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Vancouver Canucks forwards Henrik Sedin, right, and his twin brother, Daniel are two of the most attractive free agents available. (DARRYL DYCK)
Vancouver Canucks forwards Henrik Sedin, right, and his twin brother, Daniel are two of the most attractive free agents available. (DARRYL DYCK)

The best of the free agents Add to ...



Teams have until high noon Wednesday to sign their own potential unrestricted free agents, Eric Duhatschek writes, otherwise they risk losing them for nothing in return. Many teams are feverishly negotiating with players now in the hopes of striking an 11th-hour deal, but if that doesn't happen, the following will be the most attractive commodities once the doors open.

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1/1a. Daniel & Henrik Sedin, Vancouver

Negotiating as a pair and will move as a pair if the Canucks cannot get them signed, which means any potential suitor for the twins will need a minimum of $12-million (all figures U.S.) in salary-cap space to make an effective bid. The Maple Leafs, run by Brian Burke, who drafted the Sedins, will be the heavy favourites, followed by Minnesota and Los Angeles. Key stat: Both tied for 13th in NHL scoring with 82 points in 82 games.

2. Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary

The Flames acquired the negotiating rights to Bouwmeester from Florida on the weekend and will make a full-court press to sign him today or tomorrow. If unsuccessful, Vancouver and Edmonton loom as destinations. Key stat: Led the entire NHL in ice time with 26:59 minutes played per game and had 42 points in 82 games.

3. Marian Hossa, Detroit

The expectation is that Hossa will re-sign with Detroit after he turned down far more lucrative offers last year to join the Red Wings. Salary-cap constraints may prevent that, however, putting Edmonton - the team that made the biggest push last year and is still seeking a top-three forward - into an attractive position. Key stat: One of only eight NHLers to break the 40-goal barrier with 40 goals and 71 points in 74 games.

4. Marian Gaborik, Minnesota

Even rookie wild GM Chuck Fletcher doesn't think Gaborik will agree to a new deal. If the Sedins move on, Gaborik becomes a priority for Vancouver. Los Angeles and Montreal will also be in the running. Key stat: Finished fourth in the NHL in points per game (1.35) with 13 goals and 23 points in 17 games.

5. Martin Havlat, Chicago

Negotiations between Havlat and the Blackhawks were hung up on term; Chicago didn't want to make a de facto lifetime commitment to the oft-injured Havlat, even though he was a significant contributor to last year's turnaround. The Kings and Canadiens could be in on him, too, depending upon where the Gaborik domino falls. Key stat: Played most games (81) and scored most points (77) in his eight-year NHL career.

6. Alexei Kovalev, Montreal

The most accomplished of Montreal's five free agents and the least likely to find a fit elsewhere, Kovalev is expected to re-sign with the Canadiens. If that were to fall through, he becomes more attractive to Pittsburgh than some of their own unrestricteds - such as Petr Sykora - that they're talking to. Key stat: Hit 65-point mark for seventh time with 26 goals and 39 assists in 78 games.

7. Mike Cammalleri, Calgary

The Flames essentially bid goodbye to Cammalleri back in March when they acquired Olli Jokinen, leaving them with little cash to spend on a forward looking for upwards of $5-million per season. Cammalleri's ex-agent, Mike Gillis, runs the Canucks, so Vancouver is a possibility, as is his hometown of Toronto. Key stat: Finished tied for ninth in NHL goal scoring with 39 goals in 81 games.

8. Saku Koivu, Montreal

The Canadiens' long-time captain probably won't be back and his landing place figures to be Minnesota, which needs a No. 2 centre and would give him a chance to play with brother Mikko. Key stat: Has averaged 74 games played and 62 points a season since returning from cancer battle in 2002.

9. Nik Khabibulin, Chicago

The best in a crop of free-agent goaltenders that also includes Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson and Philadelphia's Martin Biron, he might be a fit with the Oilers short-term if Roloson keeps insisting on a two-year deal. The market for goalies is expected to be comparatively weak since few teams are seeking a high-priced No. 1. Key stat: Posted a 25-8-7 record and sixth-best save percentage (.919) in the NHL.

10. Mike Komisarek, Montreal

GM Bob Gainey was making a last-ditch effort to re-sign Komisarek yesterday, but if he doesn't succeed, Boston becomes a likely destination given the Bruins' failed courtship of Toronto's Tomas Kaberle. Florida, after losing Bouwmeester, may make a pitch as well. Key stat: Had two goals and 11 points while averaging 20:38 of ice time in 66 games.

11. Steve Sullivan, Nashville

The Bill Masterton Trophy winner, after coming back from nearly two years on the sidelines because of a back injury, is also looking for a multi-year commitment, something the Predators are seemingly unprepared to offer. Sullivan looked as if he had his scoring touch back by the end of the season, but is small and the injury issue will be a factor. Key stat: Had 32 points in 41 games, including 27 in 25 to end the season.

Honourable mentions: Chris Neil, Ottawa. Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim. Nikolai Antropov, New York Rangers. Alex Tanguay, Montreal, Robert Lang, Montreal. Todd Bertuzzi, Calgary. Jordan Leopold, Florida. Brian Gionta, New Jersey. Derek Morris, New York Rangers. Mike Knuble, Philadelphia Flyers, Mattias Ohlund, Vancouver. Travis Moen, San Jose.

Unrestricted but unlikely to move from their current clubs: Joe Sakic, Colorado. Rob Blake, San Jose. Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim.

 

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