2010 NHL Free Agency: The Ilya Kovalchuk Sweepstakes And Other Storylines

While LeBron probably isn't going to the Canucks, there's still plenty of mayhem ahead on July 1 in the NHL. Here's a quick look at a few storylines as we prepare for the insanity that is the open of free agency in the NHL.

- Ilya Kovalchuk. It's rare that a player of number 17's caliber hits the market, and that makes this year pretty special. The big question for every team, though, is can we afford him? Jewels From The Crown addressed that concern:

I will take a different approach. Take a team's current cap hit, add in a very low estimate for any RFAs the team is generally thought to be re-signing (in the Kings' case, it's Richardson and Lewis), and then add in $8.5MM cap hit for Ilya Kovalchuk, and see where that gets you, cap-wise.

The teams in red are the ones who simply can't sign Kovalchuk because doing so puts them seriously over the cap. (My definition of "seriously over the cap" in this context is, "team has several players yet to sign to get to a full roster and zero dollars per player to do it with.")

Teams in orange would be foolish to try to add a Kovalchuk cap-hit to their rosters, but they could sort of almost just barely do it. The orange teams would be putting themselves in the position of having to fill out their roster with several players who make "minimum wage."

Teams in yellow can do it and will still have $1-2MM left over per player they need to sign. Teams in green have more than $2MM per player left to sign (or else would already have a full roster), and so are obviously in the best position of all the teams.

There's a chart, and it's fantastic.

- The goalie market: There are a lot of goalies looking for work, and there are only a handful of teams with openings at the position. Tampa, Philadelphia, San Jose are really the only teams in need of starting goaltending. The price, then, for these guys will be driven down and many goalies will have to look elsewhere for work.

- The defense market: On defense, the market is basically the complete opposite. You have a bunch of serviceable second and third pairing guys who are all due for raises, and with plenty of holes on NHL rosters, these guys will likely all pick up those spots and get their money.

- Dan Hamhuis: Perhaps the most coveted defenseman on the market, Hamhuis has had an interesting ride to the free agent market. In fact, he still might not get there, but after the Nashville Predators couldn't get an agreement with him, they shipped his rights to Philadelphia, where the Flyers couldn't come to terms with him either.

They wound up shipping him to their biggest rival in exchange for a third round pick, and now it appears that the Penguins won't be coming to a deal with him. It'll be fascinating to see if Hamhuis gets the $5 million he believes he is worth on the UFA market.

- Does anything happen at all? After the draft turned into a complete snooze-fest, it'll be interesting to see how much news actually comes out of the free agency period. Do the teams need to make up for lost moves at the draft, or is this just one of those years where nothing exciting happens?

We'll be updating all the news throughout the day and in the run up to 12 PM on Thursday. Stay tuned.

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