NHL Free Agency has begun, and we still have yet to see the frenzy that we normally see at this time of year. Sure there have been a lot of “depth” signings, but many of the big names are still floating around the hockey universe.
The reason for this is simple; GMs and agents alike are awaiting the decisions of the two biggest free agents on the market. When Zach Parise and Ryan Suter maker their decisions it will open the floodgates and we will see many of the remaining free agents sign and a number of trades go down.
I don’t want this piece to come across as a criticism of Zach Parise or Ryan Suter and the fact that they are taking their time in deciding their futures. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both of these players. The numbers on the rumored contracts are staggering; 10-12 year contracts in the neighbourhood of $100 million. If these are numbers are even close to accurate, it is doubtful that either player will ever get a chance at Free Agency again. They each need to make wise decisions and if that takes a few days, it is completely understandable.
Obviously these guys are the big prizes, and with so many teams in on Parise and Suter, the question must be asked; what is plan B for the losers on these sweepstakes? With clubs like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nashville and others rumored to be attempting to be making offers to one or even both of these players, there will be teams scrambling for other options once they sign.
The Remaining Top UFAs
Many of the other top free agent forwards such as Alex Semin, Shane Doan, and Jaromir Jagr remain unsigned. I believe that these players are waiting for Parise’s decision before they make their own. Doan is also apparently waiting for the Phoenix ownership issue to be sorted out. What we may see is that once Parise’s contract is signed a desperate GM may up their offer for one of these wingers in an attempt to fill a hole in their top-6.
There are also plan C options in Andrei Kostitsyn, Peter Mueller, and Wojtek Wolski still on the market. These three players should come considerably cheaper and all have an upside still, but carry with them much bigger risks. They could turn out to be cheap filler for their new teams top 6, or they could turn out to be complete busts. The risk here is the reason these guys are still on the market.
On Defence there are really only two big fish remaining. They are Suter and Matt Carle. While Suter is the prize name, the interest in Carle should rise significantly once Suter signs. Lesser options include Michael Roszival, Bryce Salvador, Scott Hannan and Pavel Kubina.
The Trade Market
With such a weak crop of Free Agents available after the big two, I think that this will actually be the area where we see the most movement once Parise and Suter sign.
At forward there are two very big names who are rumored to be available. Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan are already garnering big interest, however at this point no team has been able to meet Columbus or Anaheim’s demands for these star wingers. On defence, there is less definitive information, but rumors abound that Keith Yandle and Jay Bouwmeester could also be had in trades. Again, just rumours.
I believe that watching Parise or Suter sign with another club could be just the motivation necessary for a GM to decide to up his offer for one of these players.
Either way the most interesting days of the NHL offseason are still ahead of us.
Where do you think these players will go? Feel free to leave your comments below and follow me on twitter @LastWordBKerr