The EURO League draft will be coming up at the end of the month and then in October, it will be the four stages of free agent signings. For some teams, it will be a scary time, as some key pieces of puzzles decide if salary offers will be good enough to keep them with their current teams. For other teams, it is a time of opportunity, as they look to swoop in and pluck unrestricted free agents for their own rosters.
Repeating as Cup champions is never easy, but Igor Kirunov should be able to keep most of the Minsk Hussars together. Patrick Kane, Milan Lucic, Jordan Staal, Thomas Powell and a couple other restricted free agents will put Minsk right up against the cap, but Kirunov should be able to keep the main pieces in place for a few more Cup runs.
At first glance, it looks like perennial powerhouse Paris – winners of the Cup in Season 2 and runner-up in Seasons 3 and 6 – should be the most nervous. General Manager Ralph Booth has Type 3 negotiating sessions with Evgeny Malkin, Tuukka Rask, Kris Letang, Corey Perry and Josef Vasicek written into his calendar book. Booth will need all of that sweet smile and charm if he wants to keep the old gang together for a couple more Cup runs. If any one of the top three Paris free agents – Malkin, Letang or Rask – decides to test the market, it will put a serious dent in Booth’s plan. If all of them decide to leave France, well the Rouges Eiffels will suddenly be in full scramble mode and that would send many other EURO teams into full shopping spree mode. The five Paris free agents all earned between $4 million and $5.09 million last year. There are probably handfuls of GMs around the league willing to give some of the Paris boys handsome pay raises.
Besides Paris, there are other top teams in the league whose plans are still up in the air because of free agents whose contracts have expired.
Belfast, which came within a game of making it the finals for the third straight season, have to worry about Jonathan Quick resigning. If he doesn’t, then Chris Patton will have to hope that some of the better free agent goalies in the league decide likewise so he can get a shot at signing one of them. Cam Talbot and Andrei Vasilevskiy will stay in Belfast, but is either capable of getting Claude Giroux, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and company into the finals? Clouding the issue will be the fact Patton will have to give Type 2 free agents Giroux, Ondrej Palat, Andrei Tarasenko and P.K. Subban more cash to keep them in town.
The Smurfs will try to convince goalie Jimmy Howard, winger Patric Hornquist and three starting defenseman to stay in northern Germany.
The next two teams in last year’s standings – Madrid and Moscow – will have new general managers this season. Tony B takes over in Spain and he already took part in La Tomatina (http://www.latomatinatours.com) near Valencia, so he is ready to concentrate on player contracts. The up-and-coming team will be closer to the salary cap after a free agent step or two, but the only players Tony B has to worry about losing are wingers Alexander Steen, Andrew Cogliano and Colin Greening.
Moscow is virtually ready to go for its new owner, with only 38-year-old defenseman Andrei Markov and Danish forwards Frans Nielsen and Jannik Hansen to be re-signed.
A little further down the standings are two Swedish teams hoping to continue their upward climbs. Gothenburg will have to re-sign defensemen Marc-Eduoard Vlasic and Mark Fraser and Stockholm only was to worry about Derick Brassard’s contract, but expect both Michael Sauer and Austin Dwyer to have their credit cards out on that last free agent step, as they shop for the player or players that could slide them up the standings if things go south for Belfast and Moscow.
Among the big name free agents that other general managers will be trying to re-sign are Paul Stastny and Jason Spezza in Helsinki; Brent Seabrook in Milan; Dustin Byfuglien of Lisbon; Matt Read, Marian Gaborik and Dennis Wideman in Geneva; T.J. Oshie in Athens; Tyler Bozak in London and five 81OV-or-better goalies in addition to Quick, Rask and Howard.
The chart below shows the teams from most cap space available to the least, and includes the free agents on their pro rosters that are without contracts. It’s not a precise science and involves some guess work. Some players who count toward the cap will surely be dropped from the pro teams and we’re just guessing at what GMs plan to do with their teams.
I’m having trouble getting this chart to be readable. I can’t get the click to enlarge function to work. Here’s the Type 2 free agent part of it (Stalock is cut off in the Milan row):
(Click to enlarge)
And the Type 3 free agents (The first three columns are repeated from above. Pavelec is cut off in the Geneva row):
(Click to enlarge)