NHL hockey clubs scrambling during free agency

Jul 9, 2013 3:07 AM

Ottawa veteran winger Daniel Alfredsson, longtime captain of the Senators, let the world know he was leaning toward retirement, then something suddenly happened.

“I felt a week ago that I was not going to go anywhere,” Alfredsson said in several interviews. “If I was playing, I was playing in Ottawa. Then I just started thinking.”

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A whirlwind of negotiations found Aldredsson signing in Detroit. But before Sens fans could take a breath of outrage, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray needed just a few hours to announce the signing of Bobby Ryan from Anaheim.

Such is the current stage of NHL free agency of both the restricted and unrestricted variety. With the 2013-14 salary cap slightly lowered to $64.3 million, NHL clubs are scrambling for the best deals possible to avoid getting pinned into a corner and paying a luxury tax or coming up short on talent.

The smarter GMs this summer will be the ones watching their respective teams participating in playoff hockey next spring. So let’s look at some of the better early deals and players who could demand the few precious dollars to remain cap-friendly.

A year ago, it was Zach Parise leaving New Jersey to join Minnesota, making the Wild a playoff team (as reported here last season as my top darkhorse play on the Futures board).

The obvious first choice may be future Hall of Fame winger Jaromir Jagr, who turns 42 next season, needing 19 goals for 700 in a 23-year career with six franchises. But which will be his seventh team?

Jagr’s agent went out of his way last week to list three clubs (of course, he declined to name them) with interest, hoping to generate a bidding war.

Perhaps the following free agents are more penny-wise to transform a team into a Stanley Cup contender:

Jose Theodore, G – a solid, steady goalie has a promising start to his career in Montreal, then has done the job in several cities, including a 30-7-7 mark in Washington just three years ago before vacating to Florida. Now 36, he still looks to be the No. 1 goalie, but the No. 2 berth in the right situation could also be welcome.

Other goaltenders to look at are Roberto Luongo (Vancouver) and Rick DiPietro (N.Y. Islanders).

Speaking of goalies, does Tim Thomas, who led Boston to the Cup in 2010-11, really think he can return to the NHL, following a year’s layoff, at age 40?

Among forwards, Teemu Selanne, a first-round pick by Winnipeg (the original Jets which are now in Phoenix) in 1988, joins Jagr on the refuses-to-retire list…and why should he?

Well, one reason is a lack of production (12-12-24) with Anaheim, one reason the aging Ducks are revamping their roster. For someone to pull the trigger here, the price better be right or a lower team may sign him just to boost attendance.

Something tells me that wherever Selanne lands, this will be a team to avoid for a while. Same with Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) Scott Gomez of San Jose.

A better choice could be found in either UFAs in Justin Penner (Los Angeles), Brad Boyes (N.Y. Islanders), Brenden Morrow (Dallas/Pittsburgh), or Alexei Ponikarovsky (Winnipeg/New Jersey). All seem to always land on the No. 2 or 3 line wherever they skate.

The blue line is always filled with prospects – why did GMs insist on signing sub-par forwards when it’s the defensemen and goalies who ultimately win games?

This year’s crop features Joe Corvo (Carolina), Ian White (Detroit) and Douglas Murray (Pittsburgh/San Jose).

The clubs that sign some of these players will receive an extra look for any Futures action, but maybe not the first two weeks of the regular season until they meld with their new teams.

Contact Nick at [email protected].

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