The Nashville Predators unsurprisingly sat on the sidelines as a number of high-profile NHL free agents switched teams yesterday, only announcing the signing of 1999 draftee Jonas Andersson and the re-signing of Teemu Laakso to new contracts.
We all know that many of the players who sign on July 1 are grossly overpaid (Derek Boogaard gets 4 years and $6.5 million from the Rangers???), but having watched regulars Dan Hamhuis, Dan Ellis and Jason Arnott leave in recent days, I hope to see some proven NHL talent join the roster prior to training camp this fall. Promoting from withing and picking up a few strays from hockey's Island of Misfit Toys just isn't a legitimate plan to replace your #1 center, #3 defenseman, and backup goaltender.
After the jump, a look at some (just some!) of the big moves on Day 1 of the 2010 NHL Free Agency market, and who is left for the Predators to consider...
Dan Hamhuis to Vancouver (5 years, $4.5 million per season)
Apparently Hammer was offered more money elsewhere, but when back to his native British Columbia for a still-lucrative contract. He will basically replace Willie Mitchell, who was formerly the Canucks' best defender but is moving on this summer.
The big question here is, if Dan Hamhuis gets this kind of money, how much will Shea Weber require in a contract extension? My initial guess is somewhere in the $6-6.5 million range, depending on the length of the deal.
Dan Ellis to Tampa Bay (2 years, $1.5 million per season)
So much about those "wanting to go to a winning team" quotes, eh? Yes, the Lightning will get a fresh start under Guy Boucher and Steve Yzerman, but at least Ellis gets a good chance to contribute alongside Mike Smith (a former teammate of his) in the Tampa Bay crease.
to Atlanta (2 years, $1.85 million per season)
The former Pred heads to Atlanta, giving the Southeast Division all three of Nashville's starting goaltenders prior to Pekka Rinne (as they join Tomas Vokoun in Florida). Maybe Washington could put in a call to Mike Dunham?
to Calgary (2 years, $3 million per season)
This one brought guffaws of disbelief from all corners of the hockey world. Sure, he's not making $5.5 million like he did under his previous contract, but with the reputation he's garnered over the last several years for underachieving, it's just bizarre to see him return to a Flames team which failed so spectacularly with him up front.
to Calgary (1 year, $1.7 million)
Tanguay is a guy who could conceivably help the Preds bridge the gap up front until some of the young wingers come up through the ranks, and his train-wreck of a season in Tampa last year left him affordable. Instead, he goes back to familiar ground in Calgary.
Big names still on the market
Ilya Kovalchuk leads a number of high-profile players who are still available, and there are also many teams which have to make a big impact. Within the Central Division, for example, the only new player arriving is John Scott, a low-profile depth player for Minnesota last year. So who might still be of interest to Nashville?
The word from Phoenix yesterday was that Lombardi's contract demands are "off the charts", and as perhaps the most promising center on the market, you can understand why. If this turns into a bidding war, you can write Nashville off the list of contenders for Lombardi's services.
His goal-scoring has varied widely from season to season, and his durability is open to question (having never played 70 games in a single season), but Svatos has the skills to perhaps bolster Nashville's power play unit.
Recently cut loose by the Oilers, Nilsson has been linked to the Predators before as a possible trade acquisition. He, too, could provide a dose of skill outside of a Top Six role (where he has yet to prove himself).
Having made $4 million last season he's probably too pricey for Nashville to consider, but he's one of the better goal scorers on the market.
An ugly clash with Thrashers coach John Anderson cost Kozzie playing time last season, but until then he's been a solid NHL citizen and was still a dynamic performer the previous year, putting up 76 points in 81 games in 2008-9. He could be used as a power play specialist, where his playmaking skills shine the most.
Now here's a crazy idea. What if the Preds went after a defensive specialist and fierce competitor like Madden, in order to position David Legwand as more of an offensive threat? Personally, I think if Nashville had an established set of #1-2 offensive centers, Legwand could focus on shutdown duty and potentially contend for the Selke Trophy, but there is the other option of giving him wingers like Martin Erat, Steve Sullivan, or Patric Hornqvist and letting him go on the attack.
He's scrappy and can score 20 goals... but if he's looking for a bump from his $2.75 million salary last season, forget about it.
He's been talked about as a Nashville possibility the last two Trade Deadlines, and a disappointing stint in Pittsburgh may keep him affordable (he made $2.5 million last season). He's hit the 20-goal mark 4 out of the last 5 seasons, and his size could be a considerable asset up front.
Shopping season still has months to go
One likely option that David Poile will pursue is to wait until much closer to training camp to pick up some help. As time gets short, veterans start looking for work and salary demands come down. Until then, expect the company line to emphasize confidence in young talent rising up through the ranks, but even though the Predators have a strong (and well-deserved) reputation for developing NHL players, there's only so much that this internal growth can cover in one off-season.