CALGARY - Well Ö now that the NHLís trade deadline has come and gone, we can look at the pending free-agency season.
Hey, itís only four months away.
When the season ends, there will be some exciting buildup to the draft, and then, thereís the July 1 start of free agency.
Letís see what we have to look forward to:
For starters, the list of pending unrestricted free-agent forwards isnít all that sexy, but there are the likes of New Jersey Devilsí Zach Parise, Shane Doan in Phoenix (especially if the Coyotes relocate), Jiri Hudler of the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafsí Mikhail Grabovski and Washington Capitalsí Alexander Semin if youíre 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 Sharksí 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 Predatorsí Ryan Suter, Carolina Hurricanesí Bryan Allen, Red Wingsí 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, Lindbackís 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 doesnít mean we donít 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 ĎForever a Flameí night, but itís bizarre to think Mike Vernonís number is retired while MacInnisís isnít. Itís not like the Flames have a bunch more numbers to raise to the rafters beyond Theoren Fleuryís No. 14, Jarome Iginlaís No. 12 and Miikka Kiprusoffís No. 34 Ö Now isnít 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 itís 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 Senatorsí Kyle Turris jumping before impact and driving into the Bruinsí Joe Corvo (although itís absolutely priceless listening to the Boston-based NESN commentators make a call on that, yet consider the dirty hits by the Big Bad Bruins Ďhockey playsí) and Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasicís drill from behind of the Flyersí Danny Briere. Sure, the games are ramping up, but dirty hits are still dirty hits, whether itís Game 1 or Game 82. That said, the hit by Dallas Stars forward Eric Nystrom on Pittsburgh Penguinsí Kris Letang doesnít fall into the Ďsuspend-himí category since the impact was at the shoulder, but itís 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 Ö Having been in Nashville during last seasonís 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 Ö Latest reason why hockey fans shouldnít 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 Ö Twitter is a fun way to peer into playersí lives, especially when you see the likes of Stars star Steve Ott admitting he let his daughter paint his toenails pink.
YOU DONíT SAY
ďIím not going to lie. Iím not real happy about the way it all turned out. But thatís the business of hockey. Like Iíve said, we donít make those decisions. Thatís more proof because if I had any more influence Paul would still be here.Ē
ó An upset Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to the Buffalo News after Paul Gaustad was traded.
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