Unrestricted Free Agents: Dominique Canty, Cathrine Kraayeveld, Michelle Snow, Erin Thorn
Restricted Free Agents: Sylvia Fowles, Shay Murphy, Tamera Young
Obviously the big name on the Sky’s list is Sylvia Fowles, but when you’re an obvious max-money player and a restricted free agent it’s just a matter of how many years the player signs for (barring a Pondexter/Dupree/Harding-style trade demand). After Big Syl it all becomes a little bit tricky.
Chicago made the first big move of the offseason with their recent trade with Seattle, acquiring Swin Cash and Le’coe Willingham for the #2 pick in the upcoming college draft. Bringing those two pieces into the mix puts some of their free agent pieces in different situations. With Cash the presumptive starter at small forward, the Sky can afford to be a little more cagey with Shay Murphy and Tamera Young, who both filled that spot at times last year. They’d probably like to keep both around, but if someone else wants to sign either to an overpriced offer-sheet then they might let them walk. Neither has really proven themselves worthy of tying up any meaningful cap space.
Willingham gives Sky coach Pokey Chatman a proven veteran option at power forward, albeit more of a complementary one than an obvious starter. She’ll probably replace Kraayeveld, who didn’t really seem to fit in Chicago last year, flitting from small forward to the bench to power forward at Chatman’s whim. I’d expect Kraayeveld to find somewhere else to play (many expect her to return home to Seattle). Michelle Snow started the vast majority of games alongside Fowles, and Chicago may well try to keep her. The twin-towers in the paint were a central part of their defensive improvement, even if Snow’s offensive game seems to have devolved into being a mid-range jump shooter. After bouncing around the league in recent years, Snow may like the idea of actually playing two consecutive years in the same city.
The backcourt options could come down to cash. The Sky have their ‘backcourt of the future’ in place in Courtney Vandersloot and Epiphanny Prince, but Chatman frequently fell back on Dominique Canty and Erin Thorn last season as safer, less volatile options. Chicago is Canty’s home town, so she may be willing to stick around for less money than in previous years (and with her 2011 performances there may not be too many other teams interested in her services anyway). I could see several teams being interested in coaxing Thorn away, given her shooting ability and ‘coach on the floor’ smarts.
Even after the significant amount added to the payroll with the Cash/Willingham trade, Chicago still have plenty of cap space to go after extra pieces in free agency to help themselves improve. They still hold the restricted free agent rights to Mistie Bass, who missed the 2011 WNBA season but could be brought back to deepen the post options. Beyond that, it’s the same collection of options that everyone else will be interested in. Charde Houston to increase their firepower if Chatman thinks she can somehow teach her to play a little defense? Tina Thompson for her veteran winning mentality and to maybe sell a few tickets? If she’s recovered from her latest injury, Shanna Crossley could be a younger replacement for Thorn if she leaves (although Crossley’s restricted rights are still held by Tulsa) . Could Chatman talk Cheryl Ford into a return when they run into each other during EuroLeague play?