2013 NHL Free Agency: Ranking the Best Remaining Players at Every Position

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2013

2013 NHL Free Agency: Ranking the Best Remaining Players at Every Position

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    NHL general managers still have plenty of shopping left to do.

    Many teams made big moves on the first weekend of free agency, but there is still plenty of time in the 2013 free-agent signing period. There are a number of players who can make a difference if they are placed in the right situation.

    Here's our look at the best free agents still available.

Centers

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    1. Mikhail Grabovski: There's no doubt that 2013 was a down year for Grabovski. He scored nine goals and had seven assists with the Leafs and had just two assists in the playoff series against the Boston Bruins. The Leafs decided he wasn't worth it any more and they bought him out. While he didn't do himself any favors by calling out head coach Randy Carlyle, Grabovski has scored 20 or more goals three times and can be a productive player.

    2. Damien Brunner: One of the least heralded of the free agents, Brunner showed he could put the puck in the net in his first NHL season with the Red Wings. Brunner had 12 goals and 14 assists in 44 games last season, and he also contributed nine points in 14 postseason games. Brunner is an opportunistic player who will go to the dirty areas, pick up rebounds and get rid of his shot quickly. He can also play right wing.

    3. Nik Antropov: Even when he is playing well, Antropov leaves observers with the feeling he could do more. He has size, strength and he is shifty on his skates, yet he frequently stays on the periphery and doesn't go near the goal often enough. Antropov had six goals and 12 assists last year in 40 games with the Winnipeg Jets, so he needs to be much more productive for whichever team takes a chance on him.

Left Wings

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    1. Mason Raymond: While he did not have his best season in 2013—10 goals and 12 assists—Raymond is a solid-effort player who does his job at both ends of the ice. He has the hands to put the puck in the net and he will not skimp on the defensive end. He scored 25 goals and 28 assists in 2009-10, and there's no reason he can't repeat that success in the future since he is a young veteran (27) entering the prime of his career.

    2. Simon Gagne: He has had injury problems in recent years and hasn't played more than 70 games since the 2008-09 season. However, when he is healthy, he is a talented player who can score the big goals at key moments. Gagne scored nine postseason goals when the Philadelphia Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, and he could be a decent bonus for any team that makes the playoffs.

    3. Brenden Morrow: He was supposed to be one of the key pieces for the Penguins when they acquired him from the Dallas Stars prior to the trade deadline. The 34-year-old Morrow has always been about consistency and hard work. However, he seemed to lose a step late in the season and he was unable to contribute on the offensive end with Pittsburgh in the playoffs. He had two goals and two assists in 14 postseason games.

    4. Dustin Penner: His reputation has been established for several years. Penner tends to be an underachiever in the regular season, but his play picks up in the postseason. He had two goals and 12 assists in the regular season for the Kings, but he had three goals and two assists in the playoffs. Penner is huge at 6'5" and 245 pounds, and much more is expected from him. He needs to play a more physical game and become a much more productive player.

Right Wings

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    1. Dan Cleary: A self-made player who has impressed his coaches and teammates with his hard work and improvement. Cleary, 34, didn't have his best season in 2013, as he was held to nine goals and six assists. However, he has scored 20 or more goals three times in his career and has been the kind of supporting player that can help a team win. Cleary had four goals and six assists in 14 postseason games this past year with the Red Wings.

    2. Brad Boyes: He hit a resurgence last season, scoring 10 goals and 25 assists for the New York Islanders while playing with John Tavares. Boyes scored 43 goals in 2007-08 and followed up with 33 the following year (both with the St. Louis Blues), but teams are somewhat hesitant to sign him because it's been a long time since he has had a dominant season.

    3. Jaromir Jagr: There was no doubt about Jagr's effort with the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. He was able to make a number of key plays by controlling the puck, fending off the defender and getting the puck off to an open teammate. However, Jagr has lost more than a step, and this once-spectacular player could not put the puck in the net once during the playoffs. While much of that was bad luck—he was victimized by posts and highlight-reel saves—he's clearly nearing the end of his brilliant career.

    4. Teemu Selanne: The question is whether or not Selanne is coming back for one more season. Selanne, 43, was held to 12 goals and 12 assists last year. Sooner or later, he will decide to retire. If he plays, it will be with the Ducks.

    5. Milan Hejduk: He has played with the Avalanche throughout his career, but now he's on the open market. At one point, he was a vicious sniper who could hit the top corner from 40 feet. He has slowed considerably, but he still has the hands of a gifted scorer.

Defensemen

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    1. Douglas Murray: A big, strong stay-at-home defenseman who can clear space in front of his own net. However, Murray's lack of quickness and foot speed was a problem in the four-game sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins suffered during the Eastern Conference Final. Murray is not going to make many mistakes, but he won't win any races.

    2. Ian White: He may have fallen out of favor with the Red Wings, but White can still be a solid contributor. The 29-year-old defenseman is a hard hitter who can get the puck out of the corner and carry it out of the zone. Still, he did not dress in any of the Red Wings' 14 playoff games.

    3. Wade Redden: After getting buried by the New York Rangers in the minor leagues, Redden was bought out and played with the Blues and Boston Bruins last season. He was starting to make a contribution with the Bruins in the postseason before injuries set him back. While he is not fast, he is smart and can contribute.

    4. Ryan Whitney: It didn't really came together for Whitney in Edmonton, as he never seemed to recapture his ability to impact a game after suffering an ankle injury in 2010-11. He is a bottom-pair defenseman at best.

Goaltenders

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    1. Tim Thomas: It was somewhat surprising that no team signed Thomas on the first day of free agency. He's a two-time Vezina Trophy winner who has also taken home the Conn Smythe Trophy. Thomas, 39, took a year off in 2013, and many teams may be leery of his ability to return to top form after being away from the game. His quirky personality may also cause some teams to hesitate.

    2. Johan Hedberg: When the Devils acquired Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks, that meant they no longer needed Hedberg. He is a decent backup goalie who had a 6-10-3 record with a 2.76 goals-against average in 2013.

    3. Ilya Bryzgalov: It's difficult to see Bryzgalov playing for any team that considers itself a contender. He has excellent talent, but he lacks consistency. Bryzgalov had a 19-17-3 record for the Flyers last season and a 2.79 GAA.

    4. Jose Theodore: He is still capable of having some excellent moments, but Theodore is not likely to play consistently. At this point, he has a chance to be a backup and little else. Theodore was 4-6-3 with a 3.29 GAA last season with the Florida Panthers.