Devils sign goalie Cory Schneider

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
4:16
PM ET
Cory Schneider
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesCory Schneider ranked third in the NHL last year with a 1.97 GAA for the Devils.

The New Jersey Devils have signed goaltender Cory Schneider to a multiyear contract extension, general manager Lou Lamoriello announced Wednesday.

Schneider's deal is worth $42 million over seven years, a source confirmed to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.

"I'm excited to be a New Jersey Devil for a long time, hopefully for the rest of my career," Schneider said in a conference call.

Schneider, 28, was acquired by the Devils in a draft-day trade with the Vancouver Canucks in 2013. He went 16-15-12 in 45 games with New Jersey last season, ranking third in the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average while posting a .921 save percentage.

Schneider split time in net with future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, the winningest goaltender in NHL history, but the 42-year-old is an unrestricted free agent, and all indications are that, if he does continue his career, it will be elsewhere.


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Devils re-sign Bernier, Gionta

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
12:18
PM ET

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed two of their own free agents, fourth-line linemates Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta.

The team announced the signings on its Twitter account Wednesday, a day after the NHL's free agency period opened.

Bernier, a nine-year NHL veteran, returns for a fourth season in New Jersey, where he's established a role as a checking-line forward. He had three goals and nine assists in 78 games last season. Overall, he has 88 goals and 104 assists for 192 points in 542 career games.

Gionta has spent four seasons in New Jersey, during which he has nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 127 career games.

The signings came a day after New Jersey signed free agent forwards Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat.


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Early free agency grades 

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
9:53
PM ET
Brooks Orpik, Paul Stastny & Jonas Hiller Getty ImagesThe new deals for Brooks Orpik, Paul Stastny and Jonas Hiller met with very different reactions.
The opening hours of NHL free agency were truly frenetic, with signings being announced in a flurry shortly after noon ET.

Some teams made their mark ahead of time -- the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars made major upgrades down the middle by trading for Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza, respectively -- but for the rest of the teams that made impact signings, it's time to grade just how well they did for themselves on Day 1.

Note that these grades reflect the talent and fit of the players signed, as well as the reported length and dollars in their deals.

Buffalo Sabres: C-plus

The Sabres are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project under GM Tim Murray, but it was important for him to surround the young talent with veteran leaders who can help break them in to the NHL. In former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta (three years, $12.75 million) and Matt Moulson (five years, $25 million) the Sabres have done exactly that.

Neither player is the kind of impact player who is going to put the Sabres in any danger of spoiling the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, but both are quality players and individuals who will help Ted Nolan instill a professional culture in Buffalo. The Sabres also inked Andrej Meszaros to a one-year deal that’s a pricey $4.125 million. On the bright side, he gives them more trade ammunition at the deadline.

Calgary Flames: C

The Deryk Engelland contract (three years, $8.7 million) was immediately criticized, considering he’s a borderline No. 6 defenseman on a good team. That’s a lot of dough for that kind of player, but at the same time, the reality is that teams in Calgary’s position have to pay a premium to land anyone on the first day of free agency, and there was competition for his services.

“There are lots of teams after him,” said one source close to Engelland on the eve of free agency. And, he certainly fits the truculent identity Brian Burke and GM Brad Treliving are trying to build in Calgary, along with bringing strong character. The Flames may not make the playoffs, but they’ll be miserable to play against. Landing a starting goalie in Jonas Hiller on such a short term (two years at a total of $9 million) helps make up for the questionable Engelland deal.

Chicago Blackhawks: A

Considering the high price his counterparts paid to address their needs at center, Chicago GM Stan Bowman deserves credit for bringing in Brad Richards on a one-year deal worth just $2 million.

Cammalleri, Havlat to Devils

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
2:06
PM ET

The New Jersey Devils have signed free agent center Mike Cammalleri, the team announced.

The five-year contract is worth $25 million, a source familiar with the move confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"I heard rumors of that for the last couple of years," Cammalleri said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "New Jersey is a place that I've been keen on for a while. I had the chance to meet with Mr. (Lou) Lamoriello (Devils general manager) over the weekend and they provided me with a great opportunity to be a New Jersey Devil.

