The NHL’s unrestricted free-agent market isn’t going to be the one to watch this summer.
Keep an on the restricted free agents instead.
As the league heads into the final week of the regular season and the playoffs are set to begin, all the talk about money will be set aside for a couple of months as the 16 teams left standing focus on the Stanley Cup.
But once the dust settles and the coveted trophy is awarded in June, there’s going to be at least three pending restricted free agents with contract renewals worth watching before July 1:
- C Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay: Making $875,000 on his entry-level deal, the Bolts are going to have to decide what he’s worth on his second contract. A late-season slump will prevent a 50-goal year, but he’s still the club’s second-leading scorer. Fortunately, the Bolts are able to wipe Simon Gagne’s $5.25-million cap hit off the books. Here’s my guess: Stamkos probably wouldn’t mind one of those 12-year, $120-million contracts, while the Bolts are probably looking at a six-year extension in $8.5-million per-season range.
- LW Zach Parise, New Jersey: He has a cap hit of $3.125 million and is one year away from being a UFA. The big question: Does Parise want to remain with the Devils? He was linked to the Bruins earlier this season and has rights to arbitration. If the two sides can’t get a long-term contract completed, Parise could elect to take a one-year deal and then walk away. Right now, Ilya Kovalchuk is the club’s franchise player. You gotta think Parise is going to get $5.5 million per year.
- D Shea Weber, Nashville: This is going to be a really interesting situation to watch. Defensive blueliners are getting $4.25 million on the market. The Predators are going to have a decision to make on whether they want to keep him in the fold. They’ve never been known as big spenders. The belief in NHL circles is Weber is worth $6-to-$6.5 million per year. The Preds are going to have to shell out some cash to keep him.
OFF THE GLASS
Referee Bill McCreary officiated his final game Saturday night in Washington. This is a big loss for the NHL. He isn’t only regarded as one of the best referees by players, the 55-year-old is also respected by management. “This is the equivalent of a team losing its franchise player,” said a league executive. McCreary had planned to retire at the end of 2009-10, but was asked to stay on another season ... Expect the Isles to give coach Jack Capuano the full-time duties at the end of the season. He’s done a good job since taking over for Scott Gordon and deserves the chance ... Confirm or deny: Colorado GM Greg Sherman is just keeping the seat warm until Joe Sakic is ready to take over the full-time duties? Sherman should be fired for dealing G Craig Anderson to Ottawa for G Brian Elliott.
AROUND THE BOARDS
Team Canada GM Dave Nonis will sit down with the club’s management this week to start sending out invitations to players on non-playoff teams and choose a coaching staff. The way Senators C Jason Spezza has been playing, he has to get a chance to go to Slovakia later this month ... Boston RW Mark Recchi, 42, who scored his 14th of the season Saturday vs. Atlanta, does plan to play next season, but he has stated that if the club wins the Cup this spring, he’ll retire ... While Pittsburgh C Sidney Crosby was an obvious choice for the Hart Trophy before he got injured, I’m likely going to put Vancouver LW Daniel Sedin at the top of my ballot as the league’s MVP. Anaheim’s Corey Perry is turning heads as well ... Two goalies to watch: Phoenix G Ilya Bryzgalov and Florida G Tomas Vokoun. Both are pending UFAs and neither has signed. If the Coyotes stay in Phoenix, Bryzgalov is going to stay put. The Avs are likely going to sign Vokoun.
RUMOURS DU JOUR
The NHL’s coaching carousel is going to start spinning again next week. At least three bench bosses are on the hotseat: Ottawa’s Cory Clouston, Minnesota’s Todd Richards and Florida’s Peter DeBoer. The betting money is all three will be looking for work not long after the final buzzer sounds. While the firing of Richards would be a surprise, Clouston’s contract is up with the Senators and DeBoer’s club just hasn’t performed up to expectations. “You gotta be careful making coaching changes, there aren’t many good ones available right now,” said one league executive ... Despite what’s being said by Blue Jackets president Mike Priest, the belief in league circles is nobody is safe in the Columbus organization. All aspects are going to be looked at and the Jackets don’t have Doug MacLean around to blame anymore. Priest and GM Scott Howson are both under the microscope. One thing is certain: Somebody is going to take the fall for this club missing the playoffs, again ... The most valuable UFA this summer: Dallas C Brad Richards. The question: Will he outprice himself for the Maple Leafs and Rangers? Both teams want help at centre and, despite denials, were trying to make a play for Richards at the trade deadline.
Have a nice Sunday.