Saturday, May 28, 2011

NHL Free Agency 2011: Where Will the Top 12 Forwards Play Next Year?

On July 1, all hell will break loose in the hockey world. It marks the first day of open free agency in the NHL with several big names looking for new homes, and too many teams looking to sign them.

The 2011 NHL free agency is dominated by defense and goaltending this year. Names like Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Kaberle will be coveted by numerous teams, either looking to get their team over the hump or into contention.

But this year's free agency may be dominated by a payer that is not a goaltender or a defenseman.

Brad Richards will most certainly be on the move, and teams will be throwing all they have at the crown jewel of the 2011 NHL free agency.

Besides Richards, though, the talent among forwards in free agency is slim. Let's take a look.

Brad Richards

Although there is a chance that Richards will sign back with Dallas, odds are Richards will want out and play with a true contender for the rest of his career.

The New York Rangers have shown interest in Richards, but because of Dallas' urgency to re-sign him, they will have to move quick, as Richards will be signed no later than by the end of the day on July 1.

Richards will want a reported deal of around $9 million per year for somewhere around eight years.

Odds are Dallas cannot get a deal done that would suffice for Richards, and the Rangers will be laying in wait.

New Team: New York Rangers

Pascal Dupuis

The only reason a team will go after Dupuis in free agency this year is for veteran leadership and moderate scoring.

Coincidentally, there are several teams that could use a little help in the locker room. Dupuis won't exactly hurt a team on his checking and scoring abilities either.

He will be looking for a contract somewhere around $2 million, which will be good enough for a savvy veteran like himself.

Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

Ville Leino
Leino has resurrected his career in Philadelphia this season with 53 points in 81 games.

With that 2011 performance, Leino can expect to see his salary shoot up quite a bit in free agency. He is now looking at somewhere around $3 million, instead of the $800,000 he was making.

Hoping to bank on his 2011 success, I would expect Leino to re-sign with the Flyers.
Team: Philadelphia Flyers

Simon Gagne

Gagne is another free agent that can supply a team with veteran leadership, something that the Tampa Bay Lightning, his current team, could use.

One thing alters Gagne's plan for returning to Tampa Bay, though, and that is the young and talented Steven Stamkos.

Stamkos will be wanting a new contract, as will Gagne, and the Lightning are far more comfortable with throwing handfuls of money at Stamkos than a second line scorer.

Gagne will be moving on, unless he settles for much less.

New team: Washington Capitals

Brooks Laich

Laich will be one of the more coveted players in this free agency based on the fact that he is so versatile.

Laich can play on the penalty kill and power play, and he is built enough to hang right in front of the net, which will put him in high demand on July 1.

He will be demanding a lot, but the Capitals will be grateful to get him back.
Team: Washington Capitals

Zach Parise
Ilya Kovalchuck's ginormous contract will affect the New Jersey Devils in that they will have to part with a goal scorer in Parise.

Parise's 2011 injuries may be of a concern to some teams, but having a goal scorer this young with this talent seems hard to pass up.

Several teams will be pursuing this player very hard.

New team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Alexei Kovalev

Despite being in the league for forever, it seems, Kovalev will be of use to a team looking for a second or third-tier goal scorer.

Kovalev put up a total of 34 points this season with the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Expect him to be heading elsewhere in free agency, or possibly out of the NHL altogether.

New team: KHL

Alex Tanguay

Tanguay may have saved his career in Calgary this past season with 69 points in 79 games.

Because of 2011, Tanguay can expect teams to come calling and wanting his services yet again, something that was not so certain at the beginning of the 2010-11 season.

Now, you can expect Tanguay to fit on some team's roster, maybe even stay in Calgary, if the Flames can muster up the courage, yet again.
Team: Calgary Flames

Scottie Upshall

Upshall's physical abilities will be in high demand this free agency.

Because of uptempo style of play, Upshall can spark a team with just a few hits, which is why teams looking for an aggressive and moderately productive player will get just what they asked for.

New team: Colorado Avalanche

Milan Hejduk

There is zero doubt about this one.

Hejduk has played his entire career in Colorado, and he is now looking for another contract. The contract would most likely be the last of his career.

Fat chance Hejduk signs anywhere other than Colorado.

Team: Colorado Avalanche

Jason Arnott

Arnott's abilities to be a voice in the locker room, as well as in the scoring department, made the Washington Capitals' move at the 2011 trade deadline a smart one.

Although he is getting up there in age, 36, he still can provide a team with a veteran presence, which is why he should get paid around $2 million for this next season.

Odds are, despite his history of stints with multiple teams, Arnott will stay put in Washington.

Team: Washington Capitals

Andrew Brunette

This next contract will most likely be his last, now at age 36.

Teams will pursue him for his scrappy play and an ability to score the occasional goal.

With 18 goals and a total of 46 points this season, Brunette can contribute, but not on the level he once did.

Expect Brunette to wind up back with the Wild.
Team: Minnesota Wild


  1. Parise is restricted and the Devils will use arbitration for a year if they have to.

  2. There was a report that through a trade the Maple Leafs could acquire him.