For 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.