It's almost July 1, which is known as Free-Agent Frenzy Day among fans of the NHL.
There will be plenty of players leaving their respective clubs to sign on elsewhere this offseason. In some cases, it will be the player who seeks a change of scenery or more money with another team. In other cases, it's the team that decides to cut ties with the player.
Most of the players on this list are pending free agents. However, there are a few players I've listed that may be dangled as trade bait to the other 29 general managers.
I've compiled this list, in no particular order, based on who I think are the most likely players to switch teams and the best players who I think will move from one NHL team to another.
Feel free to let me know if there are any notable players you think will be on the move this summer who I've left off the list.
If I had to choose one player to give a 100 percent guarantee that he won’t be returning to his team from last season, it’s Brad Richards.
Richards has made it abundantly clear to anyone who’s willing to listen that he won’t be playing for the Dallas Stars in 2011-2012. As a result, he’s the biggest name on the free-agent market this summer and he’ll get the most money.
There’s no shortage of teams interested in Richards’ services, but he says he wants an opportunity to win another Stanley Cup in addition to the money. It will be interesting to see where he signs and how long it takes him to sign this July.
Next to Brad Richards, Connolly might be the best unrestricted free-agent forward available on July 1st. His cap number was $4.5 million last season with Buffalo, so who knows what kind of money he’ll command on the open market.
He’s a very talented center with great hands, but he’s had injury problems in the past that have adversely affected his stats. In fact, the 30-year-old hasn’t played a full 82-game season since 2001-2002 so that may scare a few teams away. I wouldn’t worry too much about Tim Connolly though. Given his talent, he’ll still have plenty of teams calling his agent on July 1st.
Tomas Kaberle was set to make a lot of money this offseason. However, despite winning the Stanley Cup, he had a subpar performance with the Boston Bruins during the playoffs. This may have caused his stock to decline on the free-agent market.
Regardless, he likely won’t be back with the Bruins and he won’t be going back to Toronto to play for the Maple Leafs; therefore, he’ll be fielding offers from the other 28 NHL teams.
Niklas Hagman is currently under contract with the Calgary Flames, but general manager Jay Feaster has made it obvious that he wants to get rid of the Finnish winger.
Hagman put up only 27 points for the Flames last season and is set to earn another $3 million in the final year of his contract.
Feaster already put Hagman on waivers once back in February, but no one picked him up. He will likely do it again if he can’t find a team willing to trade for Hagman. The other option is to simply buy out the final year of Hagman’s contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.
If this happens, someone will definitely pick up Hagman at a cheaper price, as he is only 31 years old.
The odds are that Babchuk, whose contract expires on July 1st, will hit the free-agent market.
The Flames need a better option than Babchuk to give them more quality depth on defence, but Babchuk is only 27 and is still an NHL-calibre defenseman so he’ll find work with another NHL team.
Even though Cory Stillman is 37 years old, he’s still a productive NHL player and isn’t rumoured to be retiring soon. However, the Carolina Hurricanes are looking to get younger and therefore Stillman’s contract probably won’t be renewed.
Look for Stillman to sign with a contender that could use an experienced forward who has a Stanley Cup ring. He won’t make as much money, but he will have another chance to win Lord Stanley’s mug.
It will be a little odd to see Erik Cole in another team’s jersey in 2011-2012. He just seems to fit as a Carolina Hurricane. But the same rule applies to Cole that applies to Cory Stillman. The Hurricanes want to get younger and Cole is 32.
Also, according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the Hurricanes and Cole are not current close on a contract extension.
The one-year experiment of Marty Turco in Chicago is over. He didn’t have a good season for the Blackhawks and rookie Cory Crawford stole the show. As a result, Crawford is the goalie of the future in Chi-Town and Turco almost certainly won’t be re-signing with the Blackhawks.
The question is who will offer Turco a contract for the upcoming season? He is 35 years old, but he still could be a valuable asset to a team looking for a veteran goalie, or really a goalie of any sort.
It doesn’t look likely that the Colorado Avalanche will re-sign Tomas Fleischmann this summer, so he will become a sought-after forward on the free-agent market. That is, if he’s healthy.
Fleischmann experienced blood clots back in January and was forced to miss the second half of the season. Avalanche GM Greg Sherman says Fleischmann will be 100 percent for next season, but his medical test results will be the real judge of that.
The 27-year-old Upshall will probably test the free-agent market, as opposed to re-signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He made $2.25 million last season and recorded 34 points.
Craig Rivet is a veteran defenseman who still has a few years left in the NHL. However, none of those years will be with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
If the Jeff Carter trade was any indication, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson is willing to shake things up in order to improve the team quickly. Rivet is 36 years old and likely doesn’t fit into Howson’s plans.
