While restricted free agency is a complicated mess of failure aversion, politics, and CBA negotiations, unrestricted free agency is the reward for making it through the RFA process. The key here is that the player can sign with whatever team they choose, for how ever much money they choose, with no compensation to the team losing the player.
In order to make it to the UFA level, a player must reach the age of 27 or have 7 years of NHL service. Thus, how Brent Burns would have been a UFA at 25.
The UFAs the Wild have this year are not exactly the creme of the crop, even in a weak free agent class. There are players who have been around forever, such as Josh Harding, and guy that few fans would be sad to see go, such as Antti Miettinen. There are also vets like Andrew Brunette that if not re-signed will be heart breakers for some.
With six NHL level UFAs, and five AHL level, we once again invite Heather Galindo in to give us the insight on the Aeros level players.
#37 / Goalie / Minnesota Wild
Jun 18, 1984
Current Cap Hit: $1.2 million
JS: His unfortunate injury very likely spelled the end of Harding in Minnesota. He's good enough to be a starter on some teams, and I hope he gets that chance, but with Endras being the likely back-up to Backstrom and the logjam of up-and-coming goalies in the system, there's no more room for Harding. The only regret with Harding may be that we never got a chance to trade him. Good-bye Hards, we love ya.
Elise: No one's sure of where Harding is or how he'll perform coming off of his season-long injury this past year. Before the knee injury, he was doing well and it was an unfortunate accident for him (although it did lead to the great signing of Jose Theodore). Harding was the Wild's "goalie of the future" before Backstrom showed up, and I think the Wild give him another year to re-establish himself post-surgery as a capable goalie and let him work his way back (and then maybe package him in a trade).
Bryan: Harding is gone. He knows there is no hope to be the number one in Minnesota, and that's what he wants to be. With inexpensive goaltending still the trend in the NHL, Harding could be a hot commodity, or he could be an after thought. It sucks to lose a guy who has been such a good soldier for the organization, but there is just no way Harding is around this season. After his injury history, he may need a two-way deal somewhere to get his shot. I wish him the best, but he won't be back.
Verdict: no offer
Nathan: This is a tough situation, but Josh Harding will be given his ability to find a new job. He's simply too expensive and has fallen behind younger, cheaper talent with a higher ceiling. This will never be Harding's team.
#60 / Goalie / Minnesota Wild
Sep 13, 1976
|2010 - Jose Theodore||32||1793||15||11||81||2.71||963||882||.916||1|
Current Cap Hit: $1.1 million
JS: It's a miracle he was still available when the Wild signed him, yet he also does not fit anymore. He was a more than serviceable back-up to Backstrom this year and hopefully, he was able to open a few eyes, because he kept the Wild in more games than he probably should have. For the same reasons as Harding, he's gone, no matter how good he's been. Good luck Theo, and thanks a bunch!
Elise: Theodore was a great replacement back-up this season. He was solid, at times better than Backs and grew to be well liked by Wild fans. But I don't think he's coming back. The Wild have goalies and Theodore has performed very well as a starting goaltender; he proved last year that he could do that. I see Theodore's past year as proof to the NHL and now he will sign somewhere else who needs a goalie more than the Wild do.
Verdict: not signed.
Bryan: Theodore ruined my year last year. We all wanted to see Borat moved up into the NHL back-up role, and somehow, the Wild just weren't having it. Turns out, Theo was the best free agent signing of the summer. A low cap hit,he is a solid back-up with the credentials to be a number one. It was honestly shocking he was still there when Harding was hurt. Theo has never been a bad goalie. He is a good goalie who has played on some terrible teams. He'll find his way somewhere again next year.
Verdict: As much as we may want him back, he'll sign elsewhere.
Nathan: The best value in the NHL last season, Jose deserves a #1 shot, and it won't be here. He'll garner too much money, and honestly, good for him!
Verdict: I say he ends up in Phoenix.
#15 / Left Wing / Minnesota Wild
Aug 24, 1973
|2010 - Andrew Brunette||82||18||28||46||-7||16||8||0||3||117|
Current Cap Hit: $2.333 million
Age: Is just a number
JS: Bruno, one of the all-time favorites in the franchise for many fans. His skill around the net and along the boards is among the best in the business for sure, and it's fun to watch, but he's getting older, slower, and it showed this season. I want him to retire as a Wild player, but unless he accepts a paycheck or doesn't mind not getting a shot at the cup, it may not happen. If he does re-sign, you can bet he's gone at the deadline.
Verdict: 1-2 years, under 2 million, but likely won't happen.
Elise: Bruno has been an amazing guy in Wild history. He's been a leader, a role player and overall great guy. But with the shift towards the new generation, and Bruno continuing to get older, I don't see him coming back to the Wild. Where ever he goes, I'm sure Wild fans will support him. I would love to see him hang around the organization, but I don't see him coming back as a player.
Verdict: not signed.
Bryan: Watching Bruno walk away to the Avalanche was about as heart breaking as watching them trade Brent Burns for most Wild fans. Knowing he likely doesn't fit the model that Chuck Fletcher has laid out, and that Bruno will once again likely be walking away is even worse. Heart of gold, funny as anyone on the planet, and he can still put points on the board. The knock will be his age, and his skating, but put on a line with some playmakers, he is still more than capable of a 20 goal season. I, for one, will not enjoy seeing him in another sweater next season. Please sign with a contender out East, Bruno.
Verdict: Sadly, he's out of here.
Nathan: This will be the second time we will see Andrew Brunette walk away from Minnesota only to have a huge impact on another team and think "damn, we really could have used him." The difference is, this time I'll understand and agree with the decision. This team is getting younger and faster and we saw the lack of impact Bruno had on this team as the season went on. He needs to be in a situation like Mark Recchi was in Boston, play your game, notch your points, pick up the garbage and lift the cup. Godspeed #15.
Verdict: Go get a ring.
Starting us off tomorrow: Chuck Kobasew, Antii Miettinen, and John Madden. See you then.