2011 free agents list: The unrestricted version

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Now that the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs and 2011 NHL Entry Draft are over, hockey fans are probably starting to think about next season and trying not to think about the long, hockey-free summer. The best distraction from that stark, puck-less reality will come on Friday, July 1 when the free agent frenzy begins.

If you want to start dreaming about all the ways your team could get better (or conversely, if you want to guess which signings might provide future nightmare fuel), it might help to look at a list of free agents.

In this first post, we’ll provide the easier-to-get (but usually more expensive to sign) group known as unrestricted free agents. These guys are at least 27 years old and could be available to any team willing to fork over the dough. These players are listed by their position, current team, age and their 2010-11 salaries.

Top 100 Forwards (for a complete list, click here)

Note: players listed by previous salaries, not ranked by perceived talent.

Brad Richards DAL 31 $7,800,000
Simon Gagne TBL 31 $5,250,000
Alex Kovalev PIT 38 $5,000,000
Michael Nylander WAS 38 $4,875,000
Teemu Selanne ANA 40 $4,500,000
Jason Arnott WAS 36 $4,500,000
Tim Connolly BUF 30 $4,500,000
Michael Ryder BOS 31 $4,000,000
Michal Handzus LAK 34 $4,000,000
Steve Sullivan NAS 36 $3,750,000
Cory Stillman CAR 37 $3,533,333
Marco Sturm WAS 33 $3,500,000
Alex Ponikarovsky LAK 31 $3,200,000
Radim Vrbata PHO 30 $3,000,000
Erik Cole CAR 32 $2,900,000
Jamie Langenbrunner DAL 35 $2,800,000
Chris Clark CLB 35 $2,633,333
Tomas Fleischmann COL 27 $2,600,000
Sergei Samsonov FLA 32 $2,533,333
Vaclav Prospal NYR 36 $2,480,000
Todd White NYR 36 $2,375,000
Chuck Kobasew MIN 29 $2,333,333
Antti Miettinen MIN 30 $2,333,333
Andrew Brunette MIN 37 $2,333,333
Scottie Upshall CLB 27 $2,250,000
Brooks Laich WAS 28 $2,066,667
Nikolay Zherdev PHI 26 $2,000,000
Ethan Moreau CLB 35 $2,000,000
Mike Modano DET 41 $1,750,000
Chad Larose CAR 29 $1,700,000
Radek Dvorak WIN 34 $1,700,000
Jussi Jokinen CAR 28 $1,700,000
Chris Higgins VAN 28 $1,600,000
Kris Draper DET 40 $1,583,333
Mike Grier BUF 36 $1,500,000
Joel Ward NAS 30 $1,500,000
Pascl Dupuis PIT 32 $1,400,000
Jarkko Ruutu ANA 35 $1,300,000
John Madden MIN 38 $1,250,000
Rob Niedermayer BUF 36 $1,250,000
Tomas Kopecky CHI 29 $1,200,000
Petr Prucha PHO 28 $1,200,000
Marty Reasoner FLA 34 $1,150,000
Todd Marchant ANA 37 $1,125,000
Vernon Fiddler PHO 31 $1,100,000
Maxime Talbot PIT 27 $1,050,000
Patrick Rissmiller FLA 32 $1,000,000
Aaron Voros TOR 29 $1,000,000
Matt Bradley WAS 33 $1,000,000
Raffi Torres VAN 29 $1,000,000
Ruslan Fedotenko NYR 32 $1,000,000
Ben Eager SAN 27 $965,000
Alexandre Picard PHO 25 $868,219
Michael Rupp PIT 31 $825,000
Brian Sutherby DAL 29 $812,500
Marek Svatos OTT 29 $800,000
Boyd Gordon WAS 27 $800,000
Ville Leino PHI 27 $800,000
Marcel Goc NAS 27 $775,000
Darcy Hordichuk FLA 30 $775,000
Scott Nichol SAN 36 $760,000
Eric Godard PIT 31 $750,000
Eric Belanger PHO 33 $750,000
Patrick Eaves DET 27 $750,000
Fredrik Sjostrom TOR 28 $750,000
Brendan Morrison CGY 35 $725,000
Sean Bergenheim TBL 27 $700,000
Arron Asham PIT 33 $700,000
Brad Winchester ANA 30 $700,000
Jonas Andersson VAN 30 $675,000
Kyle Wellwood SAN 28 $650,000
Eric Boulton WIN 34 $650,000
Drew Miller DET 27 $650,000
Tanner Glass VAN 27 $625,000
Ryan Carter FLA 27 $625,000
Andrew Murray CLB 30 $625,000
Ryan Shannon OTT 28 $625,000
Matt Ellis BUF 29 $625,000
Jeff LoVecchio FLA 25 $605,000
Jamal Mayers SAN 36 $600,000
Cam Janssen STL 27 $600,000
Jamie Lundmark NAS 30 $600,000
Mark Parrish BUF 34 $600,000
Adam Hall TBL 30 $600,000
Zenon Konopka NYI 30 $600,000
Jeff Halpern MTL 35 $600,000
Kyle Wilson CLB 26 $600,000
Kris Chucko CGY 25 $600,000
Aaron Gagnon DAL 25 $600,000
Mark Mancari BUF 25 $575,000
Andy Hilbert NYI 30 $575,000
David Koci COL 30 $575,000
Tim Brent TOR 27 $575,000
Raymond Sawada DAL 26 $575,000
Ben Guite CLB 32 $575,000
Wade Belak NAS 34 $575,000
Josh Green ANA 33 $575,000
Trevor Frischmon CLB 29 $575,000
John Zeiler LAK 28 $558,333

