The NHL’s unrestricted free agent market doesn’t open until July 1, but with no trade rumors to report until the end of the playoffs, media speculation has turned to what the future might hold for several of this year’s notable UFAs.
Washington Capitals right winger Alexander Semin’s numbers have dropped significantly since his 40-goal, 84-point performance of 2009-10, resulting in his name being bandied about in this season’s trade rumor mill.
Semin’s currently on a one-year, $6.7-million contract, but despite having signed one-year extensions with the Capitals over the past two years, the Washington Post reported there were no substantial contract talks between the two sides, meaning he’s a legitimate candidate to hit this summer’s open market.
Already there’s speculation Semin won’t be re-signed by the Capitals and doubt any other NHL club will ink him, leading to the suggestion he’ll end up in the Kontinental League next season.
That’s certainly a possibility, but one shouldn’t dismiss Semin’s chances of sticking in the NHL, given the willingness of GMs to gamble on former 40-goal scorers regaining their scoring touch with another team.
JOKINEN AT HOME WITH FLAMES
The lack of quality centers in this summer’s UFA market could affect the Calgary Flames efforts to re-sign center Olli Jokinen.
Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun noted Jokinen has had a bounce-back season, netting 44 points in his past 45 games. Losing him would leave a huge hole at center for the Flames that would be difficult to fill.
Francis pointed out the recent new contracts for Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu ($4.75 million per season), Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky ($5 million per) and Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski ($5.5 million per) could up the ante for Jokinen, who made $5.25 million per season two years ago before signing a two-year, $3-million-per-season deal with the Flames.
As Ruutu and Hemsky are wingers, the best comparable for Jokinen is Grabovski, though it should be noted he’s 28 and still in his playing prime, while the 33-year-old Jokinen is on the downside of his career.
Jokinen could seek an average annual salary of $5.25 million, but he also enjoys playing for the Flames and his family is happy in Calgary. He may end up accepting a little less than market value to remain with the Flames, while management will try to get him re-signed for less than $5 million per on a three-year deal.
MAPLE LEAFS MONSTROSITY
One reason for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent slide in the standings is their shaky goaltending, which has Toronto fans and pundits calling on GM Brian Burke to make changes between the pipes this summer.
The Toronto Sun‘s Dave Hilson suggested pending UFA goalie Jonas Gustavsson doesn’t have many starts left to prove to management he’s worth keeping around.
About the only thing monstrous about ‘The Monster’ is his penchant for giving up weak goals, but of late he seems to have the confidence of new Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, earning the bulk of the starts since Carlyle took over behind the bench.
It’s believed Burke will make a pitch for Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks or Jonathan Bernier of the LA Kings, but both will be targeted by several clubs seeking goaltending depth this summer, so there’s no guarantee Burke will land either.
The free agent market is also desperately thin in quality starters. Evgeni Nabokov, Tomas Vokoun, Ray Emery, Al Montoya, Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen and Chris Mason are the best available options.
If Burke fails to find any upgrades via trades or free agency, don’t rule out the possibility of him re-signing Gustavsson for another year.
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 Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.