NHL News – Eight names to illuminate the Free Agency Market
With the compliance buyout window closing at 5pm ET today and the free agency market; which looks to contain an eclectic mixture of veteran blue-liners, stale offensive stars searching for a new home and plenty of players with question marks fitting them like a well-tailored suit; we are sure to see teams make some interesting acquisitions from noon ET tomorrow.
Whether a franchise is looking to add a grizzled NHL veteran to supplement their sparkling young talent for a year, questing for that elusive piece which takes their franchise from almost contending to a certified playoff threat or just using cap space to establish better depth, the free agency market really has become an integral part of the modern NHL.
This post takes a brief look at eight intriguing players who may be available from tomorrow lunchtime, when unrestricted free agency becomes the hottest topic around.
1) Jarome Iginla
Despite being 36, Jarome Iginla still has plenty to offer to a potential team. With 530 career goals, ranking an impressive third amongst active players, and an unbelievable reputation for being classy on and off the ice. He would be a superb addition in at the very least a mentoring capacity within the roster; providing valuable presence and insight for aspiring stars on his line.
Although his time in Pittsburgh will not be heralded as a success, managing only four goals in 15 playoff games, he was not alone in underperforming (Crosby? Malkin? Entire defence?) for the Penguins as they crashed out at the hands of the Boston Bruins. His production has also experienced an inevitable dip in recent seasons, but this will not stop several teams offering such an outstanding player and even better person, a deal for next season.
2) Danny Briere
After being bought out of his contract by the Philadelphia Flyers with two years remaining on a $52 million, eight-year deal, Danny Briere finds himself in a similar position to Vincent Lecavalier, looking for a new challenge and much in-demand.
Though the 35 year-old only scored six goals in 34 games during the lockout shortened campaign, it would be crazy to forget that the dynamic forward posted a 34-goal, 34-assist season just two years ago. He is a wonderfully effective player when healthy, often drifting in from the left-hand side and firing on all cylinders; definitely worth the risk for a team who need established NHL talent on offence. Briere has also become known as a player who performs well during the biggest games, an important factor for potential investors.
The belief is that Briere would love to stay in the East, ensuring minimal disruption for his sons and suiting his lifestyle at this stage. I believe Buffalo Sabres are favourites for his services and appear to be making the necessary changes in their roster to finalise the ambitious approach. The Nashville Predators are also a natural fit for his skills, desperately seeking some offensive flair.
3) David Clarkson
Next week may seem like déjà vu for the New Jersey Devils, who had star Zach Parise taken from them in last season’s free agency and may be set lose another one.
At 29 years old, David Clarkson has finally reached the position where teams from around the league are taking notice of him. Having always admired his commitment, instinctive positioning and gritty consistency, it took the absence of Parise to bring out his very best form, posting a career-high 30-goals last season and following that up with 15 goals in this year’s shortened campaign.
With a lot of money about to head his way; the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers both being heavily linked in recent times, the concern around Clarkson has to be his mediocre points totals and poor puck possession numbers throughout most of his career (last two seasons obviously excluded). Although the argument exists that he is simply a late bloomer, with the Devils significantly outshooting and outscoring opponents when he’s been on the ice over the past two years, late twenties is a strange time to hit such impressive form and this could be his peak.
Despite the risks of an instant decline, there are enough teams with the financial capacity, willing to take the gamble of acquiring a power forward who could flourish around better players.
4) Valtteri Filppula
Finnish forward Valtteri Filppula’s poor shortened season, in which he managed only nine goals and eight assists, means he may be parting company with the Detroit Red Wings.
The reason for the split is that Filppula wants between $5 and $5.5 million and a long-term contract, a sum the Red Wings simply cannot afford to offer, especially when they still need to tie up deals for emerging players. Another reason is that although he is an excellent two-way performer, ‘Fil’ was unable to replicate his numbers from the 2011-12 season this year, getting nowhere near his 66-point total and contributing a mere six points in 14 playoff games, albeit within a much-changed line-up. Nearing 30, it is also unlikely that he will manage a breakout year again and he has moved past the stage where we can talk of potential.
Nevertheless, as an extremely solid NHL performer, one who was a notable force during the series with the Anaheim Ducks, I don’t foresee him having any trouble finding a GM willing to match his demands.
