The new contract for San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi (four years, $15.2 million) led CBC’s Elliotte Friedman to suggest the deal will have an impact upon this summer’s free agent goalie market.
Friedman noted Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson as two notable netminders for whom Niemi’s contract will serve as a benchmark in their contract talks.
Friedman suggested Bryzgalov could shoot for a deal worth more than Niemi’s, but also warned this summer’s UFA goaltenders should be careful not to price themselves so high it forces teams to consider more affordable alternatives.
One of those alternatives would be Dwayne Roloson if the Tampa Bay Lightning fail to re-sign him. Friedman also wondered if Tomas Vokoun, coming off a contract with a cap hit of $5.7 million per season, would consider accepting a lesser deal for “the right situation.”
That situation would be playing for a Cup contender, although those teams might not have an urgent need to pursue Vokoun even if he was open to accepting a discount.
Recent word out of Ottawa suggested Anderson would be re-signed by the Senators, as he appeared to be settling in nicely with the club since joining them last month in a trade with Colorado.
Of course, that would change if his salary demands became exorbitant, but that doesn’t appear likely. Given the Senators freed up considerable salary cap space with their cost-cutting trades last month, re-signing Anderson to a multi-year deal worth between $2.5- and $3.5-million per season is a good possibility.
Coyotes management hopes to re-sign Bryzgalov, but until their ownership situation is finally sorted out this situation will remain up in the air. If he does hit the open market his playoff experience would make him more tempting for playoff contenders than Vokoun.
Bryzgalov, however, currently makes $4.25 million against the cap, so he’d be an expensive signing for those seeking a quality upgrade between the pipes.
SABRE RATTLING IN BUFFALO
Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News recently speculated Sabres GM Darcy Regier would be more aggressive in his pursuit of talent this summer now that he’s working for a new, deep-pocketed owner willing to spend more on improving the roster.
Gleason pointed out Regier’s acquisition of scoring forward Brad Boyes at this year’s trade deadline indicated he has already changed his once-conservative style.
It’s possible Regier will make his biggest moves via this summer’s trade market, where cap-strapped clubs seeking to dump salary might be willing to move players who were once considered off-limits.
Gleason wondered if a bold move, such as acquiring the rights to a top potential free agent and signing him to a contract extension, might make other free agents consider Buffalo as a destination of choice.
Icing a Cup contending roster is the best way to attract free agents, but making a bold move like the one suggested by Gleason would certainly attract attention. It remains to be seen what moves Regier has up his sleeve, but his days of making cautious, affordable moves appear to be a thing of the past.
BLUE JACKETS LOOKING TO IMPROVE BLUELINE
The Columbus Blue Jackets moved Rostislav Klesla at the trade deadline and freed up nearly $3 million in cap space beyond this season, which the Columbus Dispatch suggested could be put toward upgrading the blueline.
Currently, the club has only two defensemen (Fedor Tyutin and Kris Russell) under contract for next season, giving GM Scott Howson what the Dispatch called “more flexibility heading into the off-season.”
The paper speculated Howson could re-sign pending UFA Jan Hejda (who has indicated he wants to stay) along with restricted free agents Marc Methot and Grant Clitsome, while recently acquired Sami Lepisto is currently auditioning for a roster spot.
And then there’s Mike Commodore, who is a buyout candidate this summer. He has two years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $3.75 million per season, but he’s been playing in the American League since early January. A buyout would save the Blue Jackets around $2.3 million in cap space for next season if he’s returned to the NHL roster.
Howson is likely to dip into this summer’s shallow free agent pool to bolster his blueline as well as his depth at center. He may also target cap-strapped clubs seeking to cut costs via trade.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.