NHL Free Agency: One Player Each Team Is Sure to Lose Next Year
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There will be big changes around the National Hockey League in the years to come.
Each team's roster will go through significant changes prior to the 2013-14 season, as the NHL's salary cap is likely to go down to $60 million—a drop of $10.2 million per team—when the lockout comes to an end.
Many changes will need to be made in order to get teams down to the proper salary-cap level.
In some ways, teams may follow the NFL model, with a few high-priced superstars and a majority of players making $2 million or less.
Free agents that would normally be brought back will not be brought back.
Here's a look at one free agent that each team is likely to lose.
All salary and contract-term information is courtesy of CapGeek.com.
D Toni Lydman, Anaheim Ducks
Defenseman Toni Lydman will be a free agent prior to the start of next season.
The former Buffalo Sabre is a second-pair defenseman for the Ducks, and he will be in the last year of his contract when the 2012-13 season begins. He is scheduled to earn $3 million this season.
The Ducks have nearly all of their forwards under contract for the 2013-14 season, and Lydman is one of the few players who is not.
He's likely going to be a free agent next summer.
F Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins
Nathan Horton was a hero for the Boston Bruins during their 2011 run to the Stanley Cup.
He scored two overtime winners in their first-round playoff series win over the Montreal Canadiens, and he scored the only goal in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruins fans may be able to show their appreciation to Horton this year because he will likely be gone at the start of the 2013-14 season.
Horton is scheduled to earn $4 million this season, and he'll be a free agent next year. The Bruins will have huge cap problems in the future, and retaining Horton seems to be a pipe dream.
D Robyn Regehr, Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have many of their top-of-the-line players under contract for future years, but defenseman Robyn Regehr is an exception.
Regehr, 32, is a strong and physical player. The Sabres need more of those type of players, but Regehr lacks the speed needed to be a consistent player.
Regehr will be a free agent in 2013. His contract will pay him $4.02 million this season.
F Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames may have missed the boat by not trading Jarome Iginla prior to last year's trade deadline or in the offseason.
Iginla, 35, has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $7 million this season. Iginla has been one of the game's premier goal scorers for years, and he gives any team the type of player who can score goals in the clutch because of his strength, skill and experience.
Iginla is almost certainly in his last year with the Flames.
F Alex Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
Former Washington Capitals sniper Alex Semin is one of the most enigmatic players in the NHL.
He's a top skater, has a powerful shot and is a dangerous offensive player.
However, he doesn't leave it on the ice every night, and that prevented him from getting the type of long-term contract that NHL superstars regularly receive.
He signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Hurricanes in the offseason.
If he is not a top-five player in the league this season, the Hurricanes will almost certainly let him pass in order to become salary-cap compliant in 2013-14.
D Michal Rozsival, Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks don't have a lot of high-priced free agents whose contracts will conclude at the end of the current season.
Big-name players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp are under contract through at least the 2014-15 season.
Defenseman Michal Rozsival is scheduled to earn $2 million in 2012-13, and he will be a free agent after this season. He does not appear likely to be brought back in the future.
F Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche
Milan Hejduk was one of the most dependable goal scorers for the Colorado Avalanche during the prime of his career.
Hejduk has one season remaining on a contract that will pay him $2 million this season.
Hejduk, 36, loves playing in Colorado and has never taken advantage of free-agent opportunities in the past. He has slowed down considerably, and he may not be back with the team at the end of the current season.
F Vinny Prospal, Columbus Blue Jackets
Vinny Prospal is a dependable journeyman player who might help another team a lot more than he helps the struggling Blue Jackets.
Prospal, 37, is coming off a 59-point season with the Blue Jackets. He is scheduled to earn $2.5 million this season.
He'll be a free agent at the end of the season, and he can be expected to go elsewhere in 2013-14.
F Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars
Jaromir Jagr has been of the NHL's greatest stars throughout his career.
He was the No. 2 forward on the Pittsburgh Penguins during their heyday when Mario Lemieux was their elite player, and they won a pair of Stanley Cups in the early 1990s.
Jagr has enjoyed a memorable and high-scoring year.
After playing with the Philadelphia Flyers last year, Jagr signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Stars that will play him $4.55 million in 2012-13.
Jagr, 40, is coming to the end of his career, and the Stars will have a number of free agents at the end of the 2012-13 season, including Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow and Michael Ryder. Jagr may cost too much to be brought back in 2013-14.
