While the focus at the start of the NHL’s 2011 UFA period will be on where notable free agents such as Brad Richards, Tomas Vokoun and Tomas Kaberle end up, there will be players who stand to attract considerably more lucrative offers this summer than they otherwise would’ve received in a deeper UFA talent pool.
One name popping up of late is that of center/left winger Tomas Fleischmann, mentioned in recent articles in the Ottawa Sun, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Vancouver Sun as a possible free agent option for the Senators, Blues and Canucks.
What will dampen Fleischmann’s value is the fact he’s recovering from a pulmonary embolism (blood clots) that requires him to take blood thinners. While that would normally significantly limit potential suitors, the lack of depth in this summer’s market means he will remain a desirable target for teams seeking second-line scoring.
Right winger Joel Ward and left winger Sean Bergenheim were suggested as possibilities for the aforementioned clubs as well as the Winnipeg Jets.
Ward is a career 30-point player, but his stock shot up significantly due to his seven-goal, 13-point performance in 12 playoff games this spring with the Nashville Predators.
Bergenheim has never exceeded 30 points in the regular season, but dramatically came to offensive life in the 2011 playoffs, with nine goals and 11 points in 16 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The difference between these two and Fleischmann, however, is that Fleischmann has a proven record as a second-line scorer, with 51 points in 69 games in 2009-10 and 21 points in 22 games with the Avalanche last season prior to being sidelined.
Ward and Bergenheim are quality depth players, but GMs must avoid being blinded by the players’ recent playoff stats and pay them more than they’re worth.
OILERS DRILLING FOR DEFENSE
Keep an eye on the Edmonton Oilers in the opening days of free agency.
As the Edmonton Sun recently observed, the Oilers are now thin defensively, having parted ways with checking forwards Zack Stortini, J-F Jacques and Liam Reddox, plus they haven’t re-signed veteran blueliner Jim Vandermeer and will buy out Sheldon Souray.
The Oilers have only four established defensemen – Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid and Kurtis Foster – under contract and desperately need to bolster their blueline depth if they’re to reduce their shots-against and lighten the workload on their goalies.
Expect GM Steve Tambellini to be in the market for blueliners and checking forwards over the next several days.
SELANNE AND DUCKS PLAYING WAIT-AND-SEE
The Anaheim Ducks were hoping to get word from right winger Teemu Selanne as to his future plans by July 1, but it appears once again they’ll spend the off-season waiting for an answer.
Selanne, who turns 41 on July 3, recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Finland. While the surgery went well, he reportedly intends to wait until he’s made a full recovery before making a decision on a return to the NHL.
It’s now up to Ducks management to decide if they’ll wait for his recovery or consider options to replace him. Selanne will very likely retire if the Ducks decide not to re-sign him (dashing the dreams of Winnipeg fans hoping to see ‘The Finnish Flash’ back in a Jets uniform to end his NHL career where it began).
OSHIE RUMORS WILL REMAIN
St. Louis Blues center T.J. Oshie was the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks and, although he re-signed with the club Thursday, his name will remain in the mill once the season is underway.
That’s because the Blues signed him to a one-year, $2.35 million deal and while both sides professed to be happy, Oshie will be under pressure to prove his worth if he hopes to land a bigger extension before next summer.
Oshie will remain a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer, so the Blues don’t have to worry about losing him as a UFA.
If Oshie fails to meet expectations in 2011-12, he could be shopped by the trade deadline. If he exceeds them, his asking price will be substantially higher than $2.35 million. This could prove difficult for the Blues to afford, especially if they’re still lacking a new owner.
UFA SEASON MEANS BUYOUT SEASON
Six NHL players will be bought out of their existing contracts during the final days leading into the unrestricted free agent period.
Of this group, Barker and Commodore will attract interest from clubs in search of blueline depth.
Injuries have taken a toll on Drury, who has a career-threatening degenerative knee injury.
Souray and Dumont have seen a significant decline in their performances and will face either retirement or continuing their careers overseas if no NHL teams offer a contract.
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 News.