2011 NHL Free Agent Rumors: One Player for Each Team That Won't Be Back

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IIMay 23, 2011

2011 NHL Free Agent Rumors: One Player for Each Team That Won't Be Back

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    CALGARY,CANADA - FEBRUARY 22:  Tomas Kaberle #12 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Calgary Flames during their NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome, February 22,2011 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    Fans and teams alike should be used to life in the age of the salary cap era by now.

    Teams have to make choices.

    There are players teams would love to keep, but just don't have the space to sign him back on. Trades could free up some money, but these days it's generally very hard to find a trade partner that doesn't want to go dollar-for-dollar.

    Then there are those players who showed promise, or flashes of something that a particular team liked. So they signed him to an extensive, high dollar deal. A year or two into it, the skater hasn't lived up to the contract, but is still making money. 

    They are a cap drain of sorts, forcing the team to move players they'd like to keep since, in most cases, no one will take on a high dollar under-achiever (unless you're Montreal). These are players your team just can't afford to keep, but more or less have to.

    Then there are players that a team just doesn't want back, for one reason or another. Maybe enough youth is on their way up that a depth guy isn't needed, or the antics of that particular player just isn't worth it any more.

    This list will deal with all three scenarios. Whatever the reasoning, be it money, bad contracts, or performance, here is my list of one player per team that won't be wearing the same colors (or maybe any colors at all) come October.

Anaheim Ducks

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    ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 06:  Linesman Jay Sharrers seperates Andrew Desjardins #69 of the San Jose Sharks and Jarkko Ruutu #37 of the Anaheim Ducks in the second period at Honda Center on April 6, 2011 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks defeated the Sharks 6-2
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Jarkko Ruutu

    The photo on this slide should be enough of an explanation as to why the Ducks could let super-pest Jarkko Ruutu walk. Anaheim is a team that likes to play with a physical edge, and guys like Ryan Getzlaf bring plenty of this every night without crossing the line.

    Ruutu is a guy that doesn't know how to walk the line between agitating and idiotic, and the Ducks should not be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend their money. Ruutu has shown time and time again that he doesn't know how to pick his spots, and is in the same ball park as Matt Cooke when it comes to the most despised skaters in the League.

    The Ducks have more important free agents to deal with this year. Dan Sexton should also be in line for a decent raise for his services, as he has been a very solid young player for Anaheim through stretches. Sure the Ducks gave up a 6th rounder for him, but I don't believe that will entice the team to keep him.

    And it may be a long way down the road, but keeping an eye on the future is what the cap is all about. Both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf become free agents in the 2013-2014 off-season, and the Ducks will need to have the space needed to resign both of their stars. It's never too early to start constructing a situation where this can happen.

    I'm sure Jarkko will find work elsewhere—for whatever reason, players like this always do—but I don't think he'll be in Anaheim after July 1st.

Atlanta Thrashers

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    ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 27:  Andrew Ladd #16 of the Atlanta Thrashers celebrates his shoot out winning goal against the Ottawa Senators in a 5-4 victory at the Philips Arena on March 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Andrew Ladd

    This won't be popular among the Thrashers fans, but there is a precedence of a young, rising player like Ladd leaving a team due to the uncertainty of their future. Just ask Dallas.

    Reports are swirling right now that the Thrashers are done in Atlanta, and are on their way to Winnipeg. It seems that we will know more by the end of the week about the future of the team, but that may not stop some of their UFAs from walking.

    Some fans seem to think that just because some of the Thrashers, including Ladd, are from Canada means that they would love to play there.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we've seen time and time again that this isn't necessarily the case. Ladd may not be all too keen to head north of the border to colder temperatures and a smaller venue if a team like the LA Kings comes knocking on July 1st.

    That's just the harsh reality.

    Ladd scored almost 60 points last season, and has the chance to be a perennial 70-point player.  But his average has been a lot closer to 20 or 30. As such, the Captain of the Thrashers could look to cash in a bit on his career year with a bigger contract and a more secure franchise for next season.

    The Thrashers will try to extend his contract for a few years at least, and his resigning will ultimately come down to where he wants to play hockey.

Boston Bruins

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    UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 11:  Tomas Kaberle #12 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on March 11, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Tomas Kaberle

    This is just a dollars and cents move for Boston. I'm sure that if given enough time in Beantown, Kaberle would settle in and find his form as one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the League—what the Bruins thought they were getting when they traded for Kaberle.

    This was supposed to be the move that put them over the top. I was certainly in that camp. And while the Bruins are (arguably) still alive in their quest for the Cup, Kaberle hasn't been nearly as instrumental as he needs to be. 

    He was a ghost during the regular season games he played in Boston, and hasn't suddenly found his game with Boston for the playoffs, something that Customs clearly took from him on his way across the boarder.

