Good/Bad/Ugly: The top 10 free-agent centers

The best centers available at the Frenzy this week sadly aren't unrestricted free agents. They have names like Lecavalier and Gomez and Marleau. They cost a lot of money, and will cost talent going back the other way. But comparing them to most of the free-agent centers on the UFA market is like comparing the grosses for the new "Transformers" explosion-gasm with those for the new Larry-David-as-Woody-Allen flick. In the sense that there is no comparison.

The problem with this summer's crop of pivots isn't just its depth; it's the details. Joe Sakic proved he had something left in the tank last season, though not much; but it's the Colorado Avalanche or daily rounds of golf and afternoon naps for him.

Henrik Sedin is one of the best free agents available at any position, yet he's a package deal. And if anyone can figure whether Mats Sundin is a sound investment, and at what cost, they're a better man than Mike Gillis.

The UFA centers are a collection of question marks, former stars, checking centers and Michael Cammalleri.

The UFA centers, excluding Sakic because we don't consider him available.

1. Henrik Sedin

Current Team: Vancouver Canucks
Current Cap Hit: $3.575 million

The Good: Outstanding offensive talent, with 22 goals and 82 points this season. He's creative on the puck, and one of the better set-up men in the Game. Above-average on faceoffs as well. 

The Bad: You have to sign his twin brother Daniel, too.

The Ugly: He and his brother are looking for contracts in the neighborhood of 12 years and $63 million apiece. If you laugh in the face of one of the Sedins, does the other one sulk?

2. Michael Cammalleri

Current Team: Calgary Flames
Current Cap Hit: $3.350 million

The Good: Career highs in points (82) and goals (39) with the Flames last season, and his reputation as a dynamic power-play scorer was upheld with 34 points with the man advantage. Can play center or wing. Forever endeared himself to potential suitor Brian Burke with one of the best cheap shots of the postseason on Martin Havlat.

The Bad: That career-year (in a walk season) came while playing with Jarome Iginla, conditions that won't be recreated on another roster. 

The Ugly: Will probably command over $5.5 million per season, and a bidding war could push it even higher than that. That's a high price to pay for Cammalleri, no matter how well the marinara sauce clings to the breading.

3. Saku Koivu

Current Team: Montreal Canadiens
Current Cap Hit: $4.750 million

The Good: His numbers weren't stellar for a Canadiens team that was a centennial suck-fest for most of the campaign, but the captain showed he could still be a dangerous offensive player in bursts. Koivu remains one of the best players in hockey in the faceoff circle. 

The Bad: At 35 years old this November, Koivu's numbers are declining and Habs GM Bob Gainey isn't exactly camping outside his door with a bouquet of daisies in order to bring him back next season. 

The Ugly: If you're penciling Koivu into your team's lineup, just crumple up the paper and toss it in the circular file. One assumes that if he's not a Hab, he'll join brother Mikko Koivu with the Minnesota Wild -- a team that could use another quality center. He'll have a happy existence in Minnesota ... unless local leaders start criticizing his attempt at a Midwestern accent.

4. Nik Antropov 

Current Team: New York Rangers
Current Cap Hit: $1.973 million (total)

The Good: C'mon, admit it -- you thought Antropov might be a huge bust for the Rangers after the picked him up at the deadline. But he had 13 points in 18 games before a relatively quiet postseason. He'll always attract some interest as a towering 6-6, 230-pound forward, before attracting ridicule and scorn for failing to play that big at times.

The Bad: His agent thinks Antropov is worth $5 million per season, a figure which Rangers GM Glen Sather believes Antropov has a "snowball's chance in hell" of getting.

The Ugly: Voted "Most Likely To Become an Enigmatic Forward Whose True Value Will Always Be Debated" in the Ust-Kamenogorsk High School yearbook.

5. Robert Lang

Current Team: Montreal Canadiens
Current Cap Hit: $4 million

The Good: Before an injury ended his season, Lang was having an outstanding year -- 39 points in 50 games. The Habs never really recovered from his loss. Or the fact that the majority of their roster was made up of immature party boys and mob associates.