F Danny Cleary, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are a team that will be going through many changes in the coming years.
Those changes started with Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement following the 2011-12 season.
Forward Danny Cleary has been a smart and resourceful player for the Red Wings. He is scheduled to earn $2.8 million this season, and he will be a free agent in the 2013-14 season.
The Red Wings will have to make several personnel decisions next year, and Cleary will likely be a free agent.
F Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have a chance to be a team on the rise in the Western Conference in the years to come. They have a number of young stars who have superstar potential.
Players like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have a chance to turn the Oilers into a powerhouse in the years to come.
However, they won't be able to keep all their current players. Sam Gagner has been a decent player, and he is scheduled to earn $3.2 million this year.
He'll be a free agent next year, and the Oilers may not be able to keep him.
F Stephen Weiss, Florida Panthers
General manager Dale Tallon is known for his free spending to make his team a contender.
It worked in Chicago, where his players brought the Blackhawks a Stanley Cup in 2010, and his Panthers were a surprise playoff team in 2011-12.
However, he's going to have to jettison salary when the salary cap goes down to $60 million in 2013-14. Veteran Panther Stephen Weiss is scheduled to earn $3.1 million in 2012-13, and he will be a free agent next year.
The Panthers may not be in a position to bring him back.
F Simon Gagne, Los Angeles Kings
Simon Gagne has been a solid offensive player throughout his career.
Gagne missed the majority of the 2011-12 season as a result of a head injury, but he scored the memorable series-clinching goal for the Philadelphia Flyers in their comeback against the Boston Bruins in 2010.
In that series, the Flyers trailed three games to none and came back to win. Not only did Gagne score the game-winning goal in the seventh game, he also scored the overtime goal in the fourth game that started their comeback.
Gagne is scheduled to earn $3.5 million this year, and he will be a free agent in 2013-14. The Kings will not bring him back.
F Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota Wild
Pierre-Marc Bouchard is a skilled player capable of making highlight-film plays for the Minnesota Wild.
However, he is not a dominant scorer, and he is not worth the $4.08 million the Wild will pay him in 2012-13. He scored 20 goals once in his career, but he scored just nine goals in an injury-plagued season in 2011-12.
Bouchard will not be brought back at anything close to the salary he will earn this season.
D Francis Bouillon, Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens do not have a lot of contracts that will be expiring at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Francis Bouillon's contract does, and the Canadiens may or may not bring him back. He is scheduled to earn $1.5 million this season, and that's a relative bargain.
The Canadiens want to get rid of Scott Gomez's exorbitant contract that pays him $7.5 million. His contract is not up until the end of the 2013-14 season.
F Patric Hornqvist, Nashville Predators
The Predators went through a tumultuous offseason, as they lost star defenseman Ryan Suter to a huge free-agent offer from the Minnesota Wild.
The Philadelphia Flyers attempted to sign Shea Weber and presented him with a huge offer sheet, and it did not appear that the Predators would have the financial wherewithal to match it. They shocked the hockey world by keeping him.
The Predators will pay Weber just under $7.9 million per season.
They will pay forward Patric Hornqvist just under $3.1 million in 2012-13. He scored 27 goals last year and is a productive player.
However, it does not seem likely they will be able to retain him in 2013-14 when he is a free agent.
F Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
Patrik Elias is the Devils' all-time leading scorer.
He is also scheduled to earn $6 million in 2012-13. The Devils are a financially-strapped team, and it seems almost certain that they will not be able to retain him in the future.
The Devils have several other players who are going to be free agents—Travis Zajac, Dainus Zubrus and David Clarkson—and it doesn't seem likely that they will be able to keep the 36-year-old Elias.
D Lubomir Visnovsky, New York Islanders
The New York Islanders are always in the rebuilding mode.
Even if all circumstances break right for them, it's tough for them to rise above fifth place in the Atlantic Division because they have to overcome the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Lubomir Visnovsky is a solid defenseman who signed a one-year, free-agent contract with the Islanders that will pay him $5.6 million. They will not be able to pay him that much in the future, and he will likely go elsewhere.
F Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers
The New York Rangers should be the favorites to capture the 2013 Stanley Cup when play finally gets underway.
They are also in a great position for the future, since none of their key players will be free agents at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Speedy and explosive Marian Gaborik will be a free agent at the end of the 2013-14 season. Due to the lowered cap number, the Rangers may be forced to get rid of his $7.5 million salary sooner rather than later.
D Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators were one of the surprise teams in the NHL last year, making the playoffs after a miserable showing in 2010-11.
The Senators were the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, and they extended the New York Rangers to seven games before bowing out.
The Senators should continue to improve in 2012-13. However, veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar may be in his final year with the team. Gonchar is in the last year of a contract that will pay him $5.5 million.
Look for the team to let his contract expire and leave through free agency prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.
D Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers face quite a few dilemmas as they prepare for the upcoming season.
Most notable is their lack of strength and depth on defense. Kimmo Timonen is their best defenseman since Chris Pronger is still suffering from concussion-related problems, and it does not look like he will be able to play again.
However, Timonen is expensive. He will earn $6.33 million in salary, and his contract will be up after this season. He may be too costly for the Flyers to keep in the future.
F Steve Sullivan, Phoenix Coyotes
Steve Sullivan has always been known for his effort and grit no matter who he plays for in the NHL.
He signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract in the offseason with the Phoenix Coyotes. If he has an excellent year for the team and they make another strong playoff run, they may bring him back.
However, if the 38-year-old Sullivan is ordinary and the team struggles, his stay in the desert will be a short one.
F Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are going to have trouble once the $60 million salary cap hits.
They are loaded with superstars who have big-money contracts. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang are just a few of their star players.
So what of Matt Cooke, who will earn $1.8 million in 2012-13? That's not a lot of money by NHL standards, but he is the team's only expiring free agent. It seems unlikely that he will be brought back.
However, the top-heavy contracts of the team's stars will cause even more issues than Cooke's salary.
F Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have several big-name and high-salaried players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Martin Havlat.
All are under contract for at least the next two seasons.
However, forward Ryane Clowe will be a free agent after this season. He is scheduled to make $3.625 million in 2012-13.
Don't expect Clowe to be back with the Sharks next year.
F Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues
Andy McDonald has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $4.7 million in 2012-13.
He will be a free agent at the end of the season. It will be difficult for the Blues to bring him back.
Even though McDonald missed the majority of the 2011-12 season, he has plenty of speed and quickness. He may have a big year that will make him attractive, but his price tag will be too expensive for the Blues.
F Benoit Pouliot, Tampa Bay Lightning
Benoit Pouliot was traded by the Boston Bruins to the Lightning at the end of the 2011-12 season.
He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2012-13 season. He is scheduled to earn $1.8 million this year.
Pouliot has size, strength, skating skills and a big shot, but he has not become a consistent player. Unless he turns his talent into consistent production, the Lightning will almost certainly let him go.
F Tim Connolly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Few players are as overpaid as Toronto's Tim Connolly. He has failed to score more than 18 goals at any point in his career, yet he is going to earn $4.75 million in 2012-13.
It was hard to justify Connolly's salary when the salary cap was $70.2 million per team. However, it would be shocking if the Leafs or any team would pay that much money for him in 2013-14 when the cap is down to $60 million.
The Leafs will almost certainly let him go at the end of the year.
F Manny Malhotra, Vancouver Canucks
Manny Malhotra is the kind of player who can help any team win games.
He is one of the best faceoff men in the league. He is tough, smart and resilient.
Malhotra is not a star, but he will receive $2.5 million in salary in 2011-12. The Canucks have committed big money to Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa, so they are going to have to make some cuts.
It seems likely that Malhotra will be one of the players on the outside looking in during the 2013-14 season.
F Mike Ribeiro, Washington Capitals
Mike Ribiero is a slippery player who can create magic at time when he has the puck on his stick.
He is quick, elusive and clever.
However, he will earn a $5 million salary in 2012-13. Ribiero scored 18 goals for the Dallas Stars last year, and he scored 19 each of the two previous seasons.
Ribiero makes more money than he should. The Caps will not be able to justify paying him that salary after his contract ends following the end of the season.
F Nik Antropov, Winnipeg Jets
Nik Antropov is a big forward who does not always play to his size.
He should be able to command the slot in front of the net, but he does not always play with enough grit and fervor.
The 6'6", 245-pound Antropov scored 15 goals for the Jets last year, and that followed a 16-goal season the year before.
Antropov is in in the final year of a contract that pays him $4.06 million per season. The Jets are not going to be able to justify bringing Antropov back at that price.