    Unless Kaberle is willing to take a shorter contract for less money (ha!) I doubt the guy will be suiting up in Boston beyond the next few weeks. The Bruins have Mark Recchi to resign, who while he may be aging, is still effective. Boston needs to keep him. Ditto with Brad Marchand, who emerged during the regular season as a solid scoring threat and player.

    Recchi may stay for the same price (just shy of 2 mil) but Marchand is in line for a considerable raise. Add in Michael Ryder's status as a free agent, and I just don't see all these pieces coming back for the Bruins next year.

    Kaberle is the odd man out here, and will make bank elsewhere, assuming he hasn't played himself out of a big payday with his poor showing with the Bruins.

Buffalo Sabres

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    PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 05:  Tim Connolly #19 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against The Philadelphia Flyers during their game on March 5, 2011 at The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Tim Connolly

    The poster boy for talent lost to injury, Connolly's time as a Sabre is more than likely over.

    He made 4.5 Million dollars last year (I know, right?) and definitely has the skill to make those kinds of dollars in this league. But since 2006-2007, the guy has proven that he just isn't durable enough to make that kind of paycheck make sense.

    It's the dawn of a new era in Buffalo. Terry Pegula has promised to turn the Sabres into a contender. The new owner is a rare mix of a hockey mind who understands what happens on the ice, along with the knowledge and money to operate a team off it as well.

    I believe in the guy, and I think the Sabres will be a force within the next few years.

    But it won't be with Connolly on board. 

    There are too many free agents for the Sabres to deal with (16 total, counting restricted free agents), and a few are important to the success of the teams moving forward.  Most notably Jhonas Enroth, Drew Stafford, and Nathan Gerbe.

    Towering blueliner Tyler Myers is just begining to enter his prime, and will also be up for a hefty raise after the 2011-2012 season.

    All these elements spell the end of Connolly's time in Buffalo, who should thank him for his services and allow him to sign elsewhere.

Calgary Flames

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    CALGARY, AB - FEBRUARY 20: Alex Tanguay #40 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic Game at McMahon Stadium on February 20, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)
    Mike Ridewood/Getty Images

    Alex Tanguay

    I have no idea where all the money is going in Calgary, but they only have around 4 million dollars available to resign six roster players.

    Ouch.

    It'd be one thing if Calgary needed to make tough choices after coming oh-so close to the promised land, and was looking to either lock up young kids for the future or keep with the old guard. But it seems like the Flames are really only in the business of doing the latter.

    Letting Tanguay walk could signal the beginning of a much needed shift in approach for the Flames. Tanguay just played through a very solid year, and will make more than the 1.7 million Calgary had him for last season.

    If the veteran hits the free market, expect him to receive some phone calls from younger teams looking for bring in a guy who has been there, done that. Calgary, on the other hand, doesn't have need for another player like that.

    Yes, he's one of their top offensive players, but for how much longer?  He was marred in a terrible slump for a few seasons before finally coming back to life last year. Why wouldn't the guy try to cash in on that? And are the Flames willing to dole out over half of their unused cap space on the aging forward?

    The answer should be no. 

    After this UFA period, and the one in 2012-2013, a lot of the Flames players will have been eligible for free agency. How seriously Calgary's brass is taking a rebuild will be seen through the choices they make in the next two years.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 25: Erik Cole #26 of the Carolina Hurricanes watches the action against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on September 25, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hurricanes won 1-0. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Erik Cole

    The Hurricanes could perform a rebuild on the fly during this offseason, with eleven players and 29 million dollars coming off the books all at once.

    There are several important/young players on the roster looking for new contracts, including shootout specialist Jussi Jokinen, Brandon Sutter, Jiri Tlusty, and Joni Pitkanen.

    Erik Cole is also on this list, and I believe he may be the Hurricane allowed to test the waters of free agency.

    The most important part of the offseason for the Hurricanes will be to resign blueliner Joni Pitkanen, who would fetch quite a few shiny new pennies from another team. Carolina will do everything that they can to resign the anchor of their own zone, and to make sure he is there for quite some time.

    Keeping Jokinen makes sense as well, as his shake n' bakes earn the squad a few extra victories every season. The future lies in the hands of players like Sutter and Tlusty, and both should sign three or four year deals to see what they can bring to the table consistently.

    Erik Cole has been a dutiful 'Cane, and one of the fan favorites for the club. After a few seasons where he was limited due to injury, Cole finally played a full 82 game season last year, and racked up 52 points while averaging around 18 minutes.

    He's an important player to the Hurricanes, and that won't be lost to teams on the prowl for a secondary threat this offseason. While his best seasons have come in Carolina, he should be able to put up several more solid seasons before he hits a decline.

    Carolina gets younger this offseason, and Erik Cole will find a new home (comfortably) elsewhere.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - FEBRUARY 4: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks watches the shot of teammate Mikael Samuelsson slide past goalie Marty Turco #30 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in NHL action on February 04, 2011 at Rogers Arena
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Marty Turco

    This offseason won't be as tremulous for the Blackhawks. 

