Watch these free-agents-to-be in the East

1 Comment

backstromandtheo.jpgOne of my nerdy hockey (and sports) obsessions is to study the breakthroughs an athlete will experience in a contract year. Just look at Fernando Pisani’s fluke playoff run or last year’s Boston Bruins. My question is, which players could turn a great playoff run into a husky pay day? Now let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference.

(Note: this isn’t a comprehensive list of free agents. Instead, it’s players who might make an impact on the ice and at the bank)


Jose Theodore and Nicklas Backstrom both are huge pending free agents. On the bright side, the Capitals can match any offer sheet thrown Backstrom’s way. But what if the ghost of Kevin Lowe* whispers in the ear of a devious general manager and forces the Capitals to match a huge offer sheet? If I were the GM of the Islanders or Panthers, I’d strongly consider itl

* – Wait, he’s still alive? Oops. I thought that Brian Burke … dealt with him.


Both the Canadiens’ goalies are free agents going into the playoffs. If Tomas Plekanec can back up his fighting words, he could have a big contract to match his big mouth.

New Jersey

Who’s that one obscure forward in New Jersey? Ilya Kovalchuk or something? Paul Martin also remains a key player to re-sign.


Since every Flyers goalie free-agent-to-be seems to be injured, the player with the most to gain is probably Braydon Coburn.

The remaining free agents to watch for the other four Eastern Conference playoff teams are after the jump.

Thumbnail image for gonchar.jpgBuffalo

They don’t have any big-time UFA’s to be, but Raffi Torres has plenty to prove.


Blake Wheeler has had a down year after putting together a great 08-09 season, but a great playoff run could mean that the big forward would still get some nice change. Dennis “Pain Sponge” Seidenberg won’t be able to absorb any more punishment for money as he’s out for two months. Bummer.


It’s hard to imagine that the Penguins will be able to keep Sergei Gonchar, so another deep playoff run would allow the Russian defenseman to earn the multi-year whopper of a contract he’s hoping for. Alex Ponikarovsky and Bill Guerin are also semi-notable free agents in waiting.


Anton Volchenkov – another pain sponge – could get a raise if he helps shut down Sidney Crosby. Other than that, the Senators are more or less covered.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
Leave a comment

There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.