As draft passes, focus shifts to free agency

As draft passes, focus shifts to free agency

As draft passes, focus shifts to free agency

It didn’t take long for things to get squirrely at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Pick number two brought the first curveball of the day as the Florida Panthers opted to select Sasha Barkov second overall behind Nathan MacKinnon.

That selected bucked the assumed train of thought of MacKinnon and Seth Jones being the first two players off the board. Jones actually fell all the way to the fourth pick and will land in Nashville thanks to his mini-drop in the first round.

Vancouver finally solved their goaltending issues – although it felt like they may have taken the easy way out – and a handful of other players, picks and prospects changed hands throughout the day.

The 2013 draft was touted as being incredibly deep and upwards of seven of the first round selections are expected to be capable of stepping onto an NHL roster immediately, marking the further evolution of talent being selected in the draft lately.

Now that the draft has passed, many contenders have begun to position themselves for a strong offseason through the trade market and unrestricted free agency. With the free agent market set to open on Friday, there is bound to be some massive contracts offered despite the relatively weak class that is set to hit the market.

The new wrinkle in the CBA that allows teams to meet and speak with players prior to the market opening on Friday should help re-create some of the excitement from the 2007 free agency opening day when so many teams went crazy with big contract signings. Given that teams will be able to negotiate and bargain with players over the next couple of days, it should make for an exciting start to the official free agent period.

The strength of this free agent class is on the wings. David Clarkson, Nathan Horton and Ryane Clowe are just a few of the pending free agents who all effectively patrol the right wing. They all share another similar trait; a physically imposing offensive game.

As the league continues to evolve and the premium on talented power forwards grows, players like Horton will be in high demand. Based on the teams who are looking to add offense and girt, I’d expect all three of those players to sign healthy offers on Friday.

Another player bound to cash in will be Pascal Dupuis. He benefitted greatly from playing on a wing with Sidney Crosby and probably earned a massive raise thanks to an incredibly productive year. I’m guessing someone throws at least $4 million at him on Friday in hopes that he can continue to produce despite being centered by someone other than Crosby.

If there’s any one player to be cautious about, it has to be Dupuis. I’ve been a big fan of his game for a long time. He’s a very effective two-way forward who can chip in well offensively. However, he’s not a scoring winger but is about to be paid as one. While I know he will be a quality contributor no matter where he goes, I’m certain that he will struggle to justify the terms of his contract.

For fans hoping their team will go out an snag a quality center to build around, understand that the market is fairly thin. Vincent Lecavalier will garner plenty of interest along with Mike Ribiero (who had a monster year with Washington). Tyler Bozak is set to cash in on a massive payday as many expect the Leafs to go in a different spending direction once free agency opens.

Bozak is someone on my radar along with Stephen Weiss. They’re both quality top-six forwards who should not only receive hefty raises but will bring improvement to the clubs which sign them this week.

The one position (outside of goaltending) that is really thin is at defense. Andrew Ference and Rob Scuderi are ready to hit the market but there aren’t any flashy names or major contributors going to market this summer. Free agency isn’t going to be an option for teams looking to find an instant upgrade along the blueline.

Even with a relatively light free agent class, it appears as if there will be some fireworks coming on Friday. Either way, I’m going to make sure I have a good seat for the action.

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