As soon as Richard Peddie goes all "Jerry Jones" and names himself GM, we can get this party started. When the Toronto media starts floating THAT rumor in a few days, remember where you heard it first.
The Leafs need to revamp their top 6 forwards, and could use a physical injection on the blueline. Help up front becomes even more pressing if Sundin decides to call it quits.
The RFA: Jeff Carter
I'm pretty sure this is Jeff Carter (right). It was one of the first photos that came up in my Google image search. I mean, I'm not quite sure why a professional hockey player has a photo up on manzone.yuku.com, but whatever. Ladies, don't ever say HSHS has nothing to offer you.
The Flyers have nearly $50 million in salary already committed for next year, and have Carter, R.J. Umberger, and Randy Jones to sign as RFA's. With Umberger due for a 7000% raise, a $5 million offer sheet to Carter could put the Flyers in a tough spot. Carter is from London, and with Richards and Briere as the 1-2 punch down the middle, he may relish the chance to take on a bigger role elsewhere. If Sundin comes back, he makes a great #2 until the Swede calls it quits. An offer sheet of $4.99 million would cost the Leafs two #1's, a #2, and #3 pick. That's probably palatable. $5 million or more would cost them four #1's - a little steep for a rebuilding team.
The UFA: Brooks Orpik
The Leafs have a lot of cash tied up in their blueline corps, so instead of chasing the big name UFA d-men like Campbell and Redden - whose skill set is already duplicated among current Leafs current - they would be best served by adding a mid-range, physical presence like Orpik. I've heard Jason Smith's name tossed about, but Orpik is much younger (26) and shouldn't cost too much more. Besides, after making the huge mistake of trading Smith 9 years ago, signing a slower, aging, rim-it-off-the-glass version is a good way to remind fans of your incompetence.
I'm going a bit off the board here, because the big-name forwards on the UFA market can be grouped into three classes: Overpays (Hossa), Risky (Prospal, Huselius, Ryder) and Diminishing Returns (Morrison, Naslund, Straka). There are guys like Brian Rolston and Cory Stillman, but they don't exactly make the Leafs any younger.
Bouchard is a dynamic offensive player who hasn't always been a happy camper playing for Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota, and apparently the feeling is mutual. Let's face it, Jacques Lemaire would have turned the Tet Offensive into a left wing lock. Bouchard is an RFA, but a 'fair' offer sheet would likely be matched, and any offer that wouldn't be matched would have to be considered an overpay.
With Marian Gaborik on the verge of UFA status, the Wild are in need of a chemistry shake-up, and adding some "win now" veterans might be valuable in convincing Gaborik to stay. Think the robotic Wild could use a guy like Darcy Tucker? Bouchard went 13-50-63 last year. With the right linemates and PP time, he'd be a consistent 70 point guy.
The RFA: Shea Weber
The UFA: Ryan Malone
With the Pens needing to re-sign Fleury this year, then Malkin and Staal next year, it's unlikely they'll be able to match what Malone will fetch on the open market. He's a local boy, so he could take the hometown discount to stay with what looks to be a perennial Cup contender, but go ask Ryan Smyth how that works. If the Oilers move Torres, Stoll, or Pitkanen to acquire a top flight defenceman, Malone could fit into their salary structure. He'll likely get $4 million plus from someone.
The Trade: Jay Bouwmeester
The Panthers are a mess. Despite having a great young core to build around (Jokinen, Horton, Bouwmeester, Booth, Weiss), you just know they're going to do something Luongo-esque that they'll regret later. Hopefully it's trading Jay Bouwmeester to the Edmonton Oilers.
Bouwmeester is an RFA, and will likely command near $6 million. Do the Panthers want to pay that? Do the Panthers even have $6 million dollars? I'm not sure of the answers to those questio...holy shit, is that longest fucking stick you've ever seen in your life?! Is that an optical illusion? It looks like Jay-Bo grabbed that straight out of Sergei Bubka's closet and headed to the rink.
Bouwmeester would be the perfect first pairing guy for the Oil. He can skate, he's got some offense, and he can play against the other teams' top line. Pitkanen, Torres and Schremp? Does that get it done? Toss in a pick or another prospect? The Panthers are in dire need of change and the Oilers are one of the few teams that have an excess of NHL talent to make a deal with. Aside from a few rumors here and there, I'm not sure if the Panthers want to deal him, but the Oilers are in a good position if they do.