Free Agency Buzz
*The Atlanta Thrashers will be shopping for wingers this off-season. Contract talks with winger Maxim Afinogenov have gone nowhere and Colby Armstrong has already made his intentions known that he intends to test free agency.
Afinogenov, 30, is coming off a breakout season scoring 24 goals and 61 points. Afinogenov is looking for a significant raise over his $800,000 salary from 2009-2010 but a stumbling block in talks with the Thrashers has been the term of the contract.
Afinogenov is seeking a mult-year deal and Thrashers management doesn’t appear ready to commit beyond two years.
Look for Alexei Ponikarovsky to be a target of the Thrashers.
*Hurricanes winger Ray Whitney and Sabres winger Raffi Torres will test free agency. Both were primary targets of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the trade deadline.
Whitney, 38, made $3.5 million last season. Torres made $2.75 million.
*The market for defensemen will be extremely strong headlined by Anton Volchenkov, Sergei Gonchar, Dan Hamhuis and Paul Martin. It is a deep group with also a number of intriguing mid-tier defenseman such as Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek.
*Pittsburgh found a replacement for Jarkko Ruutu in Matt Cooke and if talks with Cooke were to surprisingly break off, many believe Philadelphia’s Aaron Asham will be a cheaper viable option for Pittsburgh. Asham played well in Philadelphia’s uptempo system after the coaching change.
Asham, 32, had 10 goals and 24 points in the regular season along with 7 points in the post-season. Asham made $640,000 in 2009-2010.
* On the trade front, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to actively engage in trade talks surrounding defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Reportedly there has been interest from over 5 teams.
However, teams such as the Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets that have expressed interest, remain unlikely suitors as the chances of Kaberle considering to re-sign with any of the four is slim.
Hence, Kaberle still has some power on dictating his future despite not having a no trade clause. A team that doesn’t have a strong chance to resign Kaberle won’t meet the Maple Leafs high trade demands.
Kaberle has one year remaining on his deal.
Kaberle I’m told wants to remain in the Eastern Conference and the top suitors remain teams that Kaberle would previously accept a trade to when he had a no trade clause. The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers remain viable suitors.
*The Ottawa Senators are expected to shop the rights of defenseman Anton Volchenkov at the NHL draft.