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Free agency likely to yield more second-tier players

by Adam Kimelman
Teams looking for luxury items in the 2011 unrestricted free-agent market won't find very much to choose from. Those willing to shop at a less expensive store, however, might find some items to their liking.
With so many teams signing players to long-term contracts, it's becoming harder and harder to find impact unrestricted free agents each summer, and this summer looks no different.
Among the top names available, only Dallas Stars center Brad Richards could be in line for a long-term, big-money contract.
At age 31 and coming off a season where he finished in the top 10 in the League with 49 assists and 77 points, Richards could be in line for a contract similar to the five-year, $39 million deal he signed prior to the 2006-07 season.
Besides his scoring, Richards also brings a championship pedigree -- he won the Conn Smythe Trophy while helping the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup.
A number of teams could be looking to upgrade their depth up the middle and could be targeting Richards, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers.
While Richards appears to be the most talented offensive player about to hit the open market, there are some other candidates that teams will investigate. That list could include the Lightning's Simon Gagne, the Capitals' Brooks Laich and Jason Arnott, Tomas Fleischmann of the Avalanche, the Coyotes' Radim Vrbata and Scottie Upshall of the Blue Jackets.
Future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne also will become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but it's a certainty that if he does play next season, it only will be with the Anaheim Ducks.
Teams looking to upgrade their offense from the blue line could consider the Coyotes' Ed Jovanovski, the Rangers' Bryan McCabe, the Bruins' Tomas Kaberle and the Hurricanes' Joni Pitkanen.
If they're looking for more physicality and defensive-zone skill, candidates include the Canadiens' Roman Hamrlik, the Devils' Andy Greene and the Red Wings' Ruslan Salei.
The list of available goaltenders includes a few aging veterans in the Lightning's Dwayne Roloson, the Maple Leafs' Jean-Sebastien Giguere and the Panthers' Tomas Vokoun. A few younger options could be the Senators' Pascal Leclaire and the Lightning's Mike Smith.
Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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