Welcome to NHL Free Agent Frenzy

While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his staff in New York and Toronto take a lot of guff from hardcore fans for all sorts of reasons, they ought to be acknowledged for doing everything they can to keep the league in the spotlight long after the Stanley Cup has been awarded. ↵

↵Since Bettman awarded the cup to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 12, we've subsequently been treated to the league's annual awards show, followed soon thereafter by the NHL Draft. ↵

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↵So what's next? As every fan of hockey now knows, the most exciting time of the year outside of the trade deadline now comes on July 1 at noon ET when the free agent signing period begins. Over at NHL.com, John Kreiser has put together a list of the top 50 unrestricted free agents. After taking a quick glance at the list, here are a few thoughts: ↵

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↵1. There's a surplus of free-agent goaltending talent, but not enough starting jobs to go around. If you're a team looking for a solid veteran backup, I'd expect you'd be able to pick up one for a very reasonable price, especially in a year when the salary cap is going to be static. That ought to be a disappointment to Anaheim GM Bob Murray, who may be looking to deal former Conn Smythe-winning goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. ↵

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↵2. When it comes to forwards, a lot of the big names could potentially bust a budget, none more so than the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel. With the added pressure of a static cap, they might find that the best deal available is still in Vancouver. As for Marian Hossa, you'd have to say that his one-year gamble signing with Detroit has backfired on a number of levels. In addition to losing the Stanley Cup to the team that he spurned a long-term offer from just a year ago, there's a real possibility that the dollars he could have commanded a year ago just won't be available this time around. ↵

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↵In my mind, the most attractive target here has to be Mike Cammalleri, the Calgary Flames forward who is coming off a 39-goal season. Still just 27 years old, Cammalleri has got a lot of tire left on the tread, while his current team probably won't be able to find the cap room to keep him. ↵

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↵3. NHL-caliber defensemen are always at a premium, and with Jay Bouwmeester signing with the Flames after being dealt from the Florida Panthers, there aren't any potentially game-breaking talents available. Scott Niedermayer is just about set to return to Anaheim, and Rob Blake re-signed with the Sharks. That leaves a handful of value picks, albeit ones who will probably command an outsized price in a market like this one. Rob Scuderi will draw a ton of attention after the playoff he had with Pittsburgh, but the player I would keep my eye on is Francois Beauchemin. If he's healthy -- and that's an "if" after returning late in the regular season and playing regular minutes in the playoffs -- Beauchemin is the kind of defenseman who could either anchor a top pairing or help a team depth-wise by creating a credible second pair. It's easy to forget that Beauchemin averaged more ice time per game than both Chris Pronger and Niedermayer during Anaheim's 2006-07 playoff run. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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