This year may not be the strongest when it comes to free agency, but there are still many players that teams will be very interested in adding to their rosters. With the overall increase in long term contracts, it seems that the free agency pool has gotten smaller and smaller, leading to overpaying for many players. When it comes to Centers, it seems like every team could use one, and the depth in free agency may lead some GMs to pick up their phones and look for a trade.
Probably the top name in this years center class is Detroit Redwing Jiri Hudler. Hudler had an excellent contract year, scoring 25 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. At 28 years old he’s a player that will most likely receive a contact that goes for a few years, maybe four or five. Hudler had a $2,875,000 cap hit on his last contract, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a large raise this offseason. Teams should keep in mind that the 28 year old did not have a great season the year before, only scoring 10 goals and 27 assists. He has had two great seasons in his seven year career, so it could be a slight risk.
Doesn’t it feel like Olli Jokinen has been a free agent every year for as long as you can remember? The aging center’s best days are behind him, but he did manage to have a decent season scoring 23 goals and 38 assists this season. He made $3,000,000 last year, and my guess is his next contract will be about that. At 33 years old and with his recent track record I doubt he gets a long term deal from anyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if come the end of day one Jokinen hasn’t signed with a new team yet. It may take some dominoes falling for a team to settle on him.
Another honk for the Goose? The Sabres traded Paul Gaustad to the Predators at the trade deadline for a first round pick, more than many expected the team would be able to get for him. Viewed as one of the top available players at the deadline, his face-off skills intrigued many teams. In 14 regular season games he scored no goals and four assists, and in ten playoff games he scored one goal and one assist. The Predators are letting him walk, and he could get paid much more in free agency than he likely worth. This is one of the main reasons the Sabres traded him in the first place. I know many would love to have Gaustad back on this team, but his price tag may be much too steep.
There are a few other players that will likely draw interest, names like Jason Arnott, Dominic Moore, John Madden, Damon Langkow, and Kyle Wellwood. Not many teams would say any of these players are worth dishing out large amounts of money too, but some may due to the lack of other options. If you want the Sabres to acquire a big name center in free agency, you’re out of luck. I’d start looking to trades for your fantasies.