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.
1. Who will be the first player signed?
With Parise and Ryan Suter poised to have a ton of suitors, I think that a mid-to-lower tier free agent will get the first contract on Sunday. I also think that it will be a player getting re-signed by their club from 2011-12. My choice: Ryan Smyth in Edmonton.
2. Who will give out the most ridiculous contract?
Like with the first contract, I think that a mid-tier UFA will be the one to be vastly overpaid. I also think the money will not be coming from a big market. I pick PA Parenteau to be the 2012 version of Ville Leino, receive north of $3M per season from a team looking for some scoring. I’ll go with either St. Louis or Nashville.
3. Where will Zach Parise sign?
Something tells me that Parise ends up in Los Angeles with the Cup champions. I know the Penguins are pushing hard for him, but I think the Kings have the ability to lure Parise out west. For what it’s worth, I see Suter ending up with the Red Wings.
4. Create a full 22-player roster out of the UFA class.
This was a lot harder than I expected it to be, mainly because the crop of free agents is so crazy thin. Center was a tough position to fill and the relative age of the defensemen made me quake in my armchair GM slippers.
At forward I tried to keep an even keel and not sign four lines of scorers. I factored in grit, leadership and production in my decisions. Here are my forwards (cap hit in parentheses):
Zach Parise – LW – ($7,500,000) – Easy choice here. He is the cream of the crop and is going to be a dynamic offensive talent for whoever signs him. I went with $7.5M, but I have space under the cap to stretch to $8.5 or even $9M.
Olli Jokinen – C – ($3,500,000) – I gave Jokinen a slight raise based on the fact that there are barely any offensive centers available in this class. He had a productive 11-12 and would be a good offensive pivot for Parise.
PA Parenteau – RW – ($3,750,000) – Although I think that Parenteau is the most likely to be the bust of this year’s class, I was willing to take a run at him. I figure he is going to get somewhere close to a 100% raise this summer. I banked on Jokinen and Parise boosting his numbers.
Jiri Hudler – LW – ($3,250,000) – Another player who probably doesn’t deserve this big of a raise. I thought Ray Whitney was a better fit on paper, but I wanted to have some youth on this roster. Based on his linemates I think Hudler could be effective.
Jason Arnott – C – ($2,500,00) – I’m not sure how much Arnott will command on the open market. Based on his age, I assume his number will begin dropping. However, he is a good leader and can still produce.
Shane Doan – RW – ($5,250,000) – A $1.25M raise for Doan who, for me, is the second most valuable player on the market this year. Awesome leadership qualities, plays a great two-way game.
Daniel Winnik – LW – ($1,950,000) – Winnik is a tweener for me, this third line was tough for me to fill in. I tried to find a blend of skill and size and I think Winnik could get there with the right number of minutes. Plus, I don’t think he will even command close to $2M.
Dominic Moore – C – ($1,500,000) – This spot came down to Moore or Paul Gaustad. I went with Moore because he is cheaper, offers more offensive upside and can still win faceoffs and kill penalties.
Lee Stempniak Peter Mueller – RW – ($2,125,000) – I was going to use Lee Stempniak here, but he just re-signed in Calgary. For similar money I like Peter Mueller. He is a little bit of a risk, but showed some prowess early in his return last season. He could even be had for a bargain based on his history with concussions. Travis Moen Brad Staubitz – LW – ($750,000) – I like Travis Moen quite a bit, but he just re-signed in Montreal. I’ll throw Brad Staubitz in the mix here as a bruising winger. He doesn’t offer much more than his pugilistic prowess, but I’m in a pinch.
Zenon Konopka – C – ($900,000) – Konopka does everything that a guy like Moen does and he wins faceoffs. I probably overpaid a bit for him, but if you’re coming in below $1M for a fourth liner, you’re doing something right.
Brandon Prust – RW – ($1,600,000) – Prust gets a massive 100% raise from me and I wonder if he will be asking for even more than that. This fourth line trio is the exact type of line I would want my team to have. For a collective $4M, I’m not sacrificing all that much salary, either.
Extra forward: Bryon Bitz ($700,00) – This is pretty much an “insert name here” position for me. Bitz is physical, can play third or fourth line minutes in a pinch and is cheap.
On defense I flexed a little more salary while trying to stay young. Targeting youth was what I really tried to stick with throughout the roster.
Ryan Suter – ($7,500,000) – Same story as Parise. Suter is a franchise cornerstone who I actually allocated enough funds to flex to $8 or $9M for if necessary. He is a top pairing defenseman and can play big minutes, well worth the asking price.
Justin Schultz – ($3,770,000) – I took Schultz for the full possible freight that he can receive. Hopefully he pans out as the mobile, two-way player he is supposed to be.
Matt Carle – ($5,000,000) – By no means is Matt Carle worth $5M a year. However, Jay Feaster did this to him. Carle will command north of $4M this summer and he will likely receive it. I question how effective he will be away from Pronger, but he has still shown he belongs in a top-four role.
Scott Hannan – ($1,250,000) – Hannan isn’t the big name he was coming out of San Jose, but he is still reliable. After only making $1M last year, he is going to be a very affordable piece for someone.
Bryan Allen – ($3,200,000) – At only 31 I think Allen is poised for a pay day. This is only a marginal raise, but Allen doesn’t fill a number of roles. He will be a steady presence on someone’s blue line.
Jason Garrison – ($4,000,000) – Garrison is set to get a massive raise after a very productive 11-12 season. I like a lot of what Garrison offers, but I don’t know if he is worth the pile of money he will get. Still, he offers a nice shot on the power play and isn’t Erik Karlsson in his own end.
Extra defenseman: Aaron Rome – ($750,000) – Like with Bitz, Rome’s physicality is what makes him appealing. Simple game and is affordable.
For my goaltenders I didn’t get crazy. Yes, Marty Brodeur is hitting the market, but I made my list under the assumption that he will not make it out of New Jersey. Marty Biron is my backup at $900,00 since he is good for at least 25 games each season. Antero Niittymaki will be my starter for $2,150,000. Like I said, Brodeur is a better option and would fit under my cap, but I don’t think he is a realistic option.
My final cap is $69,695,000 ($6,505,000 under) with this roster. If I were to trade out Niittymaki for Brodeur I would have a full freight of $67,545,000 with $2,655,000 in cap space.