"I have a lot of respect for the organization and I believe in the method and the way they operate. This is something I watched for a while and wanted to be a part of it. There were a lot of factors that played into the decision."

The Devils also signed forward Martin Havlat to a one-year deal, worth $1.5 million, a source confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance.

Cammalleri is an 11-year NHL veteran, who has spent the past two-plus seasons with the Calgary Flames. He is a six-time 20-goal scorer, who had 26 goals and 19 assists in 63 games last season.

Overall, he has 236 goals and 266 assists in 669 games split between Calgary, Montreal and Los Angeles.

Cammalleri said he felt no pressure coming in to be a top scorer.

"I just have to come in and be the best teammate I can be," Cammalleri said. "We all like to score goals, but I'm going to do what I can to help the team. I think there's a good fit here, between the club and myself, the skill set that I can bring."

Havlat was bought out by the Sharks following the season after scoring 27 goals in 127 career games with San Jose after being acquired for Dany Heatley


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The New Jersey Devils ranked 27th in the NHL in goals per game (2.4) last season, a key reason they missed the playoffs for the second straight year after a surprise run to the 2012 Stanley Cup finals.

And for years the Devils have had to steel themselves against a parade of top players fleeing the franchise, players like former captain Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk (who walked right into a completely different league in Russia), Paul Martin and Brian Gionta, all of whom exited New Jersey without the Devils getting any return for those assets.

[+] EnlargeMike Cammalleri
Gerry Thomas/NHLI/Getty ImagesBig names usually leave New Jersey, but Mike Cammaleri is coming aboard.
Tuesday, though, the Devils managed to land a good-sized fish in veteran goal-scorer Mike Cammalleri.

Now, the Devils had to overpay Cammalleri both in terms of money and contract length, giving the 32-year-old a five-year deal that will cost the them $5 million annually against the salary cap.

Still, it's a slight decrease from what Cammalleri was making in Calgary, and it’s a fact of life that until the Devils return to contender status it will cost them more to bring in outside free agents.

Cammalleri is an interesting guy and he’ll bring a little more pizzazz to a Devils’ room that also is home to another top character in Jaromir Jagr, who led the Devils with 24 goals and 67 points last season and is back for one more year.

The Devils also added Martin Havlat on Tuesday, signing the winger to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.

Cammalleri had 26 goals in just 63 games last season for a rebuilding Flames, and there's nothing to suggest he can't replicate that production or even see those numbers jump with a Devils team that had the ninth-ranked power play in the NHL.

The Eastern Conference looks pretty fluid (read: mediocre) at this point, and if goalie Cory Schneider remains healthy there's no real reason New Jersey can't get back into the top eight and make the playoffs. If the Devils make the postseason, Cammalleri may truly earn his keep.

Although he hasn’t played in the postseason since 2011, in his last 26 playoff games with Montreal in 2010 and ’11, he collected an impressive 16 goals and 13 assists.

Welcome to Newark, Mr. Cammalleri.

Oilers sign Pouliot, Fayne

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
12:51
PM ET

The Edmonton Oilers went to work early as Tuesday free agency period opened, signing both winger Benoit Pouliot to a five-year deal and Mark Fayne to a four-year deal in the first hour of the market opening.

Pouliot's deal is worth $20 million in total value, while Fayne's comes in at $14.5 million, sources told ESPN.com

Pouliot earned himself a significant raise after a breakout season with the New York Rangers. The 27-year-old winger, who inked a one-year $1.3 million deal with New York last July, had 15 regular-season goals for the Blueshirts and chipped in with five goals and 10 points during the team's run to the Stanley Cup finals.

The 27-year-old Fayne spent the last four seasons with the New Jersey Devils and emerged as one of the top targets in what has been regarded as a thin class of free agent defensemen.

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun contributed to this report.


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Rumblings: Brodeur eager to go on market

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
1:16
PM ET
The NHL’s all-time winningest netminder was intrigued on the eve of free agency, wondering exactly where he’ll end up.

