CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY
A flurry of signings whittled the free agent market down to scraps quicker than ever. It left just a handful regulars of looking for work
UNPRECEDENTED ACTIVITY SUCKED THE LEAGUE’S FREE agent pool dry by early July, and there’s a specific reason why. The NHL provided an early negotiating window for contracts this summer, meaning players and teams could begin hammering out deals in the week leading up to July 1. By the time actual free agency arrived, a truckload of contracts only needed their i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Teams spent more than $500 million on Day 1, annihilating the record of $384 million set in 2009. All the biggest fish were caught July 1, from Thomas Vanek to Paul Stastny to the wildly overpaid ex-Penguins ‘D’ trio of Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland. The remaining UFA pool consists mostly of spare parts, but has a few notable names.
The one that jumps o the page is Martin Brodeur’s. The winningest goalie in NHL history decided to test the open market after spending his entire career with New Jersey. But after Vancouver, Calgary, and the New York Islanders opened their wallets for younger starters Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller and Jaroslav Halak, Brodeur’s options are limited.
Rugged veterans litter the list of available defensemen. A team looking for depth and toughness can reach out to Douglas Murray, Sheldon Brookbank or Cory Sarich. Enigmatic, talented puck-mover Michael Del Zotto, just 24, will attract interest if the price is reasonable.
Remaining forwards carry question marks. Will Daniel Alfredsson return with the Wings? Can Dany Heatley be a 20-goal scorer again? What does Ray Whitney have left? How serious are Mike Ribeiro’s o - ice problems? We’ll have answers as the summer passes.
MARTIN BRODEUR UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT