NHL Free Agents 2012: Maple Leafs and More Teams Who Need a No. 1 Center
The Minnesota Wild were the worst goal-scoring team in the NHL last season and are in desperate need of acquiring a No. 1 center this summer.
They scored just two goals per game in 2011-12 and missed out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference.
Two of Minnesota's top three centers, Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cullen, combined for a plus/minus of minus-25, which points to their lack of control of the offense out on the ice.
The Wild are not alone, however. Here are some more teams in need of picking up a No. 1 center this July.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs had an extremely disappointing 2011-12 campaign, as they finished 13th in the Eastern Conference standings. Their trio of centers played decent, but not nearly good enough to for Toronto to win consistently. Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak and Tim Connolly split time on the ice at center, but Connolly and Bozak sported plus/minuses of minus-14 and minus-seven respectively.
Meanwhile, Grabovski scored 23 goals, but notched just 28 assists for the Maple Leafs all season long. A No. 1 center must assist at a higher rate than that. Kyle Wellwood and Jason Arnott are some notable free-agent centers out there this summer who could potentially add another element to the Maple Leafs franchise next season.
According to Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie via Twitter, Toronto has agreed to a deal with veteran center Jay McClement:
TOR signs Jay McClement to to 2 year deal worth $3M.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2012
McClement scored just 17 points last season in 80 games, however, so he is clearly not the answer at No. 1 for the Maple Leafs in 2012-13. That being said, Toronto is still in need of a dependable and proven talent at center.
Derek Roy was Buffalo's top point-scoring center in 2011-12, netting 17 goals and tallying 27 assists for the Sabres in 80 games. Buffalo missed out on the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs by three points, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps if it finds a No. 1 center this offseason, it can improve its 17th-ranked scoring offense (2.6 goals per game) from a year ago.
The Sabres' second-best center, Nathan Gerbe, scored just a total of 25 points in 62 appearances last season, moving backwards in his development after putting up 31 points in 64 games in 2010-11. The bottom line is that Buffalo needs a No. 1 center in order to challenge in the East next season.
Calgary's Olli Jokinen could be a potential option for the Sabres at center. The 33-year-old free agent played in all 82 games for the Flames last season, scoring 23 goals and helping set up 38 others. Jokinen is done with the Flames according to the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis via Twitter:
Source tells me it's official: Olli Jokinen's days with the Flames are over and he will head to free agency July 1.— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) June 28, 2012
With Jokinen in search of a team this offseason, there's really no reason why he shouldn't be on the Sabres' free-agent radar.
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