Tag:Tampa Bay Lightning
Posted on: July 19, 2011 4:26 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 4:55 pm
 

Arbitration anticipation: Let the pain begin

By Brian Stubits

Nobody wants to go to arbitration. The next time you hear any involved party is excited for arbitration battles will be the first.

It can be dangerous. It can certainly be ugly. It is always contentious.

The nature of the best resembles part of Festivus with the Airing of Grievances. At least there are no Feats of Strength as an arbiter lays down the decision instead of the sides fighting it out. The involved parties are forced to justify their stance in the negotiations, resulting in teams putting down their own player. Not a desirable stance to have to take.

Because of the combative nature, the process has been known to cause strains in relationships between teams and players. It's exactly why teams try to avoid the process more fervently than someone looks to evade root canals.

For that reason arbitration meetings often times don't happen. It's amazing how much easier it is to strike a deal with a deadline speeding up the negotiations. Always worked that way for me to get book reports done in school; nothing like a deadline of two days away to read the first page.

So it is highly likely only a few of the names headed to arbitration will actually have their hearing. That goes for the two biggest names on the list, Shea Weber and Zach Parise. The Predators and Devils respectively will try and hammer out contracts before an arbiter gets to set the reward. This has happened to three players in the last day as the Jets avoided a hearing with Blake Wheeler, the Ducks with Andrew Cogliano and the Sabres with Andrej Sekera, all reaching new deals.

But there will still be hearings. Teddy Purcell and the Lightning will have their case heard tomorrow, the first day, along with Lauri Korpikovski and the Coyotes. The next case will be Brandon Dubinsky and the Rangers. All of those hearings should happen with the potential for the Rangers/Dubinsky battle to be a tough one seeing as the sides still seem to be pretty far apart.

Or you will have the cases where teams just walk away from the award. It happened last year with Clarke MacArthur in Atlanta and more notably with Antti Niemi in Chicago, the teams electing to let the player find another team than pay them the determined amount. It will happen again this year to a Blackhawks player as the team has already said it cannot afford to bring Chris Campoli back.

Last year in total five players got as far as the arbitration hearing. Three of those players' awards were not matched. Teams are only allowed to walk away in a situation where the player filed for arbitration and the reward is $1.7 million or more. Anything less than that and the player stays put, regardless.

Obviously the most interesting cases are those of Parise and Weber. They are both franchise players and are due for substantial raises. The case of Weber is particularly appealing since the signing of Drew Doughty in Los Angeles seems to be waiting for the precedent set by the future Weber contract.

With all of that as the background, here's a list of all the players who, as of now, are scheduled for their turns in the ol' testy tango of arbitration. Expect names to disappear from this list faster than Michael J. Fox in family photos.

Arbitration schedule
Date Player Team
July 20 Lauri Korpikoski Coyotes
July 20 Teddy Purcell Lightning
July 21 Brandon Dubinsky Rangers
July 28 Josh Gorges Canadiens
July 28 Ryan Callahan Rangers
July 29 Jannik Hansen Canucks
August 2 Shea Weber Predators
August 3 Chris Campoli Blackhawks
August 3 Zach Parise Devils
August 4 Mark Fraser Devils
August 4 Blake Comeau Islanders

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:32 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Lightning, Stamkos agree on five-year extension

By Brian Stubits

The Tampa Bay Lightning have reached an agreement with superstar center Steven Stamkos on a five-year contract. The team made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

"Very exciting day for my family and I," Stamkos said on his Twitter account. "Can't thank Mr. Vinik, Mr. Yzerman and the rest of the organization for making this deal possible. Also want to thank my family, friends, agents, teammates, and fans for all their love and support!"

According to Craig Custance of the Sporting News the deal will pay Stamkos an average annual salary of $7.5 million per season, which comes out to a total of $37.5 million. He'll be eligible for unrestricted free agency when the contract expires after the 2015-16 season.

Said general manager Steve Yzerman in a statement released by the team, "Steven is extremely important to this franchise and is part of the foundation of our hockey team. We are very pleased to have him signed and look forward to seeing him in a Lightning uniform for years to come.”

