Free Agent All-Star team: Unrestricted

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Thumbnail image for nabbyandmarleau.jpgFor some hockey fans, reality might have set in late Wednesday last week or perhaps last Thursday morning. But it might not truly set in until the Monday of the first full week of the off-season. So, as we gather ourselves on this bittersweet day, preparation for the 2010-11 season is already underway.

To tackle the process of free agency, we’ll be putting up all kinds of posts leading up to July 1. First, indulge me in this fun little exercise of selecting the “First All-Star Team” of unrestricted free agents. I believe there will be a list for the restricted ones, too.

Left Wing

Ilya Kovalchuk

While I’m skeptical about Kovalchuk being worthy of a significant raise, there’s no doubt that he’s the biggest name in free agency … probably in the post-lockout era. Few players in the NHL score goals like him, year in and year out. He’s the biggest story of this summer, beyond Chicago’s crisis.


Patrick Marleau

My guess is that, if he can have things his way, Marleau will stay in San Jose – maybe with a Marian Hossa-type deal. If not, he could be a highly sought-after center thanks to his speed, versatility and undeniable skill.

Right Wing

Teemu Selanne

The list of right wings is pretty slim; it’s also true that Selanne’s choice might be between Anaheim and retirement. So, if you want to count left winger Alex Frolov as the “third” forward or go to Miroslav Satan as a Plan B, that’s fine.


Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Gonchar

Niedermayer is in the same boat as Selanne, being just as likely to retire as he is to stay with the Ducks. If Niedermayer decided to test the open market, though, he’d receive some serious interest.

I discussed possible suitors for Gonchar in late March. He was the best defenseman on a Stanley Cup champion, one of the league’s most prolific offensive blueliners and logged big minutes. He stands to make big money unless he wants to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a discount.


Evgeni Nabokov

Nabby is the opposite of Marleau: he’s more likely – in my opinion – to leave the team than stay. Another difference: while I think Marleau can fit in almost anywhere, I wonder if the Russian goalie would be as successful playing for an inferior team. Still, no unrestricted free agent goalie put up numbers like Nabokov, so he stands to make a lot of cash. Whether that’s in the NHL or KHL remains to be seen.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.