I'll start with a list and finish it up with some commentary.
NOTEWORTHY PENDING UFAs
LACK OF ELITE PLAYERS
Perhaps with the lack of elite players, it's an indication that teams have began to lock up their star players early.
*The only elite players I see from the list are Sakic, Hossa, and Sundin. I can't see Sakic or Sundin playing anywhere else, giving Hossa a "pure monopoly" status.
*FORWARDS THAT WILL GARNER THE MOST INTEREST: Daymond Langkow, Kristian Huselius, Jason Williams, Mike Ribeiro, Andrew Brunette, Pavol Demitra, Cory Stillman, Brian Rolston, Jean-Pierre Dumont, Miroslav Satan, Sean Avery, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka, Radim Vrbata, Vaclav Prospal, Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison.
From that list, I expect most of them to be locked up by their teams. From the Oilers standpoint, they can use almost anyone from that list.
Sutter will have a difficult time keeping both Langkow and Huselius, with nearly 40M committed in cap space [more in real dollars with Kiprusoff making $8M for the next 3 years].
DEFENSEMEN THAT WILL GARNER THE MOST ATTENTION:
Aaron Ward, Brian Campbell, Bret Hedican, Mike Commodore, Adam Foote, John-Michael Liles, Mattias Norstrom, Brad Stuart, Rob Blake, Nick Schultz, Paul Mara, Marek Malik, Michal Rozsival, Jason Smith, Mark Eaton, Dan Boyle
Not a tremendous group. A lot of defensive-defensemen in this year's group. Dan Boyle has been injured pretty much the whole season, so it will be interesting on how that plays out. I expect most of the players to be retained by their club.
Lowe could certainly use names from that group, using Tarnstrom's money.
GOALTENDERS THAT WILL GARNER THE MOST ATTENTION:
Jose Theodore, Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Dan Ellis, Wade Dubielewicz, Ty Conklin, Stephen Valiquette, Johan Holmqvist, Ilya Bryzgalov, Olaf Kolzig
A load of backups in the group. Osgood is having a tremendous year with a .932SV%. I expect he could be getting a large raise. Likewise, Dan Ellis is set for a massive raise on his $500,000 salary. Ilya Bryzgalov will also cash in. Conklin has at least won himself a one-way contract with his recent performance.
The pending UFA class this year is weak, and when many teams begin locking up their players, it will be further weakened.
From the Oilers standpoint, each team in the division has many key players to sign. CAL (Langkow, Huselius), COL (Sakic, Liles, Brunette), VAN (Naslund, Morrison, Cooke), and Minnesota (Demitra, Rolston, Schultz). At least we can hope...
We may see some RFA offersheets. One thing is clear: RFA's will/are (be) taking a larger share of the pie than they historically took.
PatH from Lowetide posted this Hockey News Article regarding the influence Kevin Lowe has had on the market.
Some noteworthy excerpts:
Kevin Lowe is the Newsmaker of the Year because nobody influenced the game the way Lowe did in 2007. In short, his offer sheets to restricted free agents Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner have changed hockey's financial landscape.
"Every GM I talk to talks about Kevin Lowe," said one NHL agent. "Every single one."
The implications have been huge. With two strokes of the pen, Lowe has essentially created a situation where elite players coming off entry-level deals have moved into the elite wage earners in the league. It has certainly moved young RFAs into the same status as elite unrestricted free agents, both in terms of their attractiveness to other teams and in salary.
Did Kevin Lowe singlehandedly change the market?