Arbitration, salary demands hit some hard

General managers who were disciplined enough to let their top free agents leave for the open market might be the last ones laughing as the EURO League continues to reel in an economic crisis.

Beginning today, they will get to go shopping in one of the best free agent classes ever, and on top of that, not all 24 teams will be able to compete for the big names because so many are in serious cap space trouble.

A total of 32 players with OV ratings of 80 or higher are looking for work. Among the best are goalies Cory Schneider, Henrik Lundquist and Jimmy Howard; forwards Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski and Zach Parise, to name a few; and defensemen Brent Seabrook, Alex Edler, Dustin Byfuglien and Erik Johnson. And that’s just 11 of the 32 who are considered “superstars” in Websim terms. The fortunes of many teams – and the balance of the entire league – could have completely new looks in a few days when the “free agent frenzy” step ends.

A total of 17 Type 2 free agents held their ground against the owners and won arbitration contracts that will keep them in their cities for one more year. Those arbitration awards have blown many team budgets too.

A look at the Player Management pages, shows teams like Belfast, Bratislava, Minsk and Paris seem to have little to spend, while the German teams, Geneva and some others have miles of cap space. Even if they let the top 20 players go to someone else, GMs could conceivably land a line of Brandon Dubinsky, Wayne Simmonds and Jiri Tlusty for not a lot of money.

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