With so many of the league’s significant free agents scooped up on July 1, the opening day of 2014′s free agency, unattached impact players are suddenly scarce. Still, more than a few useful talents are out there and could fill important roles on teams with some salary cap space willing to take a flier.
Keep it here for a regularly updated look at the latest buzz surrounding the best free agents available.
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10. Derek Morris Age: 36 2013-14 team: Arizona Coyotes Position: Defence 2013-14 cap hit: $2.75 million Why he’s worth a shot: A member of the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1998, Morris brings 1,107 games of NHL blue-line experience. His production in the desert in 2013-14 (17 points) was actually his highest in four seasons. Of the remaining UFAs, only one (Jamie McBain) averaged more time on ice last year than Morris’s 19:45. He can still fill in on a team’s third defensive pairing and is a positive possession player (50.2% Corsi). Latest dirt: As the Coyotes dedicate themselves to a youth movement, Morris found himself the odd/old man out on a strong defensive core. Morris’s name has been brought up in speculation with the Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers, a team forever with an eye on upgrading its defence.
9. Ray Whitney Age: 42 2013-14 team: Dallas Stars Position: Left wing 2013-14 cap hit: $4.5 million Why he’s worth a shot: Yes, Whitney’s old. Older-than-Alfie old. There’s no denying that. But “The Wizard” could bring leadership and secondary scoring. He has averaged more than 0.9 points per game in seven seasons throughout his long career, a mark he still hit at age 39 and again at age 40. Although he saw his ice time decline to under 14 minutes per game on a young Dallas squad, Whitney still managed 32 points in 69 games last season. Latest dirt: Whitney is contemplating retirement, as 42-year-old hockey players do. But his family lives in Phoenix, so don’t rule out a return to the Coyotes on a one-year deal. “Phoenix could be the easiest solution,” Whitney told the Edmonton Journal back in May, “but I don’t know what their plans are.”
8. Jamie McBain Age: 26 2013-14 team: Buffalo Sabres Position: Defence 2013-14 cap hit: $1.8 million Why he’s worth a shot: Heavily used by Buffalo, McBain leads all UFA defencemen in average ice time (20:17) and ranks second (with 69) only to Sami Salo in games played, so he can handle the workload. He co-leads all available D-men in goals (six) and points (17), while registering a minus-13 rating for a minus-91 team. Five Sabres blue-liners fared worse than McBain in that category. Latest dirt: Any player who failed to stick with the basement-dwelling Sabres at the conclusion of last season (add Henrik Tallinder and Ville Leino to that list) has had a rough time landing a new gig. Despite his relative youth, the market has been quiet on the Minnesota native, who failed to get a qualifying offer from the Sabres.
Is Jamie McBain going to get an NHL deal this summer? Asking for a friend who has him on a fantasy team…
7. Sami Salo Age: 39 2013-14 team: Tampa Bay Lightning Position: Defence 2013-14 cap hit: $3.75 million Why he’s worth a shot: Of the defencemen left on the board, the veteran Salo led them all in games played (71), and plus/minus (+11); he’s also tied for tops in assists (13) and points (17). Latest dirt: A casualty of a Tampa Bay blue line that needed an upgrade (hello, Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison), Salo battled injury the last couple seasons but is not yet ready to call it a career. He’ll be 40 by the time the season starts, but could come cheap on a one-year offer.
So I'm in Tampa. I went to Busch Gardens and I'm 80% sure I saw Sami Salo. He obviously still lives in Tampa.
6. Andrei Loktionov Age: 24 2013-14 team: Carolina Hurricanes Position: Centre 2013-14 cap hit: $725,000 Why he’s worth a shot: Loktionov put up 22 points in 68 games with the Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils in 2013-14 despite seeing less than 13 minutes of ice time per game. The centre lit it up as an OHL star for the 2008-09 Windsor Spitfires (66 points in 51 games) and is still on the fun side of 25, but his 155 NHL games have been spread among three teams and have only yielded 22 goals total. Perhaps he just needs to find the right linemates and a couple extra shifts per game to develop into a more reliable NHLer. Latest dirt: While there have been no reports of NHL teams expressing interest in Loktionov, he could be a low-cost gamble for a team like the Edmonton Oilers in search to fill a hole a centre. As with so many Russian players, the option of signing to a KHL club remains. Yaroslav Lokomotiv, for whom Loktionov played seven games in 2007-08, would reportedly welcome him back.