Top 50 Defensemen

Ed Jovanovski PHO 35 $6,500,000
Bryan McCabe NYR 36 $5,750,000
Roman Hamrlik MTL 37 $5,500,000
Scott Hannan WAS 32 $4,500,000
Tomas Kaberle BOS 33 $4,250,000
Joni Pitkanen CAR 27 $4,000,000
Kevin Bieksa VAN 30 $3,750,000
Craig Rivet CLB 36 $3,500,000
Sami Salo VAN 36 $3,500,000
James Wisniewski MTL 27 $3,250,000
Christian Ehrhoff VAN 28 $3,100,000
Ian White SAN 27 $2,999,995
Steve Staios CGY 37 $2,700,000
Brent Sopel MTL 34 $2,333,333
Jim Vandermeer EDM 31 $2,300,000
Jan Hejda CLB 33 $2,000,000
Kent Huskins SAN 32 $1,700,000
Shane O’Brien NAS 27 $1,600,000
Steve Montador BUF 31 $1,550,000
Radek Martinek NYI 34 $1,500,000
Anton Babchuk CGY 27 $1,400,000
Karlis Skrastins DAL 36 $1,375,000
Sean O’Donnell PHI 39 $1,300,000
Adam Foote COL 39 $1,250,000
Steve Eminger NYR 27 $1,125,000
Severin Blindenbacher DAL 28 $1,112,500
Ruslan Salei DET 36 $1,100,000
Andrew Alberts VAN 29 $1,050,000
Brad Lukowich DAL 34 $1,000,000
Randy Jones TBL 29 $1,000,000
Marc-Andre Bergeron TBL 30 $1,000,000
Jonathan Ericsson DET 27 $900,000
Paul Mara MTL 31 $750,000
Andreas Lilja ANA 35 $750,000
Andy Greene NJD 28 $737,500
Jason Strudwick EDM 35 $725,000
Adam Pardy CGY 27 $700,000
David Hale OTT 30 $675,000
Jeff Woywitka DAL 27 $650,000
Sean Collins WAS 27 $650,000
Alexander Sulzer FLA 27 $650,000
Nathan Oystrick STL 28 $600,000
Jordan Hendry CHI 27 $600,000
Freddy Meyer WIN 30 $600,000
Drew Bagnall MIN 27 $600,000
Tyson Strachan STL 26 $600,000
Mathieu Roy TBL 27 $600,000
Dean Arsene STL 30 $600,000
Shawn Belle COL 26 $600,000
Danny Syvret PHI 26 $600,000

