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Biggest Red Flags Among Potential NHL Free Agents

Steve SilvermanFeatured Columnist IVNovember 8, 2016

Biggest Red Flags Among Potential NHL Free Agents

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    When a team signs a free agent during the offseason, it wants to upgrade its talent level and become a more dangerous team.

    Sometimes the reasons for signing a free agent are obvious. A high-scoring forward becomes available and the team that signs him wants to improve its offensive capabilities.

    But it's never quite that simple. There are other factors to consider, including how well the player will fit in with his new teammates, how he will connect with his new coach, how he will handle defensive responsibilities, age, health and attitude.

    Some of those other factors can impact how a player will fit in with a new team. These potential red flags could prevent a team from making a significant offer to a free agent.

Alex Semin, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Alex Semin has been a solid scorer for years, having exceeded the 20-goal mark for six straight seasons.

    Semin, 28, had a remarkable season in 2009-10, scoring 40 goals and 44 assists. He looked like a superstar who was about to join teammate Alex Ovechkin at the elite level. But Semin has not come close to that type of production since.

    When Semin was a free agent at the end of last season, he was dogged by a reputation of not putting forth a consistent effort

    Semin signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. If he wants a multt-year, big-money contract, Semin must turn around his reputation by playing hard consistently and not allowing anyone to question his effort.

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

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    Jarome Iginla has been one of the NHL's most consistent players since his rookie season in 1996-97.

    Iginla, 35, has topped the 500-goal mark and is a certain Hall of Famer as soon as he becomes eligible.

    Iginla has been with the Calgary Flames throughout his career. He has been an outstanding team player as well as a goal scorer who has been able to fill the net.

    He will have to go through an adjustment period if he leaves Calgary. He is comfortable there and it may take him some time to get used to a new team and a new environment.

    Age may also be an issue that might concern some potential employers.

Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild

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    Niklas Backstrom has been a solid goalie for the Minnesota Wild since the 2006-07 season.

    That was his rookie year in the NHL and Backstrom led the league in goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.929).

    Backstrom has been good since then, but he has never matched that level.

    The heat is on Backstrom to excel this season since the Wild appear to have a much stronger roster than they have had in the past. They signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last year and expectations are much higher than they have been for the Wild.

    While Minnesota is not expected to win the Stanley Cup this year, the fanbase will be disappointed without a spot in the playoffs. If the Wild do not get into the postseason, it could be a major red flag for those interested in signing Backstrom.

Lubomir Visnovsky, New York Islanders

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    When the lockout ended in January, NHL players who had been competing in Europe began flocking back to their NHL teams.

    At least most of them did.

    Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky did not come back immediately. He wanted to stay in Russia and play in the KHL.

    Visnovsky, 36, was not enthralled by the idea of fulfilling his contract and playing with the New York Islanders.

    However, the KHL authorities let him know that he would not be allowed to play in that league until he filled his NHL contractual duties. As a result, the reluctant Islander returned to North America (source: Newsday.com).

    That's almost certainly going to turn off a number of potential suitors. Visnovsky may decide to fulfill his wish and return to the KHL if he does not get a bountiful NHL offer.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

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    Ryan Getzlaf is a star center for the Anaheim Ducks.

    He should be one of the most sought-after free agents during the offseason.

    Getzlaf, 27, has superb hands and can set up his teammates with precise passes. He knows how to buy time and space and hold on to the puck a split second longer than most players. That could make him a stellar addition to any team.

    Corey Perry, 27, has scored 30 or more goals in three of the last four seasons for the Ducks. He scored 50 goals and 98 points in 2010-11.

    Perry will also be a free agent at the end of the season and the two could serve to cancel each other out. Some teams may be interested in Getzlaf, while others are interested in Perry. As a result, neither might get the kind of offers they really want.

    The reduced salary cap (source: SI.com) is also looming. NHL teams will not be able to pay more than $64.3 million to their players in 2013-14.

    While that's a factor for all free agents, younger free agents like Getzlaf and Perry would normally command huge offers for multiple years. The money may be reduced and so may the terms for both players.

Tim Thomas, New York Islanders

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    Tim Thomas may have as many red flags as any free agent who becomes available during the offseason.

    The Islanders recently traded for Thomas as a result of salary-floor issues. Thomas has been sitting out the 2013 season and does not plan on playing this year, but he has said that he will play next year.

    The Islanders could prevent him from being a free agent by "tolling" his contract, or they could choose to let him leave. Thomas has a $5 million cap figure this season, according to CapGeek.com.

    However, if he is a free agent, he could be very attractive to some teams. Thomas, 38, is a two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie who also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

    He has great talent, but he became a controversial figure when he refused to join his teammates at the White House following their Stanley Cup triumph.

    All of these red flags could impact the type of offer that Thomas could receive as a free agent.

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