Saturday, June 30, 2007

Free Agency Matchmaker: the Rest of the Field

Well, time is quickly running out before the free agent market opens tomorrow. Due to some pretty poor planning, I won't be able to chronicle all of the remaining top tier free agents in their own posts. For the sake of making sure they are all given their due before July 1st, I've got a big, huge, monster post for you today, which dissects the rest of the top tier players.

Teemu Selanne - RW - Anaheim Ducks
Fresh off a Stanley Cup victory, Selanne is one of the biggest names on the market this July, and rightfully so. He scored 98 points during the regular season, his highest total in almost a decade, and the Finnish Flash's 15 post season points were a career high. What's most interesting to note is that Selanne picked up some of the Ducks' style of play, notching 82 PIM. That's a total that almost doubles high previous career high. Apparently, the Ducks' physical play was emphasized up and down the lineup.

Prediction: Selanne has said himself that he would love to retire on top. After winning the Stanley Cup this season, I believe he has two options. He turns 37 on July third, and can either try and cash in one last time (both in $ and championship terms) with the Ducks, or pull a Bourque and call it a career. My guess is that he'll hang up the skates... All that being said, there will be a long list of suitors for Selanne's services, but few, if any, offering a long term lease.

Paul Kariya - LW - Nashville Predators

Kariya played alongside Selanne for many years in Anaheim, but unlike the Finn, has the potential to suit up for many more years in the NHL. At 32 years of age, Kariya scored 76 points this season, leading the Predators to a 110 point season. All signs point to Kariya leaving the Predators, and the firesale/potential move of the team are the main catalysts on that front. There's almost no way Kariya, and fellow UFA/teammate Peter Forsberg re-sign in Nashville. Or in Hamilton. Or in Kansas City.

Prediction: It's tough to say where Kariya will end up. There are a number of teams who would love to have his services, but the rumor from has been eerily quiet. One thing is for sure, Kariya won't be back in Music City.

Keith Tkachuk - C/LW - Atlanta Thrashers/St. Louis Blues

Tkachuk is one of the premier power forwards in the game today, and that was again the case for Tkachuk during the 2006-07 season. The winger has seen his numbers decline in recent years, but he is still a serious asset to any team that needs a big body up front. Prior to the trade deadline, Tkachuk was traded from St. Louis to Atlanta, to help with the Thrasher's playoff push. They were ousted in the first round by the Rangers, but he managed to put up 18 points in 22 games during his short stay in Atlanta (including playoffs). Earlier this week, his rights were traded back to St. Louis... The Blues are reportedly offering 2 years in the neighborhood of $3.5 mil.

Prediction: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks that by trading Tkachuk back to Missouri, the chances of him re-signing in Atlanta have been increased. While I believe there are only two front runners for his services (St. Louis and Atlanta), I also think that this trade is an indicator that he will re-sign with, and may finish his career in St. Louis.

Jason Blake - LW - New York Islanders
Oh, Jason Blake. How you pull at my heart strings. You've had your best seasons on Long Island, and were continually given a shot by a last place team that decided to keep you around after you put up 18 points in 82 games during the 2001-02 season on the basis of your work ethic. All that hard work has paid off, and now you're a top free agent looking for a big pay day. After the Islanders decided to hold onto you at the trade deadline, you gushed about how much you always wanted to be on Long Island. Rumors say that the Islanders offered you $10 mil over three years, and you declined to test the open waters. Good luck on the high seas Jason, as all signs point to the Islanders shifting their sights to Ryan Smyth.

Prediction: Minnesota and Detroit have been reported to make a push at Blake, and my feelings are that Blake would love to return home to Minnesota... Assuming the price is right.

Sheldon Souray - D - Montreal Canadiens
Souray is by far the #1 blue liner on the market this off season. It seems as if he's been rumored to go to every NHL city, and there's no reason to think half of those rumors don't have a slice of truth in them. He would fit nicely in almost any lineup and is a sure fire way for a team to bolster it's defensive corps, while providing a boost to the power play. Souray had a whopping 64 points last season, huge numbers for a defenseman, but they come at the price of a -28 +/- rating. To his credit, Souray's prior career low plus-minus was -11.

Prediction: Spector suggests that Souray will sign with a Californian team, and I tend to agree. While I find it hard to believe Souray would like to play for the Kings, if either San Jose or Anaheim can find the money for him, it would be a great fit. I'm going with San Jose on this one, but it's a pure guess.

Dominik Hasek - G - Detroit Red Wings
If you're looking for a bad group of free agents this season, which is really pretty hard to find, then you've come to the right place. J.S. Giguere has already re-signed in Anaheim, and unless you think Ed Belfour is the answer to your team's goaltending woes, the only serious starting net minder on the market is The Dominator. He made less than one million last season in Detroit, while proving he is still a stellar #1 net minder... While his resume does include a .913 save percentage in 06-07, there are other, more impressive numbers. Hasek turned 42 (yes, forty fucking two) in January and notched 38 wins (T-6th NHL), 8 shutouts (2nd NHL), a 2.05 GAA (2nd NHL) this past season. In the playoffs, his GAA was a minuscule 1.79 over an 18 game span, which trailed only Roberto Luongo (1.75 in 12 games) and Marty Turco (1.30 in 7 games).

Prediction: The Wings are certainly interested in re-signing Hasek, and I think that the interest is mutual. Hasek would probably love nothing more than to stay in Detroit, get a nice pay day and have a shot at winning another Cup.

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