Fantasy GM, part 1

This year's playoff drive certainly has been inspiring. I've been inspired to ponder how the team might look next season.

Here's the team's current roster when healthy:

The astute observer will note the number of names with white backgrounds not earning their keep.

The salary numbers come from nhlnumbers.com. They may not be exact, but they're close enough. Total salary is in the ballpark of $41M.

The total signed for next year is $23M. Murray and/or Lapierre are the only two signed names that stand a chance of losing their roster spots, and they would be replaced by someone with similar salary. Next year's RFAs are earning $5.4M and the UFAs are about $12.6M.

It's unlikely that any of the RFAs will disappear. They all should return, and here are some WAGs of their price tags:

$2.5M should be quite reasonable for Ryder. Tomas Holmstrom just signed a 3-yr extension at $2.25M per, and J.-P. Dumont got $2.25M over two years as a UFA. Guys with similar numbers to Higgins and Plekanec generally don't make $1.5M, but I'll peg them for the amounts shown just to be on the safe side. Perezhogin has had scant numbers this year and should be under $1M. Gorges' and Komisarek's numbers appear on the high side but salaries have a tendency to be surprisingly high year after year.

That puts us at a total of $32M with holes at C, W, #2G and two gaping ones on defence. If the salary cap is $46M next year and Gainey keeps a $1M buffer, that leaves $13M to complete the roster.

Let's start with the easy decisions. Sign Markov and use a rookie backup netminder.

Aebischer won't be back, and Gainey won't pursue a pricey #2 goalie. Halak or another cheap kid from camp will do just fine as a backup. Markov has to be re-signed. As mentioned several times before, Tomas Kaberle's deal should provide a ceiling for Markov. Philippe Boucher just signed a three year extension at $2.5M per. Nevertheless the market will not listen to reason. Markov will fetch over $4M per season with a long term deal.

That puts us at $36.5M with some difficult decisions to make in part 2.

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