No Regard

June 30, 2008

T-2 and 1: Because I Can’t Count

Yeah, so, I messed up when originally starting this little NHL Free Agency Preview and now we are T-minus 1 day to the opening of the market. Oh well.

Anyway, with the frenzy upon us, let’s take a look at the best of the best in unrestricted free agents under 30.

1. Marian Hossa, Wing, Pittsburgh Penguins

Be ready to pay. Unless I have oodles of empty cap space and a playmaking center that can get him the puck whenever he wants it, I’m not paying the $8 million over 7+ years that Hossa will command. He’s 29 years old and has had one, count ’em one, big-time playoff performance, which just so happened to be this spring. He put up nice numbers in 01 and 02, but be real, you aren’t paying this guy to score a combined nine goals in 30 playoff games like he did in those two seasons. In my opinion, he ends with either New Jersey or Montreal, getting at least 7 seasons and at least $8.25 million per.

2. Brian Campbell, Defenseman, San Jose Sharks

With plenty of money burning a hole in the pocket of Rangers GM Glen Sather, I think Campbell ends up reunited with former Sabres buddy Chris Drury in New York. One of the five best power play QBs in the game, he’ll be sought after by Columbus, Ottawa, San Jose and Los Angeles. I expect him to get five or six years at $6.75-7.25 million per.

3. Cristobal Huet, Goaltender, Washington Capitals

He’s not going anywhere. Huet played too well down the stretch for the Caps for them to consider going in another direction. Some are going to question whether he is the guy to get the Caps to the promised land, but they don’t have much of a choice. Four years, $5 million per.

4. Brooks Orpik, Defenseman, Pittsburgh Penguins

The ultimate enigma of the market, the man who knocked down three Red Wings on one Stanley Cup Finals shift. Already having turned down three years, $3 million per from the Penguins, Orpik is expected to be run at by the Rangers, Sabres, Avalanche and Kings the hardest, but I think at least a dozen teams will be going for him tomorrow afternoon. I think a lot of people get caught up thinking he’s young, but he’s going to be 28 on opening night 2008. While I think many teams could use his physical style as a second-pair guy for the next four or five years, his projected price tag of $5 million per is too rich for my blood. But you have to pay to get defensemen in free agency. It’s always been that way.

5. Michal Rozsival, Defenseman, New York Rangers

He came to the Rangers as a reclamation project post-lockout, he leaves as the fourth most sought after defenseman behind the aforementioned two and Wade Redden. Apt to defer to often to his more talented teammates at forward, Rozsival is either going to blossom or breakdown with whoever he signs with. I think he’s best suited for a coach like Tom Renney, who more prodded than pushed. Either way, I think he’s better than Tom Poti, who got a nice deal from the Caps last year, so I say expect four years at $5.25-5.75 million. All I can say is he won’t be a Ranger.

6. Sean Avery, Wing, New York Rangers

And neither will this guy. Ask yourself this:

1. Will he still be inspired after getting a big contract?

2. Can his body take the beating it does night after night through a four or five year contract?

3. Does your team have the respected veterans (aka Brendan Shanahan) to keep him in check?

4. Will his offensive game continue to develop?

If you answered yes to ALL of those questions, enjoy Sean Avery. I hope he doesn’t come back to the Rangers, especially at what I think will be a four year, $4 million per type contract. The Rangers are flipping their leadership core and I just don’t think Avery fits in. I bet he signs with San Jose or Florida.

7. Kristian Huselius, Wing, Calgary Flames

The forward version of Orpik, but a little more proven. He’s soft, he doesn’t take enough shots. He’s very shifty and skates through open ice as well as any player in the league. When he’s confident, he’s as deadly as an second-tier forward in the game. The opinions on this guy are as varied as they come, and while I like his talent, I don’t want to give him more than two or three years at $3.5 million per. The Islanders, Devils, Leafs, Pens, Jackets and Blackhawks will all be in on him.

Best of the Rest:

Radim Vrbata, Wing, Phoenix Coyotes

Ron Hainsey, Defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets

Mike Ryder, Wing, Montreal Canadiens


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