Top 20 Goalies

Jean-Sebastien Giguere TOR 34 $6,000,000
Tomas Vokoun FLA 34 $5,700,000
Pascal Leclaire OTT 28 $3,800,000
Dwayne Roloson TBL 41 $2,500,000
Mike Smith TBL 29 $2,200,000
Johan Hedberg NJD 38 $1,500,000
Chris Osgood DET 38 $1,416,667
Ty Conklin STL 35 $1,300,000
Marty Turco CHI 35 $1,300,000
Peter Budaj COL 28 $1,250,000
Josh Harding MIN 27 $1,200,000
Mathieu Garon CLB 33 $1,200,000
Jose Theodore MIN 34 $1,100,000
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers EDM 27 $1,050,000
Alex Auld MTL 30 $1,000,000
Brian Boucher PHI 34 $925,000
Joey MacDonald DET 31 $550,000
Curtis McElhinney OTT 28 $535,000
Martin Gerber EDM 36 $500,000
Ray Emery ANA 28 $500,000

Golden Knights can’t stop, won’t stop

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There may not be a more intriguing story in the NHL this year than what is going on in Sin City.

Defying all the odds, the Vegas Golden Knights — a team comprised of spare parts that general manager George McPhee picked out of a discard bin this past summer — sit on top of the Pacific Division at Thanksgiving after a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

The league-wide off day due to the holiday should give you enough time to come to the realization that yes, indeed, your eyes are not deceiving you.

Instead, the NHL has a brand new team that continues to re-write hockey history.

The Golden Knights matched an NHL record for most wins by a team through the first 20 games of its inaugural season on Wednesday, moving to 13-6-1 on the year.

They became the first expansion team to start a season 3-0-0 and first to win their first six of seven back in October. On Nov. 4, they tied a league record for shortest number of games played to achieve nine wins an inaugural season and continue to do things no other expansion team has done.

How a team full of players not good enough to be protected prior to the expansion draft is doing so well is anyone’s guess.

Chip on their collective shoulders? Perhaps. A little Las Vegas magic? Quite possible.

What is certain is that the Golden Knights have little trouble scoring. And scoring helps with winning.

James Neal, a former 40-goal man, leads the way with 11 goals. Only Filip Forsberg on the Nashville Predators, Neal’s former team, has as many. William Karlsson is second with 10. No one on his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, has reached double digits yet.

David Perron, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula aren’t far behind with six goals apiece, and Vegas is eighth in expected goals for percentage.

The math adds up to show the Golden Knights tied for fourth in goals for with 72. They’re also in the top third when it comes to least goals against.

Furthermore, If the playoffs were determined by possession metrics and began tomorrow, the Golden Knights would be one of the 16 headed to the promised land.

Maybe Vegas just likes to win. And really, what do they have to lose?


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL’s Thanksgiving playoffs rule unlikely to fit this season

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Erik Gudbranson looks at the standings almost every day.

Sure, it’s only November, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the playoffs and see which teams are atop the division standings.

”Every single point matters,” the Vancouver Canucks defenseman said. ”You want to stay with that group.”

For more than a decade, the status of that group at Thanksgiving has been a significant indicator of who gets to keep playing beyond mid-April. Since the salary-cap era began in 2005-06, 78.4 percent of teams in playoff position by the fourth Thursday in November have made it. It’s so notable that it is considered the NHL’s unofficial Thanksgiving rule.

In most years, the picture solidifies in mid-November and an average of 12-13 playoff teams are all but set by Thanksgiving.

Not so much this season, where there are 12 teams separated by eight points in the Eastern Conference and 12 teams separated by five points in the West, making the races too close to call at Thanksgiving.

”With the parity that’s in the league nowadays, I don’t know if that rule really applies anymore,” Calgary Flames winger Troy Brouwer said. ”Usually at some point a few teams break away from the pack and the rest of them, because of the three-point games and everybody’s playing so many divisional games, you never really gain a ton of ground on a team or lose a ton of ground on a team unless you’re continuously losing divisional games.”

Led by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the Tampa Bay Lightning are far away the best in the East, while the duo of Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schennhas the St. Louis Blues atop the West. The Toronto Maple Leafs are talented and the Los Angeles Kings are off to a great start, but there aren’t too many teams at the quarter mark that can feel too confident about making the playoffs.

”It’s pretty well a .500 league right now,” Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. ”The teams that have a little more depth like Tampa, who is in a good window, and St. Louis and probably L.A. … they’re the only ones that have really pulled away from anybody. The rest of us are right all there.”

A relatively flat salary cap over the past few seasons and the expansion draft that filled the Vegas Golden Knights with the best roster for a first-year franchise in history have served to level the talent discrepancy around hockey.

