We are hours away from July 1st, and in Canada this day is one of the biggest of the year. It's Canada Day, but it's also on July 1st that the window opens for NHL teams to sign free agents. Of course we could just wait and see where each player signs, but where is the fun in that?
Paired with rampant rumors and logical fits, I will be predicting where some of the big free agents will find a home for next season. All predictions are the bolded teams in the respective players analysis.
Ilya Kovalchuk: The biggest free agent of the 2010 class, the New Jersey Devils have reiterated desire to re-sign the 40 goal scorer, but it really looks like Kovy is going to wait until July 1st. The Kings tried to acquire his rights, but as I said the Devils are trying to tie him up. He turned down a ten year one hundred million dollar contract from the Thrashers. He want's money, but he may take a slight pay cut to go to a team that he wants. Another very possible option could be the KHL with some big money contracts reportedly being readied for Kovalchuk.
Olli Jokinen: Jokinen has definitely seen better days (Florida) as his tenures with the Coyotes, Flames and Rangers were sub-par to say the least. A team with a desperate need at Centre could try and see if Jokinen can find his form again. Minnesota could fit Jokinen, they do have two great Finns in Backstrom and M.Koivu already. A return to the Panthers could also be on the books, but for the right price. If Dallas are indeed planning on trading Mike Ribeiro, he could fit there as Modano is leaving and Richards is a UFA next year.
Matthew Lombardi: It seems as though Lombardi won't get signed by Phoenix, and he should be a hot commodity come July 1st. Due for a pay raise, Lombardi had a breakout year and could be a really good second line centre or borderline first liner. Don't rule out a return to the Flames, who will be looking for some offensive help. Toronto could also be a destination for Lombardi. Once again, the Wild could be an option.
Alexander Frolov: He could very well go to the KHL . Unlikely to get offered a huge contract from an NHL team, a KHL team will most likely step up and overpay. The Rangers could go after him as well. They do love their free agents.
Paul Kariya: Could return to the Ducks , it would be a nice story. Maybe the Flames could be in play.
Ray Whitney: Ended up not getting dealt at the deadline. A team that was close to acquiring him, the Penguins, could be a landing spot. A return to Carolina can't be ruled out, and the Kings could be a player as well.
Sergei Gonchar: The Penguins would like to re-sign Gonchar but it seems talks are breaking down, though there is still a chance he could return. San Jose have been thrown out there, and a false rumor reported they had acquired his rights earlier, but with Rob Blakes' retirement the Sharks could be a good fit. A surprise team could arise. In my opinion, I think he could fit with Ottawa or St.Louis .
Anton Volchenkov: A shot-blocking machine, Volchenkov has been in very, very high demand. A report surfaced near the end of the playoffs that the Capitals were going to sign him, but it seems that cap issues could prevent them from doing so. If the Penguins do indeed lose Hamhuis and Gonchar he could be looked at. Anaheim could be big players too. There are a lot of suitors for Volchenkov though, and he could virtually sign with any team willing to give him the money he wants.
Dan Hamhuis: Looking likely to test the market, Hamhuis wants guaranteed top four minutes, with some powerplay time. This is usually unheard of, but a team could very well guarantee him those minutes and the money he wants. He has been long rumored for the Canucks . Maybe he could even sign with the original team that got his rights, the Flyers. Washington could be in play also.
Willie Mitchell: Suitors for Mitchell will most likely be the five to seven teams that miss out on Volchenkov's services. Washington, Anaheim, St.Louis, etc.. could woo Mitchell. He is a great defensive guy with a big stick to block passing lanes, and he could put a team like the Capitals over the top.
Evgeni Nabokov: The Flyers were interested, but couldn't come to terms. They signed Leighton this morning, so it's unlikely they will be in the market for a goaltender now. Other than Philly, not much has been speculated about Nabby. I think that we could see him in Atlanta . They seem like they want to make a splash next year and he could be a great mentor for Pavelec. Washington could be a destination also, but they might not have the money and would be more interested in a defenseman. The KHL could be an option, but doubtful.
Marty Turco: Also coveted by the Flyers, they couldn't come to terms. The Sharks could be players for Turco. Maybe even a place like Detroit , where he could play sort of a super back up role to Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings have shown a tendency to go after veteran netminders.
Chris Mason: Mason has been linked to the job in Tampa Bay. Yzerman has said he's not going to chase a big name UFA, but I'm not sure Mason is really a huge name player. After Steve Mason's struggles, the Jackets could look to bring in the vet Chris Mason. They would most likely need to move Mathieu Garon though to do so.
Jose Theodore: Theodore will be looking to win a number one job. He will most likely not get a massive contract, but a team looking for a guy who can win that starting position will look at Jose. Maybe Ottawa could show interest, he could end up in Dallas fighting Lehtonen for the starting job.
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