As the calendar pages spill into July, wings — chicken and otherwise — will fill the minds of suddenly starved hockey fans.
Here are some of the hottest wingers on the unrestricted free agency market that are sure to make coaches and general managers alike salivate when July 5 rolls around.
TOP WINGERS AVAILABLE
2012 salary cap hit: $7 million
If a team is looking for a player that could take them over the top, Jarome Iginla might be their man. The 36-year-old two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner has slowed with age but can still produce as a top-six forward and is capable of notching 30-plus goals. In 44 games last season for the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins the future Hall of Famer notched 31 points. The bottom line with Iggy is that he has an innate knack for putting the puck in the net — as evident by his 530 career goals — and will be looking for a multi-year deal from a Stanley Cup contender. This winger will satisfy the appetite of an experienced bunch.
Possible fits: Chicago, Detroit, New York Rangers
2012 salary cap hit: $4 million
Nathan Horton is the type of bruising power forward who can make a difference in the postseason — just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Penguins. A former third-overall pick, Horton is top-shelf material and should be able to find his way onto the first line of any team that he suits up for. The 28-year-old is good for 20 to 25 goals and 55-plus points per season. However, it’s during the playoffs that Horton makes his living. In 43 postseason games he has collected 37 points and has made two final appearances, including a Cup victory with the Bruins in 2010-11.
Possible fits: Dallas, New Jersey, Nashville
2012 salary cap hit: $2.6 million
Grit and skill are tough to come by. As a result, David Clarkson will be one of the most sought-after free agents this summer. The 29-year-old Clarkson could always rack up the penalty minutes, yet a surprising breakout campaign in 2011-12 that saw him notch 30 goals raised his value substantially. Top that with 15 goals in 48 games last season for the New Jersey Devils, and you get a player who can change the game with his body and stick. Expect this winger’s flair to attract a hard-nosed team looking to add to its physical identity.
Possible fits: Toronto, New Jersey, New York Rangers
2012 salary cap hit: $3.5 million
One of the most underrated goal scorers in the NHL has to be Michael Ryder. The former QMJHL star has notched 20 or more goals five times in his career and 30-plus three times. During the 2012-13 season, Ryder tallied 35 points — 16 goals and 18 assists — with the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens. A pure scorer is a rare commodity, and Ryder should get serious offers from teams looking to add some scoring punch. This wing might be ordered by a team looking to kick start their offence.
Possible fits: Nashville, Florida, Columbus
2012 salary cap hit: $4.5 million
Jaromir Jagr is one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of skates. Will he play another season in the NHL? Not really sure about that one. But if he does, he will draw interest from a couple of contenders. Father time apparently has no effect on the now 41-year-old, who notched 35 points in 45 games for the Stars and Bruins. At this stage Jagr is most likely going to settle on a team that has a good chance at raising Lord Stanley’s mug. This wing has been in every situation. Tried, tested, and true.
Possible fits: Pittsburgh , Detroit, Montreal
Patrick Elias – Age is starting to show, but he does have the potential to play centre or wing and put up 36 points in 48 games. Could be a Devil for life, if Lou Lamoriello gets his wish.
Clarke MacArthur – Strong two-way player who can chip in on the power play or penalty kill. MacArthur can jump into the top six if needed. Maple Leafs or Capitals.
Pascal Dupuis – Some people may not like that Dupuis is in this category, but playing alongside Sidney Crosby can spike any player’s numbers. He will stay with the Penguins and his security blanket – Crosby.
Ryane Clowe – His offence abandoned him last season, and that will hurt his value on the open market. However, Clowe can still bring the hurt with the body and could fit in nicely on a checking third line. Blackhawks, perhaps?