"I’m excited and intrigued to see some of the options [that] will be laid out in front of me," Martin Brodeur told ESPN.com on Monday. "It’s something that’s new to me; it’s going to be fun."

Technically, Brodeur did in fact enter free agency two years ago, but that was really just because it took Devils GM Lou Lamoriello some time to come around on the idea of a two-year deal.

This time, it’s for real. Brodeur is almost surely changing teams, something Devils fans probably never thought they would see in their lifetime. But Brodeur is eager for a new challenge before he wraps up an incredible career. He’s got one of the sport's big-time agents in Pat Brisson of CAA Sports.

[+] EnlargeMartin Brodeur
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsMartin Brodeur is ready to say goodbye to New Jersey and begin a new chapter in his career.
"We’ll see what noon [ET] tomorrow will bring," Brodeur said. "I’m just sitting back and letting Pat do his thing."

Brodeur is willing to look at different types of fits.

"It depends on the opportunity," Brodeur said. "I’m pretty open-minded about things. For me, this is a year that’s going to be a challenge for me regardless of where I land, first because it’ll be in a different organization, second because it’ll be a new [role]. It’s something where I think I’m just going to really enjoy the game and not worry about carrying a team. I’m just going to be a piece of the puzzle for a team, hopefully."

Whether that’s mentoring a young starting goalie or even helping a more established starter, Brodeur is ready to be that guy.

"It’ll be fun for me just to see what the opportunities are," he said. "But I’m open-minded, whether it’s a team with a good young goalie or being in a spot where I’ve got a chance to win a Stanley Cup again ... just look forward to seeing what’s out there."

Brodeur also knows it may not happen on Day 1 of free agency for him. He needs to patient as Brisson works out the market for him.

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan publicly stated over the weekend Toronto had some interest, although I don’t think there’s much money to spend there. Not to mention James Reimer hasn’t been traded yet.

What about Tampa Bay? It needs a backup goalie. Just a thought.

What now for Tampa?
The Tampa Bay Lightning shed $5.65 million in cap space Sunday night with their three trades, fueling no end of speculation that the club was going to be quite active come Tuesday. Perhaps ... but this is about Tampa creating roster/payroll flexibility moving forward whether that’s for signing a player or two come Tuesday or for having that space to do something over the next few months.

"It gives us some options," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told ESPN.com on Monday. "Really, prior to yesterday, other than trying to sign a backup goaltender, we really weren’t in a position to do anything at all. And we may end up doing nothing [Tuesday] other than signing a backup goaltender, but we’d like to explore [the free-agent market]."

Yzerman pointed to possibilities both up front and on defense.

"We’d like to get potentially a center or maybe a winger," said Yzerman. "And then, we have seven defensemen signed and we’d like to carry eight. Depending on fit and contract, whether it’s a really expensive guy or a low-end one-way, we’ll try to add one more defenseman."

Yzerman said he'd prefer a right-handed defenseman. The Bolts GM would not discuss specific names, but sources have confirmed Tampa’s interest in UFA blueliner Matt Niskanen as well as veteran Dan Boyle, among others.

Tampa joins the likes of Detroit, Toronto, Montreal and the New York Rangers on the list of teams interested in Boyle, as well as places where he would be happy to sign, according to a source.

Niskanen, well, he’s wanted by nearly everyone. He could fetch north of $6 million a year on the open market Tuesday. I don’t believe Tampa will bid like crazy; the deal would have to make sense for them.

Around the market
  • Speaking of Niskanen, likely the most sought-after blueliner on the market Tuesday, his agent, Neil Sheehy, was busy Monday trying to pare down the long, long list of teams interested in signing his client.

