Puck drops on free-agent frenzy
RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
|Defenceman Shea Weber could be a hot commodity this off-season if the Predators can't get the restricted free agent under contract. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency file photo)
CALGARY - Well … now that the NHL’s trade deadline has come and gone, we can look at the pending free-agency season.
Hey, it’s only four months away.
When the season ends, there will be some exciting buildup to the draft, and then, there’s the July 1 start of free agency.
Let’s see what we have to look forward to:
For starters, the list of pending unrestricted free-agent forwards isn’t all that sexy, but there are the likes of New Jersey Devils’ Zach Parise, Shane Doan in Phoenix (especially if the Coyotes relocate), Jiri Hudler of the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mikhail Grabovski and Washington Capitals’ Alexander Semin if you’re looking for offensive talent.
There are all kinds of perfect forwards for other various roles, too, such as the Boston Bruins trio of Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, David Jones of the Colorado Avalanche, Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings, Travis Moen of the Montreal Canadiens, Paul Gaustad of the Nashville Predators, P.A. Parenteau of the New York Islanders, Brandon Prust of the New York Rangers, Arron Asham of the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks’ Dominic Moore, especially if your team will be looking for a second-round draft choice at the trade deadline.
But the real strength come free-agency time is along the blueline.
Teams could rebuild a defence corps in a hurry by chucking big bucks at Nashville Predators’ Ryan Suter, Carolina Hurricanes’ Bryan Allen, Red Wings’ Brad Stuart, Barret Jackman in St. Louis and the Philadelphia Flyers collection of Pavel Kubina, Matt Carle and Nicklas Grossman.
Plus, there are a handful of interesting restricted free agents in the likes of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, Vancouver Canucks netminder Cory Schneider and Predators goalie Anders Lindback and, of course, Lindback’s teammate, defenceman Shea Weber.
The cherry on top of it all will be the Rick Nash saga, which has all the makings of a messy divorce between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the face of the franchise.
Visions of playoff hockey may be diminishing in more and more NHL cities every day, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to be excited for when the weather turns warmer.
Good on the Flames for putting together and excellent ceremony for Al MacInnis for his ‘Forever a Flame’ night, but it’s bizarre to think Mike Vernon’s number is retired while MacInnis’s isn’t. It’s not like the Flames have a bunch more numbers to raise to the rafters beyond Theoren Fleury’s No. 14, Jarome Iginla’s No. 12 and Miikka Kiprusoff’s No. 34 … Now isn’t this an interesting scene with the Flames carrying three goalies and having rookie Leland Irving to be bouncing up and down from the AHL Abbotsford Heat to take the net for games when it’s necessary for No.-1 goalie Kiprusoff to get a rest during the heavy March schedule of 17 games in 31 days. Should the Flames fall out of a playoff spot, it could be the beginning of the battle for the backup job next season between Irving and Henrik Karlsson. That is with the assumption Kiprusoff will be back, and we have no reason to think otherwise.
Has NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan gone soft? It sure looks like it when you see unpunished hits such as Ottawa Senators’ Kyle Turris jumping before impact and driving into the Bruins’ Joe Corvo (although it’s absolutely priceless listening to the Boston-based NESN commentators make a call on that, yet consider the dirty hits by the Big Bad Bruins ‘hockey plays’) and Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s drill from behind of the Flyers’ Danny Briere. Sure, the games are ramping up, but dirty hits are still dirty hits, whether it’s Game 1 or Game 82. That said, the hit by Dallas Stars forward Eric Nystrom on Pittsburgh Penguins’ Kris Letang doesn’t fall into the ‘suspend-him’ category since the impact was at the shoulder, but it’s an example of a player ignoring the chance to play the puck and going for the bone-crushing hit. Checks are meant to separate the player from the puck … Having been in Nashville during last season’s playoff series against the Canucks, it would be great to see whether that city would go even crazier should the Predators, who really bulked up at the deadline, make it to the third round … Latest reason why hockey fans shouldn’t get too caught up in any hot starts or even 10-game skids. The Minnesota Wild started 20-7-3. Since then, they followed with a 8-19-6 run before facing the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night … Twitter is a fun way to peer into players’ lives, especially when you see the likes of Stars star Steve Ott admitting he let his daughter paint his toenails pink.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I’m not going to lie. I’m not real happy about the way it all turned out. But that’s the business of hockey. Like I’ve said, we don’t make those decisions. That’s more proof because if I had any more influence Paul would still be here.”
— An upset Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to the Buffalo News after Paul Gaustad was traded.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak