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NHL Free Agency

July 1, 2011 by staff 

NHL Free AgencyNHL Free Agency, Annual spending spree in the NHL begins this afternoon, when 30 teams can open their checkbooks and start to bid on unrestricted free agents in preparation for the 2011-12 season.
Brad Richards Center is the prize of this year’s crop and former Conn Smythe Trophy winner is set to sign the richest deal of the day free agent. In his 10 year career, the 31-year-old has been a scorer of 20 goals eight times in the last two seasons in Dallas who posted 168 points (52 goals, 116 assists) in 152 games.

Richards, who collected and 7.8 million for his services last season, has attracted interest from big-market teams like the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers are looking for a top center to match with the prolific GABORIK Marian, while the Maple Leafs are hoping to return to Canada as Richards coach Phil Kessel sniper.

The spotlight will shine on free agent Richards, but as history has shown that some of the most important signings are the ones that fly under the radar. There are plenty of notable veterans hit the market, including Simon Gagne, Ville Leino, Erik Cole, Michael Ryder and Tomas Fleischmann.

Health Gagne will be the biggest question about taking him to raise a team offensive attack. Former striker 40 has been delayed by concussion problems, but when healthy can be a weapon, which proved the last two post-season campaigns.

Leino is a solid top six forward who is the best season of his career with 19 goals and serving 34. And the grain will be a welcome addition to a series of lists in the league.

Cole is testing the waters free agent after playing eight of his nine seasons in the NHL Carolina. The power forward is a solid year with 52 points, the third highest total ever.

Ryder showed his ability to put the disc into the network over the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup run. With 17 points in 25 playoff games fresh in the minds of league headquarters, Ryder will probably have a variety of options.

Fleischmann is another striker who has struggled to stay healthy. When making ice, Fleischmann can break the barrier of 50 points and 27 who has just entered his prime.

The No. 1 defense available in free agency was supposed to be Christian EHRHOFF, but prevented the Buffalo Sabres that it inked a long-term agreement on Thursday. The agreement came after a couple of trades that saw EHRHOFF rights over the Vancouver Canucks for the New York Islanders to the Sabres, who were able to prevent them from reaching the open market.

With EHRHOFF locked, teams looking for help in their blue line will have to set their sights on another target. Tomas Kaberle can benefit from what appears to be a thin group of defenders of unrestricted free agents.

Kaberle was able to hoist the Stanley Cup as a member of the Bruins, but could not fit into the plans of Champions “in the future. His performance in the playoffs was disappointing and it will be interesting to see if that was a bump in the road or sign of things to come.

Managers in need of an upgrade between the pipes will begin the search with veteran Tomas Vokoun.

Vokoun may have a limited postseason resume, but the 13-year veteran will be looking for a new home after four seasons with the Panthers. Vokoun will bring a 2.56 goals against average, a percentage of .917 and 44 shutouts to save the career of his new club.

Other names may be moving forward are Tim Connolly, Antti Miettinen, Scottie Upshall Sean Bergenheim and, Jan Hejda defenses, Ian White, Roman Hamrlik, and Sami Salo and goalkeepers Ray Emery, Josh Smith and Mike Harding.

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