Who will sign where? Eight predictions for the opening of free agency

Paul Stastny

Where will the biggest free agent fish land? Teams have been negotiating with free agents since late-June, but the market open Tuesday at noon. Here are some predictions on where these eight players will sign.

Paul Stastny – St. Louis
I previously thought Stastny would stay in Colorado, but now that he’s made it to market, perhaps a team closer to the Stanley Cup will be more appealing to him. The Blues didn’t get Kesler, but they’re still after a center. And if it’s not going to be Jason Spezza via trade, odds are it’s going to be Stastny via free agency.

Thomas Vanek – Minnesota
Vanek didn’t have the best playoff, and will reportedly choose between four or five teams – but he’s been rumored to be going to the Wild for years. And though those rumours aren’t as strong as they were a year or two ago, Vanek is a University of Minnesota alum and good friends with Jason Pominville. Thing is, the Wild have about $19 million in cap space, with four RFAs to re-sign (including Nino Niederreiter) and won’t want to walk back into a Dany Heatley-type contract. If Vanek has some wiggle room in his price to land in a comfortable spot, the Wild are still in the game.

Ales Hemsky – Florida
Florida Panthers owner Vinny Viola has stated his intention to spend closer to the cap and since he’s got a long way to go to get there, Florida GM Dale Tallon will spend on someone. Just like 2011, this summer looks like it will be an active one for the Panthers on the UFA market. They have about $14 million to the cap floor and $32.2 million to the cap ceiling – and they could use a scoring presence on the wing. they could do worse than Hemsky, who would be a useful fit for them.

Ryan Miller – Vancouver
His desire is to head West and since Anaheim and San Jose have No. 1s in place and aren’t likely to chase another, that leaves Vancouver. The Canucks, who once had two elite starting NHL goalies and now have none, look like a perfect landing spot for Miller. The Canucks are in a transition period and that transition will be made easier with a veteran goalie behind it all. There are not many homes for goalies around the NHL right now, so this looks like a good match. There was a time when Miller could have picked any destination, but now he’s just trying to fit in.

Dan Boyle – Tampa Bay
Remember, Boyle was crushed when the Lightning traded him to San Jose, so would it be out of the question to see him return to Tampa Bay just as they’re gearing up for another run? Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has been aggressive so far this off-season and if you add Boyle to the recently acquired Jason Garrison – plus Matt Carle and Victor Hedman who were already there – suddenly you have an offensively potent blueline, at least for the short-term. The Lightning are pretty obviously making a push and they still have about $10 million to work with. Can’t imagine a Boyle deal would be longer than two, maybe three, years.

Jarome Iginla – Boston
The Bruins reportedly want to get Iginla for one year so he’s testing the market for more. If it came to it, would the Bruins add a year to get him back? Boston is a good fit for Iginla to chase a Stanley Cup late in his career, but will he look for the money and term instead? That’s the big question with Iginla, but here’s betting him and the Bruins find a way to make it work.

Christian Ehrhoff – Detroit
The Wings are looking to do some damage this summer and improve on a season where they nearly missed the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades. Detroit could use some help on the blueline, and while signing Ehrhoff to a monster deal – like the one he was just bought out from – would be a mistake, he would be a good fit in Detroit. Before, Ehrhoff was overlooked because he was overpaid, but he’s still a capable defender who can put up points.

Matt Moulson – Islanders
The Islanders were always the best fit for Moulson and it was shocking when they traded him in the ill-fated Thomas Vanek deal. Moulson had become a 30-goal scorer on Long Island, but managed just 17 in 64 games between Buffalo and Minnesota this season. The Isles have $25 million in cap space and are $7.6 million away from the salary floor, plus they’re rumored to be interested in signing Vanek. So, if they’re interested in signing Vanek, they may as well be interested in signing Moulson instead, who was always the better fit and comes at a better price.

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