Top 10 NHL UFA’s Available: August Edition

As the summer approaches it’s end there are still plenty of names available on the free-agent market as teams shift their focus towards their arbitration cases. If we stay true to not include Daniel Alfredsson, 41, who had 18 goals and 49 points in 68 games with Detroit last season and indicated if he is to return to the NHL it will only be with the Detroit Red Wings, there are still some surprising names that have yet to find homes for the start of the 2014-15 season.

Since our last edition:

  • G John Curry re-signs with Minnesota Wild $575K/1YR
  • D Andre Benoit signs with Buffalo Sabres $800K/1YR
  • D Chris Butler signs with St. Louis Blues $650K/1YR
  • D Keaton Ellerby re-signs with Winnipeg Jets $700K/1YR
  • F David Booth signs with Toronto Maple Leafs $1M/1YR
  • F Matt Halischuk re-signs with Winnipeg Jets $725K/1YR
  • F Lee Stempniak signs with NY Rangers $900K/1YR
  • F Daniel Winnik signs with Toronto Maple Leafs $1.3M/1YR

If there is anything we can take from the signings list above since July 16th it’s that the remaining players make up a surprising bargain bin. Need proof?

Lee Stempniak who was previous ranked 3rd on the list signed a one-year $900K deal with the Rangers. Andre Benoit, previously 4th on the list signed a one-year $800K deal with the Sabres. Just to round out the previous Top 10, David Booth, previously 9th, signed a one-year $1M deal with the Maple Leafs.

With cap implications most of the players available will be fighting for third-line, third-pairing or backup positions at best meaning the money just isn’t going to be there. The other factor in negotiations is that this late into the summer if you haven’t signed almost every other team in the league has passed on you so if an offer does come in it will be low-balled.

It’s still surprising to many that names like Dustin Penner and Martin Brodeur are still available. What about once-heralded defenseman Jamie McBain and Michael Del Zotto?

Notables who did not make the Top 10 of this list include Ville Leino (30) who was bought out after his third-year into his $27M/6YR deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Leino struggled with only 10 goals in 137 games during his time with the Sabres. In regards to Leino it’s unclear at this point if he will get an NHL contract and if his choice has been made for him meaning his best chance to play next season is in the KHL.

Raphael Diaz (28) is coming off a season that saw him split time with three different teams last year in Montreal, Vancouver and the Rangers. How about Henrik Tallinder (35)?

Speaking of Rangers, Dan Carcillo (29) who ended the season with the Rangers after a trade from Los Angeles is still available. The fourth-line agitator has seen his game regress over the past few seasons as injuries have limited his effectiveness.

Todd Bertuzzi (39) and Ryan Malone (34) are two former power-forwards with some off-ice issues that may not get a contract. Aside from the off-ice issues Bertuzzi and Malone haven’t been able to keep pace in terms of skating and it’s hindered their offensive production.

Another two-way forward still available is TJ Galiardi (26) who could prove to be a serviceable fourth line winger this season after a year in Calgary.

Douglas Murray (34), Francois Bouillon (38), Ed Jovanovski (38), Mike Komisarek (32) and Joe Corvo (37) round out the field on defense.

One last name that might serve some interest is 25-year-old Cal Heeter who played 44 games for Adirondack in the AHL with a 2.65 GAA and .912SV%. Heeter possesses an enviable 6’4 200lbs frame and could prove to be a tweener backup/AHL starter next season.


#10 Thomas Vokoun (Age: 38)

2013-14 Team(s): Pittsburgh Penguins (Did Not Play – Injury), AHL Wilkes-Barre

2013-14 Stats: Did Not Play NHL, AHL – 2GP 2.41GAA .891SV%

The video above sums it up best. A healthy Vokoun wrestled the starting job away from former-Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh during the 2012-13 playoffs that ultimately ended in a Eastern Conference Final sweep to the Boston Bruins in one of the biggest team meltdowns in NHL playoff history.

