It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, it’s a month away really – July 1 — a time when team’s can make their bids at the best available talent. NHL Free Agency has surprised many with major deals at the open of the gates: Brett Hull to the Stars in 1998, Scott Neidermayer to the Ducks in 2005, Dominik Hasek to the Red Wings 2006, etc.
Perhaps 2014 will bring some big news, too; let’s see who’s available to fill some empty roster spots.
Still searching for his first cup at age 36, Iggy had a bounce-back year once again finding his groove in Beantown with 30 goals. His leadership would be attractive to any team.
Stastny seems to have found his place with Landeskog and MacKinnon; his numbers aren’t near where they were in his rookie or sophomore season, but are climbing. He also earned ten points in Colorado’s seven post-season games. At 28, he still could be useful for another five to seven years, for a team looking for offense. Nashville? Ottawa?
The guy was just a nomad this year – starting with the Islanders, then a stint with the Sabres, and finishing with the Wild – and his numbers really suffered, some of the lowest of his career. But how do you expect him to find his groove with new linemates every few months? The 30-year-old still has talent left in him, but it’s likely that he will have a fourth address for the season come July 1, maybe St. Louis or Vancouver?
What about Alfy or the Finnish Flash – are they set to return for another year or is it time to take off the skates? If they do return, will it be to their same squads. Teemu will likely be buried in Anaheim, but Alfredsson was a sole rental in Detroit, who could now explore his options elsewhere.
Moving down to defensemen, there are a few available – but with risks. Marek Zidlicky is 37, Dan Boyle is also 37; however Andrej Meszaros of Boston is only 28, and just finished $24 million over six years – a bit expensive for how much he produces.
A more affordable option might be Matt Niskanen of Pittsburgh: he’s a year younger, and chose to have the best year of his career so far this past season (of course when his contract is up). Niskanen had 46 points in 81 games, and now interim Pittsburgh GM Jason Botterill has to deal with him, and half of his forwards who are also UFA’s.
Keep in mind, teammates on the blueline Orpik and Engelland have their contracts expiring too.
These d-men could be potentials in Toronto, Carolina, or Edmonton; however Edmonton could also use a netminder. Scrivens and Fasth are inconsistent; glorious one game, can’t stop a beach ball for the next five. Their Alberta brothers in Calgary face the same problem with Ramo and Ortio.
Other squads looking foe goalies could be Ottawa (has Anderson beat his injury bug?), Philadelphia (they’re always looking) or Vancouver (should Lack not work out as hoped).
Goalies are also slim pickings, sadly. Ryan Miller had a better save percentage during his tenure in Buffalo; don’t expect St. Louis to resign him to a similar $30 million he was making before. He’s not as old as other free agents Tim Thomas and Evgeni Nabokov, but all three are getting over the hill. The most likely goalie to move would be Jonas Hiller.
Hiller had a rough year in Anaheim, especially near the end of the season, and was quickly replaced by Gibson and Andersen. Because of this, he’ll likely want to leave the Ducks, but shouldn’t count on the 4-year $18 million contact he just finished.
One of the saddest teams to see in July will be the Montreal Canadiens; this is likely their only push for the Stanley Cup.
Thomas Vanek who had 68 points in 78 games this year will be unrestricted and free. Though he’s only had two points in the New York series, he’s compiled 10 points so far this offseason.
Buffalo was off their rocker to sign him to 7 years and $50 million; I hope he isn’t expecting that type of cash again. Older teammates Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta made less money, but weren’t really worth their paycheque (Markov $17 million over three, Gionta $25 million over five).
Is it worth keeping their elderly players around in Monteal, with a young core of Subban, Gallagher, Pacioretty, and Galchenyuk? Subban is a RFA (thankfully), but Emelin, Gorges, Beaulieau, and Tinordi are the only four good to go for next year. Bouillon, Murray and Weaver are also on the UFA block.
Should Montreal run out of cap space or not be able to afford any new players, I’m sure they could hold open tryouts at the Bell Centre.