    It's a rare thing to see a Champion lose as many parts as the 'Hawks did last season, and fans had no choice but to look on as Stan Bowman made deal after to deal to try and keep the team competitive and under the cap.

    One of those moves was to let the goaltender who won them the Cup, Antti Niemi, sign with the Sharks, who are currently benefiting from his clutch play and timely saves in their on-going playoff run.

    Bowman's fix was to bring in Dallas Stats castoff Marty Turco.

    And the move had all the makings of a feel-good story, both for the partially dismantled Blackhawks, and for Turco who seemed to still have plenty of gamesmanship left for a Cup run.  Pundits seemed split over the move.

    Would it work or wouldn't it?

    One year later, we have our answer. 

    Corey Crawford was sent by the Hockey God's to shore up Chicago's issues in net, and Turco rode the pine pony for the better part of a year.

    The 'Hawks recently brought in goaltending prospect Alexander Salak, who could end up playing backup to Crawford, and the move all but spells the end for Turco's time in Chicago.  There are plenty of free agent goaltenders to go around these days, and it is doubtful that Turco gets a call for any reason from any team besides a mid-season injury stopgap, ala Anaheim.

Colorado Avalanche

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 22:  Adam Foote #52 of the Colorado Avalanche skates during warm up prior to facing the Los Angeles Kings during preseason NHL action at the Pepsi Center on September 22, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Kings defeated the Avalanche 4-2.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Adam Foote

    This one is a given, considering Foote has already announced his retirement after 19 seasons of play.

    The fact of the matter is though, that the Avs really don't have a lot of important free agents to deal with this offseason.  Signing Thomas Fleischmann may be a priority, and should he prove healthy enough, Colorado has the dollars to bring him back.

    It is the 2012-2013 offseason that Avalanche fans should be keeping a close eye on.  The team only has one single, solitary player locked up beyond that point, and that is Paul Stastny.  Talk about some room to maneuver, eh?

    Colorado hasn't been a cap-limit team recently, and probably won't suddenly find the deep pockets to be one.  Keeping dollars free for kids like Matt Duchene, Cody McLeod, Ryan O'Reilly, Peter Mueller—the list goes on—will be the more important thing for the squad to do.

    This offseason, look for the team to bring back regulars David Jones and T.J. Galiardi.  The Avs are also in desperate need of a goaltender who can, you know, actually stop the puck.  Finding one will be the main priority for Colorado as they try to rebuild from the net out.

    And all the best to Adam Foote after a stellar NHL career.  He's been a warrior every season he's laced up the skates.

    The Avs move on without him next season, with really nothing short of a team full of question marks:  Who will stay and who will go.  After the shocking trade of Chris Stewart it's clear that no one is safe on this team.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 09:  Craig Rivet #52 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the St. Louis Blues on March 9, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Craig Rivet

    Fans in Columbus probably won't notice, but next season there will be no Craig Rivet on the roster.

    I'm not positive what the Jackets were hoping to get when they claimed Rivet off of waivers, but I'm sure they were looking for something more than just a guy to put on the jersey and take up space on the ice and bench.

    But that's what they got, and my guess is that they have seen enough of Rivet's play to gladly let him walk on July 1st.

    The blueline is arguably the greatest source of strength for the Jackets, where they are icing several young and promising rearguards in Anton Starlman, Kris Russel, Marc Methot, Sami Lepisto, and Grant Clitsome. 

    A lot of these guys more or less came out of nowhere to make some kind of impact for the Union Blue this passed season, and are one of the main reasons Jacket's fans should look forward to next year.  The top six for the Jackets doesn't have room for Rivet.

Dallas Stars

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 05:  Brad Richards #91 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 5, 2011 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Stars 3-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Brad Richards

    This offseason is going to be a tough one for Stars fans.

    The ownership situation isn't progressing quick enough in Dallas, and Richards will hit the free agent market, garner as much attention as any free agent in recent memory has, and land a long, huge contract playing somewhere else.

    Nearly half the teams in the League have been rumored to be interested in the services of Richards, and why wouldn't they?  The guy can flat out play, has a Cup ring, is an outstanding and well-liked team mate, and scores clutch goals come playoff time.

    What more could you want for a guy to bring to your team, except maybe twin sisters or a fleet of yachts?

    Not much—Richards will sign for 7 or 8 million and become a cornerstone player somewhere.  But it won't be in Dallas.  There has been enough written about this subject to sustain a semester-long college course, so I will spare those in the Lonestar State any more pain by continuing here.

Detroit Red Wings

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    DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 08:  Jonathan Ericsson #52 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Nashville Predators at the Joe Louis Arena on December 8, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The Predators defeated the Red Wings 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Ima
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Jonathan Ericsson

    The Detroit Red Wings, and fans alike probably thought they had something special after Ericsson's playoff performance in 2009.  It hasn't exactly worked out that way.

