NHL Free Agency: Central Division Summer Preview

The Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings continue to stay alive in the postseason, but the summer – and free agency – is an inevitable reality.

We’ve already looked at the free agency decisions the Blackhawks will have to make starting in July. Now, let’s look around the rest of the Central Division.

Columbus Blue Jackets
2010-11 Record: 34-35-13 (81 pts)
5th place in the division

Unrestricted Free Agents
Forward: Chris Clark, Scottie Upshall, Ethan Moreau, Andrew Murray
Defensemen: Jan Hejda, Craig Rivet, Grant Clitsome
Goalie: Mathieu Garon

Restricted Free Agents
Forward: Jakub Voracek
Defenseman: Anton Stralman, Marc Methot, Sami Lepisto
Goalie: none

Most Important Player: Voracek. He doesn’t turn 22 until the middle of August, but he’s already played three good seasons in the NHL and has posted 96 points in the last two seasons.

St. Louis Blues
2010-11 Record: 38-33-11 (87 pts)
4th place in the division

Unrestricted Free Agents
Forward: Cam Janssen, Chris Porter
Defensemen: none
Goalie: Ty Conklin

Restricted Free Agents
Forward: TJ Oshie, Patrick Berglund, BJ Crombeen, Matt D’Agostini, Vladimir Sobotka, Ryan Reaves
Defenseman: Roman Polak, Nikita Nikitin 
Goalie: none

Most Intriguing Player: Oshie. In the wake of the blockbuster trade with Colorado, the Blues have some pretty good, young talent up front and Oshie going AWOL at the end of the year was a weird situation. He only played in 49 games last year, but has been productive when on the ice. He presents a touch call for the Blues this summer.

Nashville Predators
2010-11 Record: 44-27-11 (99 pts)
2nd place in the division

Unrestricted Free Agents
Forward: Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward, Marcel Goc
Defensemen: Shane O’Brien
Goalie: none

Restricted Free Agents
Forward: Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling, Cal O’Reilly, Sergei Kostitsyn
Defenseman: Shea Weber
Goalie: none

Most Important Player: Weber, and it isn’t close. The Norris Trophy finalist is one of the best defensemen in the game, and will be seeking a strong financial commitment from Nashville. Certainly his agent was thrilled when he saw the dollar amounts Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Seabrook received from Atlanta and Chicago, respectively.

Detroit Red Wings
2010-11 Record: 47-25-10 (104 pts)
1st place in the division

Unrestricted Free Agents
Forward: Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller
Defensemen: Nicklas Lidstrom, Jonathan Ericsson, Ruslan Selei
Goalie: Chris Osgood, Joey McDonald

Restricted Free Agents
Forward: none
Defenseman: none
Goalie: none

Most Important Player: Lidstrom. He’s been the benchmark for quality on the blue line in the league for two decades, but faces a tough decision this summer. If he retires, he’ll take an enormous amount of leadership, clutch production, and skill with him – as well as freeing up $6.2M in cap space.

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