NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might never see these players wearing NHL sweaters again
One month has passed since the 2012 NHL free-agency signing period began on July 1.
Most of the premier free agents have already agreed to new contracts. Only 11 of CBSSports.com’s Top 50 unrestricted free agents of 2012 are still on the market.
John Kreiser of NHL.com put together a list of who he thought were the top 30 remaining unrestricted free agents on Aug.1. Most of the players listed there are aging and would not likely fit into the long-term plans of NHL franchises.
There are still about six weeks remaining between now and the start of training camp, and we could still see more free agents agree to new contracts. With only so many spots open on NHL rosters this time of the year, though, many of the top guys left will find themselves out of work.
In this slideshow, I will discuss 10 current unrestricted free agents who I think will not have an NHL team to play for in 2012-13. This is not necessarily a knock on their skill level, but clearly these players are not highly coveted by NHL franchises anymore.
As always, I welcome your thoughts below in the comments section.
Let’s drop the puck.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $750K
2011-12 Stats (DET): 15 games, 5-6-1, .884 save percentage, 3.28 GAA
Ty Conklin is a true backup goaltender. Conklin has never played more than 41 games (including playoffs) in an NHL season.
The Detroit Red Wings’ signing of Jonas Gustavsson on July 1 signaled the end for Conklin. Detroit’s goaltender depth chart in 2012-13 will be Jimmy Howard, Gustavsson and Joey MacDonald, who will start the season in Grand Rapids (AHL).
Conklin has represented Team USA three times in the IIHF World Championships and has played in three NHL outdoor games for three different franchises. These are nice accomplishments, but they will not help Conklin join another NHL franchise.
If I were an NHL general manager, I would groom a young goaltender in the minor leagues to be the No. 1 goaltender of the future rather than pick up someone like Conklin, especially considering Conklin never really established himself as a No. 1 guy at any point in his NHL career.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $525K
John Grahame has not played in the NHL since 2007-08.
The New York Islanders brought Grahame in on Mar. 29 as insurance for Evgeni Nabokov’s injury, but the Islanders never used him.
Nabokov becomes a free agent after the 2012-13 season, but he is a much better option than Grahame as Rick DiPietro’s backup. In other words, the Islanders should prioritize Nabokov over Grahame.
As of Aug. 1, New York has the second-most cap space available in the NHL. The Islanders should not start cutting into this space by re-signing Grahame.
Though Grahame won the 2004 Stanley Cup championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he has never played more than 57 games in an NHL season.
It is clear that Grahame would backup any NHL goaltender today, but should he? As a 36-year-old who never really established himself as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL, I think not.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $600K
2011-12 Stats (PIT): 16 games, 6-7-2, .883 save percentage, 3.11 GAA (regular season)
Brent Johnson will likely find himself not playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012-13. This became clear after Pittsburgh traded for Tomas Vokoun on June 4 to backup Marc-Andre Fleury.
Johnson helped the Penguins win the 2009 Stanley Cup championship, but he has not played well in playoff situations in over a decade. Though Johnson would be a backup goaltender in the NHL, his recent playoff performances (especially with a team as strong as Pittsburgh) has to concern any general managers looking his way for insurance.
In 85 minutes of playoff hockey for Pittsburgh over the last three seasons, Johnson had an extremely poor .708 save percentage.
Like I mentioned in the Ty Conklin slide, NHL franchises should develop one of their own goaltenders before taking in Johnson.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $3.5 million
2011-12 Stats (TBL): 40 games, 13-16-3. .886 save percentage, 3.66 GAA
In 2010-11—just two seasons ago—Dwayne Roloson carried the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Eastern Conference Finals at 41 years old. Roloson was unable to build on that playoff run this season, though.
Over the offseason, the Lightning got younger between the pipes through signing Anders Lindback on July 6 after trading for him (Nashville Predators) on June 15. Lindback has shown promise after backing up superstar goaltender Pekka Rinne in Nashville the past two seasons.
Tampa Bay’s backup goaltender, Mathieu Garon, is 34 years old but still considerably younger than Roloson. Garon’s contract expires following 2012-13. With that said, it makes little sense to keep two aging goaltenders on the roster.
Garon also outperformed Roloson in 2011-12 in only eight more games.
Tom Urtz, Jr. of BleacherReport.com thinks Roloson should retire. I very much agree with Urtz.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $600K
2011-12 Stats (BOS): 5 games, 2-2-0, .855 save percentage, 3.68 GAA
Despite Tim Thomas’ NHL sabbatical in 2012-13, the Boston Bruins would be wise not to re-sign Marty Turco. Considering the Bruins have not re-signed Turco yet suggests confidence in the current goaltending situation.
Turco was a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL as recently as 2009-10. In that season with the Dallas Stars, Turco went 22-20-11 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.72 GAA.
The three-time NHL All-Star played most of 2011-12 with EC Red Bull Salzburg, an Austrian club. According to Douglas Flynn of NESN.com:
Turco enjoyed his experience in Austria, and sounded like a man not ready to hang up the skates just yet when he told NESN.com late in the season, “I guess more than anything I just like playing.”