It brings an end to a long saga that had plenty of twists and turns, most made out of fear since it took so long for a deal to be reached. Although the Flyers did contemplate sending an offer sheet Stamkos' way before ultimately passing.

Of course in Stamkos, the former No. 1 overall draft pick, the Lightning are holding on to the league's top goal-scorer over the past two seasons as the 21-year-old has tallied 96 goals in that time frame. He represents not only the future of the Lightning, but perhaps the NHL. Remember, he was recently bestowed the honor of having his mug grace the cover of the video game NHL '12.

The Lightning were determined to get a deal reached with Stamkos, and Stevie Y never waivered on that, saying his team would match any offer sheet if one did come. Alas, it didn't come to that, instead reaching a deal that seems very fair to the team and Stamkos.

He will receive $8 million in the first four years of the contract and then $5 million in the final season. At that point, under the current CBA at least, he will be free to test to the free-agent waters unrestricted at the ripe age of 26, when he figures to be in the prime of his career. If no extension is signed before that point with Tampa Bay, can you imagine the frenzy for him? It would put the Brad Richards courtship to shame.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:51 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 9:26 am
 

The paradoxical world of restricted free agency

By Brian Stubits

It's almost like a bad Jerry Seinfeld joke: "And what is the deal with restricted free agency? They're free agents but no team feels free to sign them!"

Surely, Seinfeld could provide a better punch line, but you get the point. I'm starting to wonder why the NHL even bothers with offer sheets. Teams are apparently too afraid to use them, not wanting to violate what has become one of sports' infamous unwritten rules, joining not stealing bases with a big lead in baseball and not running up the score in football.

Now, there are multiple reasons for it. Yes, it seems to be generally frowned upon by GMs, a scorn that lingers and the threat of future relations being strained. That's the unwritten rule part. But there is also a tangible side, the angle of offers being futile. Teams always say they will match any offer sheet and keep their restricted free agent. Plus, there's the compensation. All legitimate drawbacks/hurdles. But enough to create a freeze?

Take this year's prime RFA Steven Stamkos as an example. Is there a more promising prospect in hockey? He's only 21 and he has the most goals scored in the NHL over the past two seasons. As of now, he's still unsigned by the Tampa Bay Lightning who insist they will keep Stamkos no matter the cost or offer sheet.

As far as we know, no team has submitted an offer sheet to Stamkos. Granted, we would only know if Stamkos signed a sheet or a team admitted to tendering an offer, but it doesn't appear as if there has been any movement on Stamkos. Only the Flyers seem to have even come close, having numerous internal debates before deciding to pass.

Or how about Kings defenseman Drew Doughty?

L.A. GM Dean Lombardi recently told the L.A. Times that the negotiations could "take a while." So if the sides are so far apart, why wouldn't some team take a shot? Doughty is as good a young d-man you will find across the NHL. At the age of 20 he had 16 goals and 43 assists. Last season he tallied 11 goals and 29 assists. Now who wouldn't want to try for that?

The idea of getting a superstar through restricted free agency is almost non-existent. No team will surrender a superstar when they have a rebuttal at their disposal. But if nothing else, you force another team's hand. Imagine throwing out an offer so steep that it will cripple the other team's financial status. The way I see it, anything that hurts my rivals helps me.

Since the summer of '05, only six offers have even been tendered. Only once did the controlling team not match. You might remember when Edmonton pried Dustin Penner away from the Ducks. It left then-Ducks GM Brian Burke irate, lambasting Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, saying "I have no problem with offer sheets. They’re part of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. But in my opinion, Edmonton has offered a mostly inflated salary for a player, and I think it’s an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job."

"The bottom line is there are the tools at your disposal," former Flames GM Craig Button told NHL.com about restricted free agency. "You just have to understand the future ramifications."

Look, I understand the point of offer sheets. The league is interested in keeping young superstars with their teams at least for the early portion their careers. And, ya know, they don't have contracts with their teams any more.

I guess I'm just left wishing for more movement on RFAs. Think of the added intrigue. The Panthers trying to take Stamkos out of Tampa Bay? Suddenly you might have some actual teeth into the Sunshine State rivalry beyond a geographic connection. Or imagine the Ducks making a play on Doughty (just pretend) ... we could have Battle Los Angeles again, except this time it would actually be good.

