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Offseason Preview Part IV: Free Agency



blog-0841799001340981599.jpgAt noon on Sunday the biding war will begin. Large amounts of money will be thrown around, a new Ville Leino will be crowned. Thanks to the poor excuse for a management team in Calgary the free agent market for defenseman just went way up. The Flames handed Dennis Wideman a 5 year 26.25 million dollar contract with a full "no movement" clause. Yes that is a 5.25 millon dollar cap hit for Wideman, people laughing at the Ehrhoff contract (I don't know why) he only has a cap hit of 4 million. Thanks to the Flames players like Matt Carle, Jason Garrison, and Ryan Suter will be rich men soon. Parise will get a boat load of money and the Justin Schultz drama will also finally come to end.

Quickly on Schultz, who does this guy think he is? Never played a game in the league and he is channeling his inner Brad Richards and LeBron James. Inviting only a select list of teams to come down to make a pitch for him to sign with their team. He also demanding that teams guarentee him a roster spot and ice time. A lot of demanding going on for a 22 year old whose never played a NHL game and already turned his back on one NHL franchise, talk about instant pressure.

Anyways onto who I think the Sabres should target in the UFA market.

1. Zach Parise-LW-NJ

Parise is the crown jewel of this year's free agent group. He is fresh off a trip to the stanley cup final as the Devils captain. Parise will proabably demand around 8 million dollars for between 5-7 years. Honestly I think the Sabres chance of landing Parise will be very slim. I think it is going to be a three horse race between Minnesota, Detroit, and NJ. At the end of the day if the skilled winger does not sign back with NJ by Sunday, I think he is just going to use the offers he receives from other teams to go back to NJ and work out a deal. My money is on Parise staying in Newark.

2. Shane Doan-RW-Phoenix

Doan is going to be another highly sought after player July 1. His combination of skill, grit, and leadership will attract many teams. At 35 Doan is looking to sign with a cup contending team. He has been in the Winnipeg/Phoenix organization for 17 years and it is hard to see him leaving the desert. Buffalo again may show they have the money, but will be out classed by the likes of Chicago, Detroit, or Pittsburgh. Buffalo just hasn't shown yet they are just one piece from contending.

3. Guillamue Latendresse-LW-Minnesota

This may a be a bit surprising to some, but I have always liked what Latendresse has done with the Wild and Habs. Latendresse has delt with injuries and concussion issues the last two seasons in Minnesota, but at 25 years old I think he is worth taking a shot at. He can provide some size, grit, and secondary scoring from a 3rd line winger role. Also Latendresse is capiable of playing the two hockey system that Ruff preaches. The French Canadian winger has expressed his desire to play near his family in Montreal and the Sabres can fulfill his desire. I think he is worth taking a flyer on and should come some what cheap for what his potential could be. One or two year deal at 2-2.5 million is doable.

4. Peter Mueller-C-Colorado

Again another young player at the age of 24 that has had injury issues the last two seasons. Mueller has shown the ability to put up points in this league. He can provide size and depth scoring from a third line center roll. Also fits the bill of a two way center. Mueller was offered a qualifying offer by the Avs making him a UFA on July 1. The crop at center is thin this year and Mueller could be a guy worth taking a stab at if the plan is to move Roy and Adam in offseason trades.

5. Jason Arnott-C-St. Louis

Arnott signed a one year deal last season with Blues and provided excellent secondary scoring, leadership, and grit for a young Blues team. At 37 Arnott like Doan, will be looking to sign with a contender for one more shot at a championship. Arnott at 6'5 can provide the size they lost with trading Gaustad and also provide excellent leadership along the way. This may be the kind of signing Buffalo makes next season when they are closer to a championship, however like I said with free agent center being thin it is possible.

Other options for Buffalo could be Ryan Carter, Kyle Wellwood, and Jiri Hudler. With the Free Agent market being so slim Buffalo will take a swing at the top two or three free agents and then turn back to the trade market.

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I always find July 1st an interesting day to see where the players choose to play when given the chance, especially long tenured players.

Brodeur can really shake up the market for goalies if he chooses to sign with anyone else but the Devils.

You can also blame the loophole in the CBA for the Schultz saga. In reality though it is what each of us do when we finish college..... to go out a search for the best fit in the job market......I really can't blame him for wanting to make the most out of his opportunities.

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