Taking a look at the notable unrestricted free agents of the NHL's Western Conference
Just over a month away from this summer’s July 1 'Free Agent Frenzy' and out west there are a number of big names who are ready to re-sign or ready for a big move. In some cases values will increase while other scenarios will result in a perceived rise in value that ends up being short lived. It is difficult to predict where most of these players will sign as many of them are weighing the big pay day versus the opportunity to join a contender – and some of the lucky ones like Marion Gaborik will get both.
In the meantime NHL teams are getting prepared to target those players who will help them the most, while fantasy GMs watch closely in order to gauge the value of these movers and shakers. Let’s take a quick look at some of the biggest names in unrestricted free agency from the Western Conference.
It is no secret that Dan Boyle will not be back in San Jose. Apparently the 37-year-old is devastated by the news, but soon should sign a nice contract that will take the pain away. There has been some speculation that the logical landing spot for Boyle would be his hometown of Ottawa. Boyle will not have a shortage of choices as almost every team in the league could use a puck-moving defenseman with his pedigree. Top three destinations would be Ottawa, Detroit, and perhaps a reunion in New York with Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis. Expect a re-motivated Boyle to sign for two or three years in the 5.5m/year range and coast in at around 40 points per year over the next two seasons. Boyle also spent time in Florida before being traded to Tampa Bay, the possible destinations are endless but the easy assumption is he will choose to sign with a contender even if it means signing at a discount.
Marion Gaborik has been a perfect fit in Los Angeles and Elliott Friedman suggested in one of his recent 30 thoughts “Don't think Marian Gaborik is going to hit free agency. During their 2012 cup run, the Kings quietly did an extension with Jarret Stoll, but waited until it was over to announce. Could see something similar here”. An educated guess would be that signing an extension in Los Angeles would mean a shorter term (2 years) and less money (likely in the range of 5m to 6m/year) for Gaborik. Expect Gaborik to produce at a 60 point pace while missing his usual 20 games per year no matter where he signs. If they could make the cap hit work, Pittsburgh would be an ideal destination wouldn’t it?
The Ryan Miller experiment didn’t work out very well in St. Louis. It started great as Miller won seven of his first eight games with the club, but it ended in typical Blues fashion with another underachieving first round exit. The team has already stated they will not re-sign Miller, meaning the goalie is about to join his third team in a matter of three month. Because Miller’s wife is an actress and the lure of California is an assumption, the most rumored destination appears to be San Jose while other possible candidates include Anaheim and Washington. One must wonder if Vancouver will make a pitch to the most sought after goalie in the league, as the team has a need and the city is the location of Miller’s legendary Olympic performance. Vancouver is also a decent landing spot for a player with a spouse who wants to work in show business.
The idea of Paul Stastny playing anywhere but Colorado after his contract expires was a given before this season. This year Stastny rediscovered the consistency that led to his soon to be expired hefty five year contract at 6.6m/year. Expecting similar money in Colorado may be a stretch, depending on term, but there is a report from March that suggests Stastny would be willing to take a hometown discount. The team has Matt Duchene on the books for 6m/year and Gabriel Landeskog at 5.57m/year so giving Stastny more money than the team’s young stars may not go over well. One rumored destination appears to be Toronto (isn’t everyone going there?) and there will be no shortage of teams who will be seeking Stastny’s services. If money is the motivator expect the 28-year-old to leave Denver this summer.
Matt Moulson’s ride in Minnesota has been average and with the looming rumors of a Thomas Vanek signing we should expect to see the winger sign elsewhere next season. Considering his decent chemistry with John Tavares, a return to the Islanders makes too much sense, but one would guess there may be some hard feelings considering how his surprise trade from Long Island to Buffalo played out. There will be no shortage of those looking to re-sign Moulson and predicting his destination is equivalent to picking this weekend’s winning lottery numbers. Expect Moulson to sign a four year deal in the 4-4.5m/year range and continue as a 50 point player.
Two players from the desert that fantasy GMs have their eyes on include Thomas Greiss and Radim Vrbata. For the sake of Vrbata and fantasy managers everywhere hopefully the Czech re-signs as Phoenix has been the one place he has found success. Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic: The Coyotes have six pending UFAs and Thomas Greiss is the only one that has received a phone call. “I did have a conversation with Thomas Greiss’ agent,” General Manager Don Maloney said. “That was a brief conversation, but he’s the only one so far.” McLellan also reported that “Re-signing Radim Vrbata could be difficult as the two sides could not come to terms during their training camp talks.” A logical guess would be Vrbata joining fellow countryman Jaromir Jagr in New Jersey if Arizona is no longer in the cards.
All has been relatively quiet in regards to Mike Cammalleri. The winger did suggest that he would like to continue playing in Calgary and earlier this month apparently the team reached out to him as the excerpt from Sportsnet 960 radio interview with Flames GM Brad Treliving indicates: “We made him an offer. We want him to be a Flame. I plan on following up in the next few days with Mike and his representative and just get a little better sense of where they’re at, where the process is at. Like I said, probably another week or so I’d have a better answer to that question.” One would have to think this is Cammalleri’s last big contract and that he wants to hit a pretty good payday in the 4-5m/year range. Other logical and completely hypothetical destinations for Cammalleri include Pittsburgh, Long Island, Phoenix and New Jersey.
With the start of the John Gibson era all signs pointed to Jonas Hiller landing elsewhere next year and it appears that Hiller has already embraced this reality. With the recent signing of Jaroslav Halak on Long Island the options are becoming fewer and fewer for the Swiss goalie. If he is looking to be a starter (and obviously he is) Vancouver appears to be a logical destination and Jim Benning must be considering it as Hiller would likely come at a decent cap hit in the 3.5m-4m/year range. Other potential suitors probably include Buffalo and Washington.
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