Facts and Predictions

Last minute opinions on big name free agents. The Frenzy has begun.

http://msn.espn.go/nhl/columns/hradek_ej/1399676.htmlGentlemen, start your cell phones!

That will be the battle cry for many of the NHL’s general managers when the clock strikes midnight on Monday, July 1. To the second, that’s when league’s free agents hit the open market.

Monster names like Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, Montreal’s Jose Theodore and Anaheim’s Paul Kariya float at the top of the restricted (Group II) free-agent pool. However, because teams have the right to match any offer received by one of their restricted free agents — or receive up to five first-round picks from the offering team — the players in that pool likely won’t need any change of address forms.

However, those chains won’t bind those players lucky enough to find themselves in the unrestricted pool. Those players — like New Jersey’s Bobby Holik, Boston’s Bill Guerin and Chicago’s Tony Amonte — will move from one team to another with a simple signature on a multi-million dollar contract.

Last summer, Pierre Turgeon went from St. Louis to Dallas. Luc Robitaille moved from Los Angeles to Detroit. And, Martin Lapointe jumped from Detroit to Boston. They were just three of the many unrestricted free agents who needed to sell their homes and call the moving company in early July.

Again this year, fans can expect much movement among the unrestricted (or Group III, V and VI) free agents. With that in mind, here’s a look at the top UFAs by position (goalies, forwards, and defensemen). Remember, the player’s current team holds exclusive negotiating rights with the player until the midnight deadline. After that, it’s everybody in the pool.