Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Free Agency Preview
The countdown to Christmas for hockey fans, July 1st at noon ET is only 24 hours away. Although this years free agent class is not as stellar as years past, we can still expect lot's of player movement and lot's of owners cash being spent. The rumors have been rampant for months now building up to this point. We will rank our top ten free agents of 2010 and their likely suitors.
#1 Ilya Kovalchuck New Jersey LW 27 years old
How much is a two-time 50 goal scorer and elite sniper worth? Kovalchuck is simply the best free agent available in 2010. He has never scored less than 29 goals in his eight year career, has breathtaking speed and a lethal slapshot. The one knock on Ilya is that he has never won a post season series. Actually, he has only won one playoff game in his career. Spending 7 1/2 years in Atlanta attributed to that mark, but still it is something that burns inside this guy. The question for a potential suitor becomes, Do we spend $8 million or so a year on one player? Only a few teams have the cap room to afford Kovalchuck, and there is always the possibility of big money being offered from the KHL.
Likely Destinations: St.Louis, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Colorado
#2 Evgeni Nabokov San Jose Goalie 34 years old
Sharks GM Doug Wilson has indicated that Nabakov will not be back with San Jose and reportedly has granted permission to the Philadelphia Flyers to speak with his agent. The bottom line with Nabby is that he was getting paid $5.4 million this season and most teams that are looking for goaltending do not have that much money available under the cap. He may be offered more money in the KHL
Likely Destinations: KHL, Philadelphia, Washington
#3 Sergei Gonchar Pittsburgh D 36 years old
Very key part of the Penguins defense, especially on the power play. Although Gonchar is getting up in age he is still one of the top offensive defensmen in the league. Gonchar was severely missed from the Pittsburgh lineup when injured for 20 games this season. He also missed 57 games last season and while he was out the Penguins were in danger of not making the playoffs. The question with Sergei will be length of contract to a player that is 36. He is seeking at least two years and that may be a risk for some teams.
Likely Destinations: Pittsburgh, Buffalo
#4 Anton Volchenkov Ottawa D 28 years old
To succeed in the NHL playoffs today, teams must have stay at home shutdown defensmen. Anton Volchenkov fits that bill. At 6-1 226 lbs. this bruising defensemen is someone who becomes invaluable during big games. Think how difficult teams found it to play against a Hal Gill or Chris Pronger type of player. Volchenkov only produced 14 points last season for the Senators, but he will be paid for his defense not offense.
Likely Destinations: Washington, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders, NY Rangers
#5 Ray Whitney Carolina LW 38 years old
One of the more underrated players in the league today. If you're looking for a solid veteran to chip in 25 goals, probably score around 65 points, and play a second line role, this is your guy. Yes, he is 38, however he played 80 games for Carolina and was their third leading scorer. Whitney will not cost as much as Kovalchuck and could put a team that is close to winning the cup over the top. He has indicated in the past about wanting to play in Pittsburgh.
Likely Destinations: Pittsburgh, Toronto, Los Angeles
#6 Dan Hamhuis D Nashville 27 years old
His rights have already been traded twice, first to Philadelphia, and most recently to Pittsburgh. It appears that he will head into July 1st as a free agent as talks with Pittsburgh have reportedly stalled. It sounds like Hamhuis is looking for a deal in the $5 million per year range which may be a bit pricey for a guy with limited offense. Hamuis is a solid player that can log twenty plus minutes of ice time and be effective in his own end. Just not worth huge bucks in our opinion.
Likely Destinations: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, St.Louis
#7 Chris Mason G St. Louis 34 years old
Chris Mason is a true starting goaltender in this league in our opinion. The Blues traded for Jaroslav Halak last week as he will now assume duties as the St.Louis netminder. Mason played 60 games last season and had a record of 30-22-8 2.53 GAA .913 SV%. He made $3 million last season and will probably get an offer similar to that. With Nabakov and Marty Turco commanding considerably more, Mason is a good option for a better price.
Likely Destinations: Atlanta, San Jose, Washington
#8 Alexander Frolov LW Los Angeles 28 years old
Frolov scored the fewest number of goals this year besides his rookie season. He was even a healthy scratch at one point by the Kings this season. When Frolov is on his game, which is not every night, he is one of the strongest players in the league at controlling the puck. He should be good for 25-30 goals and has scored big goals in the past for the Kings. Frolov is probably a second line player on a good team. Fortunately for him, this years free agent class is lacking on goal scorers so he is one of the best available.
Likely Destinations: Montreal, KHL, NY Rangers
#9 Marty Turco Dallas G 34 years old
We contemplated not even putting him on this last after watching him play so poorly last season. Granted the Dallas Stars play more of an open system under Marc Crawford where playing defense is optional. He may find his game in another uniform, but again the price will be hefty for a 34 year old goaltender that may not be a difference maker at this stage in his career.
Likely Destinations: San Jose, Philadelphia, Washington
#10 Zbynek Michalek Phoenix D 27 years old
Another defensemen who is not known for offense, but will block a ton of shots and will rarely be caught out of position. He is not overly physical as Volchenkov but does what it takes in his own end. Michalek missed ten games this season which led to his drop off in points, but when he plays a full 82 games he is capable of producing close to 30 points. Will not cost as much as Volchenkov or Hamhuis and his stock appears to be on the rise.
Likely Destinations: NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Ottawa