The Bad: Yeah, about that injury -- it was a torn left Achilles tendon, and Lang will be 39 in December.

The Ugly: All that said, Lang may still fancy himself as a $4 million a year player. In this economy?

6. Mats Sundin

Current Team: Vancouver Canucks
Current Cap Hit: $5.363 million

The Good: Yeah, him again. After signing a one-year, prorated $8.6 million free-agent deal with the Canucks, Sundin had 28 points in 41 games and eight points in eight playoff games. But because he didn't cure any lepers along the way, he was seen as an unmitigated disaster on the brink of inevitable retirement.

The Bad: Sundin's 41-game stint wasn't close to a star performance. Yet Vancouver GM Mike Gillis said he'd like to bring back Sundin. And if he's bluffing, Sundin would know, right?

The Ugly: Not exactly known for prompt decision-making.

7. Dominic Moore

Current Team: Buffalo Sabres
Current Cap Hit: $900,000

The Good: There was this strange moment at the trade deadline last season when Dominic Moore, who most casual fans wouldn't know from Roger Moore, became one of the hottest names in play. Let's see ... 41 points in 63 games ... not bad. Versatile player ... OK.

Oh, right: That guy ...

The Bad: Wasn't exactly an atomic hot wing after being traded to the Sabres. As Die By The Blade opines:

His entire time in Buffalo was bad.  The most glaring stat was his low point total.  He had 12 goals and 29 assists in 63 games with the Leafs but managed only one goal and three assists in 18 games with the Sabres.

While managing a plus three turnover ratio in Toronto, he was a minus six with the Sabres.  His production dropped in almost every category after joining the Sabres.

The Ugly: It's been long rumored that Moore is seeking a major raise to north of $3 million per season. Whether his putrid stretch in Buffalo has affected that number remains to be seen; but obviously buyers should beware.

8. Sami Pahlsson

Current Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Current Cap Hit: $1.400 million

The Good: After a disastrous opening to his season with the Anaheim Ducks (and a curious case of mononucleosis), Pahlsson went to Chicago and rediscovered his checking game; playing well for the Hawks. Can be a very valuable depth player.

The Bad: Like John Madden (see below), a once-dominant checking center that's getting a little older and into a bit of decline.

The Ugly: Clearly doesn't understand the dangers of sharing water bottles or kissing strangers, what with that mono thing and all.

9. Mike Comrie

Current Team: Ottawa Senators
Current Cap Hit: $4 million

The Good: Well ... er, uh ... his celebrity girlfriend looks great in a bikini?

It wasn't a strong campaign for Comrie, as he had 27 points in 63 games had flat-out flopped for the Senators after coming over from the Islanders. Injuries slowed him, and he's been a 20-goal scorer in the past. But last season stunk like what Draper's kid left in the Cup in the Summer of '08. 

The Bad: Comrie's only 28, but he's nearly earned Chris Gratton-esque journeyman status. If he can find his game, he could be a solid No. 2 pivot for a team. If he can find his game.

The Ugly: Bryan Murray isn't close to re-signing Comrie because he isn't willing to take a 50-percent pay cut on his $4 million salary. Doesn't Murray know Hilary comes as part of the package?

10. John Madden

Current Team: New Jersey Devils
Current Cap Hit: $2.939 million

The Good: Took a huge step back from his outstanding 2007-08 season of 20 goals and 43 points, but remains one of the most tenacious checking centers in the NHL and a dependable penalty killers.

The Bad: His offensive decline is significant; without partner in crime Jay Pandolfo, is there any chance he can be as effective? His salary would have to come way down to justify his signing. Someone like Manny Malhotra could come cheaper and, potentially, have greater impact.

The Ugly: Players who appear on the cover of his video games are cursed and he refuses to travel by air ... oh, wait. Never mind.

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