With the conference finals beginning soon, and the huge elephant in the Capitals dressing room finally leaving, it’s time to start planning for next season. There is a slew of Unrestricted Free Agents and some stud Restricted Free Agents as well, while the restricted free agent list is way more intriguing than the unrestricted. I’ll cover the UFA’s now and mention the rest in later articles, so let’s break down what’s on the shopping list for July 1.
Kevin Shattenkirk (Defenseman, UFA): Shatt was traded at the deadline to Washington to be the player to get them over the hump. It failed. For the third year in a row, the Caps were unable to solve the puzzle of Penguins. Rumors galore have him landing in New York to play for the Rangers or even playing in the KHL. Fact is, nobody knows where he will end up signing, and every team is an option. I honestly think Dallas will be offering big dollars his way along with the Rangers, Capitals and Leafs. Wherever Kevin signs, it will be at a raise over what he has been making, but not as much as it could have been if Stanley Cup Champion was added to his business card.
Ben Bishop (Goalie, UFA): Big Ben was just traded to the Dallas Stars this week, but the million-dollar question is will he sign in Dallas? I mentioned in the fall that Dallas should have made an offer for him, but I was wrong. After a sub-par season by Bishop standards, Dallas only had to forfeit a fourth-round pick in this trade, which was a steal if Ben stays in Dallas. The Stars goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi were horrid, a gas can and lit matches every night out for a Dallas team who historically underachieved this season. While not on the wrong side of his prime years, Bishop is a huge improvement over those two turds. Dallas, Winnipeg and Calgary could all use a netminder like Big Ben.
T.J. Oshie (Center/Wing, UFA): Before the season, Oshie was in line for a nice contract this summer, but after putting up a career high in goals and points, a heftier pay raise is due. Of course, it would have been much higher had Stanley Cup Champion been added to his business card as well. I read one article that had Oshie signing in New Jersey, and I can see that. They need help everywhere and Oshie playing with Taylor Hall would be fun to watch.
Joe Thornton (Center, UFA): Playing the end of the regular season and the playoffs with a torn ACL and MCL put Jumbo in my bad-ass stratosphere. He is long in the tooth and coming back from those injuries and the successful surgery he has already had is a long road back, but Joe says he’ll be ready. One year removed from an 82-point season, Thornton is a beast who will contribute second or third line minutes as he enters his 20th professional season. With only seven goals and 50 points this past year, Jumbo will get at least five million dollars per year for a two or three year contract this summer.
Alexander Radulov (C/W, UFA): Coming back to the NHL after playing in the KHL-Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, Radulov signed a one-year, $5 million deal, and earned every penny of it. I see him staying in Montreal on whatever contract they offer him. He was well received by his teammates and the city loved his work ethic. Alexander will get more than a one-year tender this time, and he will help Shea Weber and Carey Price in their Stanley Cup quest.
Be sure to tune in next week when I cover more UFA’s and that tempting list of restricted free agents.
You can reach me @PolkaPat and read more of my rantings at Fighting Chance Sports.