There should be another team interested in the services of Craig Rivet, but he’ll have to take a pay cut from the $3.5 million annual salary he made over the last few seasons.
Last year, Marty Reasoner was traded twice in the same offseason. This year, he’ll get to actually choose the team he plays for.
The Florida Panthers were actively trying to deal Reasoner at the 2011 trade deadline and there was even one erroneous report that he had been dealt to Vancouver.
All this simply means that the Panthers probably won’t re-sign him and he’ll be on the move at some point this summer.
The Florida Panthers did not qualify Bernier, meaning he will be cut loose on July 1st to officially become an unrestricted free agent.
This is kind of disappointing for a former first-round draft pick who’s only 26 years old, but I’m sure someone will pick him up before the start of the 2011-2012 season.
Now that Ilya Bryzgalov is off the free-agent market, Tomas Vokoun is the top goalie who will be available on July 1st. There are a number of teams that are reportedly interested in him, including the Avalanche and the Coyotes.
We can only wait to find out where he goes. The only thing for sure is that he’ll be making a lot of money.
With the upgrading the L.A. Kings have done upfront, they probably won’t re-sign both Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
We’ll see where he goes as we move forward this summer.
Like other pending free agents on this list, Andrew Brunette will likely be a victim of a non-contending team looking to get younger.
When asked about his future with the Minnesota Wild near the end of the season, Brunette didn’t seem overly optimistic about a return.
“We'll do some thinking when the year's over," Brunette said. "I might not even have an option." (Source: Michael Russo of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.)
Brunette turns 38 in August and has yet to win a Stanley Cup. He’ll probably want to play for a contender if he can’t return to the Wild.
Wisniewski is one of the bigger names among defensemen in the 2011 class of pending unrestricted free agents.
He was picked up by the Montreal Canadiens at the 2011 trade deadline, so he doesn’t have any strong ties to the hockey club that would make him want to stay. Plus, he’ll likely get a fairly big contract elsewhere based more on the lack of other big-name free agents rather than his play. That’s not to say he isn’t a good player, but it’s a good bet that some team will overpay to get him on the open market and he’ll leave the Canadiens as a result.
An unexpectedly strong playoff performance by Joel Ward should earn him a fairly big payday this summer.
Ward had 13 points in just 12 playoff games, so there’s bound to be a team that will overpay to get him with hopes he can at least come close to that pace over an 82-game season.
The Nashville Predators are too smart for that and have a history of not spending too much money in order to keep pending free agents. Joel Ward will not be an exception to this rule.
The Ottawa Senators made a significant trade to get Craig Anderson from Colorado midway through last season, so he appears to be their starting goaltender for the future.
This means they probably don’t want to have a backup taking up anywhere near the $3.8 million worth of cap space that Pascal Leclaire took up.
Plus, Leclaire would presumably want to play for a team where he has a better opportunity to be a starter again so it all points to him moving on to a new team as a free agent this summer.
The chances of the Philadelphia Flyers continuing the Nicolay Zherdev experiment in 2011-2012 are very slim.
They are more focused on locking up Jacub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, who they just traded for, and also re-signing Ville Leino.
However, there may be a couple other NHL teams interested in signing Zherdev, so there’s a realistic chance he’ll stay in North America to play next season.
Since the Flyers signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a long-term deal, they now have three goalies under contract and Brian Boucher isn’t one of them.
There’s no chance at all that Boucher will return to Philly, but there should be many other teams looking for a serviceable backup goalie with plenty of NHL experience.
Boucher will land on his feet somewhere in the NHL before the start of the 2011-2012 season.
The Phoenix Coyotes have the money to re-sign Jovanovski, but they won’t.
They already have seven defensemen under contract and if they extend Keith Yandle’s contract, it will be eight. Plus, Jovanovski is getting older and probably wants to go somewhere where he has a chance to win a Stanley Cup.
Possible destinations are Detroit or a return to the Vancouver Canucks.
The New York Rangers didn’t qualify Matt Gilroy’s contract, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Gilroy had high expectations coming out of university, but never quite lived up to the hype.
At 27 years old, he is still an NHL-calibre player. It’s just a matter of who will sign him this summer.
It’s interesting that the Florida Panthers decided not to give Niclas Bergfors a qualifying offer when he made less than $1 million last season, but then again, the Panthers have made a lot of interesting moves in their history.
Despite putting up just 36 points in 2010-2011, Bergfors is only 24 years old and still has a lot of potential. My opinion is that he’ll move on to another team and do very well and this decision by Panthers GM Dale Tallon will end up on the long list of mistakes in franchise history.
Predicting trades is a lot harder than predicting whether or not a pending free agent will stay or leave, but I’m anticipating a Barrett Jackman deal this summer.
