Part 'B' of the second in a series of posts on the UFA market that will hit this coming off-season. Part 'A' is directly above this one.
Who to target?
For my money I like (from each group):
Skoula / Vishnevski
Melichar / Scuderi
Weaver / Huskins
The first team to offer Andrei Markov $5 mill /yr for 9 yrs is the smartest team out there imo. He doesn't have the kind of game that deteriorates with age, he already plays at the $4.5 mill+ level and a 9 yr contract is inflation protected out the wazoo. Montreal would be insane to let him go so I don't expect they will - look for a 3 yr deal at $5.0 mill /yr.
Hannan and Poti are both nice plays in the $3.5 - 4.0 mill /yr range but I expect Poti to be gunning for $4.5 - 5.0 mill /yr; at that price take Hannan. Last thing a team should do is sign either player to a short-term deal. Both are nearing their primes and one really good season makes them sure-fire $5 mill+ players. Again, with these two, go long or go home. Poti will probably stay with the Islanders while Hannan will reach the silly season. Lowe will make a play for Hannan if available.
Lukowich has always been a favorite of mine and New Jersey would be insane to let him go given his price. Expect a 3 yr deal in the $1.5 - 1.8 mill /yr range. He is a steal at that rate. I like Tjarnqvist because he is better than most think and he is cheap like Lukowich. Expect him to go UFA and get signed short term in the $1.5 - 1.8 mill /yr range. I like Tampa Bay for him.
The 'tough' Markov may be tired of being a gypsy and his play in Detroit has been excellent so I expect him to get a 3 yr offer there in the $2.6 - 2.8 mill /yr range.
Skoula and Vishnevski are two players who are just entering their primes, have played a lot of games and have, hopefully, learned all they need to. I expect both to hit UFA status and both to get 2 yr deals at $1.8 - 2.0 mill /yr.
Tanabe has been around the block a few times and is only 25. He has learned how to play defense and still has some offensive potential in him. He represents, to me, one of the great value signings this entire UFA season. The team smart enough to sign him to a four or five year deal at a decent price (say $1.5 - 1.8 mill /yr) just signed a cornerstone #4 d-man for cheap. Expect Carolina to re-sign him to a shorter term deal however - especially if Wesley retires.
Preissing has great counting numbers but plays butter minutes. I expect some team to horribly overpay him and then horribly mis-use him. If I am a team that can afford that I pay him the $2.0 - 2.5 mill /yr he wants and play him on the PP and against the weakest competition I can. I also sign him really long term because it ain't worth it to have him leave AFTER he has a 50 pt season.
Zanon is the total wildcard out of this group. Played a whack of PP minutes but didn't score much. Does he have offensive skill? Averaging 4.11 min /gm on the PP I have to think he had some. I am intrigued to say the least. I expect him to re-sign with Nashville but if he goes UFA I think a lot of teams would be smart to take a flyer on the guy in the 900k /yr range.
Hejda is, to me, the real deal. The guy totally solidified the defensive pairing he played on. Being a veteran from Europe he simply didn't need the babysitting the rookies did. I fully expect Lowe to re-sign him for 2 yrs at $1.0 - 1.2 mill /yr.
Having followed his stats for years I like Pratt as an underpriced veteran (much like Lukowich). A smart team looking for solid depth will pick him up. I expect him to hit UFA status, given Tampa's budget issues, and I expect a 3 yr deal at $1.2 - 1.3 mill /yr. A steal at that price.
As mentioned, Melichar and Scuderi are two players that Pittsburgh has paid the training costs on. Scooping them from Pittsburgh is just smart player asset management. Much like Pratt I expect these two to get 3 yr deals in the $1.2 - 1.3 mill /yr range. Cheap, cheap price to pay.
Weaver and Huskins are depth player gambles. Short term deals at low dollars and then cross your fingers and hope it all works out. Expect less than 800k for each.
deVries and Rivet represent the grizzled veteran corps that was once overpaid and now returned to earth (part of the reason as to why there is a new CBA). No mistake though - solid veterans that play a lot of minutes in important roles. Expect they will want long-term deals in the $2.0 - 2.5 mill /yr range. They are worth that imo.
Niinimaa... not just because I am sentimental. Niinimaa is old-school hockey and he loves the game - he may very well sign for REALLY low dollars just to get a chance to prove himself. Anything less than 900k could be a bargain.
So that is the defensemen. Were I Lowe and I was going to play it conservatively ('make-the-play-offs') I make my plays for:
-- Markov (A.), Hannan, Tanabe, Hejda, Lukowich, deVries, Skoula, Pratt, Melichar, Scuderi, Tjarnqvist and Niinimaain in that order.
If I treat my team as a rebuild it moves deVries down to the bottom of the list.
Snagging Tanabe, Lukowich and Hejda would be a great UFA season imo (cheap adds that would be very effective) - beaten only be getting any one of Markov or Hannan.
Have a great evening everyone.