Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Top 10 Unrestricted Free Agents

Well, we're now two weeks into the free agent frenzy season, most of which has already taken place. Still, there are players without jobs, teams with gaps to fill and players that may need to make a decision sooner rather than later. Since it's been a slow morning for news, I thought I would remind you of who is left and what the buzz is that I have read over the last few days about them, if any.

Remember, this is based on pool scoring, so goaltenders can be included as well.

The big cheese on the list remains to be Mats Sundin. Of course, the story changes on the big Swede every other day, but it does seem to be down to three teams. Montreal and Vancouver remain the big movers & shakers when it comes to Mats' services, but the Maple Leafs are sitting back and waiting (by the sounds of things) to see if his allegences are going to remain intact. It shouldn't come as a surprise if he lands in any one of these three cities, but it should if he goes somewhere else now.

The list of teams that need a goalie has dwindled quite quickly, but there are teams still looking. Unfortunately for Johan Holmqvist, the teams aren't looking towards his services at the moment. He did manage 21 wins last season and only cost the Lightning/Stars in the neighbourhood of $1 million, but his inconsistency does seem to be a factor in his finding a job. Dallas hasn't re-signed Holmqvist, which could still happen, while Ottawa is still looking to settle down with a big name number one.

Rumours were also circulating through Montreal and Vancouver about possible negotiations with forward Brendan Shanahan. His agent was quick to deny those rumours, citing that the only team Shanahan has had contact from is the New York Rangers. That being said, it doesn't seem too likely he'll move away from the Big Apple for next season, but at what cost does Shanny want to come back at?

Still waiting on word for another season, Joe Sakic is taking his time and keeping the media in stitches about his impending return for another season. Sakic, 39, probably isn't too keen to this whole 'is he?' or 'isn't he?' garbage, since he obviously has lots left in the tank. The Avalanche have plenty of room for Sakic, which doesn't make his decision anywhere near the most important thing in the world. The biggest surprise would be that he announces that he isn't coming back for another year, which could throw a wrench into the Avalanche plans.

After Sakic, we then get into a bit of the nitty-gritty of the free agent market. Much like Holmqvist above, Jan Hlavac finds himself in a particularly strange place on the market. After being brought back to the league from Europe by Tampa Bay and then dealt to Nashville during the year, it looks as though the 31-year old may have a hard time finding a solid place to work, even after a 35 point campaign last year. The most likely scenario looks to be a trip back to Europe for the veteran.

For a team looking for some veteran depth, Randy Robitaille is still looking for some work this summer. Robitaille, 32, gave the Ottawa Senators a good season worth of work, scoring 10 goals in 68 games for the club. He isn't much of a pool candidate for your team, but he does give his NHL club a good third or fourth line player and doesn't tend to disappoint. He finished the year as a +4 with 18 PIM with the club as well.

European veteran, Jaroslav Hlinka, joined the Avalanche for a season and may not have made the biggest of impressions in the league. He played in 63 games for Colorado and only mustered 28 points (8G, 20A) in that time. At 31, he may not be an attractive pick up for a team and he could very well disappear to Europe without much mention.

Unable to play 80 games since 2003, forward Ladislav Nagy will have a hard time convincing teams that he's good enough to go a full season and thus, get paid for one. He only completed 38 games last season for the Kings where he had 26 points. His production potential is still there, arguably, but his health questions are abound and his cost could be considered too high. You definitely will want to skip Nagy's services for your hockey pool next season, for now.

Possibly one of the more interesting free agents left on the market could be David Vyborny. Vyborny also had a bit of an injury-plagued season, which only left him with 26 points (7G, 19A) in 66 games for the Blue Jackets. He has generally been a top 100 scoring player in the league and could be a good addition to a team. There hasn't been a lot of buzz around Vyborny, but he should be able to find work before the season starts, likely on one of the teams that needs to fill salary gaps.

Finally, we've come to Marty Reasoner on our list of free agents still to be picked up. Reasoner played in all 82 games for the Oilers last season, registering 11 goals and 14 assists. Although he may not be a good forward candidate for your hockey pool, he does bring a good sense of responsibility to a team defensively. A player like Reasoner could make a goalie a little safer and more efficient, when it comes to trying to win games. Although it isn't a truly definable attribute, Reasoner could be considered a good pick-up for your favourite NHL club.

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