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NHL teams have lots to do before Wednesday's frenzy

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TSN.ca Staff
6/29/2009 12:26:00 PM
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The next 24 to 48 hours could be a nail-biter for some of the NHL's six Canadian clubs as Wednesday's free agent signing period draws closer.

In Vancouver, the spotlight is obviously on any progress in contract negotiations between Canucks general manager Mike Gillis and the Sedin twins. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who have been career Canucks since being drafted by the club in 1999, are facing the reality they may have to test the open market to determine their value.

And from their perspective, that value is reportedly high. According to a story on Swedish website expressen.se last week, the twins are looking for identical 12-year contracts worth $63 million each. Their agent, JP Barry says there has been no progress in contract discussions, including a meeting with Gillis last week in Montreal that failed to produce a counter offer.

Should the twins decide to move elsewhere, part of the void could quickly be filled with forward Marian Gaborik. The soon-to-be free agent winger is in the midst of an interesting rumour that he has purchased a home in West Vancouver. That - combined with the fact that a possible signing could re-unite him with former Minnesota linemate Pavol Demitra - has fans and media on the West Coast whispering about an overhaul up front.

Should the Sedins continue their career elsewhere, the Canucks could also have room to re-sign defenceman Mattias Ohlund. The Swedish blueliner has also spent his entire career in Vancouver, although local reports say that he has already put up a 'For Sale' sign in front of his own home.

Whatever direction Gillis takes, it will be instrumental in setting up a foundation for fanchise goaltender Roberto Luongo to stay in town with a contract extension.

One of the teams that could be in the running for the Sedins are the Toronto Maple Leafs. General Manager Brian Burke, who drafted the twins 10 years ago, is no stranger to making offseason splashes (or at least trying to) and speculation is that he could make a pitch for his former players after the clock strikes noon on Wednesday.

"We'll be involved on July 1," Burke told reporters over the weekend. "The door is open for business at noon and that's when we will start to get involved."

To make room big-ticket names like the Sedins - or any other free agent for that matter - Burke will be certainly be listening to more offers for defenceman Tomas Kaberle. He reportedly had an deal in the works with the Boston Bruins involving Phil Kessel last Friday, only to have it fall through just minutes before the draft.

One player who doesn't have to wait until July 1 is Jonas Gustavsson. The Leafs are one of four teams making a pitch for the Swedish netminder.

Goaltending will also be an offseason concern for the Edmonton Oilers. General Manager Steve Tambellini is deciding whether or not to re-sign 39-year-old netminder Dwayne Roloson, who is set to test the market on Wednesday. While Roloson gave the club some solid work down the stretch this season, it could be easy for Tambellini to let him go with youngsters Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk in the system.

"We've had discussions with Roli and his agent," Tambellini told the Edmonton Sun last week. "There isn't anything in place at this time. I can't really give you an update from Roli's side, what they're thinking."

Forward Ales Kotalik - acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last season - is also expected to hit the open market, and that could open the door for the club to court a high-profile forward like Marian Hossa...if the price is right.

In Ottawa, Dany Heatley has five years remaining on his contract but he may have the single biggest impact for the Senators leading up to Wednesday. If the club can facilitate Heatley's trade demand, then Bryan Murray may be looking for a first line goal scorer winger to play with Jason Spezza.

But if Heatley is still on the roster on Wednesday, the former 50-goal scorer likely won't be dealt this season due to the $4 million roster bonus he is due on July 1. Murray says the winger will have a decision to make either play for the Senators, or stay home next season. So over the next couple of days, the Senators' general manager will be busy trying to make a deal so he knows what to go after when the signing frenzy begins.

Ottawa has a majority of its players under contract for next season. Only Chris Neil and Mike Comrie are unrestricted and they are expected to hit the open market. Neil recently rejected a four-year deal worth $1.7 million a season. As a result, the Sens could be looking for a tough guy to replace Neil. Regardless of what happens with Heatley, the team is still in need of a Top 6 forward.

With Heatley's $7.5 million cap hit, the Senators have roughly $51.5 million committed to salaries for the upcoming season, so they do have some money to spend.
 
In typical Darryl Sutter fashion, the Flames' general manager will likely have his work done before July 1. He's already made huge moves by hiring brother Brent to work behind the bench and landing the rights to Jay Bouwmeester from the Florida Panthers.

Sutter's big challenge will obviously be signing the big-name defenceman to a multi-year contract.

The Flames are about $11 million under the salary cap for next season and that will shrink significantly if Bouwmeester is signed. With soon-to-be free agents Mike Cammalleri and Todd Bertuzzi unlikely to return, Sutter will be looking to replace them on the wing and getting any prominent name signed will be difficult with big-money players like Daymond Langkow, Cory Sarich, Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf, Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla in the fold.

The NHL Entry Draft came and went with Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey unable to land the 'big scoring centre' that would have headlined Friday's event in Montreal.

With Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier in the club's rear-view mirror (at least for now), Gainey could wait it out and see if he's available later in the summer or swing a deal to acquire another No. 1 centre. "There's a lot of time between now and the start of the season on Oct. 15," Gainey said on Friday.

Aside from Henrik Sedin, there isn't a lot of star power down the middle that can be bought up on July 1. Making things more difficult for the Habs is the fact that Gainey must also decide the fates of his own potential unrestricted free agents, including defencemen Mike Komisarek and Mathieu Schneider, wingers Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay and captain Saku Koivu.

Unfinished business? (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Graig Abel/Andre Ringuette/Getty Imag)

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(Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Graig Abel/Andre Ringuette/Getty Imag)
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