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Shots on Goal: A Look at the 2011 FA Class

Peter Maingot

Peter Maingot

Peter has been covering fantasy sports for Rotowire for over 10 years. He's covered hockey, football and basketball over the past decade but now focuses strictly on the frozen game. From the Great White North, Peter is a strong proponent of physical, up tempo hockey.

Shots on Goal: Free Agency 2011

Welcome to the 2011 edition of NHL free agency. This year's version will include Top 10 lists by position (a Top 20 for defensemen) plus some additional analysis. We'll start with the forwards going left to right and include everyone's 2010-11 team and salary...

Left Wing

  1. Jussi Jokinen (Carolina, $1.7 million)
  2. Simon Gagne (Tampa Bay, $5.25 million)
  3. Ville Leino (Philadelphia, $800,000)
  4. Alex Tanguay (Calgary, $1.7 million)
  5. Tomas Fleischmann (Colorado, $2.6 million)
  6. Vinny Prospal (New York Rangers, $2.48 million)
  7. Sean Bergenheim (Tampa Bay, $700,000)
  8. Andrew Brunette (Minnesota, $2.333 million)
  9. Alex Frolov (New York Rangers, $3 million)
  10. Alexei Ponikarovsky (Los Angeles, $3.2 million)


*Please note: Brooks Laich and Tomas Kopecky are included in the center section.

Jokinen brings the complete package, has a high compete level, and has shown a prowess for scoring big goals. He would make the biggest impact playing a top-six role on a contender. Fantasy-wise, he'll need a first-line gig and a decent center for him to the elusive 70-point level. Gagne is somewhat of a mystery as far as his 2011 ceiling, for injuries have taken a toll on a player who's been world class for the better part of the past decade. Gags began the season terribly, possibly due to the fact that it was the first time in his 11-year NHL career that he wasn't playing for the Flyers. He stumbled out of the gate going minus-21 in his first 25 games with just seven points. However, he pulled it together and finished strong registering 14 goals and 33 points in his last 38 games. He's also scored 14 goals and 24 points in his last 34 playoff games covering the past two playoff seasons.

Fleischmann was having a breakthrough season with Colorado, with 21 points in 22 games after his trade from Washington, when he had to shut it down due to pulmonary emboli. Fleischmann has a higher ceiling but lower floor than the likes of Leino or Tanguay. Tanguay will likely re-sign with Calgary, as long as he doesn't ask for too much in realizing that his big season came while riding shotgun with a revitalized Jarome Iginla. If Prospal re-signs with the Rangers, expect 50-60 points. Benoit Pouliot, a restricted free agent, could join this group should Montreal decide not to qualify him. Brunette, who will be 38 by the time the season starts, scored 18 goals last season but dropped from 61 points in 2009-10 to 46 in 2010-11. Marco Sturm was held off the list after 1 goal in 18 games as a Capital after registering just 4 goals in 17 games as a King, all the while making $3.5 million. Raffi Torres gets an honorable mention, as he scored 14 goals for Vancouver last season while earning $1 million.

Center

1. Brad Richards (Dallas, $7.8 million)
2. Brooks Laich (Washington, $2.067 million)
3. Tomas Kopecky (Chicago, $1.2 million)
4. Jason Arnott (Washington, $4.5 million)
5. Tim Connolly (Buffalo, $4.5 million)
6. Michal Handzus (Los Angeles, $4 million)
7. Maxime Talbot (Pittsburgh, $1.05 million)
8. Eric Belanger (Phoenix, $750,000)
9. Cory Stillman (Carolina, $3.5 million)
10. John Madden (Minnesota, $1.25 million)

After Richards it's a precipitous fall off in talent to the next grouping of Laich and Kopecky. Then it drops again to the aging Arnott, who could still make an impact as an effective No. 2 center on a team that can use his toughness and leadership while not flanking him with overly speedy wingers. Connolly is another X-factor, like Fleischmann, where the ceiling can be fairly high but the floor could be painfully low. Connolly's injury-plagued career has crushed his ability to put up 70+ point seasons, for his talent level is worthy of such numbers were he not cursed by concussions. After Connolly the rest of the group are more proficient in two-way checking roles, usually associated with third-line centering duties. Stillman, who put up 16 points in 21 games after being traded back to Carolina, is expected to re-sign with the Hurricanes. Overall, it's a very thin group of UFA centers.

Right Wing

  1. Erik Cole (Carolina, $2.9 million)
  2. Radim Vrbata (Phoenix, $3 million)
  3. Michael Ryder (Boston, $4 million)
  4. Scottie Upshall (Columbus, $2.25 million)
  5. Antti Miettinen (Minnesota, $2.333 million)
  6. Chad LaRose (Carolina, $1.7 million)
  7. Nikolai Zherdev (Philadelphia, $2 million)
  8. Alex Kovalev (Pittsburgh, $4.5 million)
  9. Chuck Kobasew (Minnesota, $2.5 million)
  10. Jamie Langenbrunner (Dallas, $2.8 million)


*Please note that Teemu Selanne has not been listed here, for he will either re-sign with Anaheim or retire. Coming off an 80-point season the Finnish Flash would have easily been placed at No. 1 on our list.

