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Free Agency Primer: Stoppers

by Glen Andresen / Minnesota Wild

The NHL's free agency period kicks off on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. central time, with a little less hullabaloo than in previous years. While there are talented players available, there are few (with the exception of Ilya Kovalchuk) that might be considered "game-changers."
Yet, there will be very talented players shuttling around the League as teams, including the Wild, look to fill holes and needs. will look at some of the free agents available as of today. Keep in mind that some or all of these players are likely of little or no interest to Wild management.

There are still names of interest to Wild fans, so today, we'll look at some of the wingers and centers that have hit free agency.

The Wild Situation
: With Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding coming back, the Wild net looks solidified. If they can both regain their form from two seasons ago, they could be the best tandem in the League.

Current Wild free agents
: Wade Dubielewicz

Chris Mason - 6-0, 195 - Age, 34 – St. Louis Blues

He had a solid season in St. Louis last year, but missing the playoffs led to a trade for youngster Jaroslav Halak, who appears to be their new goaltender of the future.

The plus side: Mason showed in St. Louis he can be a starter, and put up decent numbers (30 wins, 2.53 GAA).

The negative: He may be a starter, but will he ever be a goalie that can carry his team through a long playoff run? Maybe not, but would anyone have said that about Michael Leighton?

Evgeni Nabokov - 6-0, 200 - Age, 34 - San Jose Sharks

The biggest talent available among goaltenders, some team is going to shell out big dollars to land him. He's won at least 40 games in each of the last three years, and he hasn't posted a goals against average over 2.44 in any of the last four seasons.

The plus side: Plain and simple, he's been one of the League's best goalies over the last decade.

The negative: Can he win the big one? He hasn't had much playoff success, and his Olympic performance for Russia was an absolute nightmare.

Andrew Raycroft - 6-0, 185 - Age, 30 – Vancouver Canucks

After bursting on the scene as a rookie with the Bruins, Raycroft couldn't regain his form in stings with Toronto and Colorado. He was relegated to a backup role behind Roberto Luongo, and was solid. He certainly hasn't earned a big contract, but he may be sought after for a capable backup.

The plus side: Some in Vancouver thought he should have played more as Roberto Luongo struggled at times. He's still a backup, but he's also still young and he should come on the cheap.

The negative: He wasn't able to shoulder the bulk of the duties in his previous stops.

Vesa Toskala - 5-10, 195 - Age, 33 – Calgary Flames

He was a rising star while sharing duties with Nabokov in San Jose, but he couldn't come through in the hockey-crazed market of Toronto. He was shipped to the Flames last year as part of the Dion Phaneuf deal, and saw little time behind Miikka Kiprusoff.

The plus side: He's out of Toronto, and he's relatively young at 33.

The negative: Toskala thrived behind a dominant Sharks team, but he struggled in Toronto as the number one. That may scare teams looking for a bona fide number one.

Marty Turco - 5-11, 185 - Age, 34 - Dallas Stars

If Nabokov is the best available, Turco might be the biggest name. The long-time Star was pushed out of Dallas after nine seasons, but he'll be the number one somewhere.

The plus side: His talent is unquestioned, he's a leader in the locker room and he's a workhorse. He only played 53 games last year as Dallas auditioned for his replacement, but he started 67 or more games in four of the previous five seasons.

The negative: Hard to believe that, at 34, he's declining, but the Stars seemed to think so after a subpar 2009-10 season.

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