2013 NHL Free Agency: Players Most Likely to Move Before End of New Contract

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJuly 7, 2013

2013 NHL Free Agency: Players Most Likely to Move Before End of New Contract

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    The first day of the NHL's annual free-agent frenzy has come and gone and already experts are discussing which teams have made the biggest impact.

    While some signings filled needs and improved the team that added the new player, others caused people to scratch their heads and wonder what the thinking was behind the move.

    Here is a look at the newly signed players who are most likely to be moved before the end of their new contracts.

    Keep in mind that only players who signed contracts as unrestricted free agents are eligible to be on this list. Also, players who signed one- or two-year contracts cannot make the list as they will be scheduled to leave their new teams as soon as their deal expires.

    Feel free to mention any other players you feel I omitted from my top-five list or to comment if you disagree with my choices.

David Clarkson

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs signed former New Jersey Devils winger David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract during the first day of free agency.

    Clarkson is 29 and will be well past his prime by the time his deal is over. The Toronto native will also have the added pressures of playing in a hockey-mad media environment and his hometown.

    It is clear the Leafs overpaid to add Clarkson, a goal scorer who frequently has "Cy Young" statistics—i.e., a lot more goals than assists.

    Between the bloated expectations and the fact that Clarkson has only had one season with more than 20 goals in the NHL (although he was on pace for more than that in last year's lockout-shortened season), it is unlikely Clarkson stays in Toronto for the full seven-year length of his contract.

    Expect one or two solid seasons for Clarkson before the Leafs try to move him to another team as part of another deal within a few years.

Ryane Clowe

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    The New Jersey Devils reached an agreement with forward Ryane Clowe on a five-year deal worth $24.25 million.

    Clowe will turn 31 before the start of the coming season and will be 36 before the contract expires. Clowe is a power forward, and they tend to wear down and have declining numbers sooner than wingers who play a less physical style.

    Last season, Clowe scored only three goals and 19 points in 40 games.

    Clowe has two 20-plus-goal seasons to his credit and one 19-goal campaign. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to return to those levels, but his past performance doesn't justify the salary and the length of the deal the Devils agreed to pay Clowe.

    Look for New Jersey to either let Clowe go if he's not able to return to health or to try to deal him after a year or two if he does return to past performance levels.

Nathan Horton

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    Not long ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were a place few big-name free agents wanted to sign. But this summer, Columbus added former Bruin Nathan Horton, one of the more coveted free agents available.

    Horton's deal is for seven years and $37.1 million. He is presently 28.

    Horton has been a consistent if unspectacular producer over the course of his nine-year NHL career. He is usually good for about 25 goals and 55 to 60 points per season.

    The Jackets will probably give Horton top-line minutes and plenty of power-play time.

    Still, it is unlikely the Welland, Ontario, native will stick around in Columbus for all seven years of his new deal.

    With the exception of Rick Nash, the Jackets do not have a history of stability with their top players. Furthermore, Horton will be 35 by the end of the contract and probably will have declining statistics in the second half of this deal.

    Look for the Jackets to hold on to Horton for about three years, and then don't be surprised if he is dealt to another team as part of a trade.

Valtteri Filppula

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    Valtteri Filppula was a sought-after free agent despite his subpar season last year.

    The 29-year-old native of Finland scored only nine goals and 17 points in 41 games last year, a far cry from his career-best mark of 23 goals and 66 points in 2011-12.

    Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman inked Filppula to a five-year, $25 million deal. The Bolts project Filppula to be their second-line center.

    The typical season from Filppula in the NHL has been roughly 15 goals and 40 points. Those are not great numbers for a second-line forward. While he should see additional ice time, it is unlikely that Filppula's numbers would resort back to his 2011-12 levels.

    Unless he accomplishes that unlikely plateau, Filppula won't be worth his contract, and it is possible the Bolts will look to move him again. I don't expect him to stick in Tampa Bay for the full length of his contract.

Stephen Weiss

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    The Detroit Red Wings signed forward Stephen Weiss to a five-year deal worth a reported $24.5 million.

    Weiss is 30 and is a consistent 20-plus goal scorer when healthy. Last year, the Toronto native was limited to just 17 games due to injury and scored one goal and four points.

    The Wings are hoping Weiss is healthy and can return to his previous scoring levels. He should be able to accomplish that initially since he should be surrounded by more talented linemates in Detroit than he had in Florida.

    Still, Weiss will be 35 by the end of the contract, and the Wings are likely to shop him before the deal is over. Detroit may need the cap room Weiss represents to pay more productive players down the line.