Free Agency Quick Guide
Michael’s Best Available Forwards:
1. Zach Parise (LW) – Best combination of skill and work rate available by quite a large margin. Elite player. Won’t go for under $7 million per season. Contenders will be involved for him, but watch the offer that Minnesota makes for their prodigal son. Lots of teams will make presentations for him, he’s not going to be signed first or even early in the day or even on July 1 at all I don’t believe.
2. Alexander Semin (LW/RW) – The most technically skilled player in the league with the best wristshot to boot. Has issues and drawbacks certainly but he’s not as bad as Alexander Radulov in any of those regards. Has a “God” mode that clicks with him and can dominate a hockey game like few others. Will not come cheap, especially if he waits for the team that lost out on Parise to come calling.
3. Shane Doan (RW) – Still, for all intents and purposes, a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. He’s not going anywhere until the sun sets on the Yotes. Otherwise, he’ll give them every opportunity to match. He’ll be on the market for at least a week waiting for Phoenix. Power winger that just wants to win and will lead his troops into battle. I still think he ends up back in the desert.
4. Jiri Hudler (LW/C) – Hasn’t gotten a lot of press, but he’s a skilled player. He’s small and it’s notable on the rink. Had 25 goals and 25 assists this season for Detroit. Might be a sleeper in the sense that he never really got a chance to showcase his talents in Detroit. Might be a nice find for a lower-level team that needs an injection of talent up-front like the Islanders or even Florida for their second line. Still looking at something in the $4 million neighborhood though given the limited market.
5. Guillaume Latendresse (RW/LW) – Big, powerful, physical and skilled. Latendresse can play anywhere in the top-9 of any team in the league as long as he’s healthy. He’s recovering from a major concussion but he has a boat load of skill and an awesome wristshot. Can play two-ways a bit as well, but could be great value for a team on a one-year deal.
6. Olli Jokinen (C/LW) – Isn’t cut-out to be a featured piece of any team, but certainly has a very good amount of skill in a complimentary role. He won’t cost too terribly much and could be a second line center on a playoff team in short order. Not a noted playoff player certainly, but he could be reasonably-priced depth in the right situation. Chicago and Florida wouldn’t be bad places for him at all.
7. Ray Whitney (LW) – Finished the year on what many believe to be the “wrong” side of 40 but had the best year of his career to date. There will be some substantial interest out there in him, but how much does he have left at this point? A team looking for some solid scoring on their second line could use Whitney for sure and it won’t be at a prohibitive cost either. Carolina rarely lets their players get far, perhaps it’s time for a reunion already.
8. Jaromir Jagr (RW) – One of the 25 best players of all-time, Jagr hits the market once more at age 40. He still has the tremendous frame, puck protection skills and surreal skill level. He slowed down considerably down the stretch and was kind of forgotten after a pretty hot start. Perhaps getting that one long season back under his belt was just what he needed though. Taking an off day on back-to-back game nights might be a very real possibility as well. He’s approaching designated hitter status. 54 points in 73 games is a pretty good slugging percentage though.
9. Mikael Samuelsson (LW/RW) – Getting up there in age, but still plenty in the tank from Mikael Samuelsson. Talented winger that can be an asset to any power play. He’s a skilled finisher that chips in in other areas (defense, physical play) on an as-needed basis. Coming off of an injury to start the year, Sammy knocked off 31 points in 54 games on Florida’s depth lines. Teams looking for a bargain may or may not get one though, this is the last chance for a pay day for Sammy.
10. Kyle Wellwood (C/RW) – Super skilled but not very fleet of foot, Kyle Wellwood hits the chopping block once more. He resurrected his career a bit in Winnipeg, but clubs can’t be too sure as to what they’re going to get. 47 points in 77 games with Winnipeg was pretty impressive, and he’s a slick stickhandler. He can take faceoffs at a decent clip too. His commitment to the game can come into question, especially in terms of his off-ice habits and he’s about as soft as they come. Good skill player though.
11. Andrei Kostitsyn (LW/RW) – A ton of tools at this disposal, but a very inconsistent player that hasn’t yet found his calling in the NHL. Didn’t produce the offense to put Nashville over the top, even after being re-united with his brother. He’s a little bit meaner than you’d expect from a skilled Belarussian but when the deck is stacked against him, how much push back can you actually get from him? He had a modest statistical season, so if a team is looking to take a flyer on someone with upside, taking one on a former high first round pick is a fair place to start.
12. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (RW) – Considered a Quadruple-A player for most of his career until he was put on a line with Matt Moulson and John Tavares on the Island. 18 goals and 67 points later, Parenteau finds himself in line to pick up – perhaps – the only big pay day of his career. He has a decent skill level but his quite slow as far as top-line players go and is rather weak on his skates and on the puck. Still has that “half a step behind everything” feel to him and can’t work on anything but a top-flight scoring line. Has all the makings of a disaster for a club that snags him. Unlikely to get paid in a manner that would be consistent with his stat totals.
13. Peter Mueller (C/RW) – Recent top-10 pick that wasn’t qualified by Colorado. Has battled severe concussion issues which continue to linger. Very skilled player that can play multiple forward positions. For his career, he’s better than a half-a-point per game scorer…conversely, also for his career, he misses four out of every ten games. Commitments outside of the game plus frustrations with health issues could force an early retirement – not that Mueller was getting a long term deal anyhow.
14. Steve Sullivan (RW) – Small and still relatively quick, Sullivan helped re-invigorate the Penguins power play in 2011-12. The thing that has kept him in the league to this point – speed – is starting to get away from him a bit at this point though. 48 points on the year is not terrible in the least and he could be a bargain for someone. Can play the point on the power play and shows very good vision. Struggles with physical hockey and his defensive play is well below average.