Vokoun proved he could still play and play quality minutes at the age of 36. Unfortunately injury by way of a blood clot would end his 2013-14 season before it even started. Now after a year away from the game Vokoun is attempting to make one more run in the league.

It wouldn’t cost you more than $1M at best to roll on Vokoun if you weren’t sold on a young goalie in a backup spot.


 

#9 Tim Thomas (Age: 40)

2013-14 Team(s): Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars

2013-14 Stats: 48GP 18W 2.88GAA .908SV%

Thomas will be four year’s removed from a Stanley Cup championship and Conn Smythe trophy winning season. The problem it seems to be his off-ice issues and his inconsistency on the ice. Thomas has seen a fall from hockey grace in the eyes of many fans especially those in Boston where he won his first and only Stanley Cup.

Thomas was a folkhero in Boston at the time of their Stanley Cup win on the same level as a Tom Brady and Larry Bird in the New England area. Then he spurned his team to take a year off, demanded his starting position back, eventually had his rights traded, eventually signed in Florida and then when he found out his arch-rival Roberto Luongo was coming to Florida he demanded a trade before landing in Dallas.

With his stay short in the Lonestar State, Stars fans will remember Thomas best for looking like a beer-league goaltender with his red, blue and yellow pads mixed with a green, white and black Stars uniform that if anything proved to be quite comical.

This might just be the end of the line for Thomas who’s best options are overseas or waiting it out for a goaltending meltdown of epic proportions early in the season.


 

#8 Jamie McBain (Age: 26)

2013-14 Team(s): Buffalo Sabres

2013-14 Stats: 69GP 6G 17PTS 14PIM

A name that will surprise many that he is still available this late into the summer is Jamie McBain. McBain played the 3rd most minutes (20:09 TOI) with the Buffalo Sabres last season but like most of the Sabres defense McBain struggled. The Sabres did not qualify his rights making him available. McBain is the definition of a low-risk high-reward UFA signing this summer as he can still regain his form and play second-pairing minutes.

It’s been a tough two-seasons for McBain who saw his stock dwindle in Carolina before a trade to Buffalo. On the bright side McBain is statisically the best defenseman available at this point. He was averaged 20:17 TOI despite a -13 rating and is still only 26-years-old which may make him a favourable signing before the summer is up.

Don’t expect a deal north of $1M for McBain.


 

#7 G Ilya Bryzgalov (Age: 34)

2013-14 Team(s): Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild

2013-14 Stats: 32GP 12W 2.68GAA .909SV%

Bryzgalov struggled early in the year playing behind a weak Oilers defense that gave up the 5th most shots against (32.9) and had an NHL worst 3.26 GAA. After being acquired at the trade deadline Bryzgalov went on a 7-1 streak that included 3 shutouts leading the Wild into the playoffs.

Bryzgalov won’t be a starter anywhere to start the season but can come in as a servicable backup that can still be a decent goalie best suited for a platoon situation that splits the starts.

He wouldn’t cost much as you could get him for about $1M on a one-year deal. A return to Minnesota or a stint in Pittsburgh, Nashville or Winnipeg could all be good fits for the veteran goaltender.


 

#6 RW Devin Setoguchi (Age: 27)

2013-14 Team(s): Winnipeg Jets

2013-14 Stats: 75GP 11G 27PTS 22PIM -7

How the mighty have fallen. Setoguchi is a former 8th overall pick (2005) from the Sidney Crosby draft and former 30 goal scorer (2008-09) but has yet to replicate that career year that saw him post 65 points playing alongside Joe Thornton. Setoguchi has bounced between Minnesota and Winnipeg over the past three seasons but can still be a second power-play trigger man as he was often used with the Jets last season.

Its been rumoured that Setoguchi is on the radar for the NY Rangers and Arizona Coyotes and he’s one of the few UFA’s left that has ever scored 30 goals in the NHL. If Setoguchi did end up with the Coyotes he could be apart of an intriguing line of enigmas with Sam Gagner and Martin Erat who are both pencilled in on the second-line.


