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Bolstering the blue line

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – The free agent market opens this Friday and there are plenty of NHL defensemen who will be looking for work.

Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier may have a busy weekend ahead of him when the free agent feeding frenzy kicks off on July 1. Despite re-upping Andrei Markov and Hal Gill recently, the Habs still have a few spots to fill on the back end before the season gets underway on October 6.

After posting a career-high 51 points – including seven power play goals – in 75 games this season with the Islanders and the Canadiens, James Wisniewski could be one of the most coveted UFAs on the market if he makes it to July 1 without re-signing with the Habs.

Veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik is about to come to the end of his four-year deal with the Canadiens and fellow Habs blue-liners Brent Sopel and Paul Mara are also set to become UFAs this Friday.

Elsewhere in the league, Tomas Kaberle’s phone might be busier than usual on July 1 coming off his recent Stanley Cup championship with the Bruins. The Czech blue-liner will likely be looking for a raise from the $4.25 million price tag he commanded in 2010-11.

As for the Stanley Cup finalists, the Canucks recently re-signed Kevin Bieksa to a five-year deal on Tuesday, but fellow Vancouver defensemen Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff and Andrew Alberts are still eligible to become UFAs on July 1.

Other big name blue-liners who might be available as of Friday include former first-overall selection Ed Jovanovski, who had 14 points and finished a plus-4 with the Coyotes this year, power play specialist Bryan McCabe who posted 28 points between the Panthers and Rangers.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for Translated by Shauna Denis.

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