Projecting Stats for Top Signed 2013 NHL Free Agents
As newly-signed free agents enjoy the offseason and new contracts, it won't be long before NHL training camps open and the expectations that come with their large salaries begin to impact these players.
The pressure on high-paid free agents is extraordinarily high, especially in major, traditional hockey markets such as Toronto, Detroit and Boston. Many of these players who have received lucrative deals will be expected to perform at a high level consistently on teams hoping to make the playoffs and/or contend for the Stanley Cup.
Let's look at the projected stat lines for the top unrestricted free agents of the 2013 class.
Note: This list was made using the signed UFAs with the 10 highest average salaries, excluding players who re-signed with their own team. All signing information via TSN.
Ryane Clowe, New Jersey Devils
Ilya Kovalchuk's stunning retirement from the NHL on Thursday has increased the importance of Ryane Clowe's role in the New Jersey Devils lineup next season. The 30-year-old winger signed a five-year, $24.25 million contract in free agency and will likely play a top-six role in the team's offense.
Clowe battled injuries last season, including a concussion in the playoffs. In 40 regular season games between the San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers, Clowe scored three goals and added 16 assists.
He didn't score any goals in 28 games with the Sharks, but after a trade deadline move to the Rangers, Clowe tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) in 12 games.
Clowe's health is certainly a concern for the Devils, but if he's able to play close to a full season in 2013-14, he will be a productive top-six player as a power forward with underrated offensive skill.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 72 GP, 19 G, 32 A
Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings
Stephen Weiss was arguably the top center on the free-agent market, but he took a team-friendly five-year deal worth $24.5 million to leave the Florida Panthers and join the Detroit Red Wings.
A second-line center with exceptional playmaking skills and the ability to score 20 goals per season, expect Weiss to be a very productive player in the Red Wings' puck-possession offensive system. He's going to be surrounded by a lot of talent, and will likely receive plenty of power-play ice time too.
The key for Weiss is health. He missed 31 games last year because of a wrist injury, but when he's at or close to 100 percent healthy, he's a consistent performer (48 or more points in five of his last six non-lockout seasons).
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 78 GP, 22 G, 36 A
Sergei Gonchar, Dallas Stars
Sergei Gonchar's ability to provide consistent scoring from the blue line and generate scoring chances on the power play with his playmaking skills and powerful shot from the point will be major upgrades to the Dallas Stars offense.
Alex Goligoski was the only defenseman to finish in the top 10 on the Stars scoring list last season with just 27 points.
As an offenseive defenseman who has eight 50-point seasons on his resume, Gonchar will be a great fit in a Stars offense that will need its defensemen to start the breakout with a good first pass out of the defensive zone. Gonchar's puck-moving skills will allow players such as Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to skate up ice through the neutral zone and use their speed to enter the attacking zone.
Gonchar signed a two-year deal worth $10 million with Dallas and will have a tremendous impact on the Stars' success next season.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 77 GP, 8 G, 35 A
Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning overpaid to sign free-agent center Valtteri Filppula, but with that said, he will be given a great opportunity to set career highs in points by playing for an offensive-minded team.
The Lightning power play was quite effective last season, and with top-six center Vincent Lecavalier no longer on the team, expect Filppula to receive plenty of ice time when Tampa Bay has the man advantage.
Another plus for Filppula is the likelihood that No. 3 overall draft pick Jonathan Drouin will be one of his wingers. The Halifax Mooseheads star has great speed, an amazing wrist shot and a high hockey IQ. These two players should develop some good chemistry in the early part of the season if Drouin makes the team, which is the expectation.
The former Red Wings forward has only one 20-goal season on his resume, but he will likely add one or two more by the time his new five-year, $25 million deal with the Lightning ends.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 78 GP, 21 G, 41 A
Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers
Former New York Islanders captain Mark Streit, 35, is still a top-tier offensive defenseman and a perfect fit for the high-scoring Philadelphia Flyers.
His ability to move the puck quickly without turning it over will help the Flyers avoid the oncoming forecheck and allow the team's forwards to use their speed and put pressure on opposing defensemen. He's also a fantastic playmaker on the power play and has an accurate shot from the point.
As the most offensively gifted defenseman on the Philadelphia blue line, expect Streit to also receive a lot of power-play ice time and improve a unit that finished third in the NHL last season with a 21.6 percent success rate with the man advantage.