 

#5 C Saku Koivu (Age: 39)

2013-14 Team(s): Anaheim Ducks

2013-14 Stats: 65GP 11G 29PTS 46PIM +3

Looking for a depth center for your third or fourth line? Well look no further than Koivu who was the best center in terms of FO% for the Anaheim Ducks last season (50.4 FO%). Despite his age Koivu is a serviceable center that would be a huge benefit to any team looking to improve their defensive zone starts. He can still play valuable minutes (15:02 TOI) and contribute offensively from time-to-time.

At this stage in his career obviously Koivu would want one last run at a Stanley Cup. One team that would make a great fit is the St. Louis Blues who could slide Maxim Lapierre over to the wing if needed. The Blues lost Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL this summer when he signed a $12M/3YR deal with Avangard Omsk. In reaction they quickly re-signed Steve Ott but still have a hole in their bottom-six that could easily be filled by Koivu.

There’s always a nostalgic return to Montreal as well.


 

#4 D Michael Del Zotto (Age: 24)

2013-14 Team(s): NY Rangers, Nashville Predators

2013-14 Stats: 67GP 3G 16PTS 18PIM -9

Probably one of the more talented yet underachieving defenseman in the league Del Zotto was not tendered a qualifying offer with the Nashville Predators after being traded straight across for Kevin Klein. It’s a move that in retrospect turns out to be a cap dump after Del Zotto failed to provide much of any improvement with the change of scenary everyone felt he so desperately needed after being buried in the Rangers defense corp.

As talented as Del Zotto is offensively his play defensively has made him a hinderance on the ice at times and a lack of faith from the coaching staff. He’s played for some noteworthy coaches in John Tortorella, Alain Vigneault and Barry Trotz who were unable to get Del Zotto to the next level. He even spent a short-stint working with Phil Housley who has been applauded for his efforts in improving the defensive struggles of many young players in the Nashville system.

Del Zotto at this time in his career is a third-pairing defenseman who’s stock couldn’t be any lower. It’s the best time to buy because he’s a talented defenseman who can quarterback a powerplay, has 40+ points potential and can make a solid first outlet pass on a breakout. It’s time to forget about last season. It happened, it sucked and Del Zotto has to be disappointed. Move on. This is still a player who had back-to-back 37-41 point seasons with the Rangers, would have had 37 over a full-season during the lockout year and that creates value.

Working with a veteran defensively responsible tutor is exactly what Del Zotto needs.

Anaheim, Colorado, Columbus and New Jersey could provide the best opportunities for Del Zotto especially with the Devils defense being under transition. The best part is it probably wouldn’t cost more than $1M to get it done.


 

#3 LW Ray Whitney (Age: 42)

2013-14 Team(s): Dallas Stars

2013-14 Stats: 69GP 9G 32PTS 14PIM -6

He was once seen as the little engine that never quits but Whitney looks to finally be slowing down, AT THE AGE OF 42!

Whitney ended up being passed by alot of younger players on the Stars depth chart under Lindy Ruff but still managed 15 powerplay points last season. The 42-year-old has been one of the NHL’s most consistent and cap friendly performers since the lockout averaging out as a 20 goal 55 point scorer despite a dip last season.

Those numbers are probably unattainable now that Whitney is showing some age but he can still be a 35-40 point scorer and with the Coyotes sinking depth on the wings a return to Arizona makes the most sense for Whitney to round out his career.

Could Whitney be willing to take one last run with a contender for $1.5-$2M?


 

#2 G Martin Brodeur (Age: 42)

2013-14 Team(s): New Jersey Devils

2013-14 Stats: 39GP 19W 2.51GAA .901SV%

When you have 688 career wins in the NHL as the winningest goalie in hockey history and available on the open market you’d think you wouldn’t last through the first day of free agency. That hasn’t been the case with Brodeur who has shown that he isn’t the same dominant goaltender he once was.