    "We are narrowing the list to a workable number today. I can't say how many but rather a workable number," Sheehy said via email.
  • Brad Richards is set for free agency for the second time in his career. Bought out by the New York Rangers, the veteran center would be a valuable addition at the right price. His leadership was on full display during New York’s playoff run and his hands are still capable of helping any power play. Reached via text Monday, Richards didn't want to comment, saying he wanted to keep a low profile on the eve of the market opening.
  • Paul Stastny’s agent, Matt Keator, was working Monday to shorten the list of suitors. Some 15 teams showed interest since the speaking window opened. Keator said Monday morning it was time to work it down to a more workable list, planning to speak with Stastny to identify the top suitors, which another source suggested would include St. Louis. Colorado, of course, also would remain in the mix right to the end, either way.

    The Stastny situation continues to affect the Jason Spezza trade scenario to some degree, most notably with the Blues’ interest in both players. One source did suggest Monday that the Dallas Stars might renew their exploration of the Spezza situation. As I reported Saturday, the Stars have talked to San Jose about Joe Thornton, but either way would like to pick up another top-end center.
  • About eight to 10 teams have circled back to the Thomas Vanek camp with interest. Minnesota, of course, is one of those teams, although as we reported last week, the Wild have expressed to Vanek’s camp that they won't do a long-term deal. Despite that, Minnesota remains very much part of Vanek’s wish list, although where exactly he ends up Tuesday remains to be seen. Sounds like he’ll have to decide between a shorter-term deal in Minnesota (where he really wants to play) or a bigger offer elsewhere. Meanwhile, Vanek met with Wild coach Mike Yeo on Sunday, a source confirmed, to talk about his possible fit.
  • After Josh Gorges refused to accept a trade the Toronto, the Habs must either find a trading partner with one of the 15 teams on Gorges’ approved teams list or put him on waivers, my TSN colleague Bob McKenzie reported earlier today. Will the prospect of going on waivers convince Gorges to take the trade to the Leafs?
  • Jussi Jokinen hits the market Tuesday as it appears the Penguins won’t be re-signing him.

    A source told ESPN.com that Jokinen’s camp offered to re-sign for $4 million a year, a raise over the $3 million he made this past season, but the cap-challenged Penguins feel it’s too much money.

    Jokinen’s agent, Todd Diamond, wouldn't divulge those kinds of details, only to say he still hoped to hear back from Pittsburgh before the market opened Tuesday.

    "Our last conversation was that they would get back to us, but we haven’t heard back yet," Diamond said Monday morning.

    "We have three or four other teams that we’ve spoken to. But I think with these potential trades possibly happening [Jason Spezza, etc], that may also create more interest for Jussi and other players in his position. It’s a pretty fluid situation right now."

    Diamond also represents forward Leo Komarov, who wants to return to the NHL after a year in Russia. The former Maple Leafs forward played well in the Olympics for bronze-medal winner Finland, and there’s a lot of interest in him, according to Diamond.

    "I don’t have enough fingers to count how many teams have called," said Diamond. "He’s a very popular player right now. He’s 27 and brings lots to the table."
  • Speaking of interest, there's plenty as well apparently in Martin Havlat, who became an unrestricted free agent after the San Jose Sharks bought him out. A source told ESPN.com approximately 10 teams have called on him since he was bought out. The long list of injuries have minimized his impact over the past few years, but at the right price, there are teams that can’t help but wonder if getting him on the rebound would be a nice bargain and a solid gamble if he can stay healthy.
  • TSN's Darren Dreger reported Monday that the Maple Leafs would make one more push on pending UFA center David Bolland, but it wouldn’t be more than five years or above $5 million a year. Not sure that’s going to get it done.
  • Pending UFA winger Radim Vrbata has seven or eight teams on his trail, although the Coyotes remain in the mix. It was expected agent Rich Evans and the Coyotes would talk again Monday at some point.

The NHL's waiver list Monday produced three more players who will likely be bought out of their contracts.

Anton Volchenkov (New Jersey), Shane O'Brien (Calgary) and Tim Gleason (Toronto) were placed on unconditional waivers for purpose of a buyout if/when they clear waivers on Tuesday.

Volchenkov, 32, had two years remaining on his deal paying him $4.25 million each season. He signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract with New Jersey in July 2010.

O'Brien, 30, had one year left on his deal, which was set to pay him $2.2 million for next season.

