With all the action surrounding the first week of the 2007 unrestricted free agency season, I decided to take a look ahead to next year to see what's in store for us. Barring any contract extensions (and there will be at least a couple) it appears that next year many teams will finally have their opportunity to acquire an elite puck moving defensemen. The crop of talent breaks down as follows:
Tier 1: Niklas Lidstrom; Wade Redden
Tier 2: Dan Boyle; JM Liles; M. Norstrom; L. Visnovsky; B. Stuart
Any of these guys could immediately add credibility to a blueline. It should be interesting to see where they end up. With Rafalski commanding 6M this year it's possible that we could break 8M on the blueline with some of these deals.
Currently coming in at 7.6M is Lidstrom who has developed into a great captain in Detroit. I can't see him signing for under 8M - but what does that do for the rest of the team? Zetterberg will surely command 7M+ in a couple of years (an additional 5M in cap hit over his current bargain price of 2.9M) and Chelios can't play forever - he will need to be replaced by someone who will be paid handsomely!
In Ottawa, the talk is that Redden could sign a contract extension for a lower cap hit amount - say 5-5.5M range. Barring that, he will hit the market as he refuses to waive his NTC. It's plain and simple economics, the money needs to go to re-signing Heatley and Spezza.
Once the UFA's above are gone things could get real interesting.
A promising young defensement named Jay Boumeester is also available as a restricted free agent (Jacques watch your back...Kevin Lowe is coming with his crazy offer sheets).
Sure, we could sit and talk about Hossa, Naslund and Marleau hitting the market. But, 2008 will be the year of the puck moving defensemen.
Should be fun to sit down again and watch the madness unfold.
...and if you are still unsure if there will be "madness" or not, I will leave you will this final thought - Glen Sather has 4 defensemen up for contracts next year, Dean Lombardi in LA has 7 - that's right, 7 - what the hell was he thinking from a contract length perspective!
That will make for some openings on teams that aren't afraid to make a splash.
I can't wait!