Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev both have expiring contracts at the end of this season. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
After a surprise 2007-08 campaign, expectations are rightfully high in la belle Province. But with four prominent players scheduled for unrestricted free agency on July 1, 2009, it could be this year or bust in Montreal.
This week in my on-going look at the top three UFAs from each team, we look at the top-heavy Northeast. You can view the Pacific, Southeast and Northwest HERE. The Atlantic and Central will come over the next two Fridays.
Tim Thomas ($1.1 million, 2008-09 salary)
I don’t have a clue how he does it, but despite being out of position 90 percent of the time, Thomas stops pucks in bunches.
Manny Fernandez ($4.75 million)
Suffered through injury woes last season, but a bounce-back campaign and a big payoff isn’t unreasonable. Both he and Thomas could be gone if the B’s think Tuukka Rask is ready.
P-J Axelsson ($1.85 million)
A prototypical third-liner, the 33-year-old is more than willing to do grunt work and will chip in the odd goal, a valuable asset on any team.
Other ’09 UFAs - Andrew Alberts, Shane Hnidy, Jeremy Reich.
Tim Connolly ($3.5 million)
If he can put injury problems behind him, the 27-year-old could be a legitimate point-per-game player.
Ales Kotalik ($2.5 million)
Doesn’t put up first-line numbers, but is a solid secondary option at only 29 years of age.
Maxim Afinogenov ($3.5 million)
The skill of Pavel Bure; the production of Pavel Vorobiev. GM Darcy Regier would be wise to deal him at the deadline.
Other ’09 UFAs - Andrew Peters, Jaroslav Spacek.
Mike Komisarek (1.9 million)
Jay Bouwmeester could be available, but if Mattias Ohlund is the top UFA blueliner with tread left on the tires, Komisarek is hair-split second. Few better shutdown ‘D’.
Alex Tanguay ($5.375 million)
Expect big things from the 28-year-old this season, which will only improve his open-market stock come summer time.
Alex Kovalev ($4.5 million)
Makes me sick to leave Saku Koivu out of the top three, but AK27’s scoring skill is more valuable than the captain’s leadership.
Other ’09 UFAs - Steve Begin, Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault, Saku Koivu, Tom Kostopoulos
Martin Gerber ($3.7 million)
Finally the unquestioned No. 1, it’s a boom or bust season for Swiss keeper that will determine whether he gets starter or backup money as a UFA.
Chris Neil ($1.2 million)
The most skilled pugilist in the game today (nod to Daniel Carcillo, too) will have a plethora of suitors. It may be a skill game now, but toughness is still key.
Dean McAmmond ($900,000)
A good third-line guy, but he’s getting up there at age 35. Has played only 37 playoff games in 15 NHL seasons.
Other ’09 UFAs - Lawrence Nycholat
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Nik Antropov ($2.15 million)
Had teams inquiring at the trade deadline, so there is interest. How much he’ll get in today’s wacky market is anyone’s guess.
Boyd Devereaux ($600,000)
Made a guest appearance on the latest Constantines (http://www.arts-crafts.ca/constantines/ ) album. Serviceable hockey player, too.
Curtis Joseph ($700,000)
I’d put CuJo’s odds of coming back somewhere in the range of 40-to-1. Helluva career though.
Other ’09 UFAs - Bates Battaglia, Mark Bell, Dominic Moore, Kris Newbury.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Fridays.
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