NHL: 5 Potent Combinations We'd Love to See Reunited Through Free Agency
The NHL is filled with players who are labeled as "once upon a times," and players who never grew into the players they were expected to be.
Sometimes, this is due to a lack of will and drive. Other times it can be due to age, lack of skill, desire or problems with leadership. And occasionally, it can simply be because the chemistry they once had with line-mates could not be found again with different individuals, and that's what this article is focusing in on.
The following identifies five combinations that if reunited through free agency, could save careers, teams or even franchises.
Brian Rolston/Marian Gaborik
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Although many are expecting the New York Rangers to pursue big-name players like Rick Nash or Zach Parise this summer after the announcement that Marian Gaborik would be out for six months after shoulder surgery, this is still a feasible option.
The truth is, this will only sideline Gaborik until the beginning of December, which should not set the Rangers back significantly, and with the young talent they have on the team, they are more than capable of winning without him.
That said, the Conference Final loss to the New Jersey Devils proved that the Rangers still aren't quite there. Sure, they have the talent, they have the defense, they have the coach (arguable), and they have the will, but they don't have the experience.
Another noticeable issue for the Rangers in the playoffs was the performance of Marian Gaborik, who seemed to lose the touch he had developed during the regular season. Whether that was due to the shoulder injury or not remains to be determined.
The acquisition of Brian Rolston would not only bring experience to the team, but chemistry that he has proven alongside Gaborik in Minnesota.
The most offensively productive of Rolston's 15 seasons in the NHL (one of which was a Stanley Cup in New Jersey) came in 2005/06 while playing with Gaborik, which happened to be a strong season for Gaborik as well.
At 39 years old, we can't expect anything spectacular out of Rolston, but with a strained Ranger budget, it could be an option worth looking at.
Chris Stewart/Paul Stastny
In the first two seasons of his career, Chris Stewart appeared to be on the fast track to becoming one of the games most dangerous power-forwards.
This continued into the 2010/11 season until he suffered an injury while fighting. When Stewart returned, he struggled to find his game, and was traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline.
Although he showed early promise with the Blues, his 2011/12 campaign saw another dip, where he posted just 30 points in 79 games.
Coincidentally, his playing partner in Colorado, Paul Stastny has been struggling as of late. He posted 53 points in 79 games–the second lowest total of his career.
Chris Stewart is a restricted free agent this summer, meaning if Colorado wanted to pursue him through free agency, they'd have to give up draft picks to sign an offer sheet.
The more likely scenario would be a pre-free agency trade, as the Avalanche have a plethora of talented restricted free agents that could be sent the other way.
If these two players were reunited, it could put Colorado in line to make the playoffs next season.
Jamie Langenbrunner/Brian Gionta/Scott Gomez
The title of the article on this slide is a bit misleading, because I don't think there's a person on earth that thinks Scott Gomez and the word "potent" belong anywhere near each other.
But this one is simple: 2005/06: Brian Gionta - 89 pts, Scott Gomez - 84 pts, Jamie Langenbrunner - 53 pts
2011/12: Brian Gionta -15 pts, Scott Gomez -11 pts, Jamie Langenbrunner - 24 pts.
Jamie Langenbrunner didn't play with Gomez and Gionta all that often, but at this point, anything that's familiar and could bring Gomez back to his days of being mildly useful is an investment the Montreal Canadiens should make.
Coming off an awful season, picking up an experienced UFA should surely be on their to-do list, along with much more.
Jason Arnott/Patrik Elias/Petr Sykora
Again, we have a line from the dominant days of the New Jersey Devils.
During the 2000 Stanley Cup run, this combination was among the best during the regular season, and the top line in the playoffs as well, as the three led the team in playoff scoring.
Since being split up, the three have all found their success in different places, but it's time to bring this A line (what would now be the B line) back to New Jersey.
Jason Arnott returned to the Devils at the start of last season, but it didn't work out as planned for a few reasons, resulting in a deadline deal that sent him to the Washington Capitals after just 62 games with New Jersey.
Firstly, Patrik Elias, along with just about everyone on the team, was having an off season. And secondly, Petr Sykora was playing in Europe.
This season, Elias re-found his game with a 78-point campaign, while Sykora returned to the NHL and the Devils once again. Now, the two are playing alongside in the Stanley Cup finals.
The final piece of the puzzle is to bring Arnott to New Jersey for a 3rd time to complete this deadly line. As an unrestricted free agent, this would not be out of the question; however, if the Devils win the Stanley Cup, they could see no need for changes.
Sam Gagner/Patrick Kane
As a former sixth-overall draft pick in 2007, expectations of Sam Gagner were high. Apart from an impressive rookie campaign, and a one-week rampant tear this past season, he hasn't really developed into the player we all expected.
But what made Gagner sixth-overall material in the first place? Well, in the season leading up to when Gagner was drafted, he posted 118 points with the London Knights in the OHL, earning him fifth in the league.
Team-mate and line-mate, Patrick Kane, led the league in points that season with 145 points, as the two used their chemistry to help the Knights finish the season atop the league (although they went on to get knocked out of the playoffs).
Since the OHL days, Patrick Kane has found more success with the Chicago Blackhawks than Gagner. That said, this past season was a career low in points for Kane with just 66, as the Blackhawks finished just 6th in the West and followed with a first-round playoff exit.
Perhaps reuniting these two players is what is needed for both teams. For Edmonton, they can afford to get rid of Gagner, especially with the re-signing of Ales Hemsky and the pending first-round draft of Nail Yakupov. For Chicago, adding some offensive ability that could be available at a bargain might be what it takes to spark Kane and Gagner's careers, while making Chicago a top team in the league in the process.
It is important to note, however, that Gagner is an RFA, meaning it will cost the Blackhawks some draft picks, unless he is acquired via a trade at the entry draft.
It could be worth it though, as these to dynamic and shifty players have the ability to truly dominate.