”There’s not much separation between teams,” Pittsburgh Penguins center Riley Sheahan said. ”The salary cap makes it a tough league to play in.”

But this isn’t just about the cap, which has been around 13 seasons. A lot of inter-conference play early is one theory for so many teams being packed together.

”We haven’t even started playing in conference, in division games,” winger Wayne Simmonds said after he and the Philadelphia Flyers played 17 of their first 22 games against the West. ”I think that’s where things will start to separate. When everyone’s playing the Western Conference or maybe different divisions, the separation you don’t see as much.”

It’s going to be tough going for last-place Buffalo and Arizona to make the playoffs and an uphill climb for should’ve-been contenders Montreal and Edmonton. The Thanksgiving rule may be moot for this year, but a brutal start is tough to dig out from.

”You can’t make the playoffs in November, but you can knock yourself out,” veteran Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. ”It seems like even when you’re down four points at the end of the year, the games get so much tighter and there’s more three-point games, it seems like, toward the end of the year. Teams are playing a lot more defensive and safe. It seems like it’s easier to pile up points now than it is to try to catch up at the end.”

It’s not impossible, though, as the 2007-08 Capitals are one of 38 teams to get it done after looking like they’re cooked. They fired coach Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving Day, replaced him with Bruce Boudreau and went from 8-7-6 to a Southeast Division title.

Boudreau, whose Minnesota Wild are 13th in the West but just two points out of a playoff spot, doesn’t think much about the Thanksgiving rule.

”If you look at it as this is a truism and you’re not in at that time, you have a tendency to (think), ‘Aw man, we’re not going make it,’ and I don’t want anybody on our team thinking along those lines,” Boudreau said. ”But it’s going to be close.”

It’s so close that while Sheahan said you can ”start to drive yourself a little crazy” by focusing too much on stats and the schedule, there are no guarantees. Half the playoff teams turned over from 2015-16 to 2016-17, and of the 16 teams in position now, seven didn’t make it last spring and one didn’t even exist.

The standings are packed, so much that one victory or one loss can shuffle them like a deck of cards.

”It gives you that extra incentive to be ready every single night,” Gudbranson said. ”You have to be when you can gain one extra point and jump from 10th in the West to a solid wild-card spot – and vice-versa, it can go the other way.”

What fantasy hockey players should be grateful for

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Ah, Thanksgiving. A time when families come together to overeat, try to ignore the more problematic elements of the holiday’s roots, watch lopsided football games, and get into arguments.

Not great, honestly, but kudos to my family specifically for at least adding pierogies to the mix.

With the American version of the holiday upon us (it’s in October in Canada … weird!), it seems wise to share gratitude for the players who are powering our fantasy hockey teams to greatness, or at least to help us avoid total mockery at the water cooler.*

Going for seconds, thirds

So far, 2017-18 has been The Year of The Top Lines. It can be seen mostly blatantly in noting that Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are battling for the top scoring spot in the NHL, while Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jaden Schwartz are also in the top 10.

Much like the satisfaction of eating homemade sides instead of canned vegetables, the real winners have been the less-obvious members of lines who have been incredible values, and some of whom might deliver for a full season.

Schenn is an obvious example, with his 30 points in 22 games (not to mention 20 PIM and +19 rating) making him a blistering steal. His Yahoo pre-season ranking was 85th, and he likely went lower depending upon your given draft.

Sean Couturier might be the most delirious example so far, though. His yahoo ranking was 262, yet he’s ranked 18th by the same standards, as it’s clear that he’s taken the bull by the horns when it comes to getting an increased offensive role with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on his wings. Vladislav Namestnikov has been glorious, and it sure seems likely that’ll he remain with Stamkos and Kucherov as long as he’s healthy.

Micheal Ferland might spell his name in a funny way, but you’ll make fun of him less often if he’s on your team and manages to stay with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan over the long haul.

On that note, there are still some things to sort out. Will Kyle Connor be the guy that gets to play with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele more often than not? Can the Stars get a consistent third player (aside: we need a third [blank] to go with “second banana”) to dunk in opportunities from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, at least with Alex Radulov seemingly not being the right fit?