    After studding it up in the minors, and making a great impression during that playoff run, he has fallen off track a ways in his development, and is now one of the only Wings who can't be counted on to do the right thing with the puck in any zone.

    The kid has a rocket for a shot, and he is a young puck moving blueliner, which is why some team somewhere will throw some money at him and hope to land a lottery ticket winner.  The Wings could afford to match it if they wanted, but the team hasn't got to where they are by paying for expensive "ifs" and "maybes."

    Ericsson could stay if he decided to accept a similar offer to the same one that he just played through, but once his phone starts lighting up on July 1st, that could be a tough mental test.  Money is money, and it talks to say the least.

    We've seen stranger things than a young guy leave a great situation for cash and promised power play minutes.  Ericsson will have to make probably the most important choice of his career:  stay with the constantly contending Wings for less money (like nearly everyone else on the roster has chosen to do) or take his chances elsewhere.

Edmonton Oilers

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 24: Nikolai Khabibulin #35 of the Edmonton Oilers reacts to giving up a goal against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on March 24, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Nikolai Khabibulin

    He isn't a free agent, but to think that he isn't available via trade is absurd. 

    He put up 10 wins in 46 starts while making 3.75 million, making him the weakest link on a young Edmonton Oilers team.  The only question is why would anyone take on this goaltender with so many decent masked men available?

    One possibility is that Khabibulin comes out on fire to start the season, and a team like Colorado who needs a proven goaltender decide to kick the tires.  It may only be for draft picks or prospects, but I think that beats a blank in Edmonton.

    He played solid hockey before being ousted as the starter in Chicago, and may not be far enough removed from being a dominant goaltender for another team to take a shot at him for a low cost experiment. 

    Another is an attempt to unload him through the waiver wire outlet.  The Islander have some cap space and could probably use another goaltender (sarcasm.)  Perhaps someone would take him for nothing?  But are the Oilers willing to move even a half-asset for free?

    It isn't like they need the cap space.  It's just a matter of wasted dollars.

    Other than The Bulin "Wall", the Oilers really don't have any impending moves. 

    Their list of UFAs is a short one, mostly filled with guys who flesh out their lineup and wouldn't be irreplaceable if they left.  The Oil have plenty of space to bring back whoever they'd want, and knock on a few doors during free agency to try and bring in an impact player.

Florida Panthers

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    SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 9: Goaltender Tomas Vokoun #29 of the Florida Panthers signs his jersey for a young fan after it was won on auction after the game against the Washington Capitals on April 9, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Pan
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Tomas Vokoun

    This is one of the surest moves on this list.  Florida has tried to sign their premier player to an extension, and he has declined.  It seems apparent that Vokoun has his eyes on the ultimate prize, and doesn't feel that the Panthers offer him his best chance.

    Honestly, why would he?

    Florida hasn't made the playoffs since 2000, and management hasn't exactly shown the utmost interest in icing the best team possible.  The yield on the Nathan Horton trade was alright, but the roster player they received in Dennis Wideman has already been peddled to the Washington Capital for a prospect and a third round pick.

    There is something to be said for getting younger and stockpiling.  But this is a money saving move in Florida, as opposed to a mindset.  There still needs to be some form of direction already on the ice, and I just don't think David Booth is what Vokoun has in mind.

    Instead of being the centerpiece of a rebuild in Florida, he seemingly fancies being the backstop of a contender, or at least a team a little further along.  Come July 1st he'll be one of the most talented backstops available, and will fetch himself a nice amount of cash for his talent.

    This also be the last chance Vokoun has to land a lengthy contract with some decent dollars, as he is a 12 year veteran.

Los Angeles Kings

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Alexei Ponikarovsky #27 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the Minnesota Wild at Staples Center on February 24, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Alexei Ponikarovsky

    Ouch.

    Things certainly have not worked out for Poni in LA, to both the team and player's chagrin.  The Kings signed the guy to be a replacement for the softer Alex Frolov, and a consolation prize after losing the race for Ilya Kovalchuk to the tune of 3 million over one year.

    Kings management looks brilliant at this point for not letting the ink dry on some ridiculous eight year deal to keep his number down, instead opting for more of a tryout contract.  And Ponikarovsky fell short of even the most mild expectations that were had for him.

    LA's intent with Poni seemed apparent after he was benched through the last two games in favor of an enforcer who hadn't scored a goal all year in Kevin Westgarth.  Westgarth could have conceivably had the best outing of his life, scored five goals, and tied Ponikarovsky's season output.

    Five goals?  All season?  Really?

    Say goodbye to California, kid.

    Poni's time is done in LA, who will presumably take a very serious run at Brad Richards come July.  Where will Ponikarovsky land?  It's hard to tell, but he's still a player who has scored 20 goals in four of his last six seasons.  Someone will take a shot at him.

    It just won't be the Kings, and they'll be no worse off for the loss.

