Folks, there's only 24 hours left until the market opens, where every General Manager's phone rings like hell and the UFA's start to ponder where they want to play next year. Tomorrow I will be away from the computer because of course it's Canada Day. But I'll try to get everyone covered on what may happen tomorrow because it's gonna be one hell of a ride.
Let's start with the saga that is Dany Heatley. I can't believe Murray is even thinking of bringing him back. Heatley back would create such a distraction in the locker room and would re-energize friction between Clouston and Heatley, you can't let it happen. Get the best value for Heatley right now and it will help the club in the long-term(and short-term?). But I suspect the Rangers and Oilers are leading the sweepstakes, as TSN reported last night. The Wild also have mild interest in Heater but they may be turning their focus towards Hossa and Gaborik. But how about the Hurricanes as a wildcard? Is there even a remote chance we see the glorious return of Joe Corvo? Don't bet on it. My money's on the Rangers.
Chris Neil is up. Everyone knows he turned down the 4 year $6.8 million, and I think that is as high as Murray might go. Don't get me wrong, Neil is very valuable to this team, but his time on this team has come to an end. He's demadning too much money for a fourth-liner and Ottawa needs to shed some salary if they want to be players in the free agent market. Expect the Sharks to sign Neil. Makes you think that Murray should have traded him at the Trade Deadline.
Auld for Russell is still up in the air. Murray and Howson are trying to agree on what will come with Auld to Columbus. While Murray is willing to give a 3rd round pick, Howson wants to mid-tier prospect. Last time I mentioned Josh Hennessy, but Howson might go as far as Louie Caporusso. More teams are coming in for Auld, most notably the New Jersey Devils who look like they will lose both Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen.
So who are the Sens looking for in the free agency pool? As everyone knows, Murray wants a top-6 forward. You may be thinking about Henrik Sedin or Martin Havlat or even Mike Cammalleri, but what about Mikael Samuelsson? He's told the Wings he will test the free agency waters and I have heard Bryan Murray wants him. Another winger Murray is in the market for is Ales Kotalik, who I would absolutely love in a Sens uniform. He has one of the best one-timers in the league and would help the power-play dramatically. Kotalik was also the best shootout player in the league last year and we all know the Sens have problems in the shootout.
Jiri Hudler is also an interesting option for the Sens. He's an RFA and with Hossa looking to re-sign with the Wings, he'll be too expensive for the Wings. He's a definite top 6 forward and won't command too much. Even though he is small he plays hard and has good hockey sense. However, an offer sheet to Hudler will force the Sens to give up some draft picks.
Another intriguing trade option is Chris Kelly. He's wanted by Detroit, and why not? Detroit lost the Cup because of their horrible penalty killing and Kelly is one of the best PK'ers in the league. Jason Smith might also garner interest from teams that need veteran leadership, such as the Oilers. Alexandre Picard is an interesting situation because he played good for the Sens when he was not a healthy scratch last year. However, the Sens can't allow a log-jam at defense and Picard can be bought-out or even traded. Christoph Schubert I hear will be back next year as a defenseman in Bingo or a late-season call-up for Ottawa.
I'll be back later today with my UFA predictions.
UPDATE: Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, Mike Busto have been traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh, Pavel Valetenko, and Doug Janik. This means the Rangers are now the frontrunners for Heatley and the return could be big. The Rangers now have McDonagh, Del Zotto, Sanguinnetti, Stauer, and Gilroy coming up. No need of Marc Staal there. Here is a possibility. Heatley and Picard for Zherdev, Dubinsky, Staal, Rangers' 1st rounder in 2010.