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Through the Looking Glass to July 1 – Assessing the Market for Forwards

Posted By Corey Krakower On Apr 18 2010 @ 2:50 pm In Around The Rinks | 2 Comments

In the last of three segments previewing the offseason UFA market; this edition will look at each team’s group of forwards, specifically players under contract, RFAs, top prospects and unrestricted free agents. With that information, an overall assessment is provided, as to what each team’s plan of attack should be heading into the offseason.

The March 27 preview of the D market can be found here [1].

The April 3 preview of the G market can be found here [2].


Signed: Perry, Getzlaf, Lupul, Blake, Marchant, Parros, Brown, Carter, Sexton, Bodie, Beleskey

RFAs: Ryan, Chipchura

Top prospects: Deschamps, Bonino, McMillan, Holland, Palmieri

UFAs: Selanne, Koivu

PLAN: On paper, the Ducks have 13 returning forwards, but it is no secret that they plan on acquiring a second line center to play with Lupul and Blake. Regarding the bottom 6 Fs, what you see is what you get, although Deschamps and Bonino will be given every chance to make the team out of training camp.


Signed: Antropov, Kane, White, Peverley, Reasoner, Thorburn

RFAs: MacArthur, Little, Bergfors

Top prospects: Klingberg, Cormier, Morin, Machacek, Holzapfel, O’Dell

UFAs: Afinogenov, Kozlov, Armstrong, Artyukhin, Slater, Boulton

PLAN: The Thrashers will be looking for 2 top 9 forwards and 2 depth players. They will attempt to re-sign Afinogenov and Armstrong to fill the “top 9” spots. If they are unable to come to terms, they will look to other UFAs. To round out the 13, expect a depth UFA to be signed and at least one of their many good prospects to make the jump. Top candidates will be Cormier, Machacek and Holzapfel.


Signed: Bergeron, Lucic, Savard, Ryder, Sturm, Krejci

RFAs: Wheeler, Paille, Sobotka

Top prospects: Caron, Colborne, Marchand, Hamill, Arniel

UFAs: Recchi, Satan, Begin, Thornton

PLAN: The top 3 centers are penciled in with Savard, Bergeron and Krejci. The fourth line will likely be Paille-Sobotka-Marchand. Lucic, Ryder, Sturm and Wheeler make up 4 of the 6 wingers on the top 3 lines. That leaves 2 winger spots to fill and a depth player. One of Caron or Colborne will crack the roster (or perhaps Tyler Seguin?), and the remaining 2 slots will be filled by UFAs on short term deals.


Signed: Vanek, Roy, Pominville, Hecht, Connolly, Stafford, Gaustad

RFAs: Kennedy, Kaleta

Top prospects: Ennis, Gerbe, Kassian, Adam

UFAs: Torres, Grier, Mair, Ellis

PLAN: With Ennis and Gerbe virtually locks to be NHL regulars next year, the Sabres will only need to fill 2 spots up front over the summer. I could see them attempting to re-sign Raffi Torres, as well as another veteran forward with some playoff experience.


Signed: Iginla, Bourque, Stajan, Langkow, Hagman, Kotalik, Backlund, Moss, Glencross, Dawes

RFAs: N / A

Top prospects: Nemisz, Wahl, Howse

UFAs: Higgins, Mayers, Conroy, Nystrom, McGratton

PLAN: With 10 forwards returning, the Flames will not make too many additions during the offseason. Greg Nemisz should contend for a spot on the top 3 lines, while the Flames will add some more grit, toughness and experience via the UFA market in the form of a 4th line center and a depth winger.


Signed: Staal, Ruutu, Brind’Amour, Cole, Samsonov, Jokinen, Larose, Sutter, Boychuk, Kostopoulos, Dwyer

RFAs: Tlusty

Top prospects: Bowman, Terry, Dalpe, Osala, Samson

UFAs: Whitney

PLAN: The Canes have 11 forwards under contract, and when you add in Tlusty (RFA) and probably prospect Drayson Bowman, you are basically looking at Carolina’s forwards for 2010-11. The possibility exists that Brind’Amour could retire and Samsonov could be bought out, so nothing is set in stone.


Signed: Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, Versteeg, Byfuglien, Brouwer, Kopecky

RFAs: Ladd, Fraser, Eager

Top prospects: Beach, Sweatt, Aliu, Kruger, Bickell, Skille

UFAs: Madden, Burish

PLAN: The only missing piece is a center to play on one of their top 3 lines, and that could be addressed by re-signing John Madden or a comparable UFA. They have prospects that are ready to make the jump, but that won’t happen until they can unload some big salaries to make room for them.


