Hockey World Blog

Brooks Laich signs extension; Who else is available in NHL 2011 free agency?

A free agent class of forwards that was already considered highly weak just took another blow as Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich decided to forgo free agency and opted instead to sign a six-year, $27 million deal with the Washington Capitals.

“I’m thrilled to make the commitment to remain a Capital,” said Laich in a statement. “It is a wonderful organization with terrific fans and I’m very happy to continue to call Washington home for many years to come.”

Laich was largely viewed as the second hottest commodity of free agency behind forward Brad Richards thanks to his point-producing consistency, size and ability to play effectively at both ends of the ice. Not to mention Laich would be a much more cost effective addition to a team’s roster than Richards, who could command upwards of $7-$8 million per season. Teams such as the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings were all rumored to have interest in Laich.   

Besides Richards, most of the available forwards in the free agent pool are either advanced in age or come bundled with injury concerns. At 31-years-old, Simon Gagne may be the next best forward available, but two injury-plagued seasons cause concern for a long-term commitment to a player capable of producing at almost a point-per-game pace when healthy. Gagne contributed 12 points in 15 playoff games for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.

Colorado forward Tomas Fleischmann could be a good steal for a team looking to boost their offense as long as past injuries have been remedied. After getting traded to the Avalanche last year from Washington, Fleishmann posted 21 points in 22 games, including eight goals, before getting sidelined with a pulmonary embolism. But health remains a concern after suffering from blood clots two years in a row.

Buffalo Sabres center Tim Connolly has a great offensive upside but has only played in 70 or more games in five of his 10 NHL seasons. At 30-years-old, a team might be willing to take a chance on Connolly for the right price, however.

Alexei Kovalev, Michael Nylander, Teemu Selanne, Steve Sullivan and Cory Stillman are also available free agents this season, but all of them are over the age of 35.

Jason Arnott could be an interesting player to watch when free agency begins. Although 36-years-old, Arnott was stymied in New Jersey where the entire team struggled offensively and only produced 24 points in 62 games. However, Arnott is one year removed from a 57 point season and contributed seven points in 11 games for the Washington Capitals after getting traded at the trade deadline last year. Arnott also tallied six points in nine playoff games. For a team looking to add a potential 50-point player, Arnott could be a reasonable choice.

And the good news remains that if your team has plenty of cash to blow they will likely take a run at Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos, who appears more and more unlikely to sign with the Lightning with each passing day. Stamkos himself claimed that the two sides were close to reaching a deal last week, however reports surfaced today that the two sides are in fact very far apart in negotiations. An offer sheet, or several, is 100 percent certain to come through on Friday if Stamkos is not signed by the Lightning. Expect a trade to come in the next few days if Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman feels like he won’t be able to re-sign the young superstar so Yzerman can at least get something in return.

Philadelphia and Toronto are rumored to have interest in Stamkos, but the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers have money to blow on a huge offer sheet.

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  1. Pingback: Free Agents at a Bargain Price « Hockey World Blog

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