The Flyers, Bruins and Blackhawks have been the biggest movers and shakers so far this offseason.
The Blackhawks unloaded yet another player when they moved Colin Fraser to Edmonton for a 6th round pick. So the Hawks have now unloaded five contracts, four of which were NHL players. Chicago has now cleared $6 million in salary cap space after having just over $1 million earlier in the week.
Chicago still needs to make a move or two in order to free up the cap space they need.
I expect to see Cristobal Huet shipped out shortly, whether it be by trade or buyout. However, I think a buyout of his $5.625 million cap hit is more likely. A year or two in the KHL would do a lot for Huet’s game and it would likely bring his salary demands down. But, there is no place for him in the NHL making what he is now, that means his cap hit is the next move for the Blackhawks to make. After unloading him the Blackhawks will have $11 million in space and likely have the space to acquire the role players they need for next season.
I think Chicago will look to grab a player like Arron Asham (if he makes it to the open market) plus Steve Begin to keep the payroll down but NHL experience high. There is also the opportunity to promote from within. Kyle Beach and Jack Skille could certainly fight for a spot in the top 12 forwards and keep the Hawks cap relatively low.
Aaron Ward, depending on price, could be a solid replacement for Nick Boynton along the blue line and Brett Lebda would likely prove to be a quality signing in terms of talent and price. Being from the Chicago area is simply a bonus. Assuming Jordan Hendry and Niklas Hjalmarsson are resigned there will only be a need for one or two veteran defensemen.
Philadelphia will most likely sign Dan Hamhuis before he hits the open market on July 1. Depending on who the Flyers resign they won’t have much need to sign players on the open market. In addition, their salary cap constraints will limit their options. If the Flyers sign an established starting goaltender this offseason. Assuming Hamhuis costs Philadelphia in the neighborhood of $5-6 million, the Flyers will have roughly $3 million to work with to get a new starter. Chris Mason earned exactly that last season, but he is due for a raise after playing some of his best hockey the past two seasons. Dan Ellis could be the best option after making $2 million this past season. Although, Ellis would probably leave the Flyers with a similar issue as this year. In my opinion, Ellis isn’t the answer between the pipes that Philadelphia needs. So, I really hope Philly signs Ellis, I’d hate to see them do any better than they did last season.
As for the Bruins, their most pressing matter will be to unload Tim Thomas’ contract in order to sign their eight free agents. Mark Stuart, Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka and Greg Campbell will certainly be resigned. Steve Begin and Dan Paille likely fall into that category as well. Mark Recchi and Miro Satan are the two veteran UFAs (along with Begin) on the roster. Recchi will probably be back for another year, unless he chooses to retire, while Satan becomes expendable after the acquisition of Nathan Horton. Right now the Bruins have $7 million in cap space, but that could quickly become $12 million if they find a suitor for Thomas. San Jose, Philly, Washington and Atlanta could all be in the market for a “proven” NHL starter. Vezina Trophy or not, I’ve never been sold on Tim Thomas as a viable option as a starter. There is a good chance Boston is stuck with the bill on this one.
Hopefully tomorrow night brings about more deals. Tomas Kaberle’s no trade clause lifts tomorrow and Darren Dreger reports that there are five offers for the mobile blue liner. Regardless, there is a week to go before UFA day is here. It will be interesting to see how the chips fall leading up to the opening of the free agent market.