Streit has tallied at least 47 points in each of his last four non-lockout seasons, and he should be able to continue this impressive production as a member of one of the NHL's deepest and most talented offensive teams.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 80 GP, 8 G, 45 A
David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs
David Clarkson's power forward style of play will be a tremendous fit on a Toronto Maple Leafs team that plays a physical game. The 29-year-old forward, who signed a seven-year deal worth $36.75 million as a UFA, set a career high with 30 goals during the 2011-12 season and will likely perform at a similar level over the next few years for Toronto.
As a top-six winger playing alongside a talented center such as Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri, Clarkson will create space for teammates and use his strength to go to the net and score the dirty goals. His impressive size will also allow the Leafs to maintain puck possession in the attacking zone, especially on the power play.
Clarkson is going to score 20-plus goals consistently for the Leafs, and because he will be playing in a deep and talented offense, his assist totals should also rise dramatically. Toronto finished sixth in goals scored last season and received quality production from many of their forwards and defensemen.
Don't be surprised if Clarkson sets a career high in scoring next season on a Leafs team that will contend in the Eastern Conference.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 82 GP, 27 G, 25 A
Nathan Horton, Columbus Blue Jackets
Nathan Horton signed a seven-year deal worth $37.1 million with the Columbus Blue Jackets to provide the team with goal scoring, physical play and clutch performances during the playoffs. For a young team that includes many players with little or no postseason experience, a veteran like Horton will be a tremendous influence on a group of guys still learning how to win meaningful games.
As a top-tier power forward with underrated skill, Horton should be a 20-goal scorer consistently for the Blue Jackets. In the last six non-lockout seasons in which he's played over 55 games, Horton has scored 20 goals or more each year.
He's also tallied 36 points in 41 career playoff games with an amazing postseason plus/minus of 31. The concern surrounding Horton is his health, and according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, he won't be ready for the start of the season because of shoulder surgery. McKenzie tweeted that Horton is "expected to be sidelined until December."
When he's healthy, expect the 28-year-old winger to be one Columbus' best offensive players.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 55 GP, 16 G, 14 A
Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings
Daniel Alfredsson chose to end his 18-year career with the Ottawa Senators and join the Detroit Red Wings on a one-year deal worth $5.5 million, which has become one of the biggest surprises of free agency so far.
At age 41, the Swedish forward is still a productive offensive player as a second-line winger or a third-line forward providing valuable scoring depth.
He tallied 26 points in 47 games last season, which at that scoring rate, would be 46 points over the course of a normal 82-game schedule.
In a Red Wings offense that includes several highly-skilled players, Alfredsson should be able to put up anywhere from 45-55 points next year if healthy consistently. Playing alongside playmaking stars Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk or Stephen Weiss will give the former Senators captain plenty of scoring chances to take advantage of.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 75 GP, 17 G, 32 A
Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes
Mike Ribeiro was one of the top two centers on the free-agent market and chose to sign a four-year deal worth $22 million to reunite with former head coach Dave Tippett and join the Phoenix Coyotes.
He was a point-per-game player (49 points in 48 games) for the Washington Capitals last season and will provide consistent scoring and valuable skill at center to a Coyotes offense that ranked 21st in goals scored in 2013. He will also help Coyotes captain and first-line winger Shane Doan be more productive.
Even though Ribeiro will greatly improve the Coyotes power play next season, he probably won't lead the league in power-play points and assists for a second straight year. There's no Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom-type of talents on the Phoenix power play who will help the 33-year-old rack up assists.
With that said, a player of Ribeiro's caliber with impressive playmaking skills is going to help Phoenix create plenty of scoring chances each night and prevent No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith from having to be near-perfect consistently for the team to win games.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 78 GP, 21 G, 43 A
Jarome Iginla, Boston Bruins
Jarome Iginla decided to reach out to the Bruins in free agency despite snubbing the team at the trade deadline. Both sides were able to reach a one-year deal worth $1.8 million, which also includes bonuses that could bring the total salary to $6 million.
Iginla will soon realize that Boston is the perfect team for the final stage of his Hall of Fame career. His physical style of play as a top-tier power forward will allow him to transition smoothly into the team's defense-first mentality while still being productive offensively.
The 36-year-old winger has 11 straight non-lockout seasons of 30-plus goals and is also a force on the power play with his playmaking and goal scoring skills. The Bruins have been an average to below average power play team over the last few years, and will benefit from Iginla's ability to excel with the man advantage. He has 10 seasons of 10 or more power-play goals.
At even strength, Iginla should be able to tally 55-70 points alongside Bruins No. 1 center David Krejci, who is one of the most underrated playmakers in the NHL and led the 2013 playoffs in scoring.
Projected 2013-14 Stats: 80 GP, 28 G, 38
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.