NHL Free Agent Preview: Pacific Division
Evgeni Nabokov and Teemu Selanne are both set to become UFAs July 1. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
NHL Free Agent Preview: Pacific Division
Cap space – $21.2 million
UFAs – Saku Koivu, C; Teemu Selanne, RW; Aaron Ward, D; Joey MacDonald, G; Brennan Evans, D; Brian Salcido, D; Ryan Donally, LW; Kyle Calder, LW
RFAs – James Wisniewski, D; Bobby Ryan, LW; Brendan Mikkelson, D; Shawn Weller; LW; Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G; Bobby Bolt, LW
Needs – With Scott Niedermayer’s retirement, the Ducks are in need of a veteran, minute-munching replacement on the blueline. They’ll also need a top-six winger if, as many expect, Teemu Selanne follows Niedermayer into the sunset. Also, there could be a need for a backup goaltender if management isn’t fully behind current No. 2 Curtis McElhinney.
Ready for the big time – Right winger Dan Sexton split the 2009-10 season between the NHL and the minor leagues, but the 23-year-old very likely will make the team right out of training camp and should get a shot on Anaheim’s second or third line. Seven of his 19 points in 41 games with the Ducks came in his first six contests, leaving management hoping to see his consistency improve in his sophomore pro season.
Cap space – $19 million
UFAs – Marty Turco, G; Mike Modano, C; Jere Lehtinen, RW; Krys Barch, RW; Andrew Hutchinson, D; Dan Jancevski, D; Garrett Stafford, D; Matt Climie, G; Warren Peters, C; Francis Wathier, LW
RFAs – Fabian Brunnstrom, RW; Nicklas Grossman, D; Tyler Shelast, RW; Matt Niskanen, D; James Neal. LW; Raymond Sawada, RW; Perttu Lindgren, C; Aaron Gagnon, C; Maxime Fortunus, D; Trevor Ludwig, D
Needs – With an ownership change in the offing, the Stars won’t spend close to the salary cap maximum, but still have some serious needs, including: scoring help at forward (especially at right wing); a top-four defenseman; and, if there’s any money left over, a veteran backup for newly anointed No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Ready for the big time – Based on the stellar year he had in the American League last season, Finnish center Perttu Lindgren will get a chance to make the NHL roster. The 22-year-old led the Texas Stars in assists (33) and was second to NHL regular Jamie Benn with seven goals and 17 points during the team’s run to the Calder Cup final.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Cap space – $17.5 million
UFAs – Fredrik Modin, LW; Alexander Frolov, LW; Randy Jones, D; Jeff Halpern, C; Sean O'Donnell, D; Joe Piskula, D; Drew Bagnall, D; Raitis Ivanans, LW; Gabe Gauthier, C
RFAs – Trevor Lewis, RW; Marc-Andre Cliché, C; Corey Elkins, C; Richard Clune, LW, Brad Richardson, LW
Needs – The Kings have been heavily linked to unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk – who certainly would satisfy their need for a star at forward to complement Anze Kopitar – yet it’s far from a lock that L.A. GM Dean Lombardi will meet the Russian sniper’s contractual needs. The team’s most urgent need is at right wing; and if Alexander Frolov leaves as a UFA, there will be a hole on the left flank (Kovalchuk’s position) as well.
Ready for the big time – Goalie Jonathan Bernier was a brick wall with Manchester of the American League last season, posting a .936 save percentage in 58 games – and an even more impressive .939 save percentage in 16 playoff games. No wonder the 21-year-old was a first-team AHLer and recipient of the league’s best goaltender honors. What else does a guy have to do to get his opportunity at an NHL job?
Cap space – $19 million
UFAs – Derek Morris, D; Mathieu Schneider, D; Lee Stempniak, RW; Mathew Lombardi, C; Robert Lang, C; Zbynek Michalek, D; Al Montoya, G; Sean Sullivan, D; Joel Perrault, C; Miika Wiikman, G; Josh Tordjman, G; Francis Lessard, RW; Dave Spina, RW; Jeff Hoggan, LW
RFAs – Martin Hanzal, C; Alexandre Picard, LW; Daniel Winnik, LW; Sami Lepisto, D; Shaun Heshka, D; Stefan Meyer, LW
Needs – The expected departure of potential unrestricted free agent Zbynek Michalek from the Coyotes’ defense leaves a considerable pair of skates for GM Don Maloney to fill. But there is a more significant problem for Phoenix at center: top pivot Matthew Lombardi is likely to sign elsewhere as a UFA; and unless 39-year-old UFA Robert Lang is brought back, restricted free agents Martin Hanzal and Daniel Winnik are the next best options. Eeek.
Ready for the big time – Viktor Tikhonov went home to Russia and played in the Kontinental League early last season, but will be back looking for an NHL roster spot next season. In 25 games in the low-scoring KHL, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound pivot scored 14 goals. He is certain to be in line for a long look at training camp.
To help full the center void, Kyle Turris, who scored 63 points in 76 AHL games last season will get a long look to return to the NHL. The Yotes are also high on 2009 sixth overall pick, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who will make the trek to North America in 2010-11 and will get a long look for a spot on the NHL roster.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Cap space – $9 million
UFAs – Evgeni Nabokov, G; Manny Malhotra, LW; Jed Ortmeyer, RW; Ryan Vesce, C; Brett Sterling, LW; Danny Groulx, D; Joe Callahan, D; Frank Doyle, G; Dwight Helminen, C; Jay Leach, D
RFAs – Devin Setoguchi, RW; Matt Jones, RW; Steven Zalewski, C; Daniel Rahimi, D; Derek Joslin, D; Mike Vernace, D
Needs – Another disappointing playoff for the Sharks meant the end of starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s time in San Jose, so GM Doug Wilson’s top priority this summer will be replacing the Russian netminder. As well, the retirement of captain Rob Blake has Wilson on the lookout for veteran assistance on the blueline.
Ready for the big time – The Sharks have much in the way of depth at center, so Logan Couture may have to play on the wing if he sticks with the NHL team. But regardless of where he plays, the 21-year-old is San Jose’s top prospect and made mincemeat of the opposition in half a season last year with Worcester of the American League (20 goals and 53 points in 42 games).
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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