Monday, June 23, 2008

Top 10 Potential Restricted Free Agents

Heading up the list of potential restricted free agents for this summer is goaltender, Pascal Leclaire. He really made a name for himself this season, finally taking the charge of the Blue Jackets' number one goalie position. His stock rose, both in the league and in the hockey pools, with a season that included 24 wins and 9 shutouts for 68 pool points. Of course, there is a coin flip with the young French goaltenders... will he turn out like Jose Theodore with a large new contract or will he look like Jose Theodore looking for a large new contract? Thankfully for Columbus, he is only a restricted free agent and shouldn't carry much weight when it comes to negotiating a new deal.

Next on the list of potential restricted free agents is Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who finished his fifth season with the Minnesota Wild. He has been slowly climbing the ranks and finally cracked the top 100 of the pool rankings with a 63-point season, scoring 13 goals. His ability to blend in with his Wild teammates has done him great favours over the past couple seasons and is turning into a real find for most poolies. He certainly hasn't been one to disappoint in that department. He will likely be back in the ballpark of his previous salary of around $2.6 million, maybe somewhere closer to $3 million is reasonable.

The first real steal of the restricted free agency period could be Mike Green, who finished as the leagues top goal-scoring defenseman. He is now finishing his entry-level deal and will be looking for a nice, big contract to join the elite ranks of NHL blueliners. In his case, he could very well be worth making the offer sheet move, as his season put a strong case for him being an excellent offensive defenseman. A team with salary cap space to spare would do well to put pressure on the Washington Capitals to getting him signed to a long-term deal.

High atop the Ducks priority list this summer is Corey Perry, 23. Perry finished the season with 54 points in 70 games in Anaheim and is up for a big raise from his entry-level deal. You could safely say that if Kevin Lowe really wanted to get under Brian Burke's skin, he'd throw a offer sheet Perry's way. It won't happen from Edmonton, but it could happen from someone else. A big contract for Perry in Anaheim could mean some more housecleaning this summer.

Rumblings before the draft suggested that Jeff Carter was on the verge of signing a new 3-year deal, somewhat similar to what Shea Weber signed on Monday. Unfortunately for Carter, that never seemed to actually materialize and now it's just a week before the floodgates open. Since Carter is one of those key players for the Flyers, the team shouldn't be waiting too long before they can get one of their young forwards to put pen to paper. Carter's 53 points in 82 games will look very healthy to some teams hovering overhead. The Flyers don't have a lot of room to move, much like Anaheim's situation with Perry, so housecleaning could be in order to keep the young winger in town.

A name we'll be hearing out of Montreal for a while to come will be Andrei Kostitsyn, especially after the season and playoff run he had with the Canadiens. He finished the year with 53 points (26G, 27A) in 78 games and also had 8 points in 12 playoff games. His entry-level deal is on the cusp of being completed and he'll want to be compensated this summer as well. Although he doesn't have all the credentials a Carter or Perry have, he will likely look for money somewhere in their neighbourhood, maybe a little smaller. His name hasn't been batted around too much, when it comes to rumours for his free agency, but you just never know what could happen.

Speedy winger, Antoine Vermette, may get a few good looks over the summer with the idea of maybe springing an offer sheet his way, if the Sens don't cut everyone off at the pass in the next week. Vermette plays a good quality third-line role with second line scoring. His stock continues to rise as well, since his start with the Senators in 2003. He managed to rake in 53 points as well for the Senators, while being used more in a defensive role. That is really saying something. At his current pace, he'll become an excellent second-line player, who scores a little bit more and is just as responsible in his own end. He will likely be looking at a fair pay day this summer.

Another player finally finding his legs is Patrick O'Sullivan, who finished his first full 82-game season with the Kings, registering 53 points (22G, 31A). O'Sullivan had a rocky start in the NHL, trying to crack the Minnesota Wild line-up before being traded to LA, but since being in California, he has started to make a name for himself and could find himself with some long-term work, if he's lucky enough. Since his career has had a slow ascent into a regular job, it doesn't seem too likely that he'll be flooded with riches right away, but could earn himself a nice living beginning with this coming season.

Playoff sensation R.J. Umberger is next on the list for restricted free agents, although he may not be on the list for too long. Umberger was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets on the weekend and they should have enough money to spend to get him under contract for the long-term. His place on the list is generally just a formality, but it is worth mentioning that his move to Columbus may have hurt his stock for the time being, unless the team can find him a capable centre to play along with him.

The Avalanche have more than their fair share of players to re-sign this summer, including Wojtek Wolski. Wolski, 23, finished the season with 48 points in 77 games withe Avalanche and will look to earn a raise this summer. Wolski is likely sitting on the backburner at the moment while the Avalanche sort out whether or not Joe Sakic is going to return to the line-up for another season. Once all the ducks are in a row in Denver, Wolski will have his new deal and his experience should raise his stock a few points for next season, especially if the team can add some complimentary help.

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