There are legitimate points as to why restricted free agency exists. There are an equal number of points as to why teams don't tender offers. Eventually it leaves you feeling as if it is pointless. Funny.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 7, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2011 11:46 am
 

Improvement your team needs to make the playoffs

By: Adam Gretz

Under the direction of first year coach Guy Boucher and the front office leadership of Steve Yzerman, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a 23-point improvement in the standings from 2009-10 to 2010-11. That improvement was enough to take them from the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference in 2009 to the No. 5 playoff seed in 2010.

From there, the Lightning eliminated the top two favorites in the East -- Pittsburgh and Washington -- and took the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins to a seventh game in the Conference Finals, falling one goal short of completing what would have been an almost improbable run to the finals.

Perhaps even more impressive than the jump in the standings was how much they improved their goal differential from one season to the next.

During the 2009-10 campaign the Lightning were outscored by 43 goals over the course of the season, the third-worst mark in the league. In 2010-11, the Lightning actually outscored their opponents by seven goals, which was an improvement of 50 goals, the largest jump in the entire league. The second-best improvement belonged to Boston, which improved its differential by 45 goals (going from plus-6 to plus-51).

The 1-3-1 system of Boucher, an MVP-caliber season from Martin St. Louis, the continued development of Steven Stamkos and a number of astute additions (like the mid-season trade for goaltender Dwayne Roloson) helped the Lightning to score 30 more goals and allow 20 fewer than they did the previous year.

A team's goal differential is important. The more you outscore your opponents the more games you're going to win and the more points you're going to accumulate in the standings. Every team that made the playoffs this past season had a positive goal differential, and of the 16 teams, 10 of them outscored their opponents by at least 20 goals. I've found in recent years that tends to be the magic number to pretty much guarantee yourself a spot in the playoffs.

Since the 1999-00 season 113 teams have finished the regular season with a goal differential of plus-20 or better, with 111 of them qualifying for the playoffs. The only two clubs that didn't were the 2006-07 Avalanche, which missed the postseason by one point in the standings (every team that qualified ahead of them in the Western Conference had a better goal differential) and the 2000-01 Oilers, who missed by two points in the standings.

Over the past two offseasons I've taken the non-playoff teams and looked at how much of an improvement they needed to make in order to reach that magic number, and here's an updated list taking a look at last year's non-playoff team and how much they will need to improve to hit the plus-20 mark. Keep in mind, it is possible to make the playoffs with a mark worse than that, but we're just looking at what it's going to take to all but guarantee a trip to the postseason.

Improving goal differential
Team 2010-11 Differential Improvement Needed
Calgary Flames +13 +7
St. Louis Blues +6 +14
Carolina Hurricanes -3 +23
Dallas Stars -6 +26
Minnesota Wild -27 +47
Toronto Maple Leafs -33 +53
Florida Panthers -34 +54
New Jersey Devils -35 +55
New York Islanders -35 +55
Columbus Blue Jackets -43 +63
Winnipeg Jets -46 +66
Ottawa Senators -58 +78
Colorado Avalanche -61 +81
Edmonton Oilers -76 +96

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: July 2, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2011 6:55 pm
 

Kings reach deal with ex-Lightning, Flyer F Gagne

The Los Angeles Kings have reached a deal with Simon Gagne on a two-year contract, the team announced Saturday. Rich Hammond from lakingsinsider.com says the deal is for two years and $7 million.

The Kings were very quiet on Day 1 of free agency, seemingly putting all their eggs into the Brad Richards basket. After they lost out on him to the Rangers, it was on to Plan B.

"I'm very excited about Simon Gagne. I've known him from the time that he came in as a young player. He's a very good player," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "You go back through the Canadian Olympic team and the World Championships, and he was one of the real good players on some of those teams, and certainly a real good player for the Flyers. So I'm excited about this one."

Gagne comes to the Kings from Tampa Bay, where he spent one season. In that year he had 17 goals and 23 assists as the Bolts made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. His playoff run was interrupted in the Eastern semifinals against Washington when he suffered a head injury, forcing him out for the four-game sweep. Prior to going to Tampa Bay, he spent 10 seasons with the Flyers, setting a career high in 2005-06 with 47 goals.

