The Forgotten & Restricted Class of Free agents

There are still free agents available for teams who have the cap room or trade bait.While surfing through the NHLPA internet site, I could not help notice the number of significant free agents (either restricted or unrestricted) still available. So this drove me to come up with a list of the top eligible free agents, restricted or otherwise, that are still available.

1) Jose Theodore

Status: Restricted Free Agent

Conflict: Theodore is in the midst of contract negotiations with Montreal which seem to be at a stand still. Apparently Montreal is looking for a short term deal at about 4M/ per, while Theodore’s camp is pushing for a long term commitment at about 5.5M/per.

Thoughts: Montreal would be stupid to not lock Theodore long term; he’s easily one of the NHL’s top 5 goalies and deserves to be paid like it. In the event that he begins to price himself out of Montreal, Gainey should consider a “Goalie Swap” and send Theodore to Montreal for Luongo.

2) Ilya Kovalchuk

Status: Restricted Free Agent

Conflict: According to an article on Kovalchuk took acceptation to the recent departure of superstar team-mate Danny Heatley and approached Thrashers management asking for a more than modest cost of living increase.

Thoughts: In no way am I suggesting Kovalchuk is heading out of Atlanta, it’s safe to say he’s 99.9% likely to resign but the question is for how much. With Columbus Star Rick Nash setting the president for future star’s contracts with a wholesome 27M/5yrs deal, I would assume it’s safe to say Ilya Kovalchuk would be entitled to about the same deal.

3) Ryan Smyth

Status: Restricted Free Agent

Conflict: According to an article published today on Smitty who is scheduled to become a UFA next year (if he decides to sign Edmonton’s qualifying offer) wants a long term extension. The 10-year vet is also not interested in signing a one-year deal and then negotiating an extension during the season.

Thoughts: Smyth apparently is aware that he could command a Bobby Holik/ Paul Kariya type contract next off-season should he choose to become a UFA. With Edmonton’s acquisitions of Peca and Pronger, and the franchise’s history of trading away prime talent (i.e. Gretzky, Guerin, Weight, etc.) it’s not unlikely that Edmonton makes a deal for Smyth some time this year. A good destination for Smyth would be Toronto, Ottawa NYI & NYR.

4) Peter Bondra

Status: UFA

Conflict: Many teams would love his services but are reluctant to sign a 37 year old.

Thoughts: Many rumours suggest that Philly is the front runners for his services but don’t count out a return to Washington. Bob Clarke would be smart if he can pick up this vet at a respectable salary, there’s still plenty of gas in Bondra and with the acquisition of a RW it would give Philly one of the leagues most dangerous top line. (LW) Gangne (C) Forsberg (RW) Bondra

5) Oli Jokienen

Status: Restricted Free Agent

Conflict: According to Olli Jokinen and the Florida Panthers are still in negotiations. Jokinen would like a long-term deal and isn’t looking for anything less.

Thoughts: Jokinen has led the Panthers the last two years, but with the additions of Nieuwendyk, Roberts Gratton and Stumpel to the line-up, Florida will now have two solid scoring lines this might make Jokinen expendable if he begins to price himself out of Mike Keenan’s price range. It’s safe to assume that he’ll probably resign. However if he is traded it would be nice to see him in Montreal reuniting the former Finland team-mates.

6) Henrik Zetteberg/Pavul Datsyuk

Status: Both are Restricted Free Agents

Conflict: With key players such as Nick Lidstrom, Robert Lang and Brendan Shanahan taking up most of the team cap. Detroit has a difficult decision to make as they probably have only enough cap room to sign one of their youth talents.

Thoughts: The buzz from Detroit front office is that there is no new news regarding negotiations between Ken Holland and the agents representing Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Datsyuk has reportedly made a verbal agreement to play for Moscow Dynamo this season if he is unable to work out a contract with the Red Wings. With all signs pointing to Zetteberg being the odd man out rumours are spreading as to where he will end up. Apparently one of the front runners for his services are Toronto. I would like to see Carolina or L.A get into the mix as a possible trade scenario

Carolina: Zetteberg Kronwall Detroit: Pavel Brendl Justin Williams & Pick

Why: Williams had 44pts in 79 gms in 2003-2004 (2nd on team) and he is 24yrs old. Brendl had had 8pts in 18 gms & is 24yrs old. Zetteberg 43pts in 61 gms & is 25 yrs old. While Kronwall had 5pts in 20 gms. & is 24yrs old. This just makes sense to me stat wise.

7) Jay McKee

Status: Restricted Free Agent

Conflict: According to the Buffalo News, The Sabres are trying to trade for a defenseman. They’re also considering a trade with a defenseman. McKee, based on salaries that have been awarded over the past few weeks, would stand to make a princely sum if he hit the open market next summer. But he’s willing to forfeit the opportunity for security in Buffalo.

Thoughts: Since veteran blue-liner Jay McKee would like to sacrifice his first years of unrestricted free agency in exchange for a multiyear contract with the Sabres it seems safe to assume he will get his deal done. However in the event of a trade McKee has always made it clear he would like to play for Pat Quinn in Toronto. If I were JFJ this would be a deal I would seriously consider.

Toronto: Jay McKee, Martin Biron Buffalo: Brian McCabe or Tomas Kaberle & Antropov or Pick

For T.O it gives them a strong vet Dman and a talented young goalie who could take over after the Eagle. Buffalo gets a young centre in Antropov and a decent offensive defenseman in either McCabe or Kaberle.

8) Mike Dunham

Status: UFA

Conflict: Dunham a character vet can bring much experience and leadership to a team. But he’s fallen under the radar many teams do not want to take a chance on him for one reason or another.

Thoughts: Dunham is a steal for any team; he can probably be had for roughly around league min. But can add stability as a back-up. Teams that should seriously consider picking him up are L.A, COL, CAR and TB.

L.A needs a starting goalie now that Cechmanek is playing in Europe. COL has to deal with the retirement of Tommy Salo and Carolina and Tampa tradeed away starting goalies Jamie Storr & Nikolai Khabibulin respectively.

9) Vincent Damphousse

Status: UFA

Conflict: At 38 it’s hard to believe Damphousse can provide anything but depth to a team. The amount of attention he receives will be directly proportional to his asking price.

Thoughts: According to a recent article on by Ekland Damphousse is rumoured to be in talks with Anaheim. This makes sense considering Steve Rucchin’s recent departure from Anaheim. Other teams that should be interested in his services include OTT, DAL & WSH.

10) Brian Marchment

Status: UFA

Conflict: At this point of his career Marchment is a depth defenseman. Team are not going to jump the gun and sign him knowing that he’s one of those free agents that will still be available in mid September.

Thoughts: Marchment 36 went to school in Scarborough Ontario and graduated with a PhD as a qualified concussion philanthropist. He’s the type of defenseman that keeps all other players honest when he’s on the ice. A strong addition to any line up a one of those players that is an essential pick up for a playoff push. With Toronto’s defenseman situation I can’t see him being passed up by JFJ. He’ll probably resign for league min. If not some teams that should be interested include NJ, NYR & OTT. OTT needs grit and NJ could use him in the event Scott Stevens Retires.

P.S Other Key players that are free agents restricted or otherwise that did not make the list include Ruslan Salei, Andrew Raycroft, Mike Ryder, Jason Wolley, Rick Dipietro, Steve Shields, Ron Tugnutt, Steve Thomas, Byron Dafoe, Scott Young and Brent Johnson. Any thoughts???