Minnisota Wild

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    UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 02:  Jose Theodore #60 of the Minnesota Wild tends net against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on March 2, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Wild 4-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Jose Theodore

    The former Hart Trophy winner is most likely going to looking for a new home after a so-so season for the Wild.

    He started 32 games this season and won 15, while dropping 11.

    Those numbers are OK—nothing spectacular.  The issue that comes up here is Josh Harding.  Harding has a lesser record than Theodore (9-12) but has more upside, having only been in the NHL for five years.

    And Harding will come for less money.  Which is needed, since the incumbent starter in Nik Backstrom is one of the highest-paid goaltenders in the League, making 6 million dollars a year.

    I know hockey, and sport in general, is not the place for sentiment, but I sincerely hope Theodore finds a team to play for during the upcoming season as a serviceable backup.  Like all who play the game, he adores the his time on the ice and has had a rougher go of it than a lot of his counterparts.

    If you want to know what I mean, google him and read up a bit—I just think he deserves more of a chance since he's only one season removed from a 30 win, 7 loss season in Washington.  Sure that team was loaded, but the guy still had to stop some rubber for a team that wasn't really considered sound in their own zone at all times.

Montreal Canadiens

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    BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 09:  James Wisniewski #20 of the Montreal Canadiens takes a shot in the second period against the Boston Bruins on February 9, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Bruins defeated the Canadiens 8-6. (Photo by Elsa/Get
    Elsa/Getty Images

    James Wisniewski

    The guy they call Wis is in a different place than the players listed so far, because he may have actually played himself into a bigger contract as opposed to playing himself out of a given city or situation.

    Montreal has a lot of money to play with this summer, and while they have a few forwards who are RFAs they could potentially change the entire look of their defense, as only one out of their top six blueliners are under contract going into July.

    Wisniewski could very well reup in Montreal. 

    The Habs have the money to make this happen—but a defensemen coming off of a 51 point season may be very inclined to see what kinds of dollars another team may throw at him before signing anything, anywhere.

    And trust me.  That's a lot of green.

    Puck-moving blueliners are arguably the hottest commodity in the League today, and Wis could find himself at the center of a five or six team battle to land his services for the foreseeable future.  The Canadians would be well served to have several different contracts sitting in front of him before that time, as he could anchor the group going forward.

    Looking at the other free agent D-men in Montreal (Hamrlik, Markov) it may be best for the Canadiens to try a youth-oriented approach.  They will be hard-pressed to find a player with all the tools that Wisniewski brings to the table.

    This won't be lost on other teams, and if he is still available on July 1st he could turn out to be the best pickup not named Richards to whoever lands his services.

Nashville Predators

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    NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 03:   Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Vancouver Canucks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 3, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee
    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Shea Weber

    This is a bit of a controversial pick, as Weber has stated that he'd love to stay in Nashville.  He is the backbone of the Predators, half of one of the best, most underrated pairings on the blueline in the NHL, and is only a RFA (as opposed to a UFA.)

    That being said, if a deal isn't reached for the Lidstrom-heir apparent, there will be an offer sheet presented and it may not be in Weber's hands.

    If players like Dustin Penner get offer sheets, why wouldn't a guy like Weber, who could cement a blueline for years to come?

    The Preds are a team that has always gotten by on being frugal, and picking their spots.  They have also turned into a team that seems to be a breeding ground for talented players who are tempted to, and eventually head, elsewhere.

    How many starting goaltenders in the NHL are Nashville products?

    Weber's value won't glide under the radar should he remain unsigned to a new contract by July 1st. 

    This should be viewed as the doomsday clock for fans of this franchise and management alike.  Because players like this come along perhaps once every two or three decades at best.

    Still, some teams have never had a player who figures to be a Norris candidate for the next 10 or 15 years.  If this guy hits the free agent market, suddenly Brad Richards will not be the most sought after player available.

    It will be Shea Weber.

New Jersey Devils

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    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 22:  Goaltender Johan Hedberg #1 of the New Jersey Devils at American Airlines Center on February 22, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Johan Hedberg

    This is a goaltender who more than likely played himself out of the Devil's price range. He had an outstanding season in the absence of one of the greatest goaltenders ever, Martin Brodeur.

    He played so well that several teams may be eyeballing him to start for their club for the upcoming season.  There are a couple of vacant starting goaltender spots available, and after Vokoun gets signed, Hedberg may be the best of the available masked men.

    Would he rather sign on for three or four years, backstopping Marty for who knows how long, and wait for the chance to be The Man for the Devils?  Or will he seize the opportunity that he has made for himself by signing on with another team and try to win a starting job now?

    If Brodeur's play towards the end of the season is any indication, the guy still has plenty left in the tank.  He isn't susceptible to injury, and will be a large part of the resurgence of the Devils next season.  Hedberg could come back and play maybe 15 to 20 games for the Devils as they try to return to the playoffs.

