With the trading deadline set to happen in little over one month, many teams may be looking to deal with their various free agents now. Who’s in line for a big payday this summer? Who will get traded? Who will get inked to a new deal? Why do they call them “free” agents, when there is nothing free about them?
I’ll rate each of the Eastern Conference team’s likelihood of becoming buyers, sellers or standing pat at the deadline.
Thrashers – Sellers
UFA – Mathieu Schneider, Niclas Havelid, Eric Perrin, Marty Reasoner
RFA – Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Boris Valabik, Kari Lehtonen
If Atlanta doesn’t retain pending restricted free agents Colby Armstrong or Erik Christensen, then all they have left to show for trading Marian Hossa would be Angelo Esposito and Daultan Leveille, whom they drafted with Pittsburgh’s first round pick. I could see both Armstrong and Christensen back in Atlanta next season.
Boris Valabik will be re-signed, but Kari Lehtonen’s future is very much in doubt in Atlanta. I say he is gone by the trading deadline, with the Thrashers acquiring a veteran netminder to mentor young Ondrej Pavelec next season. Mathieu Schneider and Niclas Havelid are both unrestricted and are prime candidates to be traded.
Bruins – Buyers
UFA – P.J. Axelsson, Tim Thomas, Manny Fernandez
RFA – Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Matt Hunwick, Matt Lashoff
Phil Kessel and David Krejci chose a great time to have breakout seasons; both will be re-signed by the Bruins. Matt Hunwick has made a case for a nice raise. The Bruins will want to re-sign P.J. Axelsson, who could have a career season at 34-years-old. One of either Tim Thomas or Manny Fernandez will likely be back and split starts with 21-year-old Tuukka Rask next year.
Sabres – Hold
UFA – Maxim Afinogenov, Tim Connolly, Ales Kotalik, Jaroslav Spacek, Teppo Numminen
RFA – Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur, Andrej Sekera
Max Afinogenov is most likely gone by deadline day. I could see everyone else happy to come back with the Sabres next season.
Hurricanes – Buyers
UFA – Dennis Seidenberg
RFA – Tuomo Ruutu, Anton Babchuk
Carolina will be fighting for a playoff spot and will likely look for immediate help. The team will have no problem re-signing Tuomo Ruutu as he seems to have fit in quite well and is currently on pace for career highs in goals and points.
Panthers – Hold