NHL Free Agents 2013: High-Risk Players Who Are Too Good to Pass Up

Robby Baker@@Robby__BakerContributor IIIJune 17, 2013

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 22:  A general view of the arena as fans cheer on the Colorado Avalanche as they defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 during the home opener at the Pepsi Center on January 22, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The 2013 Stanley Cup Final is in full swing, and that means offseason fireworks are just around the corner.

Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro and Ryan Whitney will all be unrestricted free agents this summer. There will surely be teams that pass on these veterans due to their high-risk status.

Whoever takes a chance and signs them, however, will reap the rewards.

Derek Roy

Roy spent last season with the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars. He earned $5.5 million.

During the shortened season, Roy scored seven goals and had 21 assists.

The 30-year-old veteran had back-to-back seasons of 70 points or more between 2007 and 2009. Roy saw his point production drop in half though following the 2009 season.

This makes him a risky signing.

Roy was a $4 million cap hit last year. That's a pretty big number, and one that will scare some teams away.

Brian Stubits of CBSSports.com speculates that the reason Roy was traded from the Stars to Canucks during the season was due to Roy's salary demands. "Then, with suggestions that Roy was going to be asking for a raise and the Stars not giving it to him with a new deal, it seemed to be close to a lock that Roy would move," writes Stubits.

That means whoever signs Roy might take an even bigger cap hit.

There is great upside to Roy though, as he has shown he can be a dominant offensive force.

Roy is a gritty player who can draw penalties and light the lamp. Whoever signs Roy will get a top-six center.

The question, though, is if they'll get the 70-point Roy from 2009 or the 35-point Roy from 2010.

Look for teams like the St. Louis Blues or Toronto Maple Leafs to take a look at Roy. They have the cap space to take the risk.

Mike Ribeiro

Ribeiro spent last season with the Washington Capitals and earned $5 million.

The 33-year-old scored 13 goals and had 36 assists during the shortened season. His 49 points were good for eighth best in the Eastern Conference.

While Ribeiro has been an offensive machine throughout his career, he isn't getting any younger.

The reason this is an issue is because Ribeiro has made it clear he wants to stay in Washington, but only if the team commits to a long-term contract somewhere between four and five years.

That means he would be under contract until he is almost 40.

This is troublesome for the Capitals, who will be struggling with cap space and have a potential long-term solution for their second-line center role in young prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Capitals general manager George McPhee says that after Kuznetsov's KHL contract expires after the 2014 season, he can see Kuznetsov being the long-term second-line center.

Thus, committing to Ribeiro wouldn't make sense.

Ribeiro is a risky singing because of his demands for a long-term deal. At his age, many teams won't want to cough up $5 million a year for five years.

Whoever does take that risk, though, will receive a top-six center for at least the next couple years. That's the high-reward part.

Ribeiro doesn't see his age as a problem. "I still think I can get better. I can’t see myself getting worse," he said.

Look for teams like the Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Ottawa Senators to potentially cash in on this high-risk, high-reward free agent.

Ryan Whitney

Whitney spent last year with the Edmonton Oilers and earned $5.5 million.

He scored four goals and had nine assists.

The knock on Whitney is his injury problems.

Edmonton tried to make it work with Whitney, but things haven't worked out. The 30-year-old defenseman will likely be departing Edmonton this offseason and will have something to prove.

Whitney said about his situation in Edmonton:

Unfortunately, I was kind of pegged in a spot where I was the fifth and sixth defenseman, and I had to battle to stay there. At some point, it really didn’t matter what I did, (as) I wasn’t getting higher. But I had some solid games, I still really believe in myself and I’m just looking forward to next year and a fresh start.

Due to his injury problems, he probably won't be able to command a salary in the $5 million range as he has the past few years.

If Whitney can stay healthy, he can be a top-four defenseman, and that is why he is a high-risk, high-reward signing.

Whitney is a good offensive defenseman who can also anchor a power play like he did in Pittsburgh at the beginning of his career.

Look for teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes and possibly the Boston Bruins to pull the trigger on Whitney.

All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from ESPN.com


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