According to sport76.ru, KHL Lokomotiv made a contract offer to Loktionov, who became UFA yesterday
5. Dustin Penner Age: 31 2013-14 team: Washington Capitals Position: Left wing 2013-14 cap hit: $2 million Why he’s worth a shot: Penner got off to a great start last season in Anaheim rushing alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. (I know: who wouldn’t succeed on that line?) On this list, only Daniel Alfredsson scored more goals last season than Penner’s 14, and no UFA comes close to Penner’s plus-25 rating (if you place any stock in that stat). The big guy’s only 31 and could chip in some added scoring in a bottom-six role. Latest dirt: Penner is coming off a 67-game season, something he hadn’t enjoyed since 2009-10 with Edmonton. But having worn three different sweaters since 2013, the versatile forward is finding it tough to land a permanent gig.
4. Saku Koivu Age: 39 2013-14 team: Anaheim Ducks Position: Centre 2013-14 cap hit: $2.5 million Why he’s worth a shot: Fourth in goals scored among available UFAs, potting 11 in just 65 games and adding 18 assists, the veteran Koivu should still be able to contribute in a depth role on a one-year deal — if he can be talked out of retiring. Fun fact: Koivu actually outscored the more celebrated Teemu Selanne in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Latest dirt: Anaheim GM Bob Murray announced well before July 1 that the team would not be bringing Koivu back. The Ducks’ other departing Finnish legend is back in Finland contemplating his future and whether or not he even returns to the NHL. Those speculating from an ocean away suggest he’d be a good fit on the Minnesota Wild or back with the Montreal Canadiens.
Saku Koivu's house in California is for sale. Retiring and going home to Finland? Or going back to Montreal for a year? Hope it's the latter
3. Martin Brodeur Age: 42 2013-14 team: New Jersey Devils Position: Goaltender 2013-14 cap hit: $4.5 million Why he’s worth a shot: Despite his decreasing save percentage, Brodeur is the winningest goaltender in NHL history and he is willing to play backup in the right situation. Say your No. 1 goes down in Round 2 of the playoffs, there could be worse options wearing the ballcap, no? Latest dirt: Brodeur told Sportsnet he has a specific list of teams he’ll play for; he wants to go to a contender. The Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, Bruins, Penguins and Lightning all reportedly kicked tires. The Lightning and Penguins signed other backups on July 1. Lost in the free agency madness, New Jersey scooped up goaltender Scott Clemmensen to back up Cory Schneider, which should squash any ideas of Brodeur appearing in a Devils uniform prior to his jersey retirement. Brodeur’s agent, Pat Brisson, told Fire & Ice on July 13 that the goalie is willing to wait until after the season begins to find the right fit.
“On or around July 1, we explored a few possibilities for Marty that made somewhat sense. That didn’t come to fruition,” Brisson wrote the site via email. “Marty has a lot to offer, but it will be the right fit and this may come later this summer or even early in the season. He is in no rush until the right fit appears.”
In August, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told NJ.com that if Brodeur wants to work with the franchise, he will give him an off-ice/office job.
“You always have to find out if former players want to work,” Lamoriello told the outlet. “They’re used to playing, that’s the bottom line. I know Marty doesn’t want to coach. I don’t know if Marty wants to work.”
Among the interested teams in Brodeur: Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh & Toronto. Brodeur wants to go to a contender.
2. Tomas Vokoun Age: 38 2013-14 team: Pittsburgh Penguins Position: Goaltender 2013-14 cap hit: $2 million Why he’s worth a shot: Although he missed 2013-14 due to blood clots, Vokoun filled in admirably for the Penguins in the 2013 playoffs when Marc-Andre Fleury struggled and might still have what it takes to be a security blanket. (P.S.: He’s four years younger than Martin Brodeur.) Latest dirt: With Pittsburgh nabbing promising backup Thomas Greiss on July 1, the veteran Vokoun is reportedly fielding multiple offers. Could one be from the Chicago Blackhawks?
Hearing the Hawks will still likely pursue another 2-way goalie with NHL experience. Trust isn’t there yet for organization’s young goalies.
1. Daniel Alfredsson Age: 41 Team: Detroit Red Wings Position: Right wing 2013-14 cap hit: $3.5 million Why he’s worth a shot: Even at his advanced age, Alfredsson led all still-available UFAs in goals per game in 2013-14, and his leadership and work ethic were appreciated in Detroit. Latest dirt: Alfredsson has told the Red Wings that he will take some time to assess his back pain and decide to either return to Detroit or retire from the game. He does not want to uproot his family again and go to another team. Alfredsson wants to play one more year with the Red Wings, but GM Ken Holland said in a radio interview that the team would hold off on making a decision on whether to sign Alfie until September. Further, a training camp tryout isn’t out of the question.
Daniel Alfredsson says on Swedish radio that he will hit ice next week. Depending on how his back will respond, he will decide about future.