Even the casual hockey fan knows what July 1st means to the hockey calendar now.
The playoffs are over, the draft has come and gone, and the NHL's "Silly Season" begins. It's free agent signing time.
There are some big names at every position on the UFA list heading into the summer, and here are five potential signings that just make too much sense NOT to happen.
Capitals General Manager George McPhee has a chance to redeem himself this summer.
In last year's playoffs he saw first hand what it took to win in the playoffs, when the Pittsburgh Penguins stormed back to stun his Caps. The high-octane offense is nice, but guys like Brooks Orpik, Hal Gill, and Rob Scuderi blocked a ton of shots in that series and were a big reason why the Caps went home.
He saw that again this year, with the Canadiens stunning Washington, thanks in large part to a ridiculous amount of blocked shots, with Gill leading the way once again.
The Caps need a shift from guys like Tom Poti and Shaone Morrisonn. Bringing in Volchenkov (eighth in blocked shots last season with 172) would finally give the team what they've desperately needed for a long time: a well-seasoned, fearless Goliath on the back-end.
The Caps will need to move Poti and his $3.5 million he's due for next year. With John Carlson ready for prime-time, what offense Poti provides won't be missed.
Volchenkov won't come cheap though. He's due for a big raise, probably somewhere between $4 to $4.5 million per.
The Coytoes have just over $13 million in cap space available heading into the offseason, affording them the opportunity to make more than one high impact signing this summer.
One of those should be Plekanec, coming off a career year in Montreal, and due for a big pay increase over the $2.75 million he made this season.
Plekanec makes sense in a lot of ways for the Coyotes. The team is terribly shallow up the middle, especially if they can't bring Matthew Lombardi back for the 2010-11 season. As it stands now, the Yotes have Daniel Winnik, Vernon Fiddler, Martin Hanzal, and Petteri Nokelainen signed through next season. While Hanzal had a somewhat breakthrough year, there isn't a first-line center amongst the bunch. Plekanec would fill that role nicely in the desert.
Marleau's future depends on how far the Sharks go in the playoffs. If a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals just so happens, there is a greater likelihood that he may be sticking around the Shark Tank a little longer.
Marleau is coming off another solid offensive season with the Sharks, though his numbers tended to dwindle down the stretch. He made $6.3 million this past year, and isn't likely to make more than that in his next contract.
The former Sharks captain would be a good fit in Toronto. Signing him would take pressure off Phil Kessel (something which is desperately needed), and add a veteran presence to what will otherwise be a young forward corps in Toronto.
Another option is Calgary, though Darryl Sutter would have to perform salary cap heroics to pull it off. Daymond Langkow and either Jay Bouwmeester/Robyn Regehr would have to be shipped out.
With Crosby, Malkin, and Staal, the Penguins will always be deep at center. The problem is, with all that money tied up down the middle, Ray Shero has to fill with the wings with hard working, marginal talents.
The Pens have little cap space to work with, and that is why bringing Colby Armstrong back to the fold makes a ton of sense. He won't be overly pricey, having made $2.4 million in each of the past two seasons in Atlanta, and will be a nice replacement for Bill Guerin who is likely headed into retirement.
More seasoned since his last foray with Pittsburgh, Armstrong has 30-goal potential playing on a line with Crosby and Kunitz.
He's a strong leader in the room and already popular in Pittsburgh, both with the players and the fans.
Needless to say, the Devils trading for Kovalchuk didn't work out.
It's highly unlikely the New Jersey brings the high scoring winger back to the Swamp, leaving him the most sought after UFA this summer.
There is a big question surround the Kovalchuk situation. I tend to lean towards the thought he is going to sign in the KHL.
Think about it.
This is the KHL's chance to make a big impact, pulling away one of the NHL's brightest stars. Think WHA and Bobby Hull.
If he does stay in the NHL, there is a good chance he'll end up a King.
The Kings are on the cusp of being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and adding the skilled Russian puts them right there. The Kings would have to find away to dump the salaries of Justin Williams ($3.5 million) and either/or Michal Handzus ($4 million) / Jarret Stoll ($3.4 million).
Its all up to Ilya. Will any team pony up and give him the $10 million per year he wanted from the Thrashers? If not, he's jumping ship back to his Motherland.