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Free Agent Frenzy 2015: Top UFA’s

It’s that time of year again in the National Hockey League. Tomorrow, when the clock strikes 12:00 PM EST, all 30 teams will be able to sign any unrestricted free agent they choose. While this year’s free agent class lacks depth there are still some good players to be had for the right price. Below is our list of the top 30 UFA’s that will be available tomorrow.

Ranking Player Position Former Team
1 Mike Green D WSH
2 Martin St. Louis RW NYR
3 Justin Williams RW LAK
4 Mike Ribeiro C NSH
5 Michael Frolik LW WPG
6 Cody Franson D NSH
7 Matt Beleskey LW ANA
8 Joel Ward RW WSH
9 Antoine Vermette C CHI
10 Francois Beauchemin D ANA
11 Andrej Sekera D LAK
12 Chris Stewart RW MIN
13 Johnny Oduya D CHI
14 Christian Ehrhoff D PIT
15 Michal Neuvirth G NYI
16 Eric Fehr C WSH
17 Shawn Matthias C VAN
18 Karri Ramo G CGY
19 Zbynek Michalek D STL
20 Brad Richards C CHI
21 Jiri Tlusty C WPG
22 Curtis Glencross C WSH
23 Brad Boyes RW FLA
24 Lee Stempniak RW WPG
25 Mike Santorelli C NSH
26 Daniel Winnik LW PIT
27 Blake Comeau RW PIT
28 Thomas Greiss G PIT
29 Barrett Jackman D STL
30 Sean Bergenheim LW MIN

Be Sure to check back with Sunshine State Hockey tomorrow when we begin live blogging at 12:00 PM EST for the free agent frenzy.

2013 NHL Predictions

Crosby Cup

It is that time of year again. The time when hockey fans make predictions that probably will not be correct, but we do it anyway because it’s fun. For the 2013 campaign I decided to bring in two hardcore hockey fans from different websites. One covers video games and entertainment while the other follows the greatest sport in the world. Please give a warm welcome to the predictions of Rudy Colon from Kona’s Korner and Rob McMahon, formally a writer for Sunshine State Hockey, who is now with Penalty Box Radio.

SSHPredictions

Two out of the three of us seem to agree on each category, and surprisingly we all share the same views on three divisions: the Northeast, Southeast, and Pacific. Since we cover the Florida Panthers here at Sunshine State Hockey it is important to focus on the Southeast division for a moment. The reason all three of us are in agreement on our prediction is because the Hurricanes just looks so good on paper. Carolina went out and acquired Jordan Staal to add scoring depth at the center position, not to mention the fact that he should have some decent chemistry with his brother Eric. Add them with the likes of Alex Semin, who is still a legit scoring threat, a maturing Jeff Skinner, an emerging number one defenseman in Justin Faulk, and Stanley Cup/Conn Smythe winning goaltender Cam Ward and it is clear why all three of us chose Carolina to win the Southeast.

Will our predictions hold true or are they doomed to fail? Only time will tell. Until then, let’s just enjoy the fact that we finally have NHL hockey back.

Get Mad

When talks of another lockout began I swore that Sunshine State Hockey would not feed the egos of the National Hockey League, its commissioner, the owners, or the players association by publishing articles talking about the childish argument over money that may very well lead to another missed season. I decided last night, after seeing players like James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets use the hashtag #thefans on Twitter, that I had finally seen enough and it was time to speak my mind about this dollar sign duel. Being a fan of hockey, and more importantly the NHL, for almost 15 years means that I had the displeasure of experiencing the 2004-2005 full season lockout. At this point, since both sides have retreated into their holes without any common ground, it is a very real possibility that another 82 game lockout may be on the way.

Obviously this is something nobody wants, not even the greedy owners or players. The NHL generated record revenues last year, so missing out on the 2012-2013 season would be a big blow to a league that took so long to recover from the previous lockout. Let us also not forget about the success of non-traditional teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers during 2011-2012. Florida won their first ever SouthEast division championship and qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 12 years, gaining ground in a crowded sports marketplace while, just three short months ago, the LA Kings won their first ever Stanley Cup by putting together one of the most dominant playoff performances in NHL history. There is no doubt that any type of a lockout would hurt the momentum built by both franchises last season.

The most interesting aspect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement arguments is the fact that fans are actually picking sides because they actually believe the league and its players care about them. I think it has become pretty obvious at this point that the only thing both sides care about is the almighty dollar. Of course this should come as no surprise considering the fact that the NHL is nothing more than a business, just like all other professional sports’ leagues. As fans we always here “it’s just the nature of the business” or “that’s the business side of the sport for you”. Just like in 2004, we are being given a strong example of what those quotes truly mean.

I already picked my side in this fight months ago when the talks began to pick up. My allegiance is not with the billionaire owners who offered ridiculous contracts to overrated players, only to now demand that those athletes get paid less money. At the same time I refuse to side with a players association that represents $100 million, 10+ year contract holders like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Ilya Kovalchuk who base their arguments around the saying “we only have a limited time to earn money while owners continue to do so”. I proudly support the people stuck in the middle of this battle, the fans and the arena workers that do not make billions or millions of dollars.

