Having some fun with free agency

One of the bloggers I follow on Twitter is Puck Sage, while he does blog about the Bruins, he does some great work. Puck Sage runs a contest every year surrounding free agency and based on rundown, this is totally something I can get behind.

This contest has four parts: Picking who will be signed first. Picking who will give out the most ridiculous contract. Picking Zach Parise’s destination and, finally, creating a 22-player roster of pending UFAs.

Here is my foray into the contest. Continue reading

Ranking the 2012 UFA class: Defense and Goalies

My final group of free agents to analyze will be combined between defense and goaltenders. While there is an impressive number of defensemen hitting the market, there are only a few goaltenders available to be signed.

Despite being deep, I feel the defensive market only has a bit of cream which has risen to the top. As for the goalies, there isn’t much of anything to write home about from top to bottom. If you wish to read part one or two of this set of posts, click here for centers and here for wingers.

Defensemen

Ryan Suter – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: Nashville – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,500,000

While Zach Parise is also going to be among the biggest fish landed this weekend, Suter is probably the most sought after commodity on the market this year. He is going to be due a raise in the $7M category and could possibly creep above $8M depending on who is bidding. He is an all-around talent who can be an anchor for any team’s blue line for a number of years.

Justin Schultz – Age: 21 – 11-12 team: Wisconsin (NCAA) – 11-12 Cap Hit: none

A rare occurrence, Schultz did not come to terms with Anaheim and will be a very young unrestricted free agent. Reports entering the weekend indicate that he is down to only a few teams, but he will still be sure to hit for an impressive pay day. There are certainly some question marks with no professional experience behind him, but he is NHL-ready and will be a mobile threat right away.

Matt Carle – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: Philadelphia – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,437,500

Carle is still be courted by the Flyers and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him re-sign in Philly. The acquisition of Luke Schenn likely spells the end for either Carle or Pavel Kubina, but the Flyers seem to be high on Carle. I’ve never thought much of him when he hasn’t played with Chris Pronger, but that’s just me. Still, he is offensively gifted and has plenty to offer at a young age. If Philly doesn’t lock him up, he will get an impressive raise.

Jason Garrison – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: Florida – 11-12 Cap Hit: $675,000

Garrison became a high-priority target this year with a breakout offensive season. I’m not sure how sound he is in his own end, but I’m sure he is better than Erik Karlsson. The Panthers may not be interested in retaining Garrison just because they have a number of young, talented defensemen in their system. I expect to see at least $3M thrown at Garrison.

Bryce Salvador – Age: 36 – 11-12 team: New Jersey – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,900,000

If he was even four years younger, Salvador would be due a massive pay day. However, with only four years until 40, I wouldn’t expect to see much movement for the stay-at-home defenseman. His playoff performance will certainly draw some extra attention, but I question him as an option just because he has probably already hit his ceiling.

Sami Salo – Age: 37 – 11-12 team: Vancouver – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,000,000

Salo is an affordable option if you’re looking for some power play help. However, like Salvador, there isn’t much room under a ceiling that will be declining as each season goes by. I would only expect to see him get one or two years from any deal thrown his way since he is a good power play option for teams searching for a band-aid.

Carlo Colaiacovo – Age: 29 – 11-12 team: St. Louis – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,125,000

It seems like just yesterday that Colaiacovo had been spurned by the Leafs in an attempt to buy up more talent. Low and behold, Colaiacovo has become a steady option with a few more years to give. While I’m not too high on him as an all-around defender, I think he will be a good option for a number of teams.

Michal Rosival – Age: 33 – 11-12 team: Phoenix – 11-12 Cap Hit: $5,000,000

I would imagine the Coyotes will need to re-sign at least one of their pending UFAs before the market opens. However, I don’t know is Rosival is one they will want. He is a good offensive defenseman who actually can play a bit of defense. He seemed to do quite well in Dave Tippett’s system this season. However, he is not worth $5M, he may not be worth $4M at this point.

Cory Sarich – Age: 33 – 11-12 team: Calgary – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,600,000

Sarich seems to be on the back-nine of his career after having a number of very impressive seasons early on. I doubt he would get north of $2.5M, but teams may be desperate. He is still sound in his zone and can offer quality hockey for a few more years.

Others to watch: Bryan Allen (31, $2,900,000), Pavel Kubina (35, $3,850,000), Scott Hannan (33, $1,000,000)

Goalies

Antero Niittymaki – Age: 32 – 11-12 team: San Jose – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,000,000

Nitty was shelved in Worcester (AHL) all year due to a lingering injury and a log jam in San Jose’s crease. With the ability to restructure a deal that is more cap friendly, I would expect him to get plenty of attention.