It's the first move of free agency for the Kings, who acquired another former Flyer as their biggest move of the offseason so far when they traded for Mike Richards.

So will the reunited Philly guys join forces in L.A. on the same line?

"I will take it into account. It has worked. I've seen it work," Murray said. "There's good chemistry there. They play off each other, read off each other very well. It's just a knack. Those things are called chemistry. You wonder why chemistry works sometimes, and how it works and how it happens and why it happens, but that type of chemistry fell in place when they did play together, and they had good success together. That won’t be too far away from my mind when I'm putting down some lines and starting to put things together in my mind for training camp."

The Kings still have to reach a deal with restricted free agent defenseman Drew Doughty, one of the more talented youngsters in hockey.

By Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

Click here for more free-agency updates.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 2, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: July 2, 2011 6:50 pm
 

Brad Richards settles on signing with Rangers

The biggest free agent is heading to the biggest market.

The front-runners all along, the New York Rangers won the race to sign former Dallas Stars center Brad Richards. Darren Dreger of TSN reports the deal is for nine years and $60 million, an average hit of $6.67 million.

"Very happy to become a New York Ranger today!!!" Richards wrote on his Twitter account. "Playing at MSG will be amazing and looking forward to working with a great young team"

Richards spent the opening day of free agency entertaining team presentations in his agent's office in Mississauga, Ontario. There he hosted the Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs (sans Brian Burke), L.A. Kings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames. It was expected Richards would make his decision late Friday but instead elected to sleep on it before deciding on the Rangers.

"You can find a player like this as a free agent or find a player like this in the top five [of the draft] and it takes a long time to develop," general manager Glen Sather said. "We needed somebody like this to take us to the next step. I think it's a great opportunity for us. I know he left a lot of money on the table by accepting the offer."

And what about that concussion he suffered near the end of the season? Richards says it's nothing to worry about.

"I have been training for six weeks, way ahead of any other training schedule I have been on because I was healthy after the season," Richards said. "My body felt great, my head felt great, so I got at it pretty quick."

For months it had been assumed the Rangers would be the ultimate winner of the Richards sweepstakes. The Blueshirts needed a top-line center, had the money to spend and Richards had said he wanted to play in a big market where hockey matters. Seems to be a natural fit. But it didn't stay that easy.

The Leafs, Kings and Lightning were not surprise suitors at all. And if any other teams were to be in the mix, it was assumed it would the Sabres in Buffalo and maybe even the Flyers in Philly. Instead, the underdog came in the form of the Flames, who gave Richards a lot to think about.

Dreger reported Saturday morning that the Flames actually offered more money than the Rangers, giving an offer at the same length but for $65 million total. In the end, Richards took less money to head to New York and reunite with his former coach in Tampa, John Tortorella.

The Kings also came to the table with an aggressive offer, trying to give L.A. perhaps the best collection of centers in the NHL with Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar already on the roster. Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Kings, was part of a group that included general manager Dean Lombardi and several others who went to Canada to meet with Richards. Not even video messages from Wayne Gretzky and Kobe Bryant won over Richards.

"We have a lot of respect for Brad and Pat Morris and the way they handled this," Leiweke said. "We understood his desire to play out East and did the best we could to overcome that. We wish him the best. Dean [Lombardi] and his team did a great job. We are focused on other options and are certain this team is going to be very good next year."

His contract isn't as high as I anticipated it might go. Considering some of the contracts that were flying around yesterday in the free-agent frenzy, it was reasonable to assume he would see a number around the $70 million-$75 million range. Instead, the Rangers get him at an average cap hit of $6.67 million -- still a lot, but a reasonable price for a player that had 77 points in 72 games last season. The Rangers could have done worse.

Now, the Rangers still have around $15 million under the salary cap ceiling, according to capgeek.com, which should be enough room to sign restricted free agents Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle.

Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

Click here for more free-agency updates.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 10:46 am
Edited on: July 7, 2011 5:31 pm
 

Free-agent tracker: Leafs make move, add Connolly

It took more than 24 hours, but the Toronto Maple Leafs, no strangers to free-agent signings, spent their first dollars on a free agent, signing Tim Connolly for two years, $9.5 million, according to Darren Dreger of TSN.

