NHL Free Agency 2013: The Best Fit for Each of the Top 10 Available Players
The annual NHL free agent frenzy will be commencing next month with teams eligible to sign players as of July 5th.
This should be an interesting summer for free agents with the salary cap shrinking and new restrictions being placed on contracts under the league's new collective bargaining agreement.
Here is a look at the top 10 available unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and where they would best fit in. Keep in mind that I have tried to include teams that have a realistic chance of signing players under the salary cap. I have tried to select two or three teams for each player although obviously these are not the only places each of these players would help.
While it is always possible a player can re-sign with their present team before free agency begins, I did not include present teams on the list for any of these potential free agents.
Also, only unrestricted free agents are eligible for this list, no restricted free agents (RFAs) will be included.
Also omitted are players like Teemu Selanne or Daniel Alfredsson who will either retire or re-sign with their present club if they decide to play another season in the NHL.
Feel free to comment on other teams that may be good fits for these players or other players you feel belong on the top 10 list.
10. Niklas Backstrom
Niklas Backstrom is 35 and should have a few good years left to give his next NHL team.
Backstrom has been a mainstay in Minnesota for the past seven seasons, winning a career-best 37 games for the Wild in 2008-09.
This past season, he went 24-15-3 for the Wild and helped them reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Teams that might be a good fit for Backstrom would include the New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames.
9. Brad Boyes
Brad Boyes took a calculated risk when he signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Islanders last summer, but the gamble paid off.
Boyes scored 10 goals and 35 points in 48 games for the Isles, which translates to 17 goals and 60 points over a full season.
While he may not be a 30-goal scorer anymore, Boyes is still a player who can be a solid Top Six forward who can contribute on the power play.
Teams that could use a player like Boyes include the St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils.
8. David Clarkson
David Clarkson of the Devils has been a "Cy Young"-type hockey player, i.e. one who has a lot more goals than assists in a season.
While Clarkson may not be the best passer in the league, there is no shortage of teams looking for players who can put the puck in the net.
Clarkson scored 30 goals in 80 games in 2011-12 and 15 goals in just 48 games this past season.
Teams that could use a player like Clarkson include the Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues.
7. Rob Scuderi
Rob Scuderi won't win any scoring titles any time soon, but the 34-year-old Syosset, New York, native is a great player in his own end and provides experience and leadership to any team that would sign him.
The former Boston College star has never scored more than two goals in any NHL season, but he has won a pair of Stanley Cups as a player and helps keep opposing players from scoring against his club.
Teams that could use a player like Scuderi include the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins.
6. Mike Smith
The Phoenix Coyotes' uncertain ownership situation may mean that they will not be able to re-sign goalie Mike Smith.
Smith was the key to his team's run to the Western Conference Final in 2012 after he put up outstanding numbers in both the regular season and playoffs. In 2011-12, Smith won 38 games, had a GAA of 2.21 and a save percentage of .930.
This past season, Smith was less consistent and did not put up the same numbers, but he also did not get the same support from his teammates.
At 31, Smith is in his prime and younger than any other free agent goalie. Teams that could use his services include the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames.
5. Jarome Iginla
Any team getting Jarome Iginla should not expect a 50 or even 40 goal season out of the 35-year-old former Flames captain.
Still, Iginla is still a Top-Six forward who can probably score 20-25 goals and pitch in on the power play. He also can provide leadership and be a positive force in the locker room of almost any team.
It would be highly unlikely, but the Edmonton Oilers could use a leader like Iginla on their team. So could the Avalanche, the Hurricanes, Canucks and Stars.
4. Damien Brunner
Damien Brunner had an uneven rookie season in Detroit last season, finishing with 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games.
Brunner got off to a hot start and had some highlight reel-worthy goals before slumping a bit down the stretch of the regular season.
The 27-years-old Swiss star should put up better numbers in his second year in the NHL now that he knows what it takes to succeed in the league and has adjusted to the North American style of game.
It is likely that the Red Wings keep Brunner, but if they are unable to sign him, the Rangers, Canucks, Sabres and Canadiens could all use a player with Brunner's skills.
3. Mike Ribeiro
Mike Ribeiro's offensive production was up sharply last season. He totaled 49 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened season, the first time since 2007-08 he averaged more than a point-per-game over the course of a complete campaign.
Playing on a team with gifted offensive players like Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Niklas Backstrom doesn't hurt, but Ribeiro showed he could still be a top line winger. At 33 years old, should have some productive years left in him.
Teams that could use Ribeiro's skills include Buffalo, Winnipeg, Anaheim and Florida.
2. Pascal Dupuis
Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis scored more goals than any other potential UFA this season.
Dupuis may return to Pittsburgh in part because he realizes the advantage of playing with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company, but if he hits the open market, there should be plenty of demand for the 34-year-old Laval, Quebec native.
Teams that would make sense for Dupuis include St. Louis, Ottawa, Dallas and the New York Rangers.
1. Nathan Horton
Boston's Nathan Horton is in his prime at 28 and is a gifted offensive player.
Horton had eight straight seasons with 20 goals or more including a career-best 31 with Florida back in 2007-08.
Injuries limited Horton to just 46 games in 2011-12 but he proved he could still play this season by scoring 13 goals in 43 games which would put him on pace for roughly 25 goals over an 82-game campaign.
Almost any team could use a player like Horton but the Sabres, Rangers, Predators and Kings would be outstanding fits.