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The Official Site of the Nashville Predators Looks At 50 of the Top Free Agents

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
For a lot of hockey fans, Christmas really comes in July -- July 1, to be exact. That's when the NHL free agency market opens for business.

But while fans are like kids -- dreaming of winning Stanley Cups if only their team can sign the "right" players -- general managers are the parents who deal with the facts of life … they have to make sure any newcomers fit into the salary structure and mesh with the players they already have.

The doors to hockey's shopping season swing open on July 1. Here's a look at 50 of the top potential free agents -- 15 defensemen, 25 forwards and 10 goaltenders.

Defensemen Current team '08-09 Stats Scuttlebutt
Jay Bouwmeester Calgary (acquired rights from Florida on 6-27) 15-27-42 in 82 GP He's the big fish among defenseman. Calgary, which dealt for his rights on Saturday, will try to sign him before free agency begins. The Edmonton native said he wants to play in a more hockey-passionate area than South Florida.
Scott Niedermayer Anaheim 14-45-59 in 82 GP The Ducks' captain still has the wheels and the skill to be an elite defenseman. He told the Ducks on Friday he's going to play in 2009-10, and is likely to stay put.
Rob Blake San Jose 10-35-45 in 73 GP Blake was a perfect fit in San Jose, which is likely to want to bring him back even though he turns 40 in December.
Mattias Ohlund Vancouver 6-19-25 in 82 GP At 32, he's a solid second-pair defenseman, but is likely to wind up somewhere else after 11 seasons in Vancouver.
Johnny Oduya New Jersey 7-22-29 in 82 GP The Devils are talking to Oduya, a former 7th-rounder who has quietly turned into one of their best defensemen, in hopes of keeping him off the market.
Mike Komisarek Montreal 2-9-11 in 66 GP Komisarek, a physical defenseman had an injury-plagued '08-09 season that could turn off some potential suitors.
Francois Beauchemin Anaheim 4-1-5 in 20 GP He returned late in the season after a serious knee injury. Anaheim will need him if Niedermayer and/or Chris Pronger are gone.
Marc-Andre Bergeron Minnesota 14-18-32 in 72 GP His big shot can help a power play, though his lack of size hampers his play in his own zone.
Hal Gill Pittsburgh 2-8-10 in 62 GP At 6-7 and 250 pounds, Gill is still a good crease-clearer at age 34. But the Penguins may not be able to afford him.
Jordan Leopold Florida (rights acquired on 6-27) 7-17-24 in 83 GP Flames sent the rights to Deadline Day acquisition to Florida in Bouwmeester deal. Panthers want to keep him in South Florida.
Paul Mara NY Rangers 5-16-21 in 79 GP The soon-to-be 30-year-old had a solid season and likely would provide good value at the right price.
Steve Montador Boston 4-17-21 in 78 GP A workhorse defensive defenseman who's coming off his two best offensive seasons.
Derek Morris NY Rangers 5-15-20 in 75 GP The 31-year-old is looking for a job after the poorest offensive season of his NHL career.
Rob Scuderi Pittsburgh 1-15-16 in 81 GP A fine showing in Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup Final win should attract plenty of interest for this physical, shot-blocking defenseman if he opts to leave.
Sergei Zubov Dallas 0-4-4 in 10 GP Now 38 and coming off two injury-filled seasons. Dallas may opt to let him go. His smarts alone would help a contender in a limited role if he's healthy.

