NHL Free Agents 2011: 25 Bold Predictions for NHL Free Agency

Jeff LangridgeCorrespondent IIIMay 5, 2011

NHL Free Agents 2011: 25 Bold Predictions for NHL Free Agency

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    This years free agency period has many questions that need to be answered.

    Will Toronto acquire the first-line center that they so badly need? How many defensemen will Vancouver lose? Who will they replace them with? Will Montreal let Andrei Markov walk?

    Those are only a few of a list that will only grow as teams get eliminated from the playoffs. Several teams will have spots they will need filled. Other teams will overpay depth players they don't really need.

    Who will sign where? Here are 25 predictions on where I think some players will end up.

Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty Will Be Re-Signed Before July 1st

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    Everyone is talking about the fact that someone will try to sign Steven Stamkos to an outrageous contract that the Tampa Bay Lightning could not hope to match. On the other hand, no one is really talking about Drew Doughty.

    The fact is that both players are instrumental to their team's long-term success and therefore will be re-signed before any other team has the chance to take a shot at them.

Tomas Vokoun Will Sign on July 1st

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    While Tomas Vokoun is not one of the the league's best goalies out there anymore, there is one reason he will be signed when free agency opens on July 1st: his age.

    Vokoun will turn 35 on July 2nd and according to the NHL salary cap, any player's cap hit on a contract which is signed after he is 35 will count towards the teams salary cap for all the years of the contract, even if the player retires halfway through the contract.

    If July 2nd hits and Vokoun hasn't been signed, he will only be signing a one-year contract.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere Will Sign a One-Year Deal with Detroit

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    J.S. Giguere will follow in a former Toronto Maple Leaf's footsteps and take his services to the Motor City. Like Curtis Joseph before him, Giguere will sign a contract, most likely one year, with the Red Wings.

    Giguere wants another championship and is not likely to get one in Toronto anytime soon. Now, when a player wants one last championship, he usually only goes one place, and that's Detroit.

    Giguere would provide a better back-up for Jimmy Howard than Joey MacDonald.

Ilya Bryzgalov Will Sign with Washington

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    With Washington being ousted once again in the playoffs by a lower seeded team, something has to change. Semyon Varlamov couldn't help them last year and Michal Neuvirth didn't help them this year. It's time to change the plan.

    Clearly the Capitals shouldn't be putting their playoff hopes in a young goaltender.

    Ilya Bryzgalov would give them a clear number one goalie. He was a nominee for the Vezina trophy in 2009-10 and has guided the Coyotes to the playoffs two years in a row. Even though he has lost both years, he's lost to the Detroit Red Wings, not a team you should be ashamed to lose to.

    With Bryzgalov added to the mix, Washington might make it past the second round next year.

Shea Weber Will Sign an Offer Sheet, but the Nashville Predators Will Match

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    Unlike Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty, Shea Weber will reach July 1st as a restricted free agent. It won't be for the lack of trying but it will most likely be a more drawn-out negotiation with Weber.

    Some team, possibly even the Maple Leafs, will send an offer sheet Weber's way. After a few days of deliberation, the Predators will come to their senses and match the offer sheet.

Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya Will Be Reunited in Anaheim

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    It's a toss of a coin whether Teemu Selanne decides to play another year, but it came out a week ago that Paul Kariya would play a part in Selanne's decision.

    Selanne had a great year this past season, scoring 31 goals and 49 assists for 80 points, while Kariya sat out the season because of post-concussion symptoms.

    The decision probably won't be made until August but I think that Selanne and Kariya will get back together for one last run in Anaheim.

Andrei Markov Will Not Be Re-Signed by Montreal.

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    Andrei Markov was once the Montreal Canadiens prize possession on the blue line, not anymore. With being injured for all but 52 games the last two seasons, he has lost his spot to P.K. Subban.

    The time has come for a fresh start for Markov. Even if Montreal gives him a contract offer, he should walk away from it and go elsewhere. I could see him going to the Vancouver Canucks but it depends on their cap situation.

Tomas Kaberle Will Sign with Tampa Bay

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    Well it's not wrong to say that the Tomas Kaberle experiment in Boston has been a failure. After all they gave up for him, it now appears that he will be shown the door.

    Other than Pavel Kubina, Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer, Tampa Bay's defense is made up of depth defenseman. With Brewer most likely not returning, Tampa Bay will most likely be looking for another defenseman and could find exactly what they need in Kaberle.

    Kaberle would be reunited with Kubina, who played together for Toronto for three seasons and both were born in Czechoslovakia.

Kevin Bieksa Will Sign with Toronto

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    Kevin Bieksa will be one of a few salary cap victims in Vancouver and will be heading elsewhere. Brian Burke will jump at the chance to sign a player he drafted back in 2001.

    While not the play-making defenseman the Leafs will be looking for, Bieksa can help the Leafs as he would be the one of the oldest players on the Leafs at 29. He would also help fix the Leafs defensive woes, as he was a plus- 32 this past season.

