Plenty of NHL teams will be looking to hop aboard the A-Train when free agency begins Thursday.
NHL executives say Anton Volchenkov, the 28-year-old blueliner, will be in big demand, with at least 10 teams expected to check in.
Volchenkov is expected to be one of the first free agents to move on when the signing period opens Thursday at noon. It’s unlikely Volchenkov will return to the Senators. His agent Jay Grossman, who met with Volchenkov in New York twice in the last month, wouldn’t comment.
The Capitals are expected to make a pitch and the Sharks could look at Volchenkov as a replacement for veteran Rob Blake, who retired last month. The Thrashers, Ducks, Blues and Rangers are also likely suitors.
After turning down a five-year, $20-million deal from the Senators, Volchenkov, who has spent his whole career in an Ottawa uniform, is expected to get $4.5-$5 million per season on the open market.
“He’s going to have options,” said a league executive.
The belief is the Rangers and Capitals are the two teams most serious about signing the shot-blocking Volchenkov, who was drafted 21st overall by the Senators in the 2000 draft.
If the Rangers decide to make the move, it could be bad news for Volchenkov’s former Ottawa teammate Wade Redden.
The Rangers could move his $6.5-million contract to the AHL to clear cap space.
The Rangers have warned Redden he’d better show up at camp prepared to earn his money, following two sub-par seasons in New York.
While the Senators may lose Volchenkov, they haven’t closed the door on either winger Matt Cullen or defenceman Andy Sutton.
Senators GM Bryan Murray has continued talks with agent Pat Morris — who represents both players.
It’s believed Cullen is the most likely to sign with the Senators. But that doesn’t mean he won’t test the market first.
Cheechoo says goodbye
Senators RW Jonathan Cheechoo officially cleared waivers Tuesday and the cub bought out of the final year of his $3.5-million contract at two-thirds of the deal ($2.331 million) before Wednesday’s deadline. “Jonathan is a quality person and hockey player,” said Murray in a statement. “We hoped that things would have worked out with the Senators. In the best interest of us both, we have decided to move on.” Cheechoo’s agent Thane Campbell said in an e-mail he hoped there would be interest when they test the market.