The Blues are looking towards the future and they may want to get something for Jackman before he becomes a free agent next summer and leaves for nothing.
This makes sense because usually when an unknown pending free agent comes out of nowhere to put up big numbers in the playoffs, someone will overpay to get him in the offseason. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is smarter than that though, and that’s why Bergenheim will likely be offered more money from another team.
Simply put, Gagne is making too much money and won’t be re-signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He is another player that Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune mentioned as someone who will move elsewhere this summer.
Sjostrom is 28 years old and didn’t contribute a whole lot to the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.
Plus, he’s not exactly the type of player that GM Brian Burke is generally fond of. He doesn’t use his size that well and he’ll likely be let go by the Leafs in favour of a younger forward.
Sjostrom should get an opportunity to chip in on another NHL team's fourth line.
It’s almost a guarantee that J.S. Giguere will be moving on to a new team this summer. The Maple Leafs already have James Reimer, who emerged as their No. 1 goalie last season, and Jonas Gustavsson backing him up.
They have no use for the 34-year-old Giguere, but there will be plenty of teams who need a goalie that will definitely be able to use him next season.
Christian Ehrhoff’s negotiating rights were traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the N.Y. Islanders for a fourth-round draft pick, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be moving to a different team on July 1st. It just means he won’t be re-signing in Vancouver.
The Islanders have only two days to sign Ehrhoff and there have been plenty of instances in recent years where a team trades for a player's negotiating rights and is still unable to sign that player. My bet is that this will be the case with the Islanders and they’ll end up losing a fourth-round pick for nothing.
Ehrhoff will probably want to play for another contender and the Detroit Red Wings seem like a good fit with the recent retirement of Brian Rafalski.
Higgins was an unlikely hero at times for the Vancouver Canucks in their run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, but the Canucks have plenty of depth at forward and don’t need to pay him the $2 million or more that he’ll probably get on the open market.
He’s a classic example of a rental player for one playoff run.
Cory Schneider is under contract for at least one more season with the Canucks, but they also have Roberto Luongo and his long-term contract in goal.
Schneider appears to have a high trade value right now, especially for teams looking for a goalie for the long-term future. Phoenix, Colorado, Washington and maybe Tampa Bay all come to mind.
Now is the perfect time to trade Schneider and get something of value in return because he’ll likely want more money when his contract is up at the end of this season.
The Washington Capitals traded Tomas Fleischmann for Scott Hannan midway through last season. The trade was not a good one as Hannan didn’t deliver like the Capitals thought he would.
He’s now 32 years old and the Capitals can’t afford to bring him back as they need to maximize every dollar they spend.
A veteran like Hannan will easily find work elsewhere in the NHL though.
According to Dmitry Chesnokov, a member of the International Sports Press Association, Semyon Varlamov won’t re-sign with the Washington Capitals.
However, Varlamov also told the Washington Post that he wants to keep playing in the NHL. This means that one of the teams that needs a goalie will certainly be giving him a call this summer.
I highly doubt that the 34-year-old Dvorak fits into the youthful Winnipeg Jets' plans. He only played 13 games for the franchise, so it’s a long shot that they’ll re-sign him.
He is a useful player though, so he’ll get at least a couple of offers to sign with another NHL team for the 2011-2012 season.
One of the dirtiest players in the NHL will likely be cut loose by the San Jose Sharks.
Ben Eager may have sealed his fate with the hockey club after this gutless hit on Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. Eager was scratched for the remainder of the playoffs.
But there’s an old saying in sports: You hate him when he’s on the other team, but you love him when he’s on your team.
That’s the type of player Eager can be when he stays smart and keeps his emotions in check, so someone will likely take a chance on him this upcoming season.
With the addition of stud D-man Brent Burns via the trade with Minnesota, it seems that the Sharks don’t have the cap space to pay Ian White what he deserves.
White was a classic rental player for the Sharks and performed admirably for them in the 2011 playoffs. There will be plenty of teams calling White on July 1st and the Sharks will wish him well where ever he goes.
Despite the Rangers' reputation to overpay for these types of players, GM Glenn Sather will likely save his money to go after Brad Richards this time around.
McCabe was a trade-deadline acquisition by the Rangers and will get many decent offers from around the NHL. He may be the missing piece of the puzzle for a Stanley Cup contender.
With the Montreal Canadiens re-signing Andrei Markov and working hard to do the same with Roman Hamrlik, there won’t be room for Sopel on their blue line in 2011-2012.
He’s a veteran with a Stanley Cup ring and will provide leadership and depth on the blue line of another NHL team.
The Capitals don’t have enough salary cap space to be able to match what Jason Arnott will receive in the open market, even at the age of 36.
He was a solid rental player for the Caps' brief postseason run. It will be interesting to see what NHL team he ends up with next.