Free agency: Some about to get rich

With Copenhagen’s selection of Nick Petan, the EURO League draft is complete and hockey knowledge will now take a back seat to financial wizardry.

An even 100 players are Type 3, unrestricted free agents. Some, like 33-year-old Jim Vandermeer and 32-year-old Rick Dipietro, have never played for a EURO team and will probably not get offers.  Others, like Geneva goalie Kari Lehtonen, will get rich.

The questions are: 1) will their current teams, which get exclusive first bids on free agents, offer enough to keep them?  and 2) Will the free agents simply refuse all offers from their current employer to seek greener grass elsewhere?

Frankfurt left wing Max Pacioretty, 25, stands to get a raise this week. The Type 2, restricted free agent earned $1.62 million with the Inferno last season.

Frankfurt left wing Max Pacioretty, 25, stands to get a raise this week. The Type 2, restricted free agent earned $1.62 million with the Inferno last season.

General managers will break out the spreadsheets and calculators for a few hours to plot their courses and then they’ll cross their fingers and toes hoping the plan materializes the way they hope it will.

Some teams will have excruciatingly painful decisions to make. As an example, let’s take one scenario that could play out in Copenhagen. On their roster, the President’s Trophy-winning Tridents currently have the top-ranked free agent skater in center Stephen Weiss. Weiss’ agent seems unusually happy these days. Once they are able to get the 30-year-old Canadian in the fold, they still have forwards Derek Roy, Boyd Gordon, Troy Brouwer, Gregory Campbell, Teddy Purcell and Benn Ferriero to convince to stay with the team. But even if GM Dylan Callow can keep that forward corps intact, the going could get tougher. Defensemen Carl Gunnarsson and Scott Hannan and goalie Mathieu Garon all have expired contracts. With Justin Falk signed for the next three years, Hannan is probably last priority and an easy call for Callow. But there are six blueliners and young Falk already under contract, and Gunnarsson is better than some of them. Can Copenhagen afford to let him walk? Is Falk capable of picking up the slack if, say Fyodor Tyutin or Alex Goligoski goes down with an injury? If the Tridents are to take that final step to Cup glory, they will probably have to resign Gunnarsson.

So forwards and defensemen are in place. Now for the toughest decision of all for the Tridents. They will either have to sign Garon and hope he can fill in adequately when Roberto Luongo needs a break, or let Garon go and gamble on signing a better backup. But that’s quite a gamble. The Tridents aren’t the only team in the league that will slide a piece of paper across the table to the likes of Mike Smith, Tim Thomas, J-S Giguere or Jose Theodore, and that’s assuming their current teams don’t resign them.

The free agency period presents quite a test for Callow and he’s not alone. Many clubs face similar predicaments, and the only ones happy about it are the fans and the significant others of players like Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, Blake Wheeler, Max Pacioretty, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul, whose paychecks will all go up a lot very soon.


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