Gleason, 31, had two years left on his contract, counting $4 million each season against the cap.

All three players will become unrestricted free agents Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ed Jovanovski cleared waivers Monday and was bought out by the Florida Panthers, making him an unrestricted free agent as well.


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PHILADELPHIA -- The NHL draft is first and foremost about distributing the league's future talent among its franchises, but it's also an opportunity for each team to assess its overall needs and set the course of the organization for the coming weeks and months. With that in mind, we set to grade each team's efforts at the hockey-palooza that is the draft weekend. Each team received a grade for the talent they managed to acquire and another grade for how well the team's fortunes fared in the same 48 hours.

Corey Pronman provided the talent grades and emptied his notebook (including re-printing each first-rounder's scouting report from Friday's live blog) to give you a comprehensive glimpse at each team's future, while Frank Provenzano graded each front office's weekend.



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Sabres draft Brendan Lemieux No. 31

June, 28, 2014
Jun 28
10:37
AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- With his family pedigree and stout resume, Brendan Lemieux was sure he was a first-round pick.

One weekend into his NHL career, he already had first taste of disappointment when he was passed over on the first day of the draft. But he had a short wait on Saturday.

The Buffalo Sabres opened the second day of the draft by selecting the forward with the 31st overall pick.

"I expected to be a first-round pick and never even really looked at the second round," Lemieux said.

The Sabres are glad he was around. Lemieux is the son of former New Jersey Devils star and Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux.

Brendan Lemieux, who played for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, enjoyed comparisons to his father. In the weeks leading up to the draft, he said he took it as a compliment when teams said he reminded them of the player who won four Stanley Cups. He wears No. 21 because that was his father's number while playing junior hockey and he has also inherited the nickname "Pepe" from Claude.

"He's a leader and he's a winner," Claude Lemieux said. "He loves to win. And he plays the game the right way. So I'm sure the fans will identify."

Brendan Lemieux waited with each pick Friday night to hear his name called. He went home wondering why he would have to return to the Wells Fargo Center for rounds two through seven.

"I was one of those guys who was trying to figure out for a long time where I was going to go," he said. "Nobody really knew. I had no idea I would drop out of the first round, but I had no idea I was going to get picked this morning. I walked in the arena like 2 minutes before I was going to get picked."

Lemieux finished tied for third on Barrie with 53 points (27 goals) and led the club with 145 penalty minutes.

Lemieux was one of several offspring of former NHL players available in the draft. The Sabres selected center Sam Reinhart with the second overall pick. He is the son of former NHL player Paul Reinhart, who was selected by the Atlanta Flames in the first round in 1979.

The Florida Panthers


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PHILADELPHIA -- The next generation of NHL stars takes the stage at the 2014 NHL draft. Insider's Frank Provenzano and Corey Pronman break down every first-round pick, including analysis of the prospects' talents and where they fit into each team's pipeline.

Follow along on Twitter (@NHLDraftBlog) for additional insights throughout the night.

MORE NHL DRAFT CONTENT:

Final Mock Draft | Top 100 Prospects


1
Aaron Ekblad
Florida Panthers
TEAM: Barrie (OHL)
HT: 6-foot-3
WT: 213 lbs
POS: D

Prospect analysis: He's a monster on the back end and plays the game with an edge and elite defensive value. He does so much more than just hit and win battles: he skates well with good power in his stride and excellent pivots; he has really developed the offensive side of his game, with above-average puck skills; and he sees the ice well, can be creative along the point and join the attack or run the point with a high-end shot from deep. -- Pronman

Team-fit analysis: Ekblad will give the Panthers a potential cornerstone defenseman who can eat up big minutes in big situations. He will complement a strong group of young forwards (led by Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov) and the recently reacquired Roberto Luongo to help shore up a very leaky Panthers defense that ranked 29th in the NHL last season. If Florida ever hopes to gain admittance to the perennial playoff club, it needs to develop a true hockey identity to go along with this young core. -- Provenzano


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Hasek, Modano headed to HOF

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
3:36
PM ET
video

Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg and Rob Blake are headed into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The four players were among six selected Monday for induction in November. The late Pat Burns will be enshrined as a coach in the builder category along with referee Bill McCreary.

