NHL Free Agency 2013: Predicting Where Every Top Remaining UFA Will Land
The first day of the 2013 NHL free-agent market is in the books, with more than 60 players putting their signatures on over $400 million worth of contracts.
But what about the hundreds of other players who enter July 6 as unrestricted as ever?
For most, their spot in the headlines is still to come. Plenty of impact players and budding stars remain available on the open market; July 6 and the days to follow should be nearly as chaotic as July 5 turned out to be.
Which top free agents are still searching for a new team? Which clubs might land each of them? Our projections for the future destinations of the top 10 remaining UFAs fall on the coming slides.
RW Brad Boyes
Brad Boyes took a 75 percent pay cut last summer to sign with the New York Islanders and attempt to revive his career.
In the end, the 31-year-old winger did just that, registering a stellar 25 assists and 35 points in 48 appearances.
Boyes is now due for a raise over his $1 million salary this past season, but the Islanders certainly have the cash to spare—no team currently has more cap space than the Isles' $22.9 million. It seems that the veteran-hungry squad would be happy to have one of its most productive offensive weapons back this fall.
Projected Destination: New York Islanders
RW Damien Brunner
Damien Brunner may arguably be the best player left on the UFA market, yet he garnered little in the way of rumors on free agency's first day.
Detroit has already announced that Brunner will move on from Michigan this summer. Meanwhile, division rival St. Louis just missed out on a plethora of big-name sweepstakes Friday; the Blues are actively searching for offense and perhaps, entering the weekend, getting a bit desperate.
The Switzerland transplant (who tallied 26 points in the regular season and an impressive nine more in the playoffs of his 2013 rookie campaign) would add a much-needed boost of finesse and playmaking ability to the Blues' rough-and-tumble cast of forwards.
Projected Destination: St. Louis Blues
C Mikhail Grabovski
Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford dropped an unexpected bomb to reporters during his Friday afternoon press conference:
Rutherford indicated there is "one of the bigger free agents" who might take a one-year deal with Canes.— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) July 5, 2013
Rutherford also indicated that contact between the team and the high-profile UFA had only just begun.
That storyline perhaps hints toward recently bought-out center Mikhail Grabovski—not only had Grabovski gotten a late start on negotiations due to his unexpected contract termination, he also may have been swayed by the signing of former teammate Mike Komisarek in Carolina just hours earlier.
The 'Canes don't exactly have a hole left to fill at center and have just $5.4 million left in cap space. Nonetheless, don't be surprised if these unexpected partners hook up for a deal in the coming days.
Projected Destination: Carolina Hurricanes
D Ron Hainsey
32-year-old defensive veteran Ron Hainsey could perhaps be labeled as a one-dimensional player. What he does do, however, he does quite well—the former Jets rearguard ranked third in the NHL in 2013 with 123 blocked shots.
That sacrificial willingness could help him catch the eye of the Vancouver Canucks in the near future. The 'Nucks are in the midst of a tremendous revamping project that has left GM Mike Gillis with just four full-time NHL defensemen under contract.
Vancouver needs no free agent more than Hainsey right now.
Projected Destination: Vancouver Canucks
RW Jaromir Jagr
Seemingly invincible winger Jaromir Jagr scored more than any current UFA in 2013, tallying 16 goals and 35 points in the regular season and another 10 points in the postseason.
At the ripe old age of 41, Jagr's quest to win the Stanley Cup contains no more Plan B's.
Enter the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are just one year removed from their 2012 league title yet have struggled with goal-scoring consistency for years now.
Seeking to branch its leadership out onto the wings (they already have Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar at center), expect L.A. to push hard for Jagr over the course of the weekend.
Projected Destination: Los Angeles Kings
LW Brenden Morrow
Brenden Morrow's try for a Stanley Cup ring fell short in 2013, as the 34-year-old winger was held to just four points in 14 playoff games as his Penguins lost in the Eastern Conference Final.
So it makes sense that Morrow would try to hook up with this summer's fastest-rising Cup contender.
The Red Wings, set for their move to the East this autumn, added fellow veteran forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss on Friday. Now, it sounds like they might be interested in landing Morrow, too:
Projected Destination: Detroit Red Wings
LW Mason Raymond
Speedy winger Mason Raymond, one of 2013's youngest UFAs at just 27, is the type of game-changing player a number of clubs would love to add as a change-of-pace weapon. Raymond, after all, is a former 53-point scorer and tallied a respectable 22 in 46 games in 2013.
Meanwhile, John Vogl of The Buffalo News reminded fans Friday that, as of now, the Sabres' third-line wingers in 2013-14 are set to be Ville Leino and Brian Flynn—a less-than-elite duo of players. The team has two gaping holes to fill in the coming months.
Buffalo GM Darcy Regier is still looking to make his first free-agent splash of the year; could it come courtesy of Raymond this weekend?
Projected Destination: Buffalo Sabres
C Derek Roy
In the immediate weeks after their Stanley Cup title, the Blackhawks have already shed the salaries of Dave Bolland ($3.75 million) and Michael Frolik ($2.33 million) via trade and chose not to re-sign another valuable two-way forward in Viktor Stalberg.
Those cap-clearing decisions have now left the 'Hawks with a somewhat-workable $4.1 million in cap space—just enough to take one good shot at replenishing their center depth.
Derek Roy is far from the perennial star he used to be, but he's still a respectable offensive producer (28 points in 42 games last season) and reliable two-way centerman. If the 'Hawks could sign Roy in the $3 million range, they'd not only improve their center depth beneath Jonathan Toews but also save a bit of money compared to the Bolland alternative.
Projected Destination: Chicago Blackhawks
G Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas' name is bound to be discussed in endless fashion until he signs a new contract.
The enigmatic and unpredictable yet undeniably successful goaltender is hoping to make a return to hockey in 2013-14. His announcement earlier this week was met with great chatter as many speculated a possible deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. However, the Flyers, thanks to their Friday inking of Ray Emery, are now most likely out of the running.
The one club truly without a No. 1 netminder at the moment is the Florida Panthers. Former starter Jose Theodore is a UFA at the moment and had worn out his welcome regardless; meanwhile, suddenly pushing developing prospect Jacob Markstrom into a starter role behind Florida's porous defense wouldn't be a great idea, either.
Thomas' best destination to get as much 2013 playing time as possible could well be in Sunrise.
Projected Destination: Florida Panthers
D Marek Zidlicky
Marek Zidlicky has always been one of the league's more underrated offensive defensemen, putting up points everywhere he's been—Nashville, Minnesota and (most recently) New Jersey—and proving that, even at 36, he's still capable of top-pairing minutes.
The Ottawa Senators are still looking for a replacement for veteran puck-moving blueliner Sergei Gonchar, who was traded to Dallas last month. Zidlicky would give franchise cornerstone Erik Karlsson another experienced and capable partner.
Zidlicky, the 2013 scoring leader of all current UFA defensemen, would be a fantastic fit in Canada's capital.
Projected Destination: Ottawa Senators