With NHL free agency set to begin this Friday, I’d thought I’d have some fun with it. I am going to predict where some of the top unrestricted free agents and two Bruins unrestricted free agents will land after the clock strikes midnight on July 1st.
Name: Brad Richards
2010-11 Team/Cap Hit: Stars/$7,800,000
When Ilya Bryzgalov signed a 9 year, $51 Million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers last week, Richards became the clear-cut top free-agent-prize. Richards, one the of best centers in the game is now 30 years old and is most likely looking for the big contract that will take him to the end of his NHL career. Just two seasons ago Richards had a 91 point season, his second of his career. (2005-06 with Tampa) In 72 games this season, Richards had 77 points (28 goals).
Who he signs with: Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto is in the market for a big-time-center, and Richards is their guy. The Leafs have been looking for someone to pair with fellow sniper Phil Kessel. With around $18 Million in cap space, the Maple Leafs can certainly afford to sign the talented center.
Name: Christian Ehrhoff
2010-11 Team/Cap Hit: Canucks/$3,100,000
Ehrhoff, one of the best free-agent-defensemen out there led all Canucks defensemen with 50 points last season and set a career high in points. Ehrhoff a power-play specialist will be heavily sought out by many NHL teams who are looking to add to their blue-lines.
Who he signs with: Boston Bruins
The defending Stanley Cup Champions have some money to spend and are in the market for defensemen if they decide to part ways with Tomas Kaberle. The Bruins could go push hard for Ehrhoff and ultimately end up signing the veteran. Ehrhoff may be exactly what the Bruins need to help out what is just a horrific power play.
Name: James Wisniewski
2010-11 Team/Cap Hit: Canadiens/$3,250,000
After being decimated by injuries to a few key defensemen, the Habs went out and acquired the talented defensemen from the New York Islanders. Wisniewski found instant success in Montreal and helped hold together the Montreal blue-line. Wisniewski also added to what was already a deadly power play with his absolute cannon of a slap shot.
Who he signs with: Montreal Canadiens
Even with the resigning of the often-injured Andrei Markov, the Habs have plenty of money to build on a team with tremendous talent. Montreal knows how scary their defense could be with P.K. Subban, Hall Gill, and a healthy Andrei Markov, bring back Wisniewski and that’s one scary group of top-four-defensemen.
Name: Kevin Bieska
2010-11 Team/Cap Hit: Canucks/$3,750,000
Bieska the Canucks best all-around-defensemen has spent his entire six-year-career in Vancouver. Bieska’s offensive numbers have taken a bit of a dip the past two seasons due to injuries, as the veteran blue-liner has recorded 22 points in each of his last two seasons.
Who he signs with: Vancouver Canucks
It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the defending Western Conference Champions as they have some key free agents to lock up. With both defensemen Ehrhoff and Bieska hitting the market come July 1, I expect the Canucks to reach a deal with Bieska prior to July 1 as he will come cheaper than Ehrhoff.
Name: Tomas Vokoun
2010-11 Team/Cap Hit: Panthers/ $5,700,000
One of the most underrated goalies in the league is Tomas Vokoun, as he has been the victim of some poor teams in Nashville and Florida, Vokoun hasn’t had the chance to show that he is indeed one the of league’s top goalies. With Bryzgalov off the market Vokoun becomes the top goalie to target.
Who he signs with: Tampa Bay Lightning
With both Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith set to be unrestricted free agents the Lightning are certainly in the market for the services of Vokoun. With the exception of Steven Stamkos who is a restricted free agent that no one expects to go anywhere, the Lightning don’t have any key free agents, so with a decent amount of cap space I fully expect the Lightning to land Vokoun
Name: Michael Ryder
Position: Right Wing
2010-11 Team/Cap Hit: Bruins/$4,000,000
Many questioned the signing of Michael Ryder when he was brought in prior to the 2008-09. He quickly silenced the doubters with a 27 goal season, the following two seasons were not nearly as good as Ryder failed to crack the 20 goal mark in both of those seasons. Despite the regular season struggles, Ryder has been a key factor for the Bruins in the postseason.
Who he signs with: Boston Bruins
It should come to no surprise that Ryder will resign with the Bruins. Julien has coached Ryder in all sorts of levels, and teams, and for as long as Julien is here, so will Ryder. At different points throughout the regular and postseason Ryder showed tremendous chemistry with rookie Tyler Seguin. It’s going to be exciting to see what the pair can do playing on the same line for a full season if given the chance.
Name: Tomas Kaberle
2010-11 Team/Cap Hit: Bruins/$4,250,000
After a couple years of Kaberle to Boston rumors, the Bruins finally pulled the trigger and acquired the veteran defensemen from the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline. Kaberle was brought in to fix a struggling power play. He failed at doing so, and failed miserably. Kaberle’s poor play continued into the first few rounds of the playoffs were he saw his playing time cut down at times. As the playoffs got deeper, Kaberle got better, he seemed to fit in more and start to understand the Bruins system
Who he signs with: Washington Capitals
With the Bruins parting ways with Kaberle, No. 12 goes and joins former Bruins defensemen Dennis Widemen in Washington. With Washington switching to a more defensive system Kaberle could line up alongside talented defensemen Mike Green and help out a Capitals blue-line that has not been good the last several years.