The chances of Turco playing hockey in 2013-14 are much greater if he returns to Europe. Or, Turco could return to being an NHL analyst, which he did for NHL Network during the 2011 conference finals.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $3.85 million
2011-12 Stats (TBL/PHI): 74 games, 16 points, -5 rating, 86 PIM, 18:41 average TOI (including playoffs)
The Philadelphia Flyers traded with the Tampa Bay Lightning and acquired Pavel Kubina on Feb. 18 to add some bulk to the blue line as Chris Pronger recovered from his eye injury.
Philadelphia also traded with the Dallas Stars for Nicklas Grossman on Feb. 16 for this same purpose.
Kubina played in only five of Philadelphia’s 11 playoff games in 2012, and when he played he averaged only 10 minutes, 34 seconds of ice time.
Looking back, Kubina was a rental player for the Flyers. Before NHL franchises come calling for Kubina, though, they should be reminded of a few things.
First, Kubina has a career minus-113 rating (including playoffs).
Second, Kubina was a great goal-scorer as a defenseman in his prime, but he has not scored 10 goals in a season since 2008-09.
Third, Kubina has not averaged 20 minutes of ice time per game since 2009-10.
Fourth, and most importantly, a $3.85-million cap hit is too much for Kubina at this stage of his career.
Kubina won the 2004 Stanley Cup championship with Tampa Bay and he has represented Team Czech Republic in three Olympic Games and in four IIHF World Championship tournaments, but that should not fool any NHL brass trying to acquire him.
I suggest Kubina should end his career in Czech Republic, if he wants to continue playing hockey.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $850K
2011-12 Stats (CHI): 53 games, 7 points, -9 rating, 23 PIM, 13:24 average TOI (including playoffs)
Sean O’Donnell is an experienced stay-at-home defenseman, and "experienced" means over 40 years old.
According to Tracey Myers of CSNChicago.com, O’Donnell still wants to play in the NHL, though that will likely not be with his 2011-12 team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago signed Sheldon Brookbank on July 1, which essentially leaves O’Donnell out of a top-six role.
O’Donnell won the 2007 Stanley Cup championship with the Anaheim Ducks but has never been an All-Star in his NHL career, which began in 1994-95.
In 2011-12, O’Donnell had a negative rating (-6) for the first time since 1996-97.
If O’Donnell does not sign with a team for 2012-13, retirement seems like the best option for the NHL’s second-highest PIM generator amongst active players.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $1.875 million
2011-12 Stats (DET): 79 games, 12 power play goals, 26 points, -9 rating, 42 PIM (including playoffs)
If the Detroit Red Wings do not re-sign Tomas Holmstrom he will likely retire, according to Philip Zaroo of MLive.com.
Holmstrom has not decided whether he will retire, but he admitted the retirement of former teammate Nicklas Lidstrom has made the decision process more difficult. Both Holmstrom and Lidstrom come from Sweden and won four Stanley Cup championships together with Detroit.
With Lidstrom’s retirement, Holmstrom is the last link between the Red Wings’ past and present. If Holmstrom retires, the Red Wings can begin the future in 2012-13.
Nearing 40 years old, Holmstrom’s role has changed as his average ice time per game dropped by three minutes from 2010-11 to 2011-12. According to Zaroo, Detroit has made some offseason moves that signal an even more decreased role in 2012-13.
Zaroo said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland will allow Holmstrom as much time as he needs to decide. Holland said, “He’s earned the right to take as long as he wants.”
Since I put Holmstrom on this list, I think he will indeed retire and therefore not have an NHL contract in 2012-13.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $1.25 million
2011-12 Stats (CGY/CHI): 42 games, 12 points, -4 rating, 12 PIM (including playoffs)
When the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Brendan Morrison via trade with the Calgary Flames on Jan. 27, they knew Morrison had offseason ACL surgery. They could not have expected Morrison to score zero points in 11 regular season games with the club, though. You read that correctly: Zero.
Ben Raby of CSNWashington.com said Morrison would likely have to earn an NHL roster spot in 2012-13 via a tryout.
Any NHL franchises looking Morrison’s way should keep this in mind: Though Morrison has a plus-86 rating in his regular-season career, it drops all the way to minus-4 in the playoffs. Franchises looking for veteran pieces to help contend for long postseason runs will likely not find one in Morrison.
I think Morrison could have benefitted from taking the entire 2011-12 season off to fully heal the ACL, because his production really took a hit from his career averages. Especially at his age, risking further injury could be more problematic.
If I were an NHL general manager, I would look toward younger, healthier players instead of someone like Morrison.
2011-12 Cap Hit: $1.4 million
2011-12 Stats (NYI): 62 games, 3 points, -14 rating, 8 PIM
If 2011-12 was a fair judgment of Jay Pandolfo’s current abilities, I would encourage him to retire.
Pandolfo spent his entire career through 2009-10 with the New Jersey Devils. In 2010-11, Pandolfo played 12 games with the Springfield Falcons, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate. In 2011-12, Pandolfo played with the New York Islanders.
If Pandolfo had not made the Islanders’ roster in 2011-12, he said he would have retired, according to Rich Chere of NJ.com.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion has not registered a plus rating since 2007-08, and in 2011-12 he averaged only 10:55 of ice time per game. Pandolfo has also never scored more than 27 points in a season.