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A Late Summer Harvest

With the flurry of big-time free agent deals well behind us, an interesting dynamic has developed at this stage of the NHL's offseason that benefits the small-market and spendthrift teams. As of this writing, 5 teams (Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Calgary and Anaheim) are above the salary cap, and another six are within $2 million of that mark with hockey training camps still another month away. What this means is that a second wave of players are coming available, either as outright free agents after contract buyouts (like Mark Parrish and Glen Murray) or as possible trade bait by teams looking to clear room (as Mike Knuble has been mentioned in Philly). While big-spending teams can't technically spend more on their roster in a given season than other teams, they are certainly more able to absorb the cost of buying out a player in order to clear room as the GM sees fit. In this case, however, that flexibility that they pay for results in populating a secondary market of free agents that other teams can take advantage of.

For a team like Nashville, which was likely in need of adding scoring depth even before Benedict Radulov walked out on his contract, it means that there are not only some decent options available right now to examine, but that the market might tip even further in their favor as time passes. For instance, if Mats Sundin finally signs with a team for something in the neighborhood of the 2 year, $20 million package that Vancouver supposedly offered, that would probably necessitate a salary dump wherever he lands. The same could be said in Colorado if Joe Sakic returns. For the talent that comes available, there are probably 10-12 teams that couldn't bid on their services even if they were interested, because of those salary cap considerations. That leaves a smaller pool of buyers (those at the bottom of the team salary rankings) matched up with a growing supply base (players made available in salary dumps). As we've already seen, a few such players are heading over to Russia's KHL, but the overall effect still results in a buyer's market for teams with salary flexibility heading into September.

So while Predators fans can muse over whether Murray, Parrish or Knuble might make a good fit in the Nashville lineup, I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple more weeks go by before anything happens, as Poile waits things out to see what else becomes available before making his move.

As to my personal preference, I'd like to see them take a run at bringing back Jan Hlavac to play alongside David Legwand and Martin Erat, and trade for Mike Knuble to fill out the top line with Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont. Those would seem to be the best "bang for the buck" moves among the current obvious candidates. I worry about how much more Glen Murray has left in the tank, and whether there's really any upside to Mark Parrish's offensive production at this point in his career. Of course, the trade market can bring some stunning deals out of the ether, so who knows how this will actually shake out.

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