Hasek, who was known as "the Dominator," won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender six times, tying Bill Durnan's total and trailing Jacques Plante's record. He won two Hart Trophies as league MVP in 1997 and 1998 with the Buffalo Sabres. He was with the Detroit Red Wings when he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2002.

Modano had 561 career goals and 1,374 points, both of which are records for players born in the U.S. The Michigan native was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars, became a star with the franchise in Dallas and ended his career with his hometown Red Wings.

Forsberg and Blake, who both won Stanley Cups with Colorado, are in the Triple Gold Club, a select group of hockey players who have won a Cup, Olympic and world gold medals.

Burns, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup title, died of cancer at 58 in 2010. The police officer-turned-hockey coach won the Adams Trophy as the NHL's top coach with three teams: Toronto, Montreal and Boston.

McCreary wan an official for nearly 2,000 games, including 282 playoff games, from 1984 until he worked his last game on April 2, 2011.

Brendan Shanahan


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Top 25 unrestricted free agents 

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
10:15
AM ET
Paul Stastny, Ryan Miller, Marian GaborikGetty ImagesWhere will Paul Stastny, Ryan Miller and Marian Gaborik land this offseason?
By now, you’ve heard. It’s not a great free agent class. The NHL’s general managers are expected to be active on the trade front over the next few weeks, in part because there’s not a lot of help in free agency. That’s what happens when teams put such a high priority on retaining their top talent.

Still, in the following group of players is a 28-year-old center who is a two-time Olympian. There’s a guy who just put up 14 goals in the playoffs. There are two legitimate starting goalies and no shortage of wingers capable of scoring 20 or 30 goals per season.

The prices for these players will be higher than teams want, but it’s the only time of the year you can get high-end talent without giving up anything in return, which is perhaps what makes these players most appealing.

With that in mind, here are the top 25 unrestricted free agents for 2014:

1. Paul Stastny | C | Colorado Avalanche

Talks to keep Stastny in Colorado are expected to intensify this week, although the safe bet is that Stastny at least waits until the leaguewide interview window opens to get a stronger sense of his options elsewhere. The Avalanche want him to stay, he’s loved in the dressing room and likes playing in Colorado. The challenge is finding a number that works. He’s a 28-year-old center who can anchor one of the top two lines on most teams, a rarity in free agency. Because of that, he could demand big money, with his current salary of $6.6 million a starting point for the open market. During a Thursday news conference, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy used the word "structure" repeatedly in talking about future contracts and where unsigned players fit into that structure.

“[Stastny’s] part of our core. We’re hopeful we can sign him,” Sakic said. “We have our structure, I know he understands that."

The assumption when you’re talking about salary structure is that one player sets the cap for the others. Matt Duchene's contract averages $6 million. Gabriel Landeskog's averages $5.57 million. Semyon Varlamov's averages $5.9 million. So you can get an idea of the ballpark where the Avalanche would like to fit Stastny’s next deal.

“We believe Ryan O'Reilly and Paul should fit within that structure,” he said. “We don’t believe anybody should be ahead of all those guys."

It’s a little unfair to Stastny, because none of those players were days away from unrestricted free agency where prices are higher than when you’re buying years off restricted free agency. If a deal can’t get done, Stastny will have no shortage of suitors with potential fits in New York, St. Louis and Toronto.

2. Thomas Vanek | LW | Montreal Canadiens

It was a wild season for Vanek, who turned down two very large offers (from Buffalo and the New York Islanders) to retain his right to pick a team on July 1. His postseason struggles might mean teams approach him with more trepidation than they might have otherwise, but his agent Steve Bartlett believes there’s a large enough history of success for Vanek to retain his value.

“Let’s be honest, if you’re coming up to free agency, you’d love to have a guy who was lights-out in the playoffs and had a hat trick against the Rangers in Game 7,” Bartlett said. “But it’s ludicrous to think that a guy who has an eight-year body of work that puts him among the elite offensive players in the league gets judged on [the playoffs]. You’re going to judge eight years, not eight days.”