The Maple Leafs were among the favorites to sign Brad Richards, who ended up going to the Rangers. GM Brian Burke took some criticism for not being present at the presentation to Richards, instead spending Canada Day overseas with Canadian soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The Leafs needed to find a center and wanted it to be Richards. Once they missed out, they turned their attention straight to Connolly, most recently with the Sabres. The 10-year veteran has spent the past eight seasons in Buffalo, notching career highs of 18 goals (in 2008-09) and 65 points (2009-10). He is coming off a 13-goal, 29-assist season.

It seems to be a bit high for Connolly, $4.75 million annually, but Toronto had money to spend and needed to grab a center. Plus, the risk is minimized a bit with just a two-year contract instead of something in the four- or five-year range.

This week's moves

Who ended up where
Anaheim Ducks F Brian McGrattan (1-year contract)
F Jean-Francois Jacques (1-year, 2-way contract)
D Bryan Rodney (1-year contract)
F Andrew Gordon (2-year contract)
D Kurtis Foster (trade)
Boston Bruins F Josh Hennessy (1-year contract)
D Joe Corvo (trade)
F Benoit Pouliot (1-year contract)
F Trent Whitfield (2-year contract)
G Anton Khudobin (2-year contract)
Buffalo Sabres F Colin Stuart (1-year contract)
F Derek Whitmore (1-year contract)
G Drew MacIntyre (1-year contract)
D Mike Webe (multi-year contract)
F Cody McCormick (multi-year contract)
F Ville Leino (6 years, $27 million)
D Christian Ehrhoff (10 years, $40 million)
Calgary Flames G Leland Irving (1 year, $600,000)
F Sven Baertschi (3 years, $2.775 million)
D Anton Babchuk (2 years, $5 million)
F Guillaume Desbiens (1 year, $525,000)
F Ben Walter (2 years, $1.075 million)
F Jon Rheault (1 year, $95,000)
D Clay Wilson (2 years, $1.05 million)
D Chris Butler (2 years, $2.5 million)
F Carter Bancks (2 years, $1.12 million)
D Joe Piskula (2 years, $1.05 million)
Carolina Hurricanes D Tomas Kaberle (3 years, $12.75 million)
F Anthony Stewart (2 years, $1.8 million)
F Justin Soryal (1 year, $525,000/$80,000)
F Alexei Ponikarovsky (1 year, $1.5 million)
F Jiri Tlusty (1 year, $525,000)
C Tim Brent (2 years, $1.5 million)
G Brian Boucher (2 years, $1.9 million)
F Jussi Jokinen (3 years, $9 million)
F Chad LaRose (2 years, $3.4 million)
D Joni Pitkanen (3 years, $13.5 million)
Chicago Blackhawks F Dan Carcillo (1-year contract)
D Steve Montador (4 years, $12 million)
F Andrew Brunette (1-year contract)
D Sean O'Donnell (1-year contract)
F Jamal Mayers (1-year contract)
F Brett MacLean (1-year contract)
Colorado Avalanche G Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2-year contract)
D Jan Hejda (4-year contract)
F Chuck Kobasew (2-year contract)
G Semyon Varlamov (trade)
Columbus Blue Jackets F Ryan Russell (trade)
D Radek Martinek (1 year, $2.2 million)
D Marc Methot (4 years, $12 million)
D Aaron Johnson (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Alexandre Giroux (1 year, $825,000/$325,000)
