Most of the focus will be on stars like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Alexander Semin when the NHL free agent period opens on Sunday. Not every team can afford to bring those players in, however, which means they will have to search for more cost-effective options.
It's not the deepest market by any means, but there are some gems out there that should be available for more reasonable prices than the most coveted names. Let's examine three players who aren't generating much hype but should provide plenty of bang for the buck.
Wellwood enters free agency after the best season of his career. Normally, that would be a bad sign, because teams would have to pay for that production. That's not the case here, though, because there are so many mid-level centers available.
The 29-year-old forward scored 18 goals in 77 games for the Winnipeg Jets. That should just be the beginning of his peak seasons, which makes now a perfect time to invest in him. He's the type of depth scorer that every team in the league could use.
To go along with his improved offensive game, Wellwood has always been sound in his own end and can be a key piece of a team's penalty kill. That type of two-way ability not only makes him a smart target, but a safe one as well.
After enduring the worst regular season of his career, it appeared Penner was going to enter free agency at the worst possible time. But then he raised his level of play in the postseason, scoring 11 points in 20 games, including a couple clutch goals. That should give him the confidence boost he needed to bounce back next season.
It was only three years ago that he tallied 32 goals and 31 assists for the Edmonton Oilers. So he clearly has offensive ability despite his lackluster campaign.
Penner represents the perfect buy-low opportunity for teams. He should come at a reduced cost, and he'll be looking to prove last season was nothing but an aberration. If he comes anywhere close to his prior levels of production, he'll be a steal.
Spacek has played for seven different franchises during his NHL career. He's never been an elite defenseman and has limitations now that he's in his late 30s. That said, teams can and will do a lot worse to fill out their blue lines.
The veteran scored five goals in 34 games after joining the Carolina Hurricanes last season. He still has a rocket for a shot and would be a welcome addition to any team's second power-play unit. Assuming he stays healthy, he can approach double-digit goals in that role.
Spacek has also become a lot more sound in his own end in recent years. Although he's not somebody who can lead a defense corps like Suter, he will come at a much smaller price and will carve out a useful niche for himself.
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