In terms of hockey news, there really isn't much of an off-season anymore.
The NHL Awards are on Thursday. The draft comes up a week later on June 22-23 in Columbus. And then, of course, is the mammoth trip to the free agency trough on July 1, which this year with a cap figure hitting the $50-million mark will be it's usual old self — hockey's version of the sin of gluttony.
I guess the only question is: When do you start pumping out the free agency speculation? The 'who goes where?' business is going to be unbelievably complex this year, as by my count there are 110-120 significant UFAs, or roughly 20 per cent of the league, up for grabs.
That's a group made up of around 60 forwards, 40 defencemen and 10-15 goaltenders who can make an impact on a roster, and with teams like the Islanders with only $20-million committed to their payroll, it could get messy.
In an expensive sort of way.
The Grade A free agents — J-S Giguere, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Scott Gomez, Ryan Smyth, etc. — are going to be due anywhere from $5.5- to $7.5-million, and with the individual max set for $10-million, we could see figures even higher than that. I've heard figures in the neighbourhood of a seven-year, $49-million contract for Smyth in Long Island, and that's the type of deal that would get done early and set the bar high.
There's a team that is looking for the next face of its franchise, and given past history, a ridiculous term is the only way to go.
As long as you don't mind buyouts.
Other than a week-long hiatus in the week leading up to the draft, I'm should be around most of this summer. Just when we start wading into this free agency frenzy, however, I'm not sure.
One thing's for certain: Fans of the 28 teams who weren't in the finals have suddenly perked up, and there's actually more demand for hockey news now than there was last week during the Anaheim-Ottawa tilt.
It's a curious thing when interest in the NHL actually dips during the pinnacle of the on-ice action — and peaks when everyone's throwing money around.
Labels: free agency