D James Wisniewski (6 years, $33 million)
G Curtis Sanford (1-year contract)
F Andrew Joudrey (2-year contract)
F Nicholas Drazenovic (1-year contract)
G Mark Dekanich (1-year contract)
D Dalton Prout (3-year contract)
Dallas Stars D Sheldon Souray (1 year, $1.6 million)
C Vernon Fiddler (3 years, $5.4 million)
F Radek Dvorak (1 year, $1.5 million)
D Adam Pardy (2 years, $4 million)
F Michael Ryder (2 years, $7 million)
C Jake Dowell (1 year, $800,000)
Detroit Red Wings F Chris Conner (1-year contract)
D Logan Pyett (1-year contract)
D Garnett Exelby (1-year contract)
D Ian White (2 years, $5.75 million)
D Mike Commodore (1 year, $1 million)
D Jonathan Ericsson (3 years, $9.75 million)
F Patrick Eaves (3 years, $3.6 million)
F Drew Miller (2-year contract)
Edmonton Oilers C Ryan Keller (1 year, $625,000/$225,000)
F Yann Danis (1-year contract)
D Theo Peckham (1 year, $1.075 million)
F Josh Green (1-year contract)
F Darcy Hordichuk (1-year contract)
D Cam Barker (1-year contract)
F Ben Eager (3-year contract)
D Andy Sutton (trade)
C Eric Belanger (3-year contract)
D Corey Potter (1-year contract)
Florida Panthers F Mike Santorelli (2 years, 3.2 million)
F Matt Bradley (2 years, $1.9 million)
F Sean Bergenheim (4 years, $11 million)
F Kris Versteeg (trade)
D Ed Jovanovski (4 years, $16.5 million)
F Tomas Fleischmann (4 years, $18 million)
G Jose Theodore (2 years, $3 million)
F Scottie Upshall (4 years, $14 million)
C Marcel Goc (3 years, $5.1 million)
F Tomas Kopecky (4 years, $12 million)
Los Angeles Kings F Simon Gagne (2 years, $7 million)
Minnesota Wild F Colton Gillies (2 years, $1.25 million)
F Jeff Taffe (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Darroll Powe (3 years, $3.2 million)
F Dany Heatley (trade)
F Jeff Taffe (two-way contract)
G Josh Harding (1-year contract)
D Drew Bagnall
D Kyle Medvec
C Jed Ortmeyer
Montreal Canadiens F Michael Blunden (trade)
F Brian Willsie (1-year contract)
G Nathan Lawson (1 year, $525,000/$105,000)
G Peter Delmas (3-year, 2-way contract)
F Brock Trotter (1-year contract)
F Erik Cole (4 years, $18 million)
G Peter Budaj (2-year contract)
Nashville Predators C Cal O'Reilly (1 year, $1.05 million)
F Nick Spaling (2 years, $2.1 million)
F Matthew Halischuk (2 years, $1.425 million)
F Chris Mueller (2 years, $550,000/$65,000)
F Zack Stortini (1 year, $550,000/$75,000)
C Kyle Wilson
F Niclas Bergfors (1 year, $575,000)
D Brett Lebda (trade)
F Robert Slaney (trade)
F Brodie Dupont (trade)
New Jersey Devils D Andy Greene (4 years, $12 million)
G Johan Hedberg (1 year, $1.25 million)
New York Islanders F Trevor Gillies (1-year, 2-way contract)
C Trevor Frischmon (1-year, 2-way contract)
C Marty Reasoner (2-year contract)
F Kiril Kabanov (3-year contract)
New York Rangers F Andreas Thuresson (trade)
C Brad Richards (9 years, $58.5 million)
C Mike Rupp (3 years, $4.5 million)
F Ruslan Fedotenko (1 year, $1.4 million)
Ottawa Senators F Erik Condra (2-year contract)
C Zenon Konopka (1 year, $700,000)
G Alex Auld (1-year contract)
