An updated list of this summer’s top UFAs, plus the latest on Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, Mike Fisher, Andrej Sekera, Devan Dubnyk and more.
Updated listing of the top 15 NHL UFAs.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox provides an updated list of this summer’s top 15 NHL unrestricted free agents. Starting at number 15 and working upward to number one. the top pendings UFAs are:
15. Washington Capitals winger Joel Ward,
14. Winnipeg Jets winger Michael Frolik,
13. LA Kings winger Justin Williams,
12. Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin,
11. San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi,
10. Ducks winger Matt Beleskey,
9. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff,
8. Penguins blueliner Paul Martin,
7. Chicago Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette,
6. Boston Bruins center Carl Soderberg,
5. New York Rangers winger Martin St. Louis,
4. Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk,
3. Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green,
2. Nashville Predators defenseman Cody Franson, and
1. Predators center Mike Ribeiro.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m sure there will be debate over Fox’s ranking, but there’s no question there isn’t a genuine superstar in the bunch. St. Louis used to be a superstar, and he’s a future Hall of Famer, but he turns 40 this summer and is definitely on the downside of his career. He’s on pace for his lowest numbers (24 goals, 57 points) over a full season since his 40 points in 78 games back in 2001-02.
Collection of rumors from Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Sharks’ struggles to reach the playoffs and infighting between Sharks star Joe Thornton and GM Doug Wilson could spell the beginning of the end for the latter. Garrioch also believes coach Todd McLellan will be replaced. If Thornton and Patrick Marleau once again refuse to waive their no-movement clauses, Garrioch raises the possibility of buying them out, though he acknowledges that would be a drastic step.
In the wake of Nazem Kadri’s recent suspension by the Toronto Maple Leafs, his contract talks this summer could get interesting. Garrioch speculates Kadri’s agents could seek more than the $5.5 million annually former Leaf David Clarkson is making. Kadri is earning $2.9 million annually on his current deal.
The Calgary Flames could have an interesting negotiation with goaltender Karri Ramo, a UFA this summer earning $2.75 million this season. Ramo will attract interest this summer from teams seeking goaltending depth.
Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan could be replaced this summer, but he’s not worried about his long-term future.
The Nashville Predators have opened contract talks with center Mike Fisher, who isn’t likely to sign elsewhere this summer.
Changes could be coming to the St. Louis Blues this summer if they fail to go deep into this year’s playoffs.
With the New Jersey Devils poised to miss the playoffs for the third straight season, some are wondering about the future of Devils long-time GM and president Lou Lamoriello.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I raised the same point about Wilson’s future yesterday. They could buy out Thornton and Marleau but I agree with Garrioch it would be a drastic step. Of course, if Wilson maintains the full support of ownership, that step could be a possibility…Kadri has arbitration rights this summer, which will definitely add more intrigue to his contract negotiations…With Jonas Hiller signed past this season and promising Joni Ortio waiting in the wings, Ramo could hit the UFA market this summer…Poor Ted Nolan, he can’t seem to stick with one NHL team for long. It’ll be a pity if he’s fired again by the Sabres. It’s not his fault management gave him such a crappy roster to work with. Scotty Bowman at his best couldn’t turn this year’s Sabres into a playoff contender…Mike Fisher will stay with the Predators…Perhaps the Blues shakeup might happen behind the bench if they suffer another earlier playoff departure? I think their biggest issue isn’t coaching (Ken Hitchcock is one of the best in the business) but goaltending. I don’t see their current tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen carrying them on a long playoff run…I doubt Lamoriello’s going anywhere. News I’ve read out of New Jersey suggests he’ll still be running the Devils when next season begins.
Updates on Sekera and Dubnyk.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance reports the recent contract signings for the NY Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk and NY Rangers’ Marc Staal could have an interesting effect upon the value of LA Kings pending UFA blueliner Andrej Sekera.
Custance also wondered if goalie Devan Dubnyk, who has saved the Minnesota Wild’s season, has a long-term future in Minnesota. Josh Harding’s contract comes off the Wild’s books this summer and it’s likely they’ll buy out the final season of Niklas Backstrom’s deal, leaving Darcy Kuemper as their only goalie under contract beyond this season. Custance believes Wild management has to be absolutely certain the version of Dubnyk they’re currently seeing is going to remain that way beyond this season. They must also consider viable free-agent (Antti Niemi, Viktor Fasth, Jhonas Enroth) and trade options, like the NY Rangers backup Cam Talbot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the lack of depth in quality UFA talent this summer, Sekera could earn a healthy raise over his $2.75 million salary for this season…If Dubnyk plays well in the offseason the Wild will try to re-sign him, though term could be a bigger issue than dollars. The Wild could seek a three-year deal at most, while the Dubnyk camp could want a longer deal.