And just like that, the free agent frenzy is finished.
All it took was $52 million for Daniel Briere, $51.5 for Scott Gomez and $30 million for Brian Rafalski. Heck, 12-goal scorer Ruslan Fedotenko got $2.9 million from the Islanders. Then again, if your team had lost five of its top seven scorers in the span of a few days you might start throwing big bucks at Fedotenko-ian players, too.
So, less than a week after unrestricted free agency was opened up to the highest bidders, NHL teams still hoping to pick up a UFA of impact are in tough.
Here’s the best of the rest of the 2007 UFAs:
The best of the bunch is 42-year-old Dominik Hasek, but he’ll likely stay in Detroit. The two other top UFA goalies left are over 40 years old.
Alex Auld, who flopped in Florida this season after being handed the No. 1 job (Belfour had taken over by December), is the most intriguing goalie on the UFA market. He’s still young (26), especially by goalie standards, and he wouldn’t be the first player to bomb as a Panther and then turn his career around with another team.
Sheldon Souray, with his booming slapshot and big-time bodychecks, was reportedly on the verge of signing with New Jersey, where his NHL career began back in 1997. The Devils drafted Souray 71st overall in 1994.
Danny Markov was still available Â– Brian Rafalski’s new contract with the Wings may mean Markov is done in Detroit Â– and his fearless style of play would help any NHL team.
Andy Sutton, who forces opponents to keep their head up, appears to be headed out of Atlanta. Brent Sopel can still add spark to the power play. Aaron Miller will be 36 in 2007-08 and isn’t getting any faster, but he’s dependable and underrated following his first 82-game season. David Tanabe and Vitaly Vishnevski are both 27 and capable of filling out the third pairing. Daniel Tjarnqvist, cut loose after one season in Edmonton, was one of Dwayne Roloson’s favorites when both were in Minnesota. Guess it didn’t quite work out for them as Oilers teammates last season.
The best players are already gone, and any good ones left Â– Teemu Selanne, Peter Forsberg, Trevor Linden Â– may retire. If they decide to stay in the game, they’ll likely go the Brendan Shanahan route and re-sign with the same team; they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
The human-interest stories center around pivots Alexei Yashin and Jason Allison. The Islanders bought out the final four years of Yashin’s monstrous contract, choosing to choke down $17.6 million in payments (over eight years) rather than honor the rest of his wacky deal. Despite the negative feelings Yashin often seems to attract, he’s reportedly sifting through offers from at least five teams. Allison, meanwhile, has decided he wants to play again in 2007-08 after sitting out the entire 2006-07 season. They might not be heart-and-soul guys, but both players would boost any team’s power play.
Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and the one and only Eric Lindros are still up for grabs. Guerin had a big rebound season in 2006-07; he’ll likely command close to $4 million. Comrie was effective at times and invisible in others during Ottawa’s march to the final. Lindros, once the Â‘Next One,’ scored a paltry five goals in 49 games last season; it was the most he’s played since 2002-03.
Mike Peca returned to his roots in 2006-07 before going down with a leg injury that cost him the final two-thirds of the season. He didn’t score much, but like in the 2006 playoffs, he was a defensive force. Still, his mobility wasn’t helped by another extended leg injury.