Just look at Marian Gaborik for an example of how a guy’s reputation changed overnight on the right team. Vanek has the kind of offensive skill that can change games and teams, and that puts him in a category by himself on this list.

3. Ryan Callahan | RW | Tampa Bay Lightning

There have been talks between the Lightning and Callahan’s agent (Bartlett), but the lure of July 1 might be strong for Callahan, who has gone through a lot just to get this far.

“We’ve had good-faith negotiations with Tampa,” Bartlett said when we chatted before the weekend. “We’re trying to narrow the gap. He certainly liked his time there.”

If he hits free agency, the expectation is that Buffalo will make a play for him and could end up making the biggest offer, but for a guy who just saw his former team advance to the Stanley Cup finals, it might be hard to go directly into a rebuilding situation.

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Draft strategy: Metro Division

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
10:25
AM ET

Atlantic draft strategy | Metropolitan | Central | Pacific

Most NHL teams say they subscribe strictly to the "best player available" theory. In my experience, some are being honest, some do that in the first round (and incorporate their depth charts beyond) and some take position into account from the beginning. If I were running a team, I'd fall somewhere in the middle because of the very marginal differences in prospect value outside the very top.

Team strategies in the draft should be slightly more complex than simply, "Draft the best player." Teams should try to balance their depth chart if the option is within a reasonable talent range, or they can make trades to either address the need or trade to a spot where the player they want would be a better value. In this series, I'll recommend the best strategies for every NHL team going into this year's draft, division by division. For more on the draft prospects mentioned here (and many more), be sure to check in on our Top 100 NHL draft prospects list.

For the purposes of this column, team strengths and weaknesses generally refer to a team's under-23 NHLers, or players who have not lost rookie eligibility. Players not specifically mentioned are included in the evaluation.


Carolina Hurricanes

Strengths: The Hurricanes have a good group of top-end young talent between Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy. You could do a lot worse for your top group of under-23 NHL players, as these four will be real foundational blocks over the next five-plus seasons.

Weaknesses: The Canes' system is really bad, with no real top-tier talents left in the pipeline until they make their first draft selection, and they could use more quality depth. They have some talent at forward between Victor Rask, Sergei Tolchinsky, Brock McGinn and Phil DiGiuseppe, but that leaves a fair amount to be desired. It's the same issue on defense, as they have a few decent prospects but lack a top talent with Murphy graduated. They also need a better top goalie prospect, as well.

Recommended strategy: Carolina should pick the best player available with their first-round pick (No. 7 overall), but after that, they need to go to work to fix their depth issue. A re-entry pick or two would help if their talent fits at the right slot, with at least one defenseman added in the top four rounds. They need to add another goalie prospect, and may be suited to trade down at some point to get more picks, thus adding to their system's depth.


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Martin Brodeur
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesMartin Brodeur, the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender, is ready to say goodbye to New Jersey and test free agency.

LOS ANGELES -- Add Martin Brodeur's name to the mix for the July 1 free-agent market, as the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender has decided he's ready to leave New Jersey and see what's out there.

"I've come to the conclusion that I'm definitely going to be available July 1,'' Brodeur told ESPN.com on Friday. "I want to play one more season and I want to see what's out there."

Brodeur, who turned 42 last month, said he hasn't completely shut the door on returning to the Devils but feels like it's most likely he'll be elsewhere next season.

"I've had a lot of good conversations with the Devils, but I'm not inclined at going back at this point," said Brodeur, whose contract expires June 30. "I just feel that with Schneids (goalie Cory Schneider) the organization has to move on. Me being around might be tough a little bit for them. I don't completely put it out of the question (returning to New Jersey), but I don't want to mess up the cards for the Devils.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where I go next, I'm always going to be a Devil. I'm always going to come back to the organization. But I want to play one more year. So I'll see what's out there."

Brodeur briefly dipped into the July free-agent market a couple of years ago before re-signing with the Devils. This time he's mentally prepared to make the jump.


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