The NHL’s preseason is well underway with many teams still deciding on their opening night roster and yet there are still a handful of players without a home. A number of veteran players are surprisingly un-signed with the start of the regular season being only a week away.
Will these players be able to find a new home or have their professional tryout turn into an NHL contract? Or will they be forced down the same path as Shane Doan who wanted to continue playing, but was unable to find an interested team?
Second in all-time points in NHL history with 1,914, third in all-time goals with 765, fifth in all-time assists with 1,149 and Jaromir Jagr still can’t find an NHL team that wants to sign him.
The issues with Jagr seem to revolve around his age. At 45 years old, teams seem hesitant to sign him despite Jagr continually showing everyone that age means nothing. Last season with the Florida Panthers, Jagr finished with 16 goals and 46 points in 82 games while in the 2015-16 season he finished with 27 goals and 66 points in 79 games.
Jagr’s seeming drop in production should be attributed more to the season that Florida had than Jagr being too old. Last season Jagr finished fourth in team scoring on a very low scoring Florida team.
The team struggled on the ice with Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad missing a chunk of the season as well as Jonathan Huberdeau only getting to play 31 games. And then there were the off-ice issues with the team to make matters worse.
Any team that needs a top-six winger should be falling over themselves to sign Jagr or maybe a team like the Vegas Golden Knights could use the extra star power and talent. The Calgary Flames were rumored to have been interested in Jagr, but Flames general manager Jim Treliving discounted that rumor.
Luckily for Jagr, he does have a backup option to the NHL as he can always play for HC Kladno in the Czech Republic since he owns the team and can then just wait for an NHL contract.
In what will be a trend with the remaining free agents is another aging veteran that can provide depth scoring in Brian Gionta. Gionta isn’t in the same position as Jagr as Gionta’s production has dropped to the point where he would offer some scoring outside of a team’s top-six.
Last season Gionta finished with 15 goals and 35 points in 82 games with the Buffalo Sabres. In his two previous seasons, he finished with a similar amount of points with 33 points in 2015-16 and 35 points in 2014-15.
Gionta has spent the last three seasons as captain of the Buffalo Sabres and before that was captain of the Montreal Canadiens for four seasons. Although Gionta is 38-years old and nearing the end of his career he would be a great addition to any young team that needs some veteran leadership.
Cody Franson is one of a number of free agents that have managed to sign a professional tryout, with Franson signing with the Chicago Blackhawks. Although this is a good indication that Franson will sign with Chicago, it’s not a done deal. Many teams sign players to a professional tryout only for most of them to be released from their contract before the start of the season.
Chicago is in desperate need of another defenseman to fill out their NHL roster, on the presumption that a player from the AHL won’t fill that last spot. The only issue is that Chicago is already right up against the salary cap so Franson would need to take a very cheap deal.
Although Franson has traditionally been a slow defenseman, he makes up for his lack of speed with his physicality and ability to play on the power play if needed. Franson has spent the last two seasons with Buffalo and finished last season with three goals and 19 points in 68 games.
Jarome Iginla’s chances of signing an NHL contract are dependant on Jagr and Gionta signing as they are both similar players, but both have brought more production to their teams than Iginla has recently. Similar to Gionta, Iginla would be a great depth addition to a team that needs some veteran leadership.
Unfortunately, his season last year with the Colorado Avalanche may be what stops any team from signing him. In his 61 games with Colorado last season, Iginla only had 18 points which are far from the 47 points in 82 games he had in the 2015-16 season with Colorado.
Once he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings it became evident that his production was a result of the dreadful season that Colorado had. In his 19 games with Los Angeles, the 40-year-old Iginla showed that he’s still capable of, contributing six goals and nine points in 19 games.
Iginla is another future hall of fame player, alongside Jagr, that may not end up with a contract come the start of the season. Iginla is 34th in all-time points with 1,300 and 15th in all-time goals with 625.
P.A. Parenteau is the last of the aging wingers without an NHL contract at 34-years old. He currently has a professional tryout contract with the Detroit Red Wings and would be a perfect fit for them. Parenteau seems to be the go-to guy for rebuilding teams that need some cheap scoring depth that can also be flipped for draft picks at the trade deadline.
In 67 games last season, split between the New Jersey Devils and the Nashville Predators, Parenteau had 13 goals and 28 points. Although that may not be a lot, it’s great considering he was only signed to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million.
Parenteau is a good cheap option for teams that are close to the salary cap or just want some more scoring coming from lower in their lineup.
So where do you think these players will sign or are they better off retiring?
Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers.
I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was a kid and have always had an interest in writing. At The Hockey Writers, I get to enjoy both of my passions as well as writing about small convoluted details in player contracts and stats.