Scott Clemmensen – Age: 34 – 11-12 team: Florida – 11-12 Cap Hit: $1,200,000

Clemmensen may be the best 1B/2A goalie on the market this season. He is a solid pick for any team hoping to platoon their goaltenders. With a very affordable price tag, I can see him getting a slight raise to provide quality depth in a new city.

Martin Biron – Age: 34 – 11-12 team: New York Rangers – 11-12 Cap Hit: $875,000

The Rangers are reported as being interested in retaining Biron for at least next season. He has certainly become a full-time backup with the ability to be counted on for stretches of time. If you’re a Sabres fan, he is the opposite of Joceyln Thibault or Patrick Lalime. I’d love for the Sabres to bring him back, but it would require trading one of their goaltenders.

Al Montoya – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: New York Islanders – 11-12 Cap Hit: $601,000

Montoya is a curious case because he has finally established himself as an NHL goaltender. While he lost his starting gig to either Evgeni Nabokov or Rick DiPietro, he will probably get some interest from teams searching for a 1B option. Tampa, Florida (if they don’t get Luongo) and a few other goaltending deficient teams will probably test the waters on Montoya.

Dan Ellis – Age: 32 – 11-2 team: Anaheim – 11-12 Cap Hit: $1,500,000

Ellis is in a similar boat as Montoya. While he is no longer in the same ballpark as other starters, he is certainly capable of carrying the load for a team over a lengthy course of time. He definitely falls into the 1B/2A category and is best suited to platoon with another goaltender. His injury history could be concerning.

Others to watch: Jonas Gustavsson (27, $1,350,000), Chris Mason (36, $1,850,000), Cristobal Huet (36, $5,625,000)

Running tally of the current free agent signings

Roughly two hours into free agency and there haven’t been any monumental signings. The Jaromir Jagr deal to Philadelphia was strange, to say the least. Otherwise there hasn’t been much action from any of the big-name players.

TSN.ca has a killer UFA tracker that updates with all of the current signings from the day.

I touched, quite briefly, on the Jagr contract. The Flyers gave him $3.3 million for this season in hopes that he still has enough magic to help fuel a cup run. I really don’t understand their point of view on this one. By committing just over $3 million to Jagr, the Flyers are further handcuffing themselves in regards to signing a guy like Ville Leino.

Add to that the fact that Max Talbot was just given a five-year deal worth $9 million from the Flyers. If Philly is happy moving forward without Leino, so be it. I was under the impression that he was a guy they wanted to keep around to be part of their up-and-coming core.

I say oh well. If the Flyers falter due to these signings, I won’t be mad. In fact, I will be very happy. As for the Sabres, the only major player the fans are watching is Brad Richards. From everything I have read and heard, the white whale will make his decision tomorrow, at the earliest. I think the Sabres do have a very real shot at getting him. Of course the Rangers may have the best shot based on the most recent word to come down. New York will have the ability to match any contract that is offered to Richards. Personally, I think that is pretty lame. Does that mean that the Rangers won’t make him the offer he wants? Or does it mean that Richards wants to hear offers but would ultimately like to play for the Rangers? I understand his train of thought. His old coach is in New York, it is a big city with plenty to do. However, there is a lot of media coverage and Richards did want to shy away from that if possible.

Early transactions will lead to overvalued UFAs

Yesterday evening brought Kevin Bieksa a new contract and gave everyone a look as to what the UFA market may have in store come Friday.

The finances of Bieksa’s deal aren’t as interesting to me as the numbers game this plays with the remaining UFAs. Bieksa took a major hometown discount. Eric Brewer also took a little less money to stay in Tampa Bay. Combining those two signings with the trades for Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Devin Setoguchi and other trades completed on Draft weekend, the UFA market is gaining momentum. Despite the fact it is incredibly thin.

Now, the remaining free agents are in a much better position to leverage a deal from their potential suitors. The reason I raise this point is because the Sabres will have limited options come Friday, despite their new-found financial freedom. Continue reading

The calm before the storm

Darcy Regier showed Buffalo Sabres fans what his strategy may entail this past weekend. He dealt for Robyn Regehr and a second round pick from the Calgary Flames, while only giving up Chris Butler and Paul Byron. He did the Flames a favor by agreeing to take Ales Kotalik, as well. But the option of hiding Kotalik in Rochester is the likely option the organization will take.

The next step comes this Friday as unrestricted free agency begins. The past few seasons haven’t yielded much for the Sabres, especially on the first day. The fact of the matter is Darcy wasn’t given the resources to truly attract the marquee free agents. All that has changed now that he has an owner willing to fly north of the border to persuade players to come to town.

Regier made some very interesting remarks this morning during his appearance on WGR 550. While he was very careful not to tip his hand, he indicated that upgrades will continue to come and that the center position will not remain the same entering the 2011-12 season. Continue reading