NHL Free Agency 2012: Why GMs Must Covet Kyle Wellwood
Winnipeg Jets center Kyle Wellwood is one of the best unrestricted free agents remaining through July 4. Wellwood deserves a long-term contract in the NHL.
CBS Sports ranks Wellwood as the No. 34 overall unrestricted free agent, which is sixth-best among players not yet signed through July 4. Wellwood makes more sense for a long-term deal than the players listed above him.
Alexander Semin? Some analysts at TSN said some negative things about the sniper’s character. Whether or not these opinions are justified, some NHL executives might be wary to offer Semin a huge contract. Based solely on Semin’s talent level and ability to score lots of goals, he should get plenty of calls from franchises seeking his services.
With that said, he is the highest-rated unrestricted free agent on CBS Sports’ list without a new contract (updated through July 4).
Shane Doan? Doan is worthy of a long-term deal based on production and leadership, but the Phoenix Coyotes legend will be 36 years old during the 2012-13 season. He has also expressed a desire to stay with the Coyotes if the franchise can find an owner.
Andrei Kostitsyn? The Nashville Predators will not bring back the winger in 2012-13. Kostitsyn will get offers, but general managers should avoid giving him a long-term deal. Some might consider Kostitsyn a bust through this point in his career, as he was drafted 10th overall in 2003.
Kostitsyn has three seasons with more than 20 goals, but he has only scored 50 points once in his career. In addition, he was involved in the curfew incident with former Predators teammate and current KHL player Alexander Radulov.
Pavel Kubina? Kubina has won a Stanley Cup championship and has appeared in three Olympic Games with Czech Republic, but at 35 years old, who knows how much longer he will play? NHL franchises will marvel at his 6’5”, 258-pound frame, but his career minus-120 rating hurts his chances in free agency.
Next on CBS Sports’ list comes Kyle Wellwood. Wellwood should get a long-term contract before any of the players listed above.
Wellwood is not the biggest or most talented NHL center, but he has held his own in 490 NHL games played (including playoffs). Wellwood has scored at least 11 goals in five of his eight NHL seasons. He does not take many penalties, as the Windsor, Ontario native has only 34 PIM in his career. Wellwood will help an NHL franchise without hurting it.
Wellwood can also shoot the puck. He had a 19.4 percent shooting percentage in 2011-12.
Before signing free agents, it is always wise to see how they produced on both good and bad teams, if possible. Though Wellwood has played most of his career on underachieving clubs, he did play with the Vancouver Canucks from 2008-2010.
During Wellwood’s time in Vancouver, the Canucks won their division and finished with more than 100 points in both seasons. Individually, Wellwood scored 18 goals in 2008-09 and 14 goals in 2009-10 on Canucks teams that featured elite NHL forwards like the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.
In 2011-12, though, Wellwood had his best NHL season. Wellwood scored 18 goals and a career-high 48 points for the Winnipeg Jets. He also won 54.0 percent of his faceoffs. These numbers alone, considering his age of 29, should earn him more in free agency than the $700,000 made in 2011-12.
Wellwood will not be a first-line player for any team, but franchises looking for more depth at forward or help on the power play should give Wellwood’s representatives a call.
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