Ottawa Senators' Wade Redden celebrates a 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth game of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals hockey action in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, May 19, 2007. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Gene J. Puskar
Wade Redden has a backup phone ready to go July 1 just in case his first one is busy.
The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent wants to make sure all lines of communication are open so he can hear all the updates from his agent Don Meehan when the market opens next Tuesday.
"I'm going to be back at my dad's place in Lloydminster where I've got a few phones lined up," Redden said with a laugh Tuesday. "I will be ready."
Redden is among the big names that will be available when the flood gates open next week in the NHL's money season.
"It's quickly approaching," Redden said. "It's going to be interesting, just to go through it all for the first time. I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm eager to find out what's going to come and what we're going to do."
Redden, 31, had a bit of an off season by his lofty standards when he put up 38 points (6-32) and a plus-11 rating in 80 games with the Ottawa Senators last season while earning US$6.5 million. But his solid track record suggests he should be in high demand with a number of teams looking for a top defenceman.
He admits he's been thinking where he might land.
"I guess you look at rosters and see what teams will be looking maybe," said Redden. "Obviously some are probably more interested than others. But as Donnie said to me, 'The one thing to expect is to expect anything.' So we'll see what happens."
Among other top defencemen also slated for unrestricted free agency are Brian Campbell, Michal Rozsival, John-Michael Liles, Brad Stuart, Adam Foote, Mark Streit, Rob Blake, Brooks Orpik, Jason Smith, Dmitri Kalinin and Ron Hainsey.
Campbell, a talented puck-mover and swift skater, will likely fetch the most on the open market if he doesn't re-sign with the San Jose Sharks before July 1. There are family reasons that may dictate Campbell moving back East but nothing is written in stone at this point.
"It's a very difficult decision because he's been treated so well in San Jose," his agent Larry Kelly said Tuesday.
"We stay in contact and we continue to communicate," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said Tuesday.
In Hainsey's case, he almost surely will try his chances on the market.
"He's only 27 years old and still growing into his game," said his agent Matt Keator. "We've told Columbus we're going to go to July 1 although we're still going to talk to them."
Up front, Marian Hossa headlines the forwards. The star winger informed the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend that he would explore the market despite being offered a multi-year deal believed to be worth around $7 million a season. He may get as much as $8 million a year come July 1.
Other top forwards slated for unrestricted free agency include Ryan Malone, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, Peter Forsberg, Brian Rolston, Pavol Demitra, Markus Naslund, Sean Avery, Radim Vrbata, Brendan Morrison, Kristian Huselius, Cory Stillman, Michael Peca and a long list of others.
The only free agent that matters these days in Toronto and Montreal is Sundin. The 37-year-old star centre, at home in Sweden, continues to contemplate the overtures from Canadiens GM Bob Gainey, who was given exclusive negotiating rights to Sundin from the Maple Leafs last Thursday.
A report in the New York Post on Tuesday suggested the Rangers are also talking to him but Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher said that is not true.
"Montreal is the only team that has the rights to talk to him," Fletcher said Tuesday. "The Rangers did not ask for permission to talk to Sundin and we have given the exclusive rights to Montreal."
Gainey has yet to make his reported trip to Sweden to talk to Sundin but has spoken with him briefly on the phone. The Habs GM was in Montreal on Tuesday attending an event that night for the Gainey Foundation.
"I've spoken to him on the phone and I've spoken to his agent (J.P. Barry)," said Gainey. "He's trying to organize his ideas about what his future looks like.
"It's a window of time to present who we are, this is what it looks like and do you want to come and play? I don't know what will happen. We're interested and we just want to tell him why we are, because we think we can be good partners."
"Mats understands how great an opportunity there is in Montreal, perhaps there's not a better in fit from a hockey perspective in the league," Barry told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. "But at the same time he still hasn't decided whether he's playing again.
"The other issue is that he's never been a free agent and he may want to judge the Montreal situation as compared to other possible options."
Rolston, meanwhile, could be an intriguing name on the market if the Minnesota Wild failed to re-sign him.
"I continue to have some communication with Minnesota," said his agent Stephen Bartlett. "I can't really handicap whether it will or won't get to July 1. Certainly he's a guy that come July 1 I would speculate there would be some interest in."
The Wild may also potentially lose Demitra.
"We're probably headed that way (to free agency) but I'm still waiting to talk with (Wild GM) Doug Risebrough," said his agent, Keator. "Before closing any doors we'll talk with them and see where they are at.
"We haven't had that conversation yet but we will."
The unrestricted free-agent goalie crop isn't very deep this year. It drops in a hurry after Jose Theodore and Cristobal Huet although Ty Conklin could be an interesting pickup after what he did for Pittsburgh last season when Marc-Andre Fleury was injured.
Theodore's agent, Meehan, continues to talk with the Colorado Avalanche while the Washington Capitals also try to lock up Huet.
"We're having good, friendly productive discussions," said Bartlett, also Huet's agent. "Like everybody else you weigh the pros of making a decision prior to July 1 or do you wait and get some evaluation of the market after July 1.
"Even if you decide that (Washington) is the best fit at least you know what the market is at that point and you make a more informed decision."