F Francis Lessard (1-year contract)
Philadelphia Flyers F Wayne Simmonds (2 years, $3.5 million)
G Jason Bacashihua ($525,000/$125,000)
F Tye McGinn (3-year, 2-way contract)
F Jaromir Jagr (1 year, $3.3 million)
C Maxime Talbot (5 years, $9 million)
F Jakub Voracek (1 year, $2.25 million)
D Andreas Lilja (3 years, $5.1 million)
Pittsburgh Penguins D Alexandre Picard (1 year, $600,000)
G Brad Thiessen (1 year, $525,000)
D Boris Valabik (1 year, $550,000)
F Steve Sullivan (1 year, $1.5 million)
F Tyler Kennedy (2 years, $4 million)
F Colin McDonald (1 year, $525,000)
Phoenix Coyotes F Matt Watkins (1-year contract)
D Dean Arsene (1-year contract)
D Nathan Oystrick (1-year contract)
D Keith Yandle (5 years, $26.5 million)
D Tyler Eckford (1-year, 2-way contract)
G Curtis McElhinney (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Radim Vrbata (multi-year contract)
D Boyd Gordon (2 years, $2.65 million)
G Mike Smith (2 years, $4 million)
F Raffi Torres (2 years, $3.5 million)
C Alex Bolduc (1 year, $575,000/$105,000)
San Jose Sharks F Martin Havlat (trade)
D Jim Vandermeer (1 year, $1 million)
C Michal Handzus (2 years, $5 million)
St. Louis Blues C Jason Arnott (1-year contract)
F Jamie Langenbrunner (1-year contract)
G Ben Bishop (1-year contract)
C Scott Nichol (1-year contract)
F Brett Sterling (1-year, 2-way contract)
D Kent Huskins (1 year, $1 million)
F Matt D'Agostini (2 years, $3.3 million)
G Brian Elliott (1 year, $600,000/105,000)
F Adam Cracknell
F Cody Beach
Tampa Bay Lightning C Tom Pyatt (1-year, 2-way contract)
C Trevor Smith (1-year, 2-way contract)
D Richard Petiot (1-year contract)
D Matt Gilroy (1-year contract)
F J.T. Wyman (1-year, 2-way contract)
G Dwayne Roloson (1 year, $3 million)
G Mathieu Garon (2 years, $2.6 million)
F Michael Oullete (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Brett Connolly (3-year contract)
Toronto Maple Leafs D Matt Lashoff (1-year contract)
F Philippe Dupuis (1-year contract)
F Tyler Bozak (2-year contract)
C Clarke MacArthur (2 years, $6.5 million)
D Cody Franson (trade)
F Matthew Lombardi (trade)
C Tim Connolly (2 years, $9.5 million)
G Ben Scrivens (1-year contract)
Vancouver Canucks D Alexander Sulzer (
G Matt Climie
D Sami Salo (1 year, $2 million)
F Chris Higgins (2 years, $3.8 million)
F Marco Sturm (1 year, $2.25 million)
D Kevin Bieksa (5 years, $23 million)
F Mark Mancari (1 year, $525,000)
D Andrew Ebbett (1 year, $525,000)
Washington Capitals F Troy Brouwer (2 years, $4.7 million)
D Danny Richmond (1-year contract)
G Tomas Vokoun (1 year, $1.5 million)
F Chris Bourque (1-year contract)
F Ryan Potulny (2 years, $1.05 million)
F Joel Ward (4 years, $12 million)
D Roman Hamrlik (2 years, $7 million)
F Jeff Halpern (1 year, $825,000)
D Sean Collins (1-year contract)
Winnipeg Jets F Jason Gregoire
F Andrew Ladd (5 years, $22 million)
C Rick Rypien
D Mark Flood
D Randy Jones (1 year, $1.15 million)
D Derek Meech (1 year, $700,000/$105,000)
F Tanner Glass (1 year, $750,000)
C Aaron Gagnon

By Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: June 29, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 2:36 pm
 

Free agency: Richards cream of offensive crop

You ever see a fish feeding frenzy? When the fish basically jump on top of each other to get the food first? That's what free agency will look like because of the dearth of big fish to be found, to mix our metaphors.

There is no doubt who the most coveted free agent is this season. Brad Richards tops all names up for grabs and pretty much every team is likely to show some interest in signing the former Stars center.

NHL Free Agency

Richard expects to be a busy man come Friday, according to his agent, Pat Morris, who spoke to Buffalo radio station WGR 550 on Wednesday.

"If five teams call, I'd be shocked by the limited number. If 25 teams called, I wouldn't be shocked," Morris said.

Perhaps the first ring will come from the Rangers, who seem to be the team most coveting Richards. They would love to find a center who can score to anchor the first line with Marian Gaborik. Just a reminder, though: veteran newcomers don't always work out so well for the Blueshirts, just think of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.

If Rangers GM Glen Sather isn't first to get in touch with Richards, then it could very well be Brian Burke and Toronto. The Leafs are hungry to get back to the playoffs after a lengthy drought by the organization's standards (six seasons). Richards grew up a Leafs fan, so that has helped drive speculation in Ontario. But honestly a massive chunk of the NHL players grew up Maple Leafs fans, so that means next to nothing.

His former team in Tampa Bay, the Sabres in Buffalo, and even the Flyers are potential suitors, too.

Frankly, any team that has enough room to sign Richards will probably be standing with food in hand, hoping to get the hook, line and sinker on the best player to be had.

Here are this year's best forward options (in alphabetical order).

Sean Bergenheim -- Lightning: Before the postseason, Bergenheim would have likely re-signed quietly with the Lightning after a modest 14-goal, 15-assist season. But he busted out in a big way during the playoffs, scoring nine goals in 16 games. Since then he has turned down an offer from Tampa Bay with GM Steve Yzerman commenting that the two sides obviously see Bergenheim's value a little differently. At this point it looks like he'll be playing elsewhere.


Erik Cole -- Hurricanes: Cole has been a near lifer in Carolina, spending all but a part of his nine seasons in the red of the 'Canes (he was sent to Edmonton and then promptly reacquired by Carolina). He enters free agency coming off a 26-goal, 26-assist campaign, more than attractive numbers. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford would still like to re-sign Cole and keep him around longer, but at this point they haven't been able to find common ground. Carolina is still the odds-on favorite, though.


Simon Gagne -- Lightning: Gagne is coming off a 17-goal, 23-assist season in Tampa Bay, his first with the Lightning. It wasn't long ago that Gagne was a 40-goal scorer for the Flyers, last hitting that mark in 2006-07. It isn't as if he's too old to still flash that form at 31, but the concern might be in the injury department, specifically concussion concerns. Could be worth a shot from a team looking for scoring on the wings.


Jussi Jokinen -- Hurricanes: Another player Rutherford has said he's not sure if he'll be able to re-sign but wants to, Jokinen should draw a good amount of interest if Carolina can't lock him up. The last two seasons for the 'Canes he has surpassed 50 points, highlighted by a 30-goal, 35-assist campaign in 2009-10. (June 30: Re-signed with Hurricanes for three years, $9 million)


Ville Leino -- Flyers: The 27-year-old Fin is coming off his best season in the NHL, scoring 19 goals with 34 assists on the heels of his 21-point postseason when the Flyers went to the Cup Finals. There is no question the Flyers would like to have him back, but it's a matter of if they can have him back. The Flyers are still reportedly eyeing RFA Steven Stamkos, so Leino could be left in the lurch and snagged by another team while Philly chases that option.


Richards -- Stars: Richards is a true No. 1 center. Last season in 72 games for the Stars he tallied 77 points on 28 goals and 49 assists. The mystery isn't who will be interested in Richards, it's who will Richards be interested in? He will likely have his pick of the litter, from his old stomping grounds in Tampa to New York or Chicago.


Michael Ryder -- Bruins: The 31-year-old Ryder hasn't made the best impression in the world in either Montreal or Boston, the two stomping grounds in his career. However, the guy has scoring ability, hitting the 25-goal plateau in four of his seven NHL seasons, including 38 as a rookie.



Maxime Talbot -- Penguins: Talbot isn't the highest-scoring center you'll find (just eight goals and 13 assists last season) but he has earned a reputation as a postseason performer, which never hurts. The Maple Leafs have shown interest in Talbot since it became clear he wouldn't be returning to Pittsburgh and seem the most likely destination at this point.


Scottie Upshall -- Blue Jackets: Smack dab in the middle of his prime at 27, Upshall has plenty of talent to draw interest. He hasn't found the perfect spot for himself in either Columbus or any of the spots before. But each of the past four seasons has seen his goal total rise, hitting 22 last season for the Jackets. Once concern is that last season was the first time he played 75 games (he played all 82).


Others of interest: Jason Arnott (WAS), Tomas Fleischmann (COL), Radim Vrbata (PHO), Joel Ward (NSH), Marcel Goc (NSH), Raffi Torres (VAN), John Madden (MIN), Andrew Brunette (MIN), Tim Connolly (BUF)

By Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com