NHL Free Agency 2013: Players in Desperate Need of a Change of Scenery

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJuly 4, 2013

NHL Free Agency 2013: Players in Desperate Need of a Change of Scenery

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    The deadline for NHL teams to issue a compliance buyout passed on Thursday afternoon, leaving a total of 14 players with an inevitable change of scenery for when they resurface on a roster.

    Elsewhere, there was no buyout necessary, as his contract was already expiring, but Ryan Whitney is bound to get his much-needed exit from Edmonton. Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish unmistakably indicated as much at the end of this past season, as was recounted by Edmonton Journal reporter Bruce McCurdy.

    There are, however, other pending unrestricted free agents who can still be re-signed by their latest employers, even though that would not be their most ideal arrangement.

    In most cases, that is because they are getting or project to get the cheap end of a gridlock at their position on the roster in question. These players will thus serve themselves better by landing a new contract with a new franchise and fulfilling mutual needs for the employer and employee.

    As early as Friday of this week, any of the following individuals can begin to formally explore a better option for the 2013-14 season onward.

Chad Larose

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    Chad LaRose has been a soundly productive depth forward for the better part of his eight-year tenure with the Hurricanes. One jutting exception was this past season, when he mustered all of two goals and two assists in 35 appearances.

    Meanwhile, the Canes are getting crowded up front in the way of top-nine caliber talent. Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh are on the rise while established major leaguers Tuomo Ruutu, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Jiri Tlusty are all locked in through at least 2013-14.

    No time like the present for the 31-year-old LaRose to pursue a completely clean sheet by donning a new NHL crest. If he is to have a bounce-back year and put a stamp on that in his stat line, he should seek better assurance that he will have the opportunity to make the most of his skill set on a nightly basis.

     

Toni Lydman

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    With the February acquisition of Ben Lovejoy from Pittsburgh, the Anaheim Ducks finished their 2012-13 run with seven NHL-caliber defensemen. Besides Lovejoy and Toni Lydman, they also had Bryan Allen, Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa and Sheldon Souray.

    Lydman is the only one of those surplus seven who does not have a contract for 2013-14. Meanwhile, the newly obtained Lovejoy saw his role and nightly ice time increase from the regular season to the playoffs.

    In addition, the Ducks have Sami Vatanen on the rise after he turned in a solid all-around first season in North America with AHL Norfolk. And then there is Hampus Lindholm, the sixth-overall pick in the 2012 draft.

    All of those developments point to an exponentially slimmer window of opportunity for Lydman in Anaheim. But Brian Stubits of CBS Sports, for one, is already citing potentially better fits for him, specifying the Vancouver Canucks as at least one logical taker.

Viktor Stalberg

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    The reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks currently have 12 NHL-level forwards under contract through next season.

    Out of that dozen, four have exceptional speed and/or skating listed among their top “assets” via The Hockey News, those being Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews. Three have been household names for a while now and Saad, a 2013 Calder Trophy finalist, is not likely going anywhere.

    In a team sport such as this, which requires a collectively multifaceted depth chart for success, there is only so much room for so many players with the same skills. Viktor Stalberg learned that the hard way this spring when he sat out portions of the playoffs.

    Per ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers, Stalberg could not conceal his individual disappointment at all times, telling the press shortly after the finals, “I think over the last three years I've showed I deserve to play maybe more times than I got an opportunity to do here.”

    Fortunately for him, though, he is still relatively young in athlete years at the age of 27, meaning he should still have some years equal to or better than his 43-point campaign in 2011-12 yet to come. He can ensure that by going to a team that bears a much shorter supply of speedy scorers.

Stephen Weiss

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    Save for one playoff appearance in 2012, Stephen Weiss’ first decade-plus in the NHL has been a continuous string of futility in Florida. Now an 11-year veteran of the league who recently turned 30, he is running out of opportunities to make substantive contributions to a more promising contender.

    Sure, the Panthers have a solid youth movement on the rise, complete with Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau and first-round draftee Aleksander Barkov at the forefront.

    But as Sun Sentinel reporter Harvey Fialkov recently noted, there are other talented youngsters, such as Drew Shore, in the mix. In Fialkov’s own words, Florida GM Dale Tallon “felt he needs some vacancies for young centers such as Shore, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck.”

    With that notion in mind, Weiss, being an established center himself, is better off looking for vacancies in other NHL faceoff circles.