Perry, Pavel­ski among vet­eran free agents to watch

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - AP Hockey Writer

By Stephen Whyno

The good­bye came quickly if re­spect­fully for Ana­heim Ducks vet­eran Corey Perry.

Af­ter a knee in­jury limited the 34-year-old for­ward to 31 games, gen­eral man­ager Bob Mur­ray last week bought out the fi­nal two years of Perry’s con­tract and sent the fran­chise cor­ner­stone un­ex­pect­edly into free agency.

“This is one of the most dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions I’ve had to make in my 44 years in the NHL,” Mur­ray said. “Corey gave every­thing to this fran­chise for 14 years, never giv­ing an inch to his com­peti­tors.”

Now, one of those com­peti­tors will get to see what Perry has left. Big money will flow to for­ward Artemi Pa­narin, cen­ter Matt Duch­ene and goal­tender Sergei Bo­brovsky on July 1 as the top three free agents avail­able, though Perry and other sea­soned vet­er­ans are worth watch­ing when the mar­ket opens.

Join­ing Perry as a one­or­ga­ni­za­tion player po­ten­tially chang­ing teams is San Jose cap­tain Joe Pavel­ski, who had 38 goals and 64 points in 75 games last sea­son. The Sharks are in a salary-cap squeeze and also might have to say good­bye to for­ward Joonas Don­skoi, but gen­eral man­ager Doug Wil­son wasn’t giv­ing up on bring­ing Pavel­ski back af­ter sign­ing de­fense­man Erik Karls­son to a $92 mil­lion con­tract.

“I don’t think any­body should rush to con­clu­sions on any­thing,” Wil­son said. “There’s many ways to ac­com­plish dif­fer­ent things. My his­tory over the years, you ex­plore every­thing.”

Pavel­ski, 34, is draw­ing in­ter­est around the NHL and could fol­low the lead of for­mer Sharks for­ward Pa­trick Mar­leau, who opted two years ago to de­part in free agency and signed in Toronto. The cap will al­most cer­tainly keep the Maple Leafs from re­tain­ing Jake Gar­diner af­ter the de­fense­man spent his en­tire eight-year ca­reer with them.

Perry had been a fix­ture in Ana­heim dur­ing the en­tire salary cap era that be­gan in 2005. The 2011 Hart Tro­phy win­ner has spo­ken to sev­eral teams since the interview pe­riod opened Sun­day.

Other watch: free agents to a pack­age deal. The Florida Pan­thers hosted the Colum­bus for­ward and goalie this week and are seen as the fa­vorites to sign them, es­pe­cially af­ter Roberto Luongo re­tired.

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