5) Andrew Ference
I don’t think I was alone, sitting a little open mouthed in shock, when the Boston Bruins announced that they would not be renewing Andrew Ference’s contract for next season. The 34-year-old has so much to offer that I’m not going to waste your time by writing a huge paragraph about what you already know; epic presence at the blue-line, tonnes of playoff and finals experience, leadership qualities and a wonderful ability to create calm amongst chaos that the Bruins will find impossible to replace.
Suffice to say, the man affectionately known as ‘Ferknuckle’ will not have any issues finding a new team and sits comfortably atop all available d-men in the free agency market.
6) Ilya Bryzgalov
In truth, Ilya Bryzgalov has looked consistently uncomfortable in Philadelphia, bar a few interviews with ‘HBO’s 24/7’ series in the run up to the 2012 Winter Classic, where he spoke of his admiration for the universe and dogs.
Regardless of his form, after the Flyers bought out his $51 million, nine-year contract just two years in, he becomes an attractive proposition who before last season’s shaky performance held a 111-56-23 record after three seasons with Phoenix and Philadelphia.
It is a silly facet of the free agency market that a goaltender who last season ranked 32nd in GAA and 39th in S%, is ranked as the best available. I see either the New York Islanders or the Florida Panthers as Ilya’s next destination, though there is apparently interest from the Devils, Wild and Coyotes. The belief also exists that if ‘Bryz’ in unable to secure a starting position in the NHL, he will have no hesitation in heading to the KHL.
7) Daniel Alfredsson
Sometimes a story pops up that you dismiss as pure speculation and then it’s replicated a thousand times and you have to consider that it may have been grown from a seed of truth. Daniel Alfredsson, legendary captain of the Ottawa Senators, may be willing to test his worth as an unrestricted free agent for the sake of £2 million.
Reportedly worth around $6 million on the market as opposed to the $4 million on the table and seeking a longer deal, it would still be a curious time for Alfredsson to leave the Senators, who have a team bursting with potential and an amazing coach in Paul MacLean; a franchise who can only benefit from the guidance of their wise and effervescently productive leader at this vital stage. In terms of business however, stranger things have happened.
If their franchise leader in goals (426), assists (682) and points (1108) is to leave, rumours abound that it will be to either the Boston Bruins or the San Jose Sharks. I still struggle to believe this story as I write it, and you are forgiven for feeling exactly the same, we shall still keep a wary eye on events in Ottawa regardless, just in case anything untoward happens across the next week.
8) Nathan Horton
After Nathan Horton chose to decline a new contract with the Boston Bruins, following two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals in three years, he became one of the most coveted prospects in the free agency game.
Combining both a goal-scoring touch, which admittedly has deserted him at times in Beantown, and a power in the offensive zone, he is in many ways the perfect forward threat. The key doubt in most potential teams’ minds will be whether his injury issues make him too much of a risk, particularly concussions which have ruled him out in the past. He was also struggling with a dislocated shoulder from Game One of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Whilst with the Bruins, Horton won the Stanley Cup in 2011, posted 58 goals and 107 points in 169 games, and 36 points in 43 games during the playoffs. Apparently seeking a lower profile location in which to play his hockey, the Columbus Blue Jackets appear to be the team who are favourites to secure his services, after he visited their Nationwide Arena during a special window on Wednesday.
With so many players being placed on waivers with the intention of being bought out by their respective teams, here are a few players to keep an eye on over the next week:
Mikhail Grabovski – According to multiple reports, has today been placed on unconditional waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who intend to buyout the remaining four years on his $27 million contract.
Rob Scuderi – Coming off a 4-year, $13.6 million pound contract with the Los Angeles Kings, the 34-year old blueliner still has plenty to offer on the back end.
Stephen Weiss – Skilled performer but only played 17 games last season after a wrist injury and subsequent surgery. Will be looking for a fresh start and an opportunity to build on his seven playoff games in nine seasons with the Panthers.
Mike Ribeiro – The Washington Capitals’ most consistent player last season, tallying 49 points in 48 games, the Centre will be amongst the best available. Ribeiro’s wife wasn’t too happy about the Caps decision not to offer her husband a new deal and she may soon be cheered up by a move to Tampa or Winnipeg…maybe?…
Not enough? Here are a few more likely headed to free agency:
Ryane Clowe, Brenden Morrow, Toni Lydman, Michael Ryder, Evgeni Nabokov, Ray Emery and a blast from the not so distant past; Tim Thomas.
Whatever happens, I’m sure the rumour, anticipation and drama will keep us well entertained for quite a while, along with the universal hope that our teams don’t make any rash decisions…who am I kidding? It’s the free agency market.