Forwards Current team '08-09 stats Scuttlebutt
Marian Hossa Detroit 40-31-72 in 74 GP The only 40-goal scorer on the market, Hossa took a one-year deal from Detroit last year, ignoring much bigger multiyear offers. He had a disappointing showing in the Final and didn't get the Cup he was seeking. Expect him to go for a long-term contract this time, with Detroit or someone else.
Martin Havlat Chicago 29-48-77 in 81 GP The Blackhawks, coming off their best season in years, would like to retain their leading scorer. But with a lot of their younger stars a year away from new contracts, it may not be easy -- especially if he wants a long-term deal.
Marian Gaborik Minnesota 13-10-23 in 17 GP Gaborik is the wild card in free agency. His skill is unquestioned, but he's been plagued with injuries for most of his career. Will he be interested in staying with the Wild under new coach Todd Richards' more offensive-oriented system or look elsewhere?.
Henrik Sedin Vancouver 22-60-82 in 82 GP "The Twins" have played their entire career together in Vancouver and don't want to split up now. That could be a problem, since it would mean any team signing them would take up a lot of cap room.
Daniel Sedin Vancouver 31-51-82 in 82 GP
Mike Cammalleri Calgary 39-43-82 in 81 GP The cap-strapped Flames may not be able to keep Cammalleri, who's coming off a career-high 39-goal season and is still only 27. He figures to draw a lot of interest from teams that need offense.
Joe Sakic Colorado 2-10-12 in 15 GP Does Colorado's longtime captain, coming off an injury-plagued season, plan to play again? And if so, does the native of British Columbus want to go back to the rebuilding Avs, the only franchise he's ever played for, after their worst season in Colorado?
Saku Koivu Montreal 16-34-50 in 65 GP Few players have given as much of themselves to the Canadiens as Koivu, but at age 34 and with diminishing offensive skills, Montreal's captain may not fit into their plans. If not, there will still be a market for his services -- possibly starting in Minnesota, where younger brother Mikko is captain.
Alex Kovalev Montreal 26-39-65 in 78 GP Kovalev's offensive numbers dropped significantly from 2007-08, when he led the Canadiens to first place in the East. At 36, he can still be a dominant offensive force, but potential suitors have to wonder if he'll bring his "A" game every night.
Robert Lang Montreal 18-21-39 in 50 GP Lang turns 39 in December and is coming off an Achilles tendon injury, potentially limiting the size and length of his contract. But before he got hurt, he showed he still had something left. Montreal missed him badly after he got hurt.
Alex Tanguay Montreal 16-25-41 in 50 GP Like Lang, Tanguay is coming off an injury-ruined season. His point production has dropped from 81 to 58 to 41 in the past three seasons. Would the Quebec native be willing to take less to remain in Montreal?
Maxim Afinogenov Buffalo 6-14-20 in 48 GP Afinogenov's play has dropped off severely in the past two seasons, during which he's also been plagued by injuries. He might need to go somewhere else and get a fresh start.
Nik Antropov NY Rangers 28-31-59 in 81 GP Players with size and good hands will always find a home. But the Rangers may not be able to afford Antropov, a Deadline Day acquisition from Toronto -- at least not at the price and contract length he reportedly wants.
Brian Gionta New Jersey 20-40-60 in 81 GP Gionta, a career Devil at age 30, hasn't had more than 25 goals in any of the three seasons since his 48-goal explosion in 2005-06. He still has the speed and skill to help a team in a supporting role.
Mike Knuble Philadelphia 27-20-47 in 82 GP If Knuble were 27 instead of 37, teams would be knocking down doors to sign him. As it is, he's still a good offensive producer and a great character guy -- though the cap-strapped Flyers may have to pass on re-signing him.
Bill Guerin Pittsburgh 21-27-48 in 78 GP Getting Guerin from the Islanders at the deadline might have been GM Ray Shero's best move. At 38, he still has the skill and wheels to contribute offensively, and his locker-room presence was a big help to the young Penguins. How much all that is worth is the big question.
Ian Laperriere Colorado 7-12-19 in 74 GP Laperriere, now 35, still brings character and toughness with him. The question is how much that's worth to a rebuilding team like the Avs -- or should he look for a new home with a contender?
John Madden New Jersey 7-16-23 in 76 GP At 36, this career Devil is likely to test the free-agent market -- but will he like what he sees after a season in which he went from 20 goals and 43 points to 7 and 23?
Chris Neil Ottawa 3-7-10 in 60 GP Neil's seven-year run with the Senators may be done -- he's headed for free agency after the two sides couldn't work out a new deal. When he's healthy, Neil is a tough guy who can actually play, a commodity that's much in demand around the NHL.
Erik Cole Carolina 18-24-42 in 80 GP Cole struggled in Edmonton but perked up after returning to Carolina in a trade -- though he struggled to score in the playoffs. He's played almost all of his career with the 'Canes and meshes well with Eric Staal.
Mats Sundin Vancouver 9-19-28 in 41 GP The Canucks hoped adding Sundin at midseason would be the last piece needed for a long playoff run. But he never really found his game after joining the team in January after a three-month soap opera. At 38, he's in the twilight of his career.
Steve Sullivan Nashville 11-21-32 in 41 GP The Masterton Trophy winner showed he still had something left after missing nearly two years with a back injury. If Sullivan and the Preds can't agree on a new deal, he's sure to draw plenty of interest.
Jason Williams Columbus 19-28-47 in 80 GP Williams finally managed to stay healthy and gave Columbus some offensive production after coming over in a midseason trade with Atlanta. He'll attract attention from teams that need secondary scoring.
Brendan Morrison Dallas 16-15-31 in 81 GP Morrison stayed healthy after an injury-plagued '07-08 season, but didn't put up the kind of numbers he did in his prime. He still has the ability to be a useful No. 2 or No. 3 center.
Mark Recchi Boston 23-38-61 in 80 GP He's 41, but Recchi continues to be a valuable contributor on offense and is showing no signs of slowing down. He was an excellent fit for the Bruins after coming over from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.
Mike Comrie Ottawa 10-17-27 in 63 GP Comrie's value figures to be down after the worst season of his career. But the five-time 20-goal scorer is still just 28 and could be a bargain if he's finally over the injuries that slowed him in '08-09.

