Gentlemen, open your wallets. The Canada Day bonanza is just hours away.
The NHL's 30 GMs, at least those with money to spend, are getting ready to splurge as this year's crop of free agents hits the market tomorrow.
Vancouver (Henrik and Daniel Sedin), Detroit (Marian Hossa), Chicago (Martin Havlat), Montreal (Mike Komisarek) and Calgary (Jay Bouwmeester) are making last-ditch efforts to sign their players. But all could wind up on the market.
Plenty of teams are tight against next season's $56.8- million (all terms US) salary cap and others are worried about the cap dropping in a year, expect some big deals to go down as GMs look for a quick fix.
"You really have to be careful about the way you spend, but that won't stop teams from buying," said a league executive, who noted that with teams trying to move players like Daniel Briere (Philadelphia), Brian Campbell (Chicago), Tomas Kaberle (Toronto), Dany Heatley (Ottawa) and Patrick Marleau (San Jose) during the draft, there were more than $500 million in contracts on the market.
Here's what could happen with the top players:
* Hossa: The Wings offered him a 10-year deal, but haven't been able to lock up the winger. GM Ken Holland is toying with dealing his negotiating rights today. Detroit has major salary cap issues and needs to shed cash. Hossa wants to go to a winner. He is a close friend of Boston D Zdeno Chara, but the Bruins have money issues as well. The Habs, Wild, Oilers, Kings and Canucks are going to make a pitch if he's available.
* Havlat: His No. 1 priority is to stay with the Blackhawks and he's talked to Chicago GM Dale Tallon about an eight-year deal. If Havlat is available, the Senators could make a pitch to bring him back, while the Penguins and Sharks could get in on the bidding early. If the Kings, Oilers, Wild, Habs or Canucks get rebuffed by Hossa, they'll turn to Havlat.
* Bouwmeester: His rights were dealt to the Flames after his agent told teams he wouldn't talk until after July 1. The Flames may sign him, but Bouwmeester could still to go to market. If he does, all kinds of teams are looking for help on the blue line. The Leafs, Senators, Canucks, Habs, Lightning, Isles, Sharks and Blues are among the possibilities.
* Sedin twins: Agent J.P. Barry flew to Sweden to be with Daniel and Henrik Sedin and D Mattias Ohlund tomorrow. GM Mike Gillis flew overseas to see if he can bring the pair back to the Vancouver. If Toronto wants to spend the money, the duo could end up there. GM Brian Burke drafted the Sedins and assistant GM Dave Nonis is a former Vancouver GM. It's hard to believe Gillis could allow the Sedins to walk away. He might still give into their salary demands. The Habs are going to be active here and Minny can afford to do a deal.
* Komisarek: He's not going back to the Habs. He will get $4.5-$5.5 million on the open market after making $1.9 million last season. He's 27 and might have to wait for Bouwmeester to land somewhere before he finds a home. The Bruins would like defensive help and he'd have the chance to play with Chara. The Bolts, Isles, Sharks, Blues and Senators are going to have a look, too.
* Others: Ohlund will likely be the third defenceman signed once a market is established by Bouwmeester and Komisarek. Up front, Marian Gaborik can't be ignored, but his injury history will weigh against him. Los Angeles and Vancouver could be front-runners to land him.
The Wild and Kings are dying to make a splash in free agency.
"I think we have some flexibility with what can we do," said Chuck Fletcher, who took over as the Wild's GM last month.
"I do believe having cap space is a very valuable commodity. I do believe if we have cap space, at some point we will be rewarded. I'm not sure we have to fill every hole the first week of July, but what will happen will be a product of which way the market goes.
"If it's a buyers market, hopefully we do well."
The second-tier free agents may have to sit, while the market is established with the big guns.
"I think the bigger guys will get their money and obviously there will be left money around for guys left over," Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren said on the weekend.
"You've got to be careful now on what you are doing. The uncertainty of (2010) is an issue for everybody."
TOPS OF CLASS OF 2009
1. Marian Hossa, RW, Detroit
2. Martin Havlat, RW, Chicago
3. Marian Gaborik, RW, Minnesota
5. Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver
6. Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver
7. Mike Cammalleri, C, Calgary
8. Brian Gionta, RW, New Jersey
9. Erik Cole, LW, Carolina
10. Saku Koivu, C, Montreal
1. Jay Bouwmeester, D, Calgary
2. Mike Komisarek, D, Montreal
3. Mattias Ohlund, D, Vancouver
4. Francois Beauchemin, D, Anaheim
5. Rob Scuderi, D, Pittsburgh
6. Sergei Zubov, D, Dallas
7. Derek Morris, D, Rangers
8. Jaroslav Spacek, D, Buffalo
9. Mathieu Schneider, D, Montreal
10. Rob Blake, D, San Jose
1. Nikolai Khabibulin, G, Chicago
2. Martin Biron, G, Philadelphia
3. Manny Fernandez, G, Boston
4. Dwayne Roloson, G, Edmonton
5. Craig Anderson, G, Florida