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Smash and grab

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL – Offseason talk in the NHL normally revolves around unrestricted free agents, but they aren’t the only players in the league’s store window this summer.


While the Canadiens have to yet to make such an aggressive move, recent offseasons have seen some teams ready to gamble on a Group II free agent. The upsides are clear: not losing a roster player to acquire an asset and the ages of these young studs make them at times impossible to resist.

In some cases like Thomas Vanek two summers ago, teams opt to match the exorbitant offers, like the Sabres did when the Oilers ponied up a $10 million per year deal for the high scoring winger in the summer of 2007. Other heists are more successful, like Edmonton’s nabbing of Dustin Penner from the Ducks that same summer.

Back in vogue as an NHL GM tactic only since the past few years, a couple of teams have historically tried to nevertheless pull the wool over the eyes of their rivals in moves that could’ve potentially shifted the league’s balance in a huge way.
Ripe for the picking?
Notable restricted free agents across the NHL
  Players (position) Age

Kari Lehtonen (G)
25

Phil Kessel (C)

21

David Krejci (C)

23

Jiri Hudler (C)

25

David Booth (LW)

24

Jack Johnson (D)

22

Tomas Plekanec (C)

26

Christopher Higgins (LW)

25

Guillaume Latendresse (RW)

21

Travis Zajac (C)

24

Nikolai Zherdev (RW) 24

Brandon Dubinsky (C)  23
  Scottie Upshall (RW) 25

Mikhail Grabovski (C)  25

With the Red Wings express going full-steam ahead in the late 1990s, Sergei Federov signed an offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes only to have it matched by Detroit. He wasn’t alone. Never adverse to spending a few bucks, the Rangers cozied up to restricted free agent Joe Sakic in the summer of 1997. The Avalanche of course matched the offer in what would prove to be a decision they wouldn’t live to regret.

The list of restricted free agents this summer may not be a long one, but there are a few young talents that could tickle the buying bone of club’s looking to bolster their lineups.
The Canadiens’ dressing room includes a half dozen youngsters slated to become restricted free agents. Tomas Plekanec, Christopher Higgins and Guillaume Latendresse headline a Habs list that also features Matt D’Agostini, Gregory Stewart and Kyle Chipchura.

Two big reasons why the Bruins ruled the Eastern Conference this past season, David Krejci and Phil Kessel will certainly draw some attention following their breakout campaigns.

The upstart Blackhawks could get their cupboards raided as well. Defensive anchor Cam Barker, center David Bolland and rookie of the year candidate Kris Versteeg are all promising young talents playing important roles for the ‘Hawks.

Teams in search for help in goal can turn to former second overall pick Kari Lehtonen of the Thrashers. Other notables include: Jiri Hudler of the Red Wings, the Panthers’ David Booth, the Rangers’ Nikolai Zherdev and the ever popular Mikhail Grabovski of the Maple Leafs.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com

See also:
Market fresh
The offseason tracker
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