While the opening of free agency has historically been one of the most important days on the NHL calendar, it's diminished somewhat in recent years. As teams got accustomed to life in a salary cap world, fewer and fewer marquee players have made it to unrestricted free agency and the day has started to lose some of its lustre.
But that trend may not hold this year, thanks to a salary cap that will drop for the first time in history. With cap space harder to come by, some teams have had to make the tough decisions to let players explore free agency. Mix in a handful of victims of compliance buyouts, and the list of available players suddenly doesn't seem so bad.
Here's a look at some of the top players who'll be available to the highest bidder on Friday.
Vincent Lecavalier - Is a player that every NHL owner would love to have chance to meet with in person, in most cases because they'd like to borrow money from him.
Tyler Bozak - Will probably proofread his contract offers very carefully to make sure he avoids any careless mistakes, like looking at a number three and for some reason fooling yourself into thinking it's somehow a number one.
Ilya Bryzgalov - Has spent the last week holed up in his home office loudly yelling about how many years could be available and how high the numbers might go, which is weird because he doesn't have a phone in there and hasn't been told he's a free agent and also his "office" is a castle he made out of lego.
Nathan Horton - Teams are said to be concerned about reports that his recurring dislocated shoulder is such a complete and irredeemable mess that Tyler Seguin recently moved into it.
Matt Cooke - Was thrilled to get an invitation to discuss a contract in person with Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk, although it's kind of weird that the Senators do all their free agency negotiations at midnight in a deserted field behind Chris Neil's house and oh god this may have been a bad idea.
Patrik Elias - Has played his entire career in New Jersey but might be willing to go somewhere else to chase a Stanley Cup, because what's the worst that could possibly happen?
Daniel Alfredsson - Has played his entire career in Ottawa but might be willing to go somewhere else to chase a Stanley Cup, because what's the worst that could possibly happen?
Jarome Iginla - Really needs to have a word with those last two guys.
Tim Thomas - Is starting to look ahead to a fresh start after not even following the NHL during his year off. In related news, is wondering why Roberto Luongo was such a jerk when he called him today for advice on adjusting to life on a new team.
Danny Briere - Has had several interviews with potential teams, every moment of which he's spent praying they don't Google "NHL free agency" and "unmitigated disaster" and "Danny Briere".
Pascal Dupuis - Has been dismissed as a player who only puts up big numbers because he plays with Sidney Crosby, which is unfair because he could probably put up equally good numbers playing with Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky.
Mike Ribeiro - His top priority is finding a good fit for his family, so he'll be mainly looking for somewhere that can offer a strong community, good schools, and a complete lack of internet access for his wife.
Stephen Weiss - Is getting lots of calls from teams looking for a proven top-six center with a history of coming through in clutch situations, because his phone number is very similar to Vincent Lecavalier's.
Rick DiPietro - Has read all your clichéd and uncreative jokes about him being injury prone, and thought they were real side-splitters. No, really, his side split open and now all his internal organs are lying on the floor, somebody call a trainer.
David Clarkson - Teams will have to think hard about questions like "Should you really give over $5 million a year to a player with only one 40-point season in his career?" and "Does the fact that a guy occasionally fights really add any significant value in the modern NHL?" and "Oh screw it, what number do you want to wear for the Maple Leafs, David?"
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