Goaltenders Current team '08-09 stats Scuttlebutt
Nikolai Khabibulin Chicago 25-8-7  2.33 GAA Khabibulin is coming off his best season since leading Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. But he's 36, and the Blackhawks already have Cristobal Huet signed to a long-term contract -- so it's tough to picture them spending a lot to keep the "Bulin Wall."
Dwayne Roloson Edmonton 28-24-9 2.77 GAA Roloson, now 39, seems to be getting better as he gets older -- he was the biggest reason the Oilers had any chance for a playoff berth last season. Years rather than money could be the big issue.
Martin Biron Philadelphia 29-15-5 2.76 GAA The Flyers have already signed Ray Emery, meaning that Biron's time as in Philly may be over. With not a lot of starting jobs to be had, Biron's opportunities figure to be limited.
Manny Fernandez Boston 16-8-3 2.59 GAA  Tim Thomas is firmly in place as the starter in Boston, so Fernandez will have to look elsewhere if he has any hopes of being a starter. He's played more than 44 games in a season just once in his career (2005-06, with Minnesota).
Craig Anderson Florida 15-7-5 2.71 GAA Anderson played a career-high 31 games last season and likely would like to find a place where he can be a starter for the first time in his career. His save percentages over the past three seasons: .931, .935, .924.
Scott Clemmensen New Jersey 25-13-1 2.39 GAA Clemmensen saved New Jersey's '08-09 season, beating out Kevin Weekes (also a free agent this summer) for the starting job when Martin Brodeur got hurt and winning 25 games. His reward: going back to the minors when Brodeur was healthy again.
Ty Conklin Detroit 25-11-2 2.51 GAA There may not be any room in Detroit for Conklin this fall despite a regular season in which he outplayed playoff hero Chris Osgood. He's 43-19-7 with a 2.51 GAA over the past two seasons.
Antero Niittymaki Philadelphia 15-8-6 2.76 GAA Niittymaki could return to the Flyers as part of a tandem with Ray Emery. As a backup, he's been solid for the Flyers, though he's never been able to grab a starting job.
Manny Legace St. Louis 13-9-2 3.18 GAA One year after making the All-Star Game, Legace spent the last half of '08-09 in the minors after Chris Mason took the starting job. At 36, his options may also be limited.
Olaf Kolzig Toronto 2-4-1 3.66 GAA "Olie the Goalie" has 303 career wins -- but he's 39 and coming off an injury-plagued season. Kolzig would need to find a team with a young starter that needs an experienced backup/mentor.

Author: John Kreiser | Columnist

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