A look at what teams in the Atlantic Divison are going to do when free agency begins
1. New Jersey Devils 107 pts first place in Atlantic division
The Devils are most likely going to lose Scott Gomez to free agency but that still doesn’t leave them much cap room. Lou hasn’t been that successful managing up against the cap and its going to be interesting to see where he sees his club moving forward. Does he try o replace Gomez through trade of free agency or does he build from within? The signings of Alexander Mogilny and Vlad Malakhov in 05 have hampered the Devils in free agency the past couple years but despite the strong possibility of losing Scott Gomez they will not be a major player this year in free agency.
What i would do: The Devils 1st priority is re-signing defenseman Brian Rafalski. Their second priority is signing restricted free agent Zach Parise. Both are vital parts to the teams long term plans. After that i would look for a second line center in 3 million per season price range to replace Gomez. Other than that build from within.
Latest rumors: The Devils have interest in Bill Guerin and Robert Lang.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins 105 pts second place
The Penguins have been rumored to sign just about every defenseman on the block this off-season. Their top two targets are Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan and Red Wings defenseman Danny Markov. The Penguins first case of business is signing Ryan Whitney to a long term extension which they are apparently close to doing. Another issue facing the team is to find a winger for Sidney Crosby.
What i would do: I believe in building around your superstar. The Penguins need to find a winger for Sidney Crosby asap. The Penguins have no chance at the top tier free agents and other than Bill Guerin and Paul Kariya there isn’t a good fit. As much as i don’t want to write this but what about Jason Blake? If the Penguins could sign him to a 3yr deal worth no more than 3.5 per season he would be my first option. That is unlikely so i would send a offer to Bill Guerin. On defense my first candidate would be Scott Hannan. He would be perfect in a Pens uniform but he is a long shot at the best. My next option would Danny Markov who could be signed at a reasonable price of 2.5 – 3 million per season.
My prediction: Penguins sign Danny Markov and do not sign a winger for Sidney Crosby.
3. New york Rangers 94pts
The Rangers are coming off of a successful playoff run thanks to a 1st round matchup against the Atlanta Thrashers and could be a major player in free agency. They have been rumored to be going after Scott Gomez and Chris Drury but if they sign one of the two they will not be able to address other needs. The Rangers are also seeking a puck moving defenseman and are high on Brian Rafalski and have pursued a trade for Predators defenseman Marek Zidlicky.
What i would do: First off i would pass on signing Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. Both are not worth 8 million per season and Neither are capable of carrying a team. I would save the 8-10 million and take a shot at Brian Rafalski and if he is off the market, i would try to move Petr Prucha for Marek Zidlicky. Resign Brendan Shanahan is a priority, as is re-signing Michael Nylander.
4. New York Islanders 4th place 92pts
Darren Dreger of TSN is reporting the New York Islanders are going to offer Ryan Smith a deal he won t be able to resist. The rumored deal is a 6yr – 48 million deal. I can’t see Smyth re-signing considering how terrible it must be going from playing in front of fans in Edmonton to 8,000 empty seats in Long Islander.
What i would do: Resign Jason Blake and make a run at Scott Hannan. Unless Smyth would sign for 5 -6 million per season i would let him walk. Scott Hannan would be a perfect fit for the Isles. Latest rumors: The Isles are interested in Scott Gomez. Don’t see it happening
5. Philadelphia Flyers 5th place 56 pts
The Flyers have already made a big splash even before free agency began signing Scott Hartnel and Kimo Timonen to 6 yr deals worth over 60 million combined. They might have overpaid but it made them a much improved team. The latest rumor has the Flyers trading young talented defenseman Joni Pitkanen for a 32 yr old hack from the Carolina Hurricanes. Sounds like Bob Clarke is behind this deal. The Flyers are expect to make a run at Scott Gomez and Daniel Briere. With the deadline deals of Marty Biron, Scottie Upshall, and Braydon Coburn the Flyers were a improved team at the end of last season will could be climbing back to the pact of the Atlantic division if they sign a #1 center
What i would do: Either keep Pitkanen or find a much better deal. Second Sign Daniel Briere. He is the most dynamic player in the free agent pool and would be a great addition for the Flyers. If he re-signs in Buffalo, i would take a run at Gomez. Although he’s not worth 8 million per season he would be a good fit Philly. Although i dislike the Flyers i wish them well because the NHL needs big markets like them and Chicago to do well.