Really, the questions about duos makes you appreciate stable trios that much more, especially if you have one or both of them on your teams. You don’t see reasonable answers to the glorious combo of the Dany Heatley – Jason Spezza – Daniel Alfredsson very often in the salary cap era, after all.

Hopefully most of those top lines can at least maintain some of this ridiculous energy, as the dog days of the season will probably cause at least some regression. Sorry, didn’t mean to ruin the holiday spirit.

Trading goods

I can’t really go too long without thanking GM David Poile and others for spicing up the season with some trades. Don’t scoff at this being mentioned in fantasy, as trades can make the process more exciting *and* create new gems.

In six games with the Nashville Predators, Kyle Turris has five points, but I’m most thankful – and intrigued – to see gains from Kevin Fiala (six points in his past five games) and Craig Smith (six in his past six). Fiala and Smith will probably be more worthy of adds in deeper leagues, but it’s a situation to watch, preferably with popcorn.

Turris could also boost guys like P.K. Subban and Roman Josi in a delightful domino effect, so again, a nod of gratitude to Poile.

Big saves

Quite a few goalies are saving their teams’ bacon (or honey-baked ham, to fit the theme?), with Corey Crawford, John Gibson, and Mike Smith coming to mind, in particular. Imagine where the Anaheim Ducks would be without Gibson?

Also: thanks to Braden Holtby, who’s navigating the Capitals’ struggles to remain the new Henrik Lundqvist as far as reliable fantasy hockey star goalies go.

Avoiding turkeys

Finally, all but one owner in each league can be happy to avoid Brent Burns, an awesome, caveman-looking scoring sensation who’s been on a puzzling scoring slump. Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good, even beyond getting a piece of those red-hot lines.

(And hey, maybe you’ll be thankful when you trade for Burns at a discount rate, only to see him bounce back?)

* – For those who grumble about this being a lame gimmick for a fantasy hockey column, allow me to respond with this hex: I hope your Crazy Uncle shares extra ridiculous, patently offensive theories this time around.

And, if *you* are in the crazy uncle role, I hope that a know-it-all nephew totally schools you, to the point that even like-minded family members are giggling at your stammering responses.

Yeah, that’s right. I went there. Maybe all the gravy is making me edgy.

Enjoy the holiday, hockey fans.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Golden Knights shine, gold from Subban

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Player of the Night: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers.

It hasn’t been the easiest start to the season for Twitter legend Roberto Luongo, nor has it been for the Twitter debate generators known as the Florida Panthers.

Bobby Lou hasn’t been healthy at times, making it easy to ignore that even at 38, he’s quietly managed a save percentage that climbed to .931 after today’s outstanding performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Luongo made 43 out of 44 stops to help Florida edge Toronto in a 2-1 shootout win, to the amusingly over-the-top celebration of the Panthers, who might have done so because there were probably a ton of Maple Leafs fans in the house:

Nick Bjugstad won the game with this saucy shootout score, by the way:

Honorable mentions go to tonight’s other standout goalies, plus Nathan MacKinnon, who received plenty of praise here.

Fight of the Night: William Carrier vs. Mike Liambas.

Is it fair to call this fight “methodical but entertaining?”

Quip of the Night: P.K. Subban, always entertaining, though he should reduce the height-shaming.

Pest of the Night: Nazem Kadri?

Highlight of the Night: John Tavares continues to impose his will, this time setting up the Islanders overtime-winner:

Factoids of the Night

Another milestone for the Vegas Golden Knights, who lead the Pacific Division:

Brock Boeser is another worthy mention for player of the night, as the young Canuck keeps scoring and scoring, this time helping Vancouver beat Pittsburgh (again).

Connor McDavid continues to impress, and maybe shuts up a critic or two for one night:

The Canadiens? Well, at least they got a point.

Scores

Wild 5, Sabres 4
Oilers 6, Red Wings 2
Panthers 2, Maple Leafs 1 (SO)
Bruins 3, Devils 2 (SO)
Islanders 4, Flyers 3 (OT)
Canucks 5, Penguins 2
Capitals 5, Senators 2
Rangers 6, Hurricanes 1
Blue Jackets 1, Flames 0 (OT)
Lightning 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Predators 3, Canadiens 2 (SO)
Avalanche 3, Stars 0
Sharks 3, Coyotes 1
Golden Knights 4, Ducks 2
Jets 2, Kings 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.