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3. Mason Raymond – LW , Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are already over the cap by more than $1 million and already sufficiently deep at left wing.
After scoring only 23 points in his first full season with Vancouver in 2008-2009, Raymond enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2010 where he doubled his point production, finishing with 25 goals and 28 assists.
Despite greatly improving over the past year, Raymond simply doesn’t fit into Vancouver’s plans for the future.
The Canucks have a consistent 80+ point LW in Daniel Sedin and a gritty goal-scorer on the same wing in Alexandre Burrows, which would drop Raymond to the third line.
Sedin is under contract for four more years, and Burrows is set to make just $2 million for the next three years, a cheap price for a guy who has only missed one game through the past four seasons.
Moreover, Burrows has tallied 52 more points and 376 more PIM’s than Raymond over the last three years, as well as finishing a plus-68 over that time period.
TSN reported a couple weeks ago that Raymond could be awarded $3 million per season, while rumors surfaced recently from HendricksHockey.net that he is looking for as much as $3.5-4 million/year.
Even if those numbers are a bit high, there’s no question that the Canucks would rather let him walk and hang on to the cheaper and stronger option in Burrows, especially considering their current cap and roster situation.
2. Matt Moulson – LW , New York Islanders
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The Islanders are in the exact opposite position when it comes to the salary cap, nearly $7 million below the cap floor.
Of the eleven forwards currently on the New York’s roster, rookie sensation John Tavares is the highest paid at $3.75 million/year before bonuses. Seven of those nine players are currently making under $1 million per season.
So why not give Moulson—who scored thirty goals in his first complete NHL season—a hefty contract to try to get closer to the cap floor while also locking up more young talent?
The Islanders are in serious need of adding some salary to their roster, and Moulson gives them an easy solution.
There’s no reason for Moulson and the Isles to go to arbitration, so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.
1. Antti Niemi – G , Chicago Blackhawks
Photo Courtesy of ChicagoNow.comNiemi’s arbitration case is by far the most anticipated hearing of the offseason—and for good reason.
After signing Cristobal Huet to a 4-year, $22.5 million deal last year, the Blackhawks never thought they’d find themselves in this situation.
Huet struggles throughout the 2009-2010 led coach Joel Quenneville to try out the Finnish rookie Niemi between the pipes.
Surely enough, Niemi shined in net and ultimately helped his team capture the Stanley Cup last June.
However, the good times in Chicago didn’t last long.
Cap problems forced the team to get rid of Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, and Marty Reasoner this offseason.
And now the moment that many Blackhawks fans have been dreading is growing close: Niemi’s arbitration case.
The ‘Hawks are barely $100,000 under the cap without re-signing Niemi, who made $800K last season.
While the rookie goaltender certainly benefited from Chicago’s incredibly strong defensive unit, his .912 save percentage and 2.25 GAA are no fluke either.
It’s a sure thing that Niemi will be awarded a hefty sum by the arbitrator—the only questions that remain are exactly how much will he get and how will the Blackhawks make room to sign him.
That is, of course, if the Blackhawks decide to bring him back at all.
While fans and teammates alike would certainly love to see Niemi back in Chicago, the team may have no choice depending on the arbitrator’s ruling and their cap situation at the end of the summer.
Only time will tell where Niemi will be playing next season.