The Free Agency for NHL will begin in less than a week, and unlike previous years, the crop for this year is not that exciting. Having said that, there are a number of big names available for the highest bidder.
Above all, perhaps the ones who are receiving the highest media coverage are Mats Sundin, Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell. Sundin at 36 years of age, have spent most of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise. Currently making 5.5 Million per year, he is drawing a great deal of interests across the league. He has said many times in the past, that his wish was to finish his career in Toronto, however, after numerous disastrous seasons with the Leafs, the All-star center and captain is counting his chances for the ultimate glory, the Stanley Cup. So his choosing criteria will surely include a chance to play for a cup-contender.
Marian Hossa is perhaps the most prized possession for forwards this year. In terms of age, he still has a lot of mileage left, and in terms of goal-scoring ability, he is amongst the best in the league, and can step into any line-up and contribute immediately. After being traded to Pittsburgh as a rental, his performance in the playoffs were magnificant, and his playoff run alone, helped his stock price increased by a great porportion. However, Hossa are often seen as a mercenary when compared to those players who’d compromise his own gains for a team, so it’s most likely he will simpy go to the highest bidder in the market. And as to his loyalty for the long haul, it will remain questionable.
The best defenseman available this year as UFA, is unarguably Brian Campbell. Known as a world-class puck-moving defenseman, Campbell (29) can easily be the main assest any team wish to build around. Campbell is expected to at least get 6 million dollar salary in his new contract, came off a 62pts seasons with the Sabre and Sharks. He was also traded to San Jose prior to the trade-deadline this year as a rental player. San Jose, of course, has the best intention to sign him to a long term deal with the Sharks, but like many other big-name free agents out there in the new era of NHL, Campbell will try it out in the open market first.
Aside from these big three, the rest can be categorized as three groups, the older veteran stars, the up-coming second-tier stars, and the questionable acuquistions. The first group includes players like Joe Sakic, Sergei Fedorov, Jaromir Jagr, Peter Forsberg, Brendan Shanahan, Markus Naslund, Bobby Holik, Alex Zhamnov, Doug Weight, Rob Blake, Teppo Numminen, Chris Chelios, Olaf Kolzig, Dominik Hasek, Gary Roberts, Teemu Seleane…etc. These players are the big names in the past, but have somewhat slowed down a bit (due to age or health), and many are contemplating retiring in one or two years. So they may be good choices for added experience to a team, or a final piece of puzzle for a cup-contender, but surely not someone you will want to build with for the future.
I categorized Second-tier stars as those who can contribute immediately, and have huge up-side to his plays. He will add depth to any line-up, but perhaps not the biggest names you will go after, and in some cases, maybe cost more than one would spend in that role. They include: Pavol Demitra, Wade Redden, Miroslav Satan, Michael Ryder, Brad Stuart, Daymond Langkow, Brendan Morrison, Brian Rolston, Ryan Malone, Sean Avery, Craig Conroy, Vaclav Prospal, Ladislav Nagy, Martin Rucinsky, Andrew Brunette, Martin Lapointe, Adam Foote, Paul Mara, Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet…etc.
The rest perhaps are what I called questionable acquistions. Of course, I may have missed out a lot of players in the first two categories, but I think you understand my logic. As for the Canucks, which is on the look-out for filling up their top six forwards positions, this year’s draft may not offer a lot of choices. With Naslund and Morrison both goint to free-agency, of course there is still a chance that they will sign back with Vancouver, there are not a lot of players we can add to replace and improve of the two that we might lose. For the top-tier superstar, as in the past with Canucks, our chances are not great signing Hossa or Sundin. As for signing of the past superstars, I still believe that they only add to a strong line-up but cannot revive the depleted forward lines we have.
So it is with the second tier players that I think we can find some luck. I think we should be able to add one or two from this group, which will play on the second line for us, players like Demitra, Ryder, Malone, Rolston, Prospal are great additions if we can pull it off, but I think we won’t be able to improve significantly through free agency.
This is why it will be very interesting to see the revamped line-up of the Canucks for the 08-09 season. Will we be able to add significant free-agent help? Will we look inside our organization to promote young players? Will we make big trades like moving the Sedins for a bonifide superstar? With the latest news of buyouts from numerous players like Darcy Tucker, will there be more UFAs come close to July 1st? They will unfold soon enough.
Signing off, this is Saint Pako of the Hockey News.