15. Daniel Winnik (LW/RW) – Used mostly as a third or fourth liner throughout his career, Winnik shows flashes of skill. Has an uncanny ability to protect the puck. Competent defensively and can be used on the penalty kill. Never really developed the consistency of a scorer, but he’s sound utility guy. A jack of all trades, master of none type. Won’t cost but a few bucks either.
Honorable mentions: Petr Sykora, Benoit Pouliot, Brad Boyes, Wojtek Wolski, Jason Arnott
Michael’s Best Available Defensemen:
1. Ryan Suter – Steady as she goes two-way defenseman. Helped really offset the aggressive, but still defensively immature Shea Weber with solid positional play and a great understanding of the game. Moves the puck very well and can play physical if he’s allowed to. Can handle anything thrown at him at all times, anywhere on the rink. One of the league’s 20 best d-men at the least. Probably looking at about a million per goal based on last year’s stats.
2. Jason Garrison – Garrison had a breakout year in Florida on the backend. Despite his high goal totals (16) he’s actually a defensive defenseman that likes to play physical. He routinely matched up against the opponents’ very best and did a fine job shutting them down. He was also a premier penalty killer for the club. Teams are a little wary about whether he can keep up the offensive production, but they’re going to have to pay to find out. Garrison could end up north of $4 million per season. Vancouver would love to have him.
3. Carlo Colaiacovo – Has been held back by injuries every step of the way, but Colaiacovo is a very talented two-way defenseman. He skates very well, he moves the puck well, he can play in any situation. The only thing that’s holding him back is his fragility. He’s only crossed the 70-game mark once in his career, which is concerning but will probably keep his price down. One of the league’s last good hip check artists.
4. Matt Carle – Has excelled nicely in Philadelphia’s transition, up-tempo offense. His ability to take advantage of opportunities granted to him early his career saw him get passed around quite a bit. He looked much better in 2011 when he was paired with Chris Pronger (who wouldn’t?) than he did in 2012. Very good puck mover, but still very wishy-washy in his own end. He’ll block a shot, but he’s not one to lay any kind of lumber.
5. Marc-Andre Gragnani – This will seem strangely out of place to some, but the kid has a lot of upside. He wasn’t qualified by Vancouver after the Hodgson/Kassian trade because he was arbitration eligible. He’s a very good puck-rushing offensive defenseman and I’m giving points for potential here. He’s a fluid skater that sees the ice well. Needs a lot of work on the defensive side of his game certainly, which might keep him from being an impact player in the NHL. Promising: Was the best player in the 2011 playoffs for Buffalo.
6. Joe Corvo – Another quality offensive d-man with a great shot. Gets as much leverage into his wristshot as any d-man in the league. Will look good on the point of the power play and isn’t afraid to shoot by any means. Not a very physical player by any means and makes a lot of decisions in the defensive and neutral zones that could best be described as “head scratchers.” Best place for him is a team with a lot of depth so they can give him sheltered minutes 5-on-5.
7. Bryce Salvador – What do you make of a player that had zero goals and nine assists in 82 regular season games but then four goals and 14 points in 24 playoff games? Salvador has always been a warrior of defensive defenseman and has had to play hard to keep his head above water in the league. He’s physical and a good shot blocker and does well on the PK. He’s still nothing more than a third pairing defenseman, but might have bit off a few more bucks from the playoff performance. At 700 NHL games and 36 years of age, the mileage is piling up quick on Salvador.
8. Bryan Allen – One of the few depth defensive defensemen available in this class. A noted shot blocker and warrior, Allen doesn’t bring a lot to the table with the puck on his stick but he can separate an on-rushing forward from the puck more often than not. Physical, but not as much as used to be because the tires don’t have as much air as they used to. Good babysitter that can penalty kill.
9. Filip Kuba – After a horrendous 2011 campaign, Kuba bounced back in the way any defenseman would like to – being paired with the Norris Trophy winner. Kuba re-established himself in the league after buddying up with Erik Karlsson on the surprising 2012 Senators. Kuba moves the puck well and showed a penchant for defense, by default, as Karlsson cruised up the ice. He’s a quality shot blocker but doesn’t deal with physicality very well. Despite his size, he may be one of the weakest players on his skates in the league.
10. Sami Salo – Salo is a very good puck-mover and power play player. He has a booming shot from the point and it’s likely his best attribute. Relies on positioning and stickwork for his defense because any sort of physical contact may result in a season-ending injury. The last time Sami Salo finished a season in its entirety, Pittsburgh’s 2012 first round pick Olli Määttä wasn’t born yet. In his draft year, he was known as the Finnish MacInnis.
Honorable mentions: Sheldon Souray, Michal Rozsival, Mike Lundin, Scott Hannan, Milan Jurcina
Michael’s Best Available Goaltenders:
1. Martin Brodeur – If he’s actually available. Brodeur hired an agent for the first time in years, which might be a sign that he’s ready to test the market – or that he just doesn’t want to field a ton of calls on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in New Jersey, if there is such a thing. Brodeur is one of the last of a dying breed. His hybrid style has kept him alive and kicking quite well, even out from behind the dreaded “trap” and the Stevens/Niedermayer and crew that washed out nearly a decade ago. One of the best in history, it would be disappointing to see him any place else, says this unbiased observer.
No one else seems capable of being a starter…
Honorable mentions (among North American-playing players, European goalies such as Joacim Ericsson, not included): Chris Mason, Scott Clemmensen, Jonas Gustavsson, Johan Hedberg, Yann Danis