No Teams Will Show Interest in Pascal Leclaire, Leading Him to Leave for Europe

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    The last few years of Pascal Leclaire's hockey career definitely have not gone the way that he had planned. Only playing in 60 games the past three seasons, 14 this year, Leclaire has never really shown the play that got him drafted eighth overall in the 2001 draft.

    No team should, and no team will show interest in Leclaire, and he will sign a deal with a team in Europe.

Alex Kovalev Will Return to Montreal

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    When he signed with Ottawa, Alex Kovalev said that he might want to retire a Canadien. Well, I believe that he will get the chance.

    Over half of Montreal's players will be free agents, so they will be able to restructure their line-up anyway they see fit. Kovalev would provide leadership to a young team by being the oldest player on the team.

Some Team Will Overpay Sean Bergenheim

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    With Sean Bergenheim's recent hot streak in the playoffs, there have to be teams watching thinking that he could play like this for an entire season.

    While Tampa Bay will most likely want to keep him around, some team like Atlanta or Florida will give a ridiculous contract offer and he will have no choice but to accept it.

Alex Tanguay Will Return to Colorado

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    The last time Alex Tanguay was in Colorado, he was one of the youngsters. Now, he would be returning to be the veteran leader.

    With the possibility of Milan Hejduk leaving, Colorado will need to replace his scoring. Tanguay actually had a better season than Hejduk and could very well wear an "A" on his sweater next year.

Simon Gagne Will Sign with Edmonton

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    Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle can only do so much. Simon Gagne's 40 points would place him fifth in Oilers scoring, two points behind Hall, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner and three behind Eberle.

    I might be starting to sound like a broken record, but Gagne would provide essential veteran leadership to one of, if not the youngest teams in the NHL.

James Wisniewski Will Sign with Buffalo

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    Jerry Sullivan of BuffaloNews.com stated that the Buffalo Sabres are in need of another defenseman. He listed Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Tomas Kaberle and James Wisniewski.

    I believe they have the best chance at acquiring Wisniewski, and he's most likely the cheaper option. He would have been Buffalo's leading point-getter for defensemen.

John Madden Will Sign with Washington

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    Another problem Washington had was leadership. While Alex Ovechkin should be leading them on the scoreboard, he should not be leading them in the locker room.

    Bringing in John Madden would give them another defensive stalwart and would bring valuable championship experience, winning the Stanley Cup three times.

Dwayne Roloson Will Get Nice Offers from Other Teams, but Will Stay in Tampa Bay

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    Dwayne Roloson kept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the series against Pittsburgh and led them to a sweep against Washington. This will lead to several teams taking a flyer on him regardless of his age.

    After mulling over several offers, Roloson will choose to stay with the team that he is enjoying so much success with.

Christian Ehrhoff Will Sign with Boston

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    To replace Tomas Kaberle, Boston will go out and sign who is most likely the best play-making defenseman on the market: Christian Ehrhoff.

    Ehrhoff would quarterback a power-play that placed 20th in the regular season and failed to register a goal in the first round.

Maxime Talbot Will Sign with Detroit

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    There is really no statistical reason that I think that Maxime Talbot will sign with the Red Wings. There is just the recent history of when a player leaves a team, he goes to one of the teams rivals.

Ville Leino Will Sign with Washington

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    Halfway through the season, Ville Lieno was given the option to either sign a new deal or wait until the off-season so they could acquire another asset for the team. He chose to wait and it will cause him to leave the Flyers.

    Leino will be another piece in the Capitals mini restructuring.

Tomas Kopecky Will Sign with Washington

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    He has played for two Original Six teams and he has won a Stanley Cup with both of them, but for some reason, he can't stick with them.

    He is another player with championship experience that Washington will bring in.

Joni Pitkanen Will Return to Edmonton

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    While he was only in Edmonton for one season, I believe that Joni Pitkanen will return to the Oilers as one of their top two defensemen and their power-play quarterback.

    At only 27, he's young enough that he will grow with the young Oilers and become a leader for them.

Bryan McCabe Will Sign with the New York Islanders

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    Well this is about three years too late for Leafs fans, but Bryan McCabe will finally be going back to where he started his career 15 years ago.

    He will help the Islanders take the next step and improve the Islanders no name defense.

Brooks Laich Will Sign with Toronto

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    Brooks Laich is yet another plan B for the Leafs, but when your plan B is this good, I don't see much of a problem.

    Laich can play all three offensive positions, and will most likely be playing on our third line and can move up whenever the Leafs need him to.

Brad Richards Will Sign with the New York Rangers

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    Okay, so this isn't such a bold prediction, but I'd say there is a 90 percent shot that Brad Richards signs with New York if the ownership situation in Dallas isn't resolved by July 1st.

    Richards could be the last remaining piece the Rangers need to truly become a contender, and acquiring him without giving up anything but money will be much better than what they would have had to give up if they acquired him at the trade deadline.