    But would he rather try and be the number one goalie somewhere else?

    I think he'll try and see what opportunities are out there for a few days before coming back to New Jersey, and he may be pleasantly surprised by what he finds: a few extra million in the bank and a promised role as a starter.

New York Islanders

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    NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 01:  Trevor Gillies #14 of the New York Islanders skates  against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 1, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.The Devils defeated the Islanders 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Trevor Gillies

    I try and give every player the benefit of the doubt, but this guy is a downright idiot.  He doesn't get it, and fails to understand what is acceptable behavior on the ice and what isn't.

    I feel that it is a waste of energy to rehash, and recycle such stupidity in print—I don't want the guy to gain any more attention at my expense.  Suffice to say that if the Islanders resign the guy they'll be sending the wrong message to the League, their own players, and show that they are alright harboring a borderline criminal.

    Gillies isn't fit to wear a pair of skates, much less be a professionally paid athlete while he illegally and purposefully hurts people.

    The guy should be out the League, out of hockey, and sent somewhere to wash cars or do something else for a living.  This clearly isn't his thing.

    Harsh?  Perhaps.  But he has had his chances.  Even Matt Cooke has shown remorse.

New York Rangers

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 15:  Alexander Frolov #31of the New York Rangers looks on during warm ups before play against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on November 15, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Alexander Frolov

    A measly 16 points in only 43 games played and poor three-zone play following a one year contract worth 3 million dollars isn't going to cut it—not in this League, or in the KHL, where Frolov has reportedly taken his perimeter game to.

    This was a marriage doomed from the start. 

    Frolov is not a John Tortorella type of player, and goes against the identity the Rangers have carved out for themselves during the last two years.  The team prides itself on being a hardworking and scrappy squad, led by heart and soul type players like Brandon Dubinsky and Marc Staal.

    There really is no room on the roster for a guy like Frolov at that kind of cap hit. 

    Even a more talented guy like Marian Gaborik may find himself traded this season due to his play style just not fitting in with where the Rangers are headed—clearly Torts wasn't asked about these signings before they happened.

    The Rangers can surely find more bang for their buck on the free agent market, and will almost definitely do so.

Ottawa Senators

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    PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 15: Pascal Leclaire #33 of the Ottawa Senators skates in warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 15, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Pascal Leclaire

    No need to make a mountain out of a molehill here.  Leclaire's time with Sens was done almost as soon as he laced them up after he was traded from Columbus.

    He's never been able to stay consistently healthy throughout his career, and some pundits think that he may never play in the pros again.  As stated several times in this slideshow, there are a lot of goaltenders available this offseason. There is no reason to think that a team would pick up what the Sens passed over after signing Craig Anderson to a multi-year deal.

    The Senators are a team with around 14 million in projected cap space for this offseason, and no big names to sign.  Don't expect them to send a cent of that money Leclaire's way however. 

    He's just too soft to play in the bigs.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 29:  Ville Leino #22 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his second third period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on March 29, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Flyers defeated the Penguins 5-2.  (
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Villie Leino

    Perhaps even the Flyers were surprised at how Leino played after they robbed Detroit blind in a salary dump move for the Wings—one of the rare times those in the brass of the Winged Wheel failed to appropriately judge talent.

    The Flyers gain was Detroit's loss, and Leino has played some outstanding puck in the City of Brotherly Love since the deal.

    Going into this offseason the Flyers only have short of a half-million to spend on their holes at forward—one of those holes presumably being where Leino used to skate. 

    Philly just does not have enough space to maneuver a deal for this player.

    Because he has played so well in the playoffs, and has been a strong player through the regular season, Leino will latch on somewhere as a second, or perhaps even a first line player.  He has an abundance of talent, and will make a good living for himself in this League.

    The Flyers showed their deftness in acquiring him for basically nothing in the first place, but they will soon be loosing him for the same thing.

    Leino will not be a Flyer come July 1st, barring a Philadelphia trade, and then a quick resign.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 08:  Ed Jovanovski #55 of the Phoenix Coyotes stands on the ice with his kids as he is honored for his 1000th game before the start of the NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres at Jobing.com Arena on January 8, 2011 in Glendale, Arizo
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Ed Jovanovski

    Jovo Cop made more money than Nick Lidstrom did last year.

    He does a lot for the Desert Dogs, and brings a lot of experience to the table, but that is insane to me.  I know Lidstrom takes a hometown discount for Detroit, but Jovanovski is beyond his best playing years.

    That being the case, there is some team that will be willing to pay him only a million or two less to come play in their city.  Expect Jovo to take what is probably the last chance at a decent pay day in his career, and a chance for a Stanley Cup as the Coyotes move forward in a more youthful fashion.

    Keith Yandle is coming out of his 1.2 million dollar deal and will likely absorb a lot of Jovo's money, as he should.  The kid is going to win a Norris or two in his day, and the 'Yotes will be doing themselves a disservice if they let him walk as a UFA as well.

    The team must also resign their most important player in goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.  He has been a mountain of a man in the crease in the desert, and Phoenix wouldn't have been in the playoffs without his stellar play.

    These two investments, plus the resigning of Vernon Fiddler, Mikkel Boedker, and Kyle Turris all mean the the Coyotes have some tough choices to make this summer as they are not a to-the-cap spending team.

    This all likely spells the end for Jovo Cop in the desert, beloved as he may be.  There will be an Ed Jovanovski night when he returns to Phoenix this season playing for another team.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 2: Maxime Talbot #25 talks to goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the NHL game against the Florida Panthers on April 2, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Maxime Talbot

    Another Penguin's favorite from the Cup winning roster may be on his way out this summer, but not out of anything besides monetary necessity.

    The Pens have short of 4 million in cap space to sign one or two of the 11 forwards they have hitting free agency this period.  Some of the choices will be easy.  Mike Comrie probably won't be back.

    But what about guys like Dustin Jeffrey?  And Tyler Kennedy—one of the Penguin players who stepped up their games most in the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin).

    These three players, and perhaps another skater out of the remaining UFAs, all deserve a contract, and arguably a raise.

    I think the Penguins decide to go with the youth of Jeffrey and the promise of Kennedy over Talbot.  Not because he in not a good player.  He plays rock solid, shift after shift, and does what you pay him for.  His million dollar cap hit from last season was beyond reasonable.

    So would he be willing to stay at the same number to stay in Pittsburgh? 

    When players like Crosby are in the fold anything is possible.  He could take a small raise and stay put.  Or Talbot may listen to offers from other squads who would love his experience and guts on their team, and could pay him better at that.

    This isn't a sure thing whatsoever.  The Penguins just have some tough decisions to make up front before July comes and goes, and I expect Talbot to be on the outside looking in when the dust settles and the opening day rosters are announced.

San Jose Sharks

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 01:  Ian White #9 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Detroit Red Wings in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 1, 2011 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Ian White

    White is the prototypical mid-season pickup, used by teams on the verge of a Championship to shore up an area of concern.

    And he has been exactly what the doctor ordered for San Jose since his arrival from Carolina for a second round pick—a decent bounty for a player who could turn out to be a rental, and may always have been.

    The way White has played though, the Sharks could very well look to resign the blueliner who has solidified their zone with excellent play in these playoffs.

    San Jose is in better shape than one may think, with seven million available to fill only a few holes.  They will be in the market for at least two blueliners, as Jason Demers should be able to fill one of the three openings available full time next season.

    The Sharks could look to use a few of the million they have available on White since he has played so well for them.  It's just a matter of internal decision-making.  The cap forces the best teams to do that, clearly.

    How well White ends up getting paid may largely depend on how his Sharks perform through the rest of the post season.  Another exit in the Conference Finals may lead to some turnover.  A Cup may lead to too many raises for San Jose to handle.

    White is a replaceable player however, and while he may be missed the Sharks could function without him.  Management has done a great job managing the cap here, and no big-time players are looking to leave the West Coast this offseason.

St. Louis Blues

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 16: Ty Conklin #29 of the St. Louis Blues looks to make a save against the Los Angeles Kings at the Scottrade Center on December 16, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Ty Conklin

    A backup goaltender.

    That's really all I've got for the Blues for the offseason. 

    They have several notable and extremely important RFAs to deal with, but with nearly 30 million in cap space they will be able to sign T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Matt D'Agostini, and maybe one or two other small time free agents to boot if they so choose.

    This is crucial offseason for the Blues. They will need to make sure the terms and numbers make sense for the next half decade or so.  Having two or three of these contracts expire simultaneously could spell trouble in St. Louis.

    But this isn't a big offseason in terms of having a central player—or even an important player at all—walk without at least having the chance to match or receive draft picks as compensation.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    TAMPA, FL - MAY 03: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals hits Eric Brewer #2 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at St Pete Times Forum on May 3, 2011 in Tampa, Flor
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Eric Brewer

    All hands on deck in Tampa Bay—this offseason is a big one for the Bolts.

    A lot of folks are hailing Steve Yzerman as a managing prodigy, as he has pulled off one of the quickest rebuilds imaginable.  His Lightning are currently entrenched in a battle for a Cup birth against the Bruins that they could very well win.

    The real battle however will occur this offseason, when Stevie Y's best player at each position becomes available on the free agent market.

    All attention will be turned to the Steven Stamkos negotiations, and rightfully so.  The kid is not even in his prime yet and is competing for the goal scoring title. He has also found his playoff legs after a rough start.

    Martin St. Louis may be the offensive leader of this team for now,but look for Stamkos to quickly take over that role.  This is an interesting case of a promising GM in Yzerman negotiating with an equally promising player in Stamkos.