Signed: Stastny, Duchene, O’Reilly, Hejduk, Galiardi, McLeod, Jones

RFAs: Mueller, Stewart, Yip, Porter

Top prospects: Tessier, Stoa

UFAs: Svatos, Tucker, Yelle, Koci, Hendricks, Durno

PLAN: Colorado will have 3 tasks in the offseason regarding their forwards. Re-sign their 4 RFAs. Sign an impact UFA that can play LW (Marleau? Kovalchuk?), or trade for one. Decide if Ryan Stoa is capable of being their fourth line center or if they should find a short term solution in the form of a UFA. My guess is that they’ll give Stoa the chance to prove himself at the NHL level.


Signed: Nash, Vermette, Huselius, Brassard, Voracek, Umberger, Pahlsson, Clark, Murray, Dorsett

RFAs: Boll, Blunden

Top prospects: Filatov, Mayorov, Calvert

UFAs: N / A

PLAN: The Jackets actually have a pretty good offense, and there will not be much change in the offseason. With Murray, Dorsett, Boll and Blunden making up the fourth line, there is really only one spot on the roster up for grabs, which is the LW position on the third line with Pahlsson and Clark. Columbus will look to one of their prospects to fill that role. Expect Filatov to be traded as well.


Signed: Richards, Ribeiro, Eriksson, Morrow, Ott, Benn, Wandell, Sutherby, Segal, Petersen

RFAs: Neal

Top prospects: Glennie

UFAs: Modano, Lehtinen, Barch, Brunnstrom (RFA not expected to be re-signed)

PLAN: Due to financial constraints, the Stars will not be major players this summer. James Neal will be re-signed, and Scott Glennie will probably be one of Dallas’ top 9 forwards. That leaves 1 open roster spot that could be filled by Lehtinen or Modano if they want to return, although all indications are that Modano is retiring. The more likely scenario is that they will fill out their roster with an affordable UFA.


Signed: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Filppula, Cleary, Draper, Hudler (probably returning)

RFAs: Helm, Miller, Eaves

Top prospects: Abdelkader, Tatar, Nyquist, Mursak, Ritola, Ferraro

UFAs: Holmstrom, Bertuzzi, Williams, Maltby, May

PLAN: The Red Wings forwards are aging and the time has come to slowly bring in prospects over the next 2-3 years, a process that will start this summer. With 10 returning forwards (including Hudler), the Wings will try to sign Bertuzzi and Holmstrom which would bring that number to 12. The final 2 spot will be filled with a younger player, which is most probably Justin Abdelkader.


Signed: Hemsky, Penner, Horcoff, O’Sullivan, Moreau, Nilsson, Jones, Stortini

RFAs: Gagner, Cogliano, Brule, Pouliot, Stone, Potulny, Jacques

Top prospects: Eberle, Paajarvi-Svensson, Omark

UFAs: Pisani, Comrie

PLAN: The Oilers have 15 “returning players”, and they will need to make room for Eberle, Pajjarvi-Svensson, whoever they draft at #1 overall and possibly the recently signed Linus Omark. They will not be active on the UFA market at all; rather their entire focus will be on moving guys out. There will be a flurry of trades, buyouts and RFAs not tendered qualifying offers that will drastically change the makeup of this group.


Signed: Booth, Horton, Stillman, Weiss, Olesz, Reinprecht, Dvorak, Frolik, Matthias, Bitz

RFAs: Campbell, Krepps, Tarnasky

Top prospects: Repik, McArdle, Oreskovich, Dadonov, Shore

UFAs: N / A

PLAN: The Panthers have a surplus of NHL forwards and prospects that they want to bring in. Therefore, Florida will be actively shopping players, perhaps buying some guys out and it wouldn’t surprise me if one, two or even all three of their RFAs were not offered contracts. You can be sure of one thing; the Panthers organization will be very active this summer even though they won’t be pursing UFAs.

Los Angeles

Signed: Kopitar, Smyth, Brown, Williams, Simmonds, Handzus, Stoll

RFAs: Clune, Richardson, Parse

Top prospects: Schenn, Loktionov, Moller, Kozun

UFAs: Modin, Frolov, Halpern, Ivanans

PLAN: The Kings have 7 forwards signed to contracts, all of whom are in their top 9, and their probable 4th line consists of their 3 RFAs. With 3 roster spots available, look for 2 prospects to make the team permanently (Schenn and Moller), and expect the Kings to go hard after a high profile LW like Kovalchuk or Marleau.


Signed: Havlat, Bouchard, Koivu, Kobasew, Miettinen, Brunette, Clutterbuck, Wellman, Brodziak

RFAs: Latendresse, Sheppard

Top prospects: Gillies

UFAs: Nolan, Boogaard, Ebbett

PLAN: The Wild have 11 of their 13 forward spots spoken for between signed players and RFAs. Minnesota will target a veteran center on the UFA market, and the final roster spot will likely go to a Colton Gillies or one of Derek Boogaard and Owen Nolan.


Signed: Cammalleri, Gomez, Gionta, A. Kostitsyn, Moen

RFAs: Pouliot, S. Kostitsyn, Lapierre, Pyatt

Top prospects: Maxwell, Trotter, Pacioretty, Leblanc, Kristo, Palushaj, White

UFAs: Plekanec, Moore, Metropolit, Darche, Laraque (probable buyout)

PLAN: The Canadiens are expected to try to retain Plekanec and Moore. Assuming they are successful, that will mean the Habs will have only 2 spots left up front. Since they are already close to the cap, players like Pacioretty, Maxwell, Trotter and Palushaj will be part of a fierce training camp battle, with the 2 winners being awarded a chance to play for the Montreal Canadiens.


Signed: Arnott, Erat, Legwand, Dumont, Sullivan, Wilson, Ward, Tootoo, Spaling, O’Reilly, Smithson, Goc

RFAs: Hornqvist, Boyd

Top prospects: Geoffrion, Mike Santorelli, Budish, Beck, Bourque

UFAs: Belak

PLAN: The Predators will proceed as per usual this coming offseason. Any vacant roster spots will be used to promote internally, although with 12 players under contract and 2 RFAs, their roster will remain as is.

New Jersey

Signed: Elias, Parise, Rolston, Zubrus, Zajac, Langenbrunner, Pandolfo, Leblond, Peters, Zharkov

RFAs: Clarkson, Pelley

Top prospects: Josefson, Tedenby, Halischuk, Palmieri

UFAs: Kovalchuk, Niedermayer, McCammond

PLAN: Plan A for the Devils is to re-sign Kovalchuk and perhaps promote 1 prospect internally if they let one of Pelley walk or buyout Peters. If Kovalchuk doesn’t re-sign, I expect that they will be more than happy to move forward with their current roster and pool of young players.

New York Islanders

Signed: Tavares, Hunter, Bailey, Okposo, Comeau, Nielsen, T. Gillies

RFAs: Moulson, Schremp, Bergenheim, Tambellini

Top prospects: Petrov, Rakhshani, Joensuu

UFAs: Weight, Park, Sim, Jackman

PLAN: Right now, the Isles have 11 players returning for next year. That could change if they do not tender qualifying offers to some of their RFAs. Regardless, the Islanders will bank on at least one of their top prospects cracking the roster next year. They may look to the UFA market for a veteran center on a 1 year deal.

New York Rangers

Signed: Gaborik, Drury, Dubinsky, Callahan, Avery, Anisimov, Voros, Boyle

RFAs: Christensen, Lisin, Prust

Top prospects: Zuccarello-Aasen, Grachev, Kreider, Stepan

UFAs: Jokinen, Prospal, Shelley

PLAN: With the recently signed Zuccarello-Aasen and prospect Evgeny Grachev looking to lock up spots with the Rangers next year, the only way the Rangers are active on the free agent market would be if they either unload some salary via trade or if they let don’t sign some of their RFAs. Until that happens, the Rangers roster looks like it is pretty much set at the forward position.


Signed: Spezza, Alfredsson, Fisher, Michalek, Kovalev, Kelly, Neil, Ruutu, Shannon

RFAs: Foligno, Regin, Winchester

Top prospects: B. Butler, Z. Smith, Daugavins, Silfverberg

UFAs: Cullen, Donovan, Cheechoo (expected buyout)

PLAN: The majority of Ottawa’s forwards are returning next year, so don’t expect the Sens to be very active in the offseason. The lone vacant roster spot will likely go to one of Zack Smith / Bobby Butler.


Signed: Briere, Richards, Carter, Gagne, van Riemsdyk, Giroux, Hartnell, Leino, Lapperiere, Betts, Cote

RFAs: Powe, Carcillo

Top prospects: Legein

UFAs: Asham

PLAN: Between players under contract and RFAs, the Flyers are already at 13 forwards for next year. However, look for them to make room for RW Stefan Legein who has done very well in the AHL this year after being traded for Columbus. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they let one of Carcillo / Powe go in order to open up a spot to re-sign Aaron Asham.


Signed: Doan, Vrbata, Prucha, Fiddler, Nokelainen, Korpikoski, Bissonnette

RFAs: Wolski, Upshall, Hanzal, Winnik

Top prospects: MacLean, Boedker, Turris, Tikhonov

UFAs: Lombardi, Stempniak, Lang, Pyatt

PLAN: Until the ownership situation of this team is resolved, things will continue to be unclear player-wise. In addition to their 11 forwards that are signed or RFA, they will try to re-sign Stempniak and Lombardi, but it’s very possible they go elsewhere on July 1. If they are unsuccessful, the Coyotes appear ready to look internally in order to promote some of their promising young players.


