With the NHL free agency period starting Friday. I will rank rank the top 5 RFA’s and UFA’s at each position on offense. Today I will rank the top 5 RFA’s and UFA’s at center. The 2012 NHL Draft is headlined by defense despite the top pick being an offensive player so if Dallas wants to find offense they have to do it in 2011.
The Dallas Stars hit the jackpot on defense adding 3 future defenders to their roster during the 2011 NHL Draft.
Top 5 RFA Centers
1. Steven Stamkos C Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay should resign Stamkos. Getting Stamkos will require a team to surrender 4 first round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning can always resign Stamkos or match the other teams offer if they don’t want to lose Stamkos. Tampa Bay may not have the cap room to match a hugh salary so Yzerman may take the draft picks and run.
2. Brandon Dubinsky C New York Rangers I don’t think the Rangers will have the money to resign Dubinsky if they pursue Brad Richards like everyone expects them to. Dubinsky makes 1.8 million a year. He wants a two year deal worth double that getting 3.6 million a year. Getting Dubinsky would require a team to surrender a 1st and a 3rd round pick to the New York Rangers. If the Rangers got Brad Richards I don’t see the Rangers matching that teams offer. If the Rangers fail to get Richards then the Rangers will match the other teams offer.
3. Tyler Kennedy C Pittsburgh Penguins Kennedy currently makes 725 thousand. Kennedy’s agent wants Kennedy to make near 2 million. Kennedy wants at least a million. Dan Bylsma only wants to give Kennedy what he’s currently making because he wants cap room for Jagr and he needs cap room for when Crosby and Staal’s contracts are up in 2013.
Pittsburgh has the lowest cap room in the NHL thanks to the Flyers trades leading up to the 2011 NHL Draft. Pittsburgh wants to offer Kennedy a 2 year deal and Kennedy wants a 1 year deal.
I’m guessing Pittsburgh’s front office decides to compromise by giving him a 1 year deal with what he made last year. If that happens a team will be allowed to make a qualifying offer for Tyler Kennedy by negotiating with him. If a team offers more than 600 grand and less than a million they have to give up a 3rd round pick in 2012 for Kennedy. Pittsburgh will match that offer. If a team offers a 2nd round pick for Kennedy they might not match the offer due to a low salary cap.
Dallas needs to make a move for Kennedy if the Penguins don’t resign him. Kennedy and Golgoski have great team chemistry. Pittsburgh has less than 6 and a half million for cap space so I doubt they pay somewhere between 1 and 2 million to retain his services.
4. Brandon Sutter C Carolina Hurricanes I expect the Hurricanes to retain Sutter considering that only 3 NHL teams have more cap space available for free agency. Florida has more cap space than any other team. I believe Carolina will give Sutter up to a team in the Western Conference if they offer more than 3 million giving up a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for Sutter. Otherwise expect Sutter to be back in Colorado. Phoenix should just dump Turris and add Sutter since they have more cap room than Carolina.
5. TJ Oshie C St. Louis Blues TJ Oshie wants over 2 million a year. The Blues are already paying 3 centers 3 million a year. The Blues have the money to sign Oshie, but the Blues are low balling Oshie trying to get him for a lower salary. I expect another team to offer the Blues a first and 3rd round pick for Oshie’s rights. St. Louis didn’t have a first round pick in 2011 so they may decide not to match the offer. I am guessing the Blues do match the offer.
Top 5 UFA Centers
1. Brad Richards C Dallas Stars Its pretty clear that Richards is leaving Dallas. Now Dallas will have to search for centers below hoping one compliments Ribero and can fill the shoes of Brad Richards.
2. Vaclav Prospal C New York Rangers After Brad Richards it is really a crap shoot of 2nd line centers with 3rd line talent. The aging Prospal can still be effective, but age is catching up. He has one year left as an NHL talent and is best used on the back 6. Prospal is a short term solution at center.
3. Jason Arnott C Washington Capitals Arnott may be older than Laich, but Arnott has a Stanley Cup victory on his resume despite his age. Arnott is no longer a deadly front 6 center. Now he is more of a back 6 center. Arnott is a short term solution at center and is best used for a team that needs a veteran with quality leadership to take that next step as a team.
4. Brooks Laich C Washington Capitals The Capitals line 3 center is by many considered to be the best long term center in this free agency period after Brad Richards. Dallas needs to try to get Laich to a short term deal.
5. Tomas Fleischmann C Colorado Avalanche Fleischmann will likely be available for signing.