to show up in the playoffs to make everyone love him again? Penner's form has magically returned in this year's playoffs as his once laughable contract ends this summer.
Could he be lobbying for a new deal, or are the bounces finally starting to go his way? Stay tuned. The Kings were dying to get rid of the big winger, but a nice playoff run could mean a longer stay in L.A.
Minnesota Wild, Warren Peters
After checking Minnesota's pending free agents, nobody really stands out. So I picked Warren Peters. Nothing against Warren or the Peters family, but I like his name. My son has a Rescue Hero action figure by the same name. Actually, the Rescue Hero is named Warren Waters, but close enough.
My guess is that the Wild are more than likely counting the days left of Dany Heatley's aberration of a contract—worth $7.5 million.
They started the season with such promise before collapsing and missing the playoffs.
Montreal Canadiens, Scott Gomez
Nothing against Travis Moen, but he's the most expensive free agent on the Canadiens' roster this year.
Let's be honest, the player that the franchise, the fans and everyone want to get rid of is Scott Gomez. With a $7.35 million cap hit and two goals last year, Gomez can always pretend his cup is half full (of money).
Optimism says that Gomez can't possibly be worse than this year, can he? Two more years of his cap-crippling contract ensure the Canadiens will be playing for draft position.
Nashville Predators, Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei Kostitsyn might have cost himself a lucrative deal in Nashville this offseason with some late night activities involving teammate Alexander Radulov.
The less responsible of the the flying Kostitsyn's came over on a deadline deal from the Canadiens to spark the Predators offense. His 36 total points in 72 games were by far his lowest aside from an injury shortened 2010.
Bad decisions and poor performance could mean the end of the elder Kostitsyn in Nashville.
New Jersey Devils, Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk certainly doesn't fit the criteria for this topic, but he has something special. He is the proud owner of the dumbest contract in the history of the NHL.
The contract was voided when it first came out to protect ownership from itself. Gary Bettman voided the contract, as if to say "Really?!" When they resubmitted it, he just waved it through. I'm sure that the financial strife hitting Devils ownership has nothing to do with their negotiation skills.
For the record, here is Kocalchuk's deal:
Fifteen years, $100,000,000 at an annual salary cap hit of $6,666,667—and you better believe that bad boy comes equipped with air-bags, optional rally fun-pack and a no trade clause.
New York Islanders, Mark Eaton
For purposes of accuracy in this article, we'll say that Mark Eaton and his expiring $2.5 million contract won't be missed as the vastly improving Islanders are looking to get back to the playoffs. However, the mystery as to "What were the Devils thinking with their Kovalchuk contract?" has been solved.
Rick DiPietro was an excellent goalie for the Islanders prior to the lockout. When the NHL resumed, DiPietro again was stellar in goal for an Islander team that was mediocre at best. After career best numbers in 2006, DiPietro effectively married the New York Islanders with his 15-year, $65 million contract. Since signing the deal, DiPietro has played one full season and 107 games in the last five years (44 games in the last four).
Don't worry Isles fans, you're off the hook in just nine short years. 'Til death do you part.
New York Rangers, Sean Avery
Yeah. That Sean Avery. He is off the Rangers' books July 1st. Not that his $1.937 million really hurts/helps the Rangers that much, but it severs the ties between team and player for good.
Don't worry Ranger fans, you only have two more years of Wade Redden's $6.5 million per year.
Ottawa Senators, Rob Klinkhammer
If you were looking for an article featuring Rob Klinkhammer, look no further.
Though the context is less than flattering, I couldn't resist including one of the best names in the NHL. The 25-year-old left wing from Lethbridge, Alberta, finished the year with 15 games played and two assists. His contract is up this year, so Klinkhammer could be coming to a city near you!
Filip Kuba is the highest priced relevant free agent on the Sens roster. After a solid season, there's no reason to think that he won't be back in Ottawa.