Signed: Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kunitz, Dupuis, Talbot, Rupp, Kennedy, Godard, Adams

RFAs: N / A

Top prospects: Tangradi, Jeffrey

UFAs: Ponikarovsky, Cooke, Guerin, Fedotenko

PLAN: The Penguins will in all likelihood try to re-sign Ponikarovsky (or a similar top 6 winger) and Matt Cooke this offseason. It’s also expected that top prospect Eric Tangradi will be a full-time Penguin next year. That’s it for the Pens in terms of addressing their forwards, as they’ll be focusing most of their attention on their defense.

San Jose

Signed: Heatley, Thornton, Clowe, Mitchell, Couture, McGinn

RFAs: Pavelski, Setoguchi, Staubitz

Top prospects: Zalewski, Ferriero

UFAs: Marleau, Malhotra, Nichol, Ortmeyer

PLAN: San Jose has a lot of work to do this summer. First they need to sign RFAs Setoguchi and Pavelski which will cost them at least $6 million dollars. Once they hammer out those contracts, they will only have 9 roster spots spoken for, and will therefore need to sign 4 UFAs, especially considering how weak their prospect pool is. The big question is if one of those UFAs will be Patrick Marleau.

St. Louis

Signed: McDonald, Boyes, Backes, Oshie, Berglund, McClement, Crombeen

RFAs: Steen, Perron, D’Agostini, King, Janssen

Top prospects: Eller, Sonne, McRae

UFAs: Kariya, Tkachuk (retiring), Winchester

PLAN: The Blues have only 1 roster spot to fill, and it is a virtual certainty that Lars Eller will be a member of the St. Louis Blues at the start of next season. I wouldn’t rule out a possibility where St. Louis only sign one of King / Janssen, and then go ahead and sign an impact forward on July 1 or trade for one.

Tampa Bay

Signed: Stamkos, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Malone, Fedoruk

RFAs: Downie, Purcell, Thompson

Top prospects: Ashton, Panik, Tyrell, Wright

UFAs: Tanguay, Veilleux, Konopka, Bochenski

PLAN: Once a new GM and coach are hired, there will be significant roster turnover starting this offseason. In addition to the 8 forwards that will be returning next year, expect a minimum of 2, and as many as 3 or 4 of their top prospects to make the team right out of camp. They will fill out the rest of the roster with UFAs, but the main goal will be turning the team over to their young core. As per usual, expect rumors of Lecavalier and St. Louis being traded to dominate offseason headlines.


Signed: Kessel, Bozak, Grabovski, Stalberg, Caputi, Sjostrom, Orr

RFAs: Kulemin, Hanson, J. Mitchell

Top prospects: Kadri, Irwin, D’Amigo, Paradis, DiDomenico, Stefanovich

UFAs: Primeau, Wallin, Lundmark

PLAN: The Leafs will be very active this offseason in terms of revamping their forwards. With only 3 spots to fill, expect Nazem Kadri and Brayden Irwin (or 2 other prospects) to make the team. You can count on Brian Burke trying to sign an impact player on July 1, but if he fails to do so, he will dangle Kaberle and Grabovski as trade bait to try and get his hands on a #1 center for Kessel, and a top 6 winger to provide some more scoring.


Signed: H. Sedin, D. Sedin, Kesler, Samuelsson, Burrows, Bernier, Grabner, Hordichuk, Rypien

RFAs: Raymond, Hansen, Glass

Top prospects: Hodgson, Shirokov, Schroeder, Rodin

UFAs: Demitra, Wellwood, Johnson

PLAN: With Kesler now signed, the Canucks won’t have much work to do this summer when it comes to forwards. Cody Hodgson will in all likelihood be Vancouver’s #3 center, which further solidifies a group of forwards that already features 6 25+ goal scorers.


Signed: Ovechkin, Semin, Knuble, Laich, Chimera, Steckel, Bradley

RFAs: Backstrom, Fleischmann, Fehr, B. Gordon

Top prospects: Johansson, Della Rovere, Eakin, Perreault

UFAs: Belanger, Walker, Morrison, Laing

PLAN: The Capitals have some very strong NHL-ready prospects that are ready to contend for roster spots next year. With 2 openings, Washington will give Johansson, Della Rovere and Perreault a chance to prove themselves in training camp.

There are 97 forwards who will be unrestricted free agents on July 1, a number that will increase once teams buyout certain players and choose not to re-sign various RFAs. Also, with teams being more conscious of the cap than ever, and with an expected influx of good, young, affordable prospects, there will not be as much action on the UFA market as we are used to. There are a lot of veterans over the age of 35 who may decide to retire and there are a number of decent Europeans who may go back to Europe for more dollars and more prominent roles. Besides a few big names at the top, namely Kovalchuk, Marleau and Plekanec, most of the other players will have to settle for below market value, seeing as the supply of players is very high, and the demand for lower end top 6 forwards and decent third line checkers is pretty low.

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