NHL free agents: Getting a raise

Several unrestricted free agents will be looking for a raise in pay either due to a terrific 2010-11 season, or the promise of greener pastures elsewhere.

The NHL's free agency period commences on July 1 and there will be immediate winners in terms of salary.

Here's a look at some of those potential names. The players on this list aren't guaranteed to leave their most recent teams, but wherever they end up it will be for increased pay. Included is their position, age and 2010-11 salary.

This list deals exclusively with unrestricted free agents. Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty and Shea Weber are going to be among the restricted free agents who join a new pay band.

Sean Bergenheim LW, 27, $700,000 US

2010-11: 80 GP, 14 G, 15 A, 29 PTS, zero rating

Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman earned deserved praise in his first year at the helm, but he inherited many players and problems. The next few weeks will see Yzerman put more of a stamp on the Lightning. In addition to the fact that the two goalies who each played in the Eastern Conference final are unrestricted free agents, he has to figure out if there's a place at a reasonable rate for Bergenheim.  

The Finn can be seen to occupy that uncertain territory that Leafs GM Brian Burke has talked about at length for the past several months with respect to restricted free agent Clarke MacArthur. He obviously has the offensive talent to produce more than 14 goals in a full regular season, but it's highly unlikely he's going to tally nine goals on average for every 16 games, as he did in the playoffs.   

Christian Ehrhoff D, 29, $3.4M

2010-11: 79 GP, 14 G, 36 A, 50 PTS, plus-19 rating

Of course they offer some different attributes, but if teammate Kevin Bieksa can earn a reported $4.6 million US per five years, surely Ehrhoff can really cash out if he were to test the open waters of free agency. Staying in Vancouver would necessitate a hometown discount, but still a sizeable raise from 2010-11.

The German defender reached career highs in assists and points the past season and helps drive the team's power play. He's been just as accomplished even strength, with a whopping plus-55 rating over the past two seasons.

Result: $40 million US over 10 years with Buffalo.

Ray Emery G, 28, $500,000

2010-11: 10 GP, 7-2-0, 0 SO, 2.28 AVG, .926 SAV

It would really be something if Emery, who played a large part in saving Anaheim's playoff hopes, gets left out because Jonas Hiller and Dan Ellis are under contract. That said, if Hiller returns to health, Emery may get more game action elsewhere.

A 15-game sample size isn't likely to assuage a lot of GM's that Emery is all the way back health wise, but he's playoff tested. The downside for his most ardent supporters is that because most strong teams are set in net - although Tampa Bay is an exception - he could be heading to a lousy club.

Jonathan Ericsson, D, 27, $1.25M

2010-11: 74 GP, 3 G, 12 A, 15 PTS, plus-8 rating

Leaving the cocoon of the Nicklas Lidstrom-led group didn't work out so well last season for Brett Lebda in Toronto, although he did earn a $3 million US contract over two seasons. Ericsson will earn more than. He's six-foot-four and can skate, and would probably produce more points if he decided to leave the Red Wings.  The young Detroit defencemen played in 74 games last season with three goals and 12 assists.

Result: Ericsson signed a three-year deal worth over $9 million US.

Andy Greene D, 28, $750,000

2010-11: 82 GP, 4 G, 19 A, 23 PTS, minus-23 rating

Greene is a relative rarity, a small defenceman who doesn't put up a ton of points - he reached a career high of 37 in 2009-10. Like many Devils, the five-foot-eleven rearguard had a horrific plus/minus for the past season but was a plus-6 in January and February when the Devils mounted a semblance of a comeback. He played in all 82 games, logging more than 20 minutes in 64 of them. Bottom line, by today's NHL standards he's underpaid.

Tomas Kopecky RW, 29, $1.2M

2010-11: 81 GP, 15 G, 27 A, 42 PTS,  minus-13 rating

Kopecky set career highs in goals and assists in his fourth NHL season, and now that he's joined the Florida wing of the Blackhawks, it's likely that familiar general manager Dale Tallen believes he can thrive even more on a Panthers team that has large holes to fill.

Result: Florida inked Kopecky to a four year contract averaging $3 million.

Brooks Laich LW, 28, $2.4M

2010-11: 82 GP, 16 G, 32 A, 48 PTS, plus-14 rating

There are specialists at forward, and then there's Laich. The forward offers size and a presence in front of the other team's goalie — 33 of his 85 goals the past four seasons have been on the power play. But he's also added four short-handed markers over the past three seasons.

Laich also finished with the right impression to potential suitors, with a strong individual showing in a disappointing postseason overall for Washington.

Result: Laich was signed for six years, $27 millionn.

Ville Leino LW, 27, $825,000

2010-11: 81 GP, 19 G, 34 A, 53 PTS, plus-14 rating

With the recent departures of high-priced Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, it might seem more likely that Leino returns to the Flyers. It seemed almost a given two weeks ago that he was gone. But the Flyers presumably do have to leave cap room for two restricted free agents who came back in those trades, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek.

Regardless of the jersey he's wearing, he'll get rewarded for giving such bang for the buck in 2010-11. He might even turn out to be Detroit's biggest misplay in years. 

Joel Ward RW, 29, $1.5M

2010-11: 80 GP, 10 G, 19 A, 29 PTS, minus-1 rating

Like Bergenheim, Ward is a veteran of three full seasons who turned into a surprise offensive contributor in the postseason. Of the 10 goals he scored in the regular season, four were game winners. He then found the mark seven times in 13 playoffs games. Without Ward, Nashville accounted for just seven goals in six games.

Where Ward differs from Bergenheim is that he likely won't offer the same offensive upside long term, but he's an accomplished penalty killer.