Philadelphia Flyers, Chris Pronger
The Flyers actually have 2010 playoff hero Michael Leighton and his $1.55 million coming off their books. Surely, they will let him go play minor league hockey elsewhere next fall.
If Pronger hangs up his skates, and early indicators are that he will, the Flyers get a more substantial $4.9 million in cap space back.
A sad end to a Hall of Fame career, but the best thing he can do for himself, his family, and his incumbent team is to walk away with what he has left of his health.
Phoenix Coyotes, Michal Rozsival
Michal Rozsival was tied with left wing Paul Bissonette in goals this year. They each had one. The difference is that Rozsival got paid like a top flight defenseman and Bissonette like, well, a fifth liner.
At 33, Rozsival may have signed his last big multi-year deal, at least in Phoenix.
Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby
Just kidding. Sid isn't going anywhere, and has two years left on his $8.7 million per year deal. The Penguins don't really have any free agents that they are looking to dump.
The Pens' back-up goalie situation did them no favors when Marc-Andre Fleury faltered in the playoffs. Brent Johnson was poor in the regular season, and worse in the playoffs.
Expect to see Brad Thiessen backing up Fleury next year.
San Jose Sharks, Antero Niitymaki
The Sharks have finally found someone to take their stray Finnish goalie! Free agency.
After trying to basically give him away, the Sharks had no takers. At 32, Niitymaki still has plenty to offer a team like the Syracuse Crunch.
St. Louis Blues, Jonathan Cheechoo
It's only $600,000, but the Blues' Cheechoo experiment was hardly a success.
Hoping that he might capture some of the scoring touch he had in 2005-06 with San Jose, the Blues took a chance on the Moose Factory, Ontario, native. Cheechoo never got to play for the Blues this year, and probably won't next year, either.
Cheechoo still holds the San Jose team records for goals in a season (56), power play goals in a season (24) and most awesome hometown (Moose Factory, Ontario).
Tampa Bay Lightning, Dwayne Roloson
It's fairly safe to say that the Lightning kept the wrong goalie last offseason. Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes seem to be doing a bit better than the Lightning this season. Roloson looked every bit his 42 years this season after turning back the clock for the last three.
The main priority of GM Steve Yzerman will be to sign or trade for a legitimate No. 1 goalie this summer.
Toronto Maple Leafs, Jeff Finger
Jeff Finger has one of the better names in Toronto, but he doesn't even play for the big boy club. As a blueliner for the AHL's Toronto Marlies, Finger earned a cool $3 million.
Among the many changes in Toronto this summer, Finger will be dressing for another AHL club—definitely at a lower price tag.
Vancouver Canucks, Sami Pahlsson
Sami Pahlsson came to Vancouver from the Blue Jackets and brought the Columbus luck to the Canucks. Bounced in five games by the eighth-seeded Kings, Pahlsson barely had an opportunity to show off his mediocre play. His best years are obviously behind him, and so are his lucrative contract offers.
Vancouver will gladly spend his $3 million cap hit fortifying their President's Cup-winning roster for next year.
Washington Capitals, Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin is literally playing his last games in a Capitals' jersey. His $6.7 million salary will probably be matched or even surpassed by another team that needs offense.
Washington's coach, Dale Hunter, preaches a defense first philosophy, keeping all players accountable on the ice. He has benched All-World captain Alex Ovechkin for lack of hustle and has put the often loafing winger on the fourth line in the playoffs this year.
Coach, GM and fans will be happy to see him go.
Winnipeg Jets, Ron Hainsey
With a stat line that Mrs. Hainsey would be ashamed of (0 G 10 A), Ron should probably give some of the $4 million he earned this year back to his employer. While the Jets don't really have a glaring free agent they would like to see in their collective rear-view mirror, Hainsey has one more year to fleece the Jets.
After a nice year in 2007-08, Hainsey signed his current deal—five years at $22.5 million—with an annual cap hit of $4.5 million. Since signing his contract Hainsey has had only one year to be proud of (2008-09).
The Jets will be counting the days till that deal is done.