The NHL and NHLPA seem to forget the fact that money does not grow on trees. Obviously it must be hard to remember that with all of the “big money” walking in and out of the meetings once a week. The majority of fans for any professional sport come from middle-class families. Even yours truly has trouble paying the price for full season tickets each year, and I live in one of the cheaper hockey markets. I always find a way to because my love for the game is stronger than any price tag attached to it. One would think that if both sides loved the game as much as the fans that they would find anyway possible to play, just like we find anyway possible to pay. It is disappointing to think that hard working fans who choose to spend their money on the NHL might not get what they paid for.

If anyone believes for a second that they will easily get their money back from their favorite team if there is a lockout think again. Unless things have changed since the 2004-2005 no-season anyone who wants their cash back will have to put up a big fight to get it. During the last lockout I had purchased season tickets before the season was cancelled. Once Gary Bettman made the announcement on February 9th, 2005 I had requested my money back from the Florida Panthers, only to be denied. After weeks of arguing back and forth with my ticket representative and COO Michael Yormark they finally agreed to give my hard earned cash back to me, in $100 monthly installments. I cannot confirm if other NHL teams handle their business the same way or if Florida still does, so anyone interested in tickets might want to ask before making a purchase.

As fans we have every right to speak our minds during this frustrating time. We pay thousands of dollars to support our favorite teams and players every year, only to get a slap in the face each time the CBA expires. My recommendation for every angry hockey fan is to do everything you can to have your voices heard. Call, send e-mails, write letters, and meet with those in charge of your favorite team and the league (if possible). Tell them how you truly feel about this greedy disagreement between the NHL and NHLPA that is keeping fans from watching the greatest game on earth.

I will wrap this up with a video that has been making its way around the hockey community. Janne Makkonen, the freelance video editor from Finland that was featured on Sunshine State Hockey back in January (here), has released a new masterpiece regarding the current CBA/lockout situation. The video is titled “Together We Can #nolockout” and sums up the feelings of every hockey fan frustrated by this mess. Please watch, enjoy, and do not forget to speak out against those trying to take our favorite pastime away from us, again.

Source: (Janne Makkonen’s YouTube Channel)

Kings Win Cup, Quick Wins Conn Smythe

The Los Angeles Kings are the 2012 Stanley Cup champions. LA defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in game 6 to claim Lord Stanley’s hardware for the first time in franchise history. A 5-minute boarding major assessed to Steve Bernier in the first period led to three consecutive power-play goals for the Kings. At the start of the second period Los Angeles forward Jeff Carter, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Columbus, scored his second goal of the game to put his team up 4-0, a deficit that was just too large for New Jersey to overcome.

Also handed out on this night was the Conn Smythe Trophy, an award that is given to the player “judged to be the most valuable to his team during the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoffs”. Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was the clear winner of the hardware because of his impressive play in the post-season. Quick finished with 16 wins, a .946 save percentage, and a 1.43 goals against average.

Everyone at Sunshine State Hockey would like to congratulate the LA Kings and their fans on winning their first ever Stanley Cup. We would also like to congratulate the New Jersey Devils, even though they eliminated our Florida Panthers, on a surprising but great post-season run.

Top 10 Moments Of The 2011-2012 Season: #2

Who is ready for us to finish our countdown of the top 10 moments from the Panthers 2011-2012 season? If all goes according to plan we should be able to reveal the #1 moment on Monday, but that depends if we can get everything together for our big surprise in time. It is looking like that will be the case but only time will tell for sure. Before getting to the top moment though we still have to reveal #2 on our list.

This next moment is going to go down as one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history, especially considering the circumstances. As everyone knows by now before this season the Panthers failed to make the playoffs for over 12 years, so it is understandable that the majority of “outsider” fans would write off the Cats in their first round series against the New Jersey Devils. After splitting the first two games in Sunrise it was up to Florida to make a statement on the road in game 3. They did just that in one of the greatest games in franchise history.

#2 – Deja vu, Florida completes another comeback against the Devils (April 17th, 2012)

Moment #2 on our countdown is very similar to #7, with the only difference being the setting. Florida quickly fell behind 3-0 in the first period, just like they did in November’s game against the Devils. Then, as the game progressed, the Cats found their groove and made an amazing comeback, just like they did in November’s game against the Devils. The difference this time around is that the Panthers managed to pull off the difficult task in game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in New Jersey. With help from Sean Bergenheim, Jason Garrison, Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, and most importantly Scott Clemmensen, the comeback Cats were able to claw their way back for the win, sending everyone in attendance at the Prudential Center home in shock.

Of course we all know what happened after game 3. The Devils currently trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final while the Panthers anxiously await the start of next season, knowing that they gave the Eastern Conference champions a harder time than any other conference opponent. If this season was a preview of things to come then Panthers fans have every right to be excited about the future of their team. We speak for all Cats fans when we say bring on the 2012-2013 season.

For the full experience of moment #2 be sure to click through all of the links below. Check back with Sunshine State Hockey on Monday when we (hopefully) reveal the #1 moment on our countdown.

NHL.com recap of moment #2

Litter Box Cats recap of moment #2

Stats from moment #2

Photos from moment #2

Source(s): Litter Box Cats, NHL