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Top Shelf: Caught up in UFA play

Could Mats Sundin suit up alongside Saku Koivu next season? (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Could Mats Sundin suit up alongside Saku Koivu next season? (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

When it comes to delighting senses in summer, only one thing trumps the smell of barbeque smoke - rampant free agent speculation.

Typically, the Stanley Cup winners are still floating from their parade when fans and media get all wrapped up in dreams of what potential wardrobe changes July 1 might bring.

So, let’s get the puck rolling.

What follows is nothing more than a personal dot-connecting session done in the name of fun and the spirit of “Imagine if…”

These five arranged marriages might not all be perfect matches, but player desires, team needs and cap space were all factored into the equation.

Let’s make a deal…

Wade Redden to the Red Wings
Redden leaving Ottawa this summer is about as certain as Sens fans being disappointed in the spring. Considered among the best at his position a short time ago, Redden needs a new place to rebound and Detroit would be a perfect spot.

He could find a cozy role on the second pairing with Niklas Kronwall, while Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski do the heavy lifting as the headline duo.

Redden’s steady nature would compensate for those times Kronwall’s desire to crush bodies takes him out of the play. Detroit could potentially bid adieu to Andreas Lilja, longtime veteran Chris Chelios, and hired gun Brad Stuart this summer. The Wings are excellent money managers and easily have room to fit what is likely to be a reasonable salary demand from Redden under the cap.

And as Glen Sather taught the NHL in the ’80s, adding a guy who’s hungry for his first Cup to a crew of champions helps a team keep the eye of the tiger (also a gift from the ’80s).
 
Mats Sundin to Montreal
Would the Leafs captain really blow Hogtown in favor of its historic rival? Maybe. A sizable contract offer and hard sell from GM Bob Gainey on the legitimacy of the Canadiens’ Cup potential would help the process.

In truth, this pairing is more about Montreal’s need to finally fill the middle of the ice with a big body capable of putting up points. Sundin is likely to have suitors with better Cup chances, but he did begin his career way back when in Quebec and playing out his NHL days with the Canadiens would almost bookend a career that will always be remembered for what he did in blue and white.

If Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec all of a sudden became the second- and third-best centers in Montreal’s lineup, the Habs would be cooking with fire.

If nothing else, No. 13 is one of the few digits not yet retired by the Canadiens.

Brian Campbell to Chicago
The Hockey News already Babe Ruthed one Campbell move this season when we splashed him in a Sharks uniform on our cover in the days leading up to his trade deadline move to the west coast.

(Go ahead and forget the fact we had Sundin in a Canucks uniform and Marian Hossa in a Sens sweater on the same cover, will ya?)

The Hawks are a team on the rise and GM Dale Tallon has the green light from the nest’s higher-ups to spend – wisely, of course – to accelerate the Windy City revival.

Campbell, 29, is set to sign his time-to-get-paid deal after hitting his prime the past couple years. He’s got some great playoff experience behind him, but a lot of good years in front of him, making him the perfect fit for this youthful bunch.

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Chicago is already counting on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to anchor the blueline for years to come, but Campbell’s skating and puck-moving would add a dimension the team currently lacks.

Marian Hossa to Phoenix
Happy as his days were in Pittsburgh, I still don’t see Hossa taking a discount to stick around. Phoenix has tons of cap space and enough empty seats to be properly motivated into being the highest bidder for Hossa’s services, which won’t come cheap given the playoff run he just had. But, simply put, players as talented as Hossa don’t grow on cactuses. And he’s not even 30 yet.

Many argued – accurately, I suspect – the reason for Hossa’s success in Pittsburgh was because he didn’t have to be the go-to guy. Look hard at the Coyotes roster and you start to think the same might be true if Hossa joined that crew of burgeoning boys.
 
Peter Mueller and Kyle Turris are set to challenge Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the best young guns in the West and Shane Doan is one of the best captains in the league. Throw Hossa into that mix of forwards and factor in Ilya Brygalov guarding the goal from Day 1 and Phoenix has legit playoff hopes, at the very least.

Maybe the Coyotes could further cajole Big Hoss into signing a contract by first re-signing his little brother, Marcel, an RFA whom they acquired from the Rangers in February.

Sean Avery to the New York Islanders
The Isles could stick it to their cross-town rivals and Avery could continue interning at Vogue. It’s win-win!

What the Islanders desperately need is an infusion of talent so they can muster up more than the anemic 2.4 goals per game they averaged this year.

Avery can’t completely solve that situation, but he can address the fact the Isles play in a town with eight other big-league teams and are less popular than all of them.

The only buzz associated with hockey on Long Island for a long time is the one created by fans sawing off ties to the team en mass. Avery might be the anti-Mike Bossy, but he could bring in some butts.

And don’t underestimate his value on the ice, too. The Rangers were 50-20-16 with Avery in the lineup during the regular season since he joined them in February of ’07 and 9-13-3 without him.

His antics on the power play could also help the Isles put some distance between themselves and the St. Louis Blues, the only team that was less threatening with the man advantage this year.

Ready for that first game back at Madison Square Garden yet?

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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