If you thought the center group was thin take another glance at the RW's. There are perhaps four or five legitimate top-six forwards in this group and Kovalev is not one of them. Cole is expected to re-sign with Carolina. Vrbata has 25-30 goal upside, should he find a perfect fit out there in the vast NHL landscape. If Ryder were prudent he'd re-sign with Boston and accept less than his previous deal, for though he was a solid contributor in their 2011 Stanley Cup championship run, he had too many off nights over the course of the three year/$12 million deal he just finished. Upshall could be a great addition to a team needing grit on their second or third line but his asking price will have to be reasonable. Zherdev comes with the usual KHL flight risk for Russian players, similar to Alex Frolov amongst the left wings. Langenbrunner will be 36 when the season starts and he's coming off a brutal season in which he scored just nine goals and 32 points in 70 games. His top-six shelf life seems to have expired and his $2.8 million salary last year will be halved should he wish to continue his career.

Defense

  1. Kevin Bieksa (Vancouver, $3.75 million)
  2. Joni Pitkanen (Carolina, $4 million)
  3. James Wisniewski (Montreal, $3.25 million)
  4. Christian Ehrhoff (Vancouver, $3.1 million)
  5. Andrei Markov (Montreal, $5.75 million)
  6. Tomas Kaberle (Boston, $4.25 million)
  7. Bryan McCabe (New York Rangers, $5.75 million)
  8. Roman Hamrlik (Montreal, $5.5 million)
  9. Eric Brewer (Tampa Bay, $4.25 million)
  10. Anton Babchuk (Calgary, $1.4 million)
  11. Ed Jovanovski (Phoenix, $6.5 million)
  12. Ian White (San Jose, $3 million)
  13. Sami Salo (Vancouver, $3.5 million)
  14. Steve Montador (Buffalo, $1.55 million)
  15. Jonathan Ericsson (Detroit, $900,00)
  16. Andy Greene (New Jersey, $737,500)
  17. Scott Hannan (Washington, $4.5 million)
  18. Grant Clitsome (Columbus, $550,000)
  19. Marc-Andre Bergeron (Tampa Bay, $1 million)
  20. Brent Sopel (Montreal, $2.333 million)


Markov would easily be No. 1 on this list were it not for three major injuries suffered over the past two seasons. The top three here - Bieksa, Pitkanen, Wisniewski - provide both offense along with a physical presence. The main difference is that Bieksa and Pitkanen have both proven to be effective as top pairing D-men in addition to first power-play unit quarterbacks. Bieksa has already gone on record saying that he will give Vancouver the home-town discount in order to stay a Canuck which, if true, effectively makes Pitkanen the top UFA blueliner on July 1. Ehrhoff will be attractive as a 50-point D-man but his play in his own zone is not top-2 worthy, as shown in the recently completed Stanley Cup playoffs where he was an abysmal minus-13 in 23 games played. Kaberle and McCabe are going to see a reduction in their salaries, based on their advancing years and declining production. Brewer led all Tampa Bay D-men in ice time during the playoffs and put up 7 points in 18 games with 43 hits and 51 blocked shots while posting a minus-3 defensive rating. He should stay in the same salary range and play top four minutes somewhere next year. Babchuk is a KHL flight risk while Jovanovski has become an injury risk. Speaking of injury risks, Salo may have to accept a lesser deal with a series of games played incentive-clauses/riders. Montador is a gritty, heart and soul type defenseman while Ericsson remains a work in progress.

Goalie

  1. Tomas Vokoun (Florida, $5.7 million)
  2. Ray Emery (Anaheim, $500,000)
  3. Evgeny Nabokov (played part of season in KHL)
  4. Dwayne Roloson (Tampa Bay, $3 million)
  5. Mathieu Garon (Columbus, $1.2 million)
  6. Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Toronto, $6 million)
  7. Marty Turco (Chicago, $1.3 million)
  8. Jonas Hedberg (New Jersey, $1.5 million)
  9. Jose Theodore (Minnesota, $1.1 million)
  10. Alex Auld (Montreal, $1 million)


Once Ilya Bryzgalov's right were traded to Philadelphia the UFA goalie market lost its best asset. Vokoun is head and shoulders above the rest but Emery is an intriguing wild card, for he was very impressive last season as he resurrected his career and came to Anaheim's aid after Jonas Hiller succumbed to vertigo. Emery, who is only 28, played 10 games for Anaheim and posted a 2.28 goals-against average and a scintillating .926 save percentage. After Nabokov and Roloson, it's pretty much a back-up goalie market.
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