NHL Free Agency: Top 7 High-Character Guys on the Market This Summer
Free agency is a period where teams look to improve their rosters.
They look to do this in many different ways. The first (and most obvious), is to find players that excel in scoring, defense, goaltending, etc. The "star" players.
Those star players always receive a lot of attention, and for good reason, but often times it isn't the acquisition of a certain star that puts a team in a position to win.
Teams can have a lot of skill but still fail to win because they don't have enough "character" guys on their team.
These players can range from fighters that stick up for their teammates to third- and fourth-line guys who work their tails off and make the most of every second they get.
These are some of the top character players that were—or still are—available in free agency.
George Parros is one of a dying breed of players that has managed to survive because he's still able to play solid defensive hockey.
Parros is the enforcer, and he makes sure that his six minutes of ice time each game are memorable ones.
He is another player who knows what his role is and has accepted it. It is his job to stick up for his teammates and to police the players on the other team.
Florida will benefit from having a character fighter like him on their team. Plus I'm pretty sure that he is the guy they were trying to make Liev Schreiber look like in Goon.
Justin Abdelkader may not be a household name to casual NHL fans, or even to some of the more involved fans, but NHL players know who this guy is.
Abdelkader plays a fast game and is very physical. He plays hard down low on the forecheck and is absolutely tenacious.
He also has some solid offensive skill and isn't afraid to drop the gloves to stand up for a teammate or try and turn the tide for his team.
He's a type of player that every team wants to have.
Jay McClement falls into the category of players who play fewer minutes but have greater defensive responsibility.
The guys that play this role well are often the most unheralded players in the league, and McClement is no different.
Dubbed "Silent Jay" by the fans in Colorado, McClement quietly shuts down opponents' top players and immediately makes any team's penalty kill better with his presence.
He is a fantastic faceoff guy, a very solid shot blocker, and a player that can chip in some unexpected offense from time to time.
What's more, he fully embraces this role and always plays within himself. He knows his job, has accepted it and goes out to perform it in an exemplary way.
He deserves far more attention that he ever will get.
It would be easy for a guy of Ray Whitney's age to only skate in one zone and not work as hard to prepare off of the ice.
But as one of the oldest players in the league, Whitney not only gives a fantastic amount of effort on and off the ice; he also uses his leadership skills to will his team forward.
Whitney was far and away the best player on the Coyotes this past season and stands to be a big help for the Stars next year.
He leads by example; he holds teammates accountable; he holds himself accountable, and then he delivers the goods.
Andrew Brunette is a Ryan Smyth-type of player. He might not be the greatest skater out there but he works hard and puts himself in the ugly areas.
Guys like Brunette make four other players on the ice better at all times because of the havoc he creates in front of the net. He takes an untold amount of punishment to make scoring chances slightly better and to put home some of the ugliest goals you will see.
They all still count on the scoreboard, though. And a guy who is willing to put himself in that type of a location has a ton of character.
Ryan O'Reilly is a superstar in the making and his character is a big reason why. O'Reilly has earned the reputation of a rink rat, constantly staying after practice and creating drills for he and his teammates to run through.
He's a player who does everything for his team. He scores; he defends; he wins faceoffs. He's there when the team needs a late goal to tie and he's there when he needs to defend a one-goal lead late. He's on the power play, and he's on the penalty kill.
He simply is the most trusted member of the Avalanche team. He also holds himself to the same standard, if not a higher standard, than the rest of his teammates.
This type of clear respect is only given to players with the most character, and O'Reilly certainly has that.
Zach Parise's character was one of the biggest reasons why he was named captain of the New Jersey Devils at the start of last season. He is one of those players that brings a locker room together.
His work ethic off the ice is fantastic, and his determination on the ice is amazing.
He never gives up on a play, skates hard whenever he is on the ice and makes people on his team better just by being around them.
No wonder he finds letters on his jerseys.