06 July 2009

Free Agency, the week after

So 48 hours of Saku-watch proved fruitless as it appears he's going to take his time before deciding on a suitor. Most of the blogosphere seemed to have this deal as imminent but apparantly the sides are a year apart on term. Saku is 36, but has apparantly been offered a 4 year deal whereas the Wild are reportedly unwilling to go beyond 3.

Saku Koivu (Mikko's elder brother by 8 years) is the best UFA Center remaining, and once it became clear it was possible for him to sign elsewhere he undoubtedly has many suitors.

So here's what I think. On the surface, Saku Koivu is easily worth $4M for the next two seasons if Owen Nolan is worth that. They both strike me as veteran guys looking who are/were looking for better situations and still have a lot left in the tank. Also this is Koivu's last contract so I understand that he would pass on us to go somewhere offering a longer deal.

The problem is the Wild are within $7M of the cap and haven't signed any RFA's yet. The Wild have plenty of D, but I think signing Saku would be easier if we didn't have to pay Johnsson $5M a year. And Saku would clearly contribute more to victory than Johnsson.

Overall I'm pleased with Fletcher, but the one bone I have to pick is his stating that we don't want to go for anyone else at Center. If we go with who we have again from an offensive standpoint, we aren't that much better than the start of last year. I don't think Bouchard is the answer at center, if he were, they wouldn'tve traded for Fritche last year. So it's Shep at #2 again (even though he probably belongs as a #3 or #4 center). Good Center's are hard to get, which is why the 36yo vet Saku Koivu is getting so much interest, but I would like Fletcher to consider Mike Comrie. He may not have great numbers, but they're better than Shep's and he has enough experience for the #2 center role. Not to mention he's certainly not due a raise from his $4M last year and about 8 years younger than Saku. This really seems like a good cheaper and younger alternative to Koivu that Fletcher was too quick to dismiss.

The big reason I'm pleased with Fletcher is how he's going about upgrading the defense. Greg Zanon was great to watch in Milwaukee and he's the guy bringing the toughness that Fletcher spoke about. With the bringing in of Zanon, and tough guy Shane Hindy he has 7 D under contract.

It remains to be seen what will become of Skoula, Bergeron and Foster. I think at most one these will be coming back, and I don't think it'll be Skoula. They might try to squeeze Foster in for about $1M, but that would make 8D, two of which will be scratched every night. Don't be surprised if all three of these players are gone.

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