    Contract negotiations don't get any bigger than this, and if the Social Network can make it big in theaters, there is no reason to think this won't be a movie at some point.  I'd start keeping a look out for it in 2013.

    AND both of Tampa's goaltenders are free agents to be. Either Mike Smith or Dwayne Roloson will need to be resigned.

    Teddy Purcell also needs a deal.

    Anyone else?  Sheesh.

    Brewer has been an outstanding pickup for the Lightning, and has paid dividends since coming over via trade.  He has been their best blueliner, and has left everything out on the ice every night.  With so much attention being paid elsewhere, there just might not be room to keep Brewer, who could be looking for a raise.

    The Bolts have 22 million in cap space to play with this offseason, and as much as half of that could go to Steven Stamkos.  Is he worth that?  It's a debate for another time.  But he could get it.  You don't let guys who were born scoring 38 goals a game walk for a few draft picks.

    Eric Brewer, on the other hand, would be a more survivable loss.  And Tampa Bay may very well have to do so come next October.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 10: Willie Mitchell #33 of the Los Angeles Kings lines up Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Staples Center on January 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Leafs defeated the Kings 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Ben
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Clarke MacArthur

    This could be an interesting play for the Maple Leafs, as MacArthur is a RFA. He would need to be signed to an offer sheet from another team for this to work.

    This is a player who found chemistry on the second line in Toronto, and ended up netting 62 points in 82 games for the Leafs.

    So what kind of offer could he attract?  If it became worth it, would Brian Burke be wise to let this player walk for a few more draft picks?  MacArthur would have been counted on for only 20 or 30 points before this season.

    Burke has seemed intent on stock piling as many picks as possible for the upcoming drafts, so this move may make sense to him, depending on what he sees in this player.

    But what about that second line in Toronto?  Isn't that what a lot of teams base hope of winning the Cup on?  Secondary scoring?  The Leafs have that on lockdown, with their most effective line coming out on the second shift of most games.

    Phil Kessel (say what you will about the deal) is a solid piece on the first line, and is only a center away from returning to his goal-scoring glory.

    James Reimer could run for political office in Toronto right now and win, being that he is so popular with the natives.  He appears fill the need for a strong goaltender in Toronto.

    And the team has 21 million in cap space. 

    If Burke and Co. decide to resign MacArthur, it could certainly be done.  But would the team be wiser to take a few draft picks if they become available?  Either move could push the team that much closer to being a contender again, and the brass must weigh their options carefully before making a choice.

    Either way, the Curious Case of Clarke MacArthur will be one to keep an eye on this summer.

Vancouver Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 31: Goalie Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings keeps an eye on the puck after being shot by Christian Ehrhoff #5 of the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in NHL action on March 31, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouve
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Christian Ehrhoff

    This is another puck-moving blueliner who is in line for a hefty raise—scoring between 40 and 50 points for three consecutive seasons as a defensemen will do that for you in the NHL these days.

    Ehrhoff hasn't gained nearly enough attention for the upcoming free agency period, and is among the top five or six most impactful players available on July 1st.

    The German native was picked up by the Canucks from the Sharks for nearly nothing, but he has been blowing Vancouver fans out of the water ever since.  They'd love to keep him in there, but this is just a numbers game.

    They have to resign long time Canucker Kevin Bieksa, who isn't as offensively sound as his counterpart in Ehrhoff, but would attract a lot of attention for his play on the opposite end of the ice.  My gut tells me they go with the guy they drafted to stay, while letting Ehrhoff go.

    He's going to be able to command too much money on the open market, and the Canucks still have to come up with paychecks for a few depth forwards and two other blueliners.  Sami Salo is also a free agent, as is Andrew Alberts.

    It may be a matter of keeping all the incumbents, or keeping Ehrhoff and maybe one other defenseman not named Bieksa.  Depth in your own end is too important for Vancouver to ignore this offseason, and Ehrhoff will probably be finding another place to play, and a new bank to cash his paycheck.

Washington Capitals

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    WASHINGTON , DC - APRIL 23:  Jason Arnott #44 of the Washington Capitals greets Derek Stepan #21 of the New York Rangers during the handshake following a 3-1 win over the Rangers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Sta
    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Jason Arnott

    Arnott was supposed to be the winner with an infectious attitude in Washington's locker room.  He was receiving, and cashing in on, power play time before an untimely injury took him out for a an extended period during the regular season.

    He bounced back for the playoffs just in time to witness the annual Capital meltdown first hand.

    The winds of change are blowing for the Capitals, and Arnott is going to be a player who is shown the door, not because of his own capabilities, but because he is one of the few players the Caps can make an example out of.

    Brooks Laich may be on the way out as well.

    The coach is apparently safe (for whatever reason), and the Caps may look to deal some of their core players.  Whatever the case, the management in the Nation's Capital has more than likely been losing sleep as to what to do with this team.

    Bringing Arnott back may make sense to onlookers, but a head or two has to roll after another disappointing post season in Washington.