Shea Weber to the Red Wings, and other RFA Moves

On Saturday, I took a look at some of the potential free agents-to-be this coming summer. In a relatively thin UFA market, one of the players I discussed just signed a contract extension this morning. Craig Anderson, who I predicted would get a deal in the 4 year, $4M per season range. He re-upped with the Senators for (you guessed it) for years and $3.1875 a year. A little less than what I had predicted, but you can guarantee if he had hit the open market that number would be higher.

Click here to read Saturday’s look at the top 5 (now 4) players available in the UFA market.

I offered a teaser as to who I was going to include in my RFA list the other day when I mentioned that the list included:

A current team captain, a 38 goal scorer, a former 3rd overall pick, an up-and-coming power forward, and the current defense scoring leader

Before I get to that list, there is a notable group of RFA’s who will under no circumstances be leaving their current team. This list includes reigning Rocket Richard trophy winner Steven Stamkos and Norris nominee Drew Doughty.

Now to the fun part…the players who WILL be moving!

A current team captain…

D Shea Weber – Nashville Predators (Current Salary $4.5M)

Weber’s 44 points leads the Predators, and he is by far their most important player. Losing him would be an enormous blow to a team that is already devoid of star quality players. So why would the Predators ever let Weber walk? Shouldn’t they throw a max contract at him before ever letting him walk out the door?

You could make all those arguments, and you’d be right. It would be absolutely disastrous for Nashville to allow Weber to leave, but the decision may not be up to them. He has said that he likes playing there but has said that he wants to play in more of a traditional hockey market, and has made it known that wherever he plays, he wants to play for a contender.

For the penny-pinching Predators, now is the time to pony up and prove it to Weber that they are serious about winning hockey games. However, I just don’t see them doing that. They might elect to trade his negotiating rights to another team in the offseason prior to the start of free agency, that way they will at least get something in return for him. If Weber is allowed to reach market though, my short list of teams that he could wind up with includes two Original Six (and traditional hockey markets) in Montreal and Detroit.

Montreal will be looking to revamp their defense, but they are always in the playoffs. Detroit could be looking for a replacement for Nick Lidstrom if this turns out to be his last year.

Mark it on your calendar: On July 5th, Shea Weber signs a 5 year, $27.5M contract with…an Original Six team.

…a 38 goal scorer…

F Zach Parise – New Jersey Devils ($5M)

Devils fans are hoping and praying that the team can find a way to resign Parise this summer, but I don’t see any chance of that happening. They made their bed when they signed Ilya Kovalchuk to that 15 year, $100M contract, and now they are being suffocated in it.

Depending on how much the salary cap goes up between now and next season (experts are predicting a $2-3M rise), the Devils have as much as $10M (and as little as $7M) to fill out the remaining 6 spots on their roster. Assuming they get 5 of those six players signed to league minimum contracts ($500,000) that takes up $2.5M of that space and they have between $4.5M-$7.5M to sign Parise with.

Parise, as a better than point per game scorer, will command the upper levels of that space, which would put them right back to square one of having zero financial flexibility and being choked by the cap. Also, adding five more league minimum players to their roster will mean that they will lack any kind of talented depth.

The Devils might be better off to let Parise walk and use the money saved to fill out their roster more economically. The Devils have proven they can won games without him, going on a second half tear to pull into the playoff race, all while Parise has been out with a nearly season long knee injury.

I’ve linked this team with a couple of big name free agents now, but I honestly think the Tampa Bay Lightning will be huge players in this years free agency. Steve Yzerman has a ton of cap space to play with and an already talented roster. It might be tough for them to add both Parise and Vokoun (as well as resigning Stamkos), but I don’t think it is impossible. If that came together, you might as well hand the Lightning the Southeast crown next year. Maybe Steve Yzerman learned a thing or two about talking players into taking discounts to play for a winner from Ken Holland? We’ll find out…

So, I’m going out on a limb with this one but…

Mark it down on your calendar: On July 9th, Parise signs a 5 year, $30M contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

…a former 3rd overall pick…

D Zach Bogosian – Atlanta Thrashers ($875,000 + $2.5M in bonuses)

There were rumors of the Thrashers trying to move Bogosian to Detroit at the trade deadline as they shook up a roster that had gone stale. It remains to be seen whether they will resign 2008’s 3rd overall pick.

Bogosian is an enormous kid, at 6’3″ and 215 pounds, and at only 20 years old he is still maturing to the NHL game. He put up 61 points in his final year of junior, and could very well be a 35+ point defenseman in the NHL.

His development has been slowed a bit by injury, including a broken leg and hand in his first two years. The tools are still there though, and whatever team lands him will be better off for it.

Mark it down on your calendar: On July 15 (his 21st birthday), Zach Bogosian signs a 3 year, $10M contract with the New York Rangers, his home town team.

…an up-and-coming power forward…

F Jakub Voracek – Columbus Blue Jackets ($787,500M + $425,00 in bonuses)

Voracek, like Bogosian, was rumored to be available at the deadline, but no deals ever panned out for the young Czech winger.

Despite his style of play and age (he is only 21), he has missed hardly a game in his NHL career, playing 80 games in 2009, 81 in 2010 and 70 so far in 2011.

In his final year of junior, he scored 101 points in 53 games. That’s insane.

He is playing in Rick Nash’s shadow a little bit in Columbus, and maybe won’t emerge into a top-flight power forward until he moves on from Columbus. This might be the time to do so, and teams looking for top 6 forward help should give him a once-over.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are landing a goaltender and a top 6 forward away from actually being a playoff consideration from start to finish, rather than their annual February and March push that sees them fall just short. If they make a big splash and acquire Richards, Bryzgalov and Voracek as I am predicting, then they are in a place to challenge Montreal and Boston for divisional supremacy.

Mark it down on your calendar: On July 20th, Jakub Voracek signs a three year, $8.25M contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

…the defense scoring leader…

D Keith Yandle – Phoenix Coyotes ($1.3M)

Yandle has come out of nowhere and taken the NHL by storm this season, vaulting himself to the top of the defense scoring race. If you followed Phoenix closely last season (haha, that was a joke, no one follows Phoenix closely), you might have seen this coming. He put up 41 points for them without making much in the way of headlines. It was his first full time season in the NHL. He really caught my eye in the playoffs, putting up 5 points in the Coyote’s 7 game loss to the Red Wings.

This year, you could no longer ignore what he was doing down in the desert, and he was named to the NHL All Star game. Teams are constantly on the lookout for a puck-moving defenseman, and at 24 years of age, Yandle could be that guy for many years for the right team.

Phoenix will want to keep him, but if they don’t get their ownership situation straightened out, I can’t see too many players wanting to stay there. My guess is that Yandle stays in the Pacific division, and goes to a rival team who has half of their defense corp coming up as UFA’s and might have to rely on some unproven youngsters next year.

Mark it on your calendar: On July 10th, Keith Yandle signs a 4 year, $14M contract with the San Jose Sharks.

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