Thursday, June 12, 2008

This Off Season's Most Coveted Free Agent

Marián Hossa was a critical part to the Pittsburgh Penguin's run to the Stanley Cup finals this past season, but now he is the most sought after unrestricted free agent in the National Hockey League.

Hossa had a very good post season, earning 26 points in 20 games for Pittsburgh, and ten points in the 12 regular season games he played with the team. However, the Penguins are already pretty close to the salary cap, and are approaching an off-season in which half of their roster (10 players including Hossa) will be unrestricted free agents. Given that this doesn't even include the fact that Malkin is still on his rookie contract with only one season remaining, there is no way they can afford to resign him.

Marian Hossa earned seven million last season, but due to the nature of his contract only counted six million against the cap. His value is only going up, and to see him sign for five years at ten million a year is a very real possibility. This is big money, but any team with room would be willing to add a player of this caliber to their lineup.

Besides Pittsburgh the other two teams Hossa has played for are the Ottawa Senators and the Atlanta Thrashers, but he is unlikely to return to either of these teams. It seemed all season as if he wanted out of Atlanta, and after being traded for Daniel Heatley it remains unlikely he would want to return to the team that drafted him. Both teams could use him, but as a free agent the choice really belongs to Hossa.

The two teams most likely to pick Hossa up this summer are the Dallas Stars, and the Washington Capitals. Both teams made the playoffs this past season and are expected to next year as well even without any big moves this off season. They would give Hossa the chance not only to be the star, but to actually play for a good team as well. Dallas has relied to greatly on their goaltending to win games for them, and could benefit from the additional talent up front.

The Capitals on the other end already have plenty of talent up front with Alexander Ovechkin, but are still a young team and could use the added depth and leadership that Marian Hossa could provide. The Capitals have a good amount of cap space, and only really need to resign Huet in goal. Their long term big money commitment to Ovechkin shows that they aren't afraid to pay their top guys well either. This is also the potential downside of this match, as Washington my be wary of committing too much money to their top two guys, which is a strategy that has backfired greatly in Tampa Bay.

A few other teams such as the Wild, and Boston Bruins, but that's less likely. At the end of the day Marian Hossa can go to wherever team he wants to, and the whole league wants him for their own.

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