The summer is entering it’s mid-point with many names off the board. That said there are still plenty of names available including; Martin Brodeur, Daniel Alfredsson, Dustin Penner and Michael Del Zotto that can compliment an NHL roster next season.
This list excludes Daniel Alfredsson, 41, who has already indicated if he is to return to the NHL it will only be with the Detroit Red Wings. Alfredsson had 18 goals and 49 points in 68 games with Detroit last season.
Other notables 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. 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.
Another interesting forward that might generate some interest is Daniel Winnik (29) who had a career year with the Anaheim Ducks producing 30 points in 76 games. 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.
Former Conn Smythe trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion Tim Thomas (40) is still available after playing out the year with the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. Thomas Vokoun (38) is trying to make a comeback after missing the entire season recovering from a blood clot.
Lastly defenseman Jamie McBain (26) is sure to generate some interest as one of the better defenseman still available. 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.
#10 G Ilya Bryzgalov (Age: 34)
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.
#9 LW David Booth (Age: 29)
2013-14 Team(s): Vancouver Canucks
2013-14 Stats: 66GP 9G 19PTS 18PIM +1
Booth was the victim of a buy-out in Vancouver with the new regime coming in. His struggles in a Canucks uniform weren’t unnoticed as fans were clamouring for a buy-out the last two seasons. Overall Booth was passed over on the depth chart by Zach Kassian, Mike Santorelli, Brad Richardson and Jannik Hansen who all outproduced Booth’s 19 point performance last season. He saw a decline in his TOI under former Canucks coach John Tortorella (13:28 TOI) and his shooting percentage dipped to 7.69 despite finishing in the Top 5 in SOG by a Vancouver forward last year with 117.
Booth is a secondary scorer who has struggled with concussion issues from his days with the Florida Panthers. The NHL game is growing more and more into a speed and possession game and Booth has speed to burn. If he can improve his possession numbers Booth could be a great addition to a few teams looking to boost their depth.
Could the Detroit Red Wings and Mike Babcock be interested in a reclimation project?
#8 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.
#7 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.
#6 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.
#5 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.
#4 D Andre Benoit (Age: 30)
2013-14 Team(s): Colorado Avalanche
2013-14 Stats: 79GP 7G 28PTS 26PIM +2
This name is going to surprise many in the fact that he’s one ranked so high on this list and two that he’s even still available. Benoit was a huge contributor to the Patrick Roy’s defense corp last season averaging 20:12 TOI (3rd) and playing key minutes on the second-pairing. Benoit emerged out of the Ottawa Senators organization as a bit of a late bloomer who helped the Senators make a run two seasons ago that ultimately ended against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second-round but was a huge reason the Senators looked like they could actually beat the mighty Penguins.
His play carried over into Colorado despite the Avs opting to make a move for Brad Stuart but side-by-side Benoit might have had a better year last year despite not being the name player that a guy like Stuart might be. The Avalanche overachieved in some people’s eyes last season and in some eyes they were right on point. The same case can be made for Benoit as people aren’t sold on if Benoit is more than an over-achieving third-pairing defenseman.
His cannon of a shot would be a great natural fit in Montreal, as would a return to Ottawa. With the rebuild in Vancouver, Benoit could be a great transitionary piece on the Canucks blueline if they aren’t sold on a Yannick Weber. How about bringing some stability to the Minnesota defense? Either way Benoit can’t seriously sit around forever on the market and has to be the next defenseman to get snapped up via free agency.
#3 RW Lee Stempniak (Age: 31)
2013-14 Team(s): Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins
2013-14 Stats: 73GP 12G 34PTS 32PIM -16
Stempniak is an interesting name. He’s been a consistent third-line scorer that teams have felt they can move up into a second-line role and was even tried out next to Sidney Crosby during his time with the Penguins at the end of last season. The biggest dip in Stempniak’s production came on the PP where he struggled to score a single PP goal. Despite throwing 178 shots on net he was only able to convert on 6.7% of those. Keep in mind his career average is around 10.7 which means if you duplicate that number of shots over a full season on his career average, Stempniak is capable of popping 19 goals on a bargain contract.
At the most Stempniak will cost you between $2-2.5M per season and with the dip in production last season that number could be closer to $2M. Offensive stats aren’t what set Stempniak apart from the pack though. It’s the fact he can play on both special teams units with the PP and PK. Stempniak was apart of the group in Calgary and Phoenix during his last two stints outside of his deadline acquisition in Pittsburgh.
Florida would be a great fit for a well-rounded two-way player like Stempniak. His negotiations apparently fell off with the Boston Bruins due to cap issues. The Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes could use a player of this ilk as well.
Either way Stempniak will get a contract before training camp starts simply because teams value players that can play in multiple game scenarios.
#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.
#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.
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?