Breaking down the Top 3 remaining UFAs

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We’re well into Day 7 of the 2012 free agent market and it’s no surprise that most of the desirable players have already inked new contracts, but there’s still a few good – or at least interesting players – out there.

With that in mind, here’s a list of the three biggest names left on the UFA market. I’ll say upfront that I decided to cheat and not include Teemu Selanne, simply because right now he seems to be debating between retiring and re-signing with the Anaheim Ducks.

He’d be a great addition to any team, but for the moment at least, there hasn’t been much to suggest he’s seriously considering finishing his NHL career with any team other than Anaheim.

Shane Doan — He’s a gritty, top-six forward with leadership experience. He’ll turn 36 on Oct. 10, but he’s reach the 50-point mark in each of his last nine seasons. So why hasn’t he signed yet?

He likes playing in Glendale, but he’s tired of playing for a team that’s been stuck in limbo from an ownership perspective. He wanted to wait until July 9 to see how things go with prospective Coyotes buyer Greg Jamison before deciding if he would re-sign with Phoenix or start looking for a new home.

If he decides to leave, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers might be among the teams looking for him.

Alexander Semin — Semin is probably the most intriguing free agent of the 2012 class. He’s surpassed the 70-point mark three times and even in a bad season he’s good for at least 20 goals and 50 points.

Really, it seems to be his reputation that’s kept him on the market for this long. As Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford recently put it:

“We would look at Semin on a short-term basis. We wouldn’t want to get locked in to anything, because we’ve all heard the stories about him. We do like his skill level. It could be that we could bring him in for a year, get to know him and go from there in terms of considering something longer term.”

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post suggested that there also appears to be a significant disconnect between what Semin wants and what teams are willing to give him.

At this point, short of going back to the KHL, it sounds like a one-year deal might be his best option. It would give him a chance to prove himself in a new market and maybe get a big deal in the summer of 2013.

Personally, I think any mediocre franchise should be interested in signing him to such a contract. If he lives up to the team’s worst fears, then they can take comfort in knowing that they probably weren’t going to be a serious Stanley Cup contender in 2012-13 anyways. If he bounces back, then he can be dealt to a contender at the trade deadline.

Peter Mueller — Eliminating Selanne from eligibility took away the obvious third choice, so I decided to go off the board. Mueller has been plagued by concussion symptoms and he only played in 32 games last season after missing the entire 2010-11 campaign.

Still, when healthy, he’s a top-six forward and those are hard to find on the open market at this point. He’s likely to get a cheap, one-year deal, so the risk will be minimal compared to the significant potential reward. On top of that, he’s only 24, so if he does bounce back, the team that took a chance on him will get the first shot of locking him up to a long-term deal.

Honorable mentions: Carlo Colaiacovo, Andrei Kostitsyn, Kyle Wellwood, Petr Sykora

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

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Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

But that’s not happening.

In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

“The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run