The summer of the 2010 free agency? That is old news now. Seen it, heard it, read about it plenty. So I decided that we should go ahead and look forward to next summer and who might be on the free agency market in the summer of 2011. Forget about Kovalchuk. Who cares anymore about this summer’s crop, we have been talking about it since the spring. From first glance, this could be a really good summer for free agents. But the problem will be who actually makes it to the market, and who resigns a new contract with their respective teams during this season or before next July. So I want to take a quick look at some of the guys who I think really could hit the market next summer. Here is your first glance at the 2011 free agents:
Joe Thornton, C: Big Joe is nearing the end of his contract, with one year left on it at $7.2 million. San Jose has seen plenty of success with Joe during his seasons there, but the lack of playoff success and the age of Joe might cause the Sharks to think about letting Thornton depart from the team. He is considered one of the top centers in the league, and other centers like Brad Richards and Jeff Carter will probably be offered nice new contracts from their teams, so if Joe does hit the market it will be a big splash. Does someone go after him for just 2-3 years? Or maybe a team offers the then 31 year-old Joe a 4-5 year deal for big money. But the Sharks have Pavelski and Marleau on the roster and may look for a change if the season again ends without some real playoff success.
Tomas Kaberle, D: The Leafs may not have moved Tomas before his no-trade clause kicked back in, but you can be sure he is now planning his move out of Toronto. Sure he claims that he loves being there and would like to stay. But when you are not wanted by the new management and they have constantly been trying to build up interest around you to ship you out, you probably will not want to stay around too long. He is going into his last year at $4.25 million, and a strong two-way defenseman who will still have probably 3 good years left will be a sought after player on the open market. Then he will have the chance to choose where he wants to go.
Craig Anderson, G: Anderson may not hit the market or get close to it. If he puts together another good year in net and can get a young Avalanche team to the postseason again, he might get a nice pay raise. He is going into the second season of a 2 year deal for $3.6 million, and another good season might see Anderson get a nice 3-4 year deal since he will only be 30 by the time his contract is up.
Other big names that are on their last year of a contract: Brad Richards is in his final year for about $7.8 million in Dallas. Dallas is going through an ownership change and the hope is that it can be complete by sometime this fall so that the team will have to power and money to offer Brad a new deal to stay in Dallas as he is the new fan favorite. Zdeno Chara is also hitting his last year at over $7 million a year, but the beastly defender will be 34 and might take a little bit of a pay-cut to stay in Boston for a couple more years. Another big name D-man that will be looking for a new deal is Shea Weber, and if Nashville does not resign him then I will be surprised completely. He is still young, has a powerful shot, and in my opinion is one of the top 10-15 defenders in the NHL right now. He will be a RFA next summer and I don’t expect him to be going anywhere else. And finally, the top goalie that could possibly be a free agent is Ilya Bryzgalov. Ilya would be 31 and coming off a deal in which he made $4.25 million a season. But if he plays anything like he did last year and Phoenix is not completely messed up financially, then I expect him to stay in Arizona for the next few years.
For more possible UFAs or RFAs, check out NHLnumbers.com as that is a nice site that I used to look up the numbers on some of these guys and their free agent status if they do hit the market.