Statistically Brodeur has been in steady decline since 2009-10 when he posted a 45 win season accompanied by a 2.24GAA .916SV% and 9 shutouts. There was the cinderella run in 2012 when the Devils lost in 6 games to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final but overall Brodeur’s career is winding down. Last season the Devils brought in Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks as Brodeur’s eventual successor and the two battled over the thrown last season with Brodeur ultimately ending up on the losing end of the goaltending battle.

Brodeur is now on the outside looking for a spot on a contender. The Pittsburgh Penguins are always attached to Brodeur in the rumour mill as have the Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs. But are either the best fit for one last cup run?

The Anaheim Ducks are contenders but seem locked on their young duo in John Gibson and Frederik Andersen. Boston will opt to go with Tuukka Rask and promote promising backup Niklas Svedberg. Chicago will run with Corey Crawford and Antti Rantaa. Dallas will roll Kari Lehtonen and Anders Lindback. Los Angeles has Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones who proved more than capable last season. Stay clear of Montreal who has a backup battle in camp behind Carey Price in Peter Budaj vs Dustin Tokarski. St. Louis management has made it clear they have faith in rolling Brian Elliott and Jake Allen out on opening night. Lastly Tampa Bay has Ben Bishop and Evgeni Nabokov.

That leaves one interesting option, the Colorado Avalanche where Brodeur could tutor Semyon Varlamov and bump Reto Berra. Brodeur and Roy will forever be linked as the best one-two goalies in NHL history and it would make for an interesting story for them to reunite for one last run together.

With options limited, Brodeur could sign a deal for south of $2M or sit out the start of the season and wait for a team to have a goaltending meltdown much like Bryzgalov did last season before signing with the Oilers.


 

#1 LW Dustin Penner (Age: 31)

2013-14 Team(s): Anaheim Ducks, Washington Capitals

2013-14 Stats: 67GP 14G 35PTS 30PIM +25

Surprise surprise. Of all the players left, Dustin Penner is probably one of the best free agents available as of mid-summer. The depth has really fallen off with the best players being taken off the board in the first few days of the summer frenzy but that said the players on this list are capable players and Penner is one of them that offers some of the better complimentary pieces at the moment.

One of the things that makes Penner one of the stronger players left is his character. Penner impressed plenty of fans on his way out in Edmonton because of how he handled the offer-sheet contract fans felt he never lived up to. Penner stayed upbeat, was great in the locker-room and sorely missed on his way out not only by the players in the room but also in the Oilers lineup. He was a bigger winger at 6’4 247lbs and eventually found his way through some personal problems in Anaheim and Los Angeles over the past four seasons before a move at the deadline last year to Washington.

Penner is an attractive piece because of his size and ability to make space for his linemates. Yes his goal scoring has been in steady decline since his time in Edmonton. But he was a huge part of the Los Angeles Kings first Stanley Cup win in 2012 and has now won two Stanley Cups with Anaheim and Los Angeles. He also had a bounceback 14 goal campaign last year.

He’s the perfect piece to roll out on your second or third-line and would make a great fit in a number of places including Tampa Bay where the Lightning will want to add some size down the lineup. If the Philadelphia Flyers can sort out the Vincent Lecavalier saga, a shuffle on the deck could see Penner as a fit there. Even Minnesota could use a power-forward to round out their offense for next season.

At this point in the summer a one-year deal around $2M might just get it done.

When you strip the stats away ask yourself this question; if you could add a complimentary power-forward who can play up and down your lineup who has won two Stanley Cups, would you?

Shane Sander

Shane Sander

Edmonton Oilers Writer at The Hockey Writers
Shane Sander is a regular contributor for the Edmonton Oilers on TheHockeyWriters.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @SanderTHW or on Facebook via The Hockey Writers fan page.
Shane Sander
If you've never seen Vancouver's Worst Ghost Hunters -- reevaluate your life. http://t.co/OauDfmiSuj @vancouversghunt @VancityBuzz #VanCity - 8 hours ago

One Comment

  1. Darrin Hayes Darrin Hayes says:

    Good article, I would actually like to see Del Zotto end up in Vancouver. Brodeur could age even more if he’s waiting for a cup contender to sign him.

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