The Biggest Bargains at Every Position in the NHL
At this stage of the offseason, one of the most difficult challenges for NHL general managers is to make important roster upgrades without burning a large amount of salary-cap space.
One way to make these additions is to take another look at the unrestricted free agents who are still unsigned. Many of these players can be acquired for bargain prices, but there's a reason—or reasons—most of them are without a contract, including age, injury concerns and declining skills.
But on a one-year deal that doesn't include a high salary, most of these UFAs are worth the risk.
Let's look at the players still on the free-agent market who could be great additions to NHL teams lacking depth.
1. Damien Brunner
Damien Brunner is a versatile forward capable of tallying 45-60 points in a full season as a top-six or third-line center or winger.
The 27-year-old forward had a poor second half to the 2013 regular season, but he boosted his free-agent stock in the playoffs with nine points in 14 games for the Detroit Red Wings.
One concern about the Swiss forward is his inconsistency, but there aren't any centers left on the free-agent market with a better offensive skill set—goal scoring, vision, playmaking, speed and power-play ability.
2. Nik Antropov
Nik Antropov tallied 18 points in 40 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season. He's capable of posting anywhere from 25-40 points in a full non-lockout season on a contending team.
As a center with an impressive frame—6'6" and 245 pounds—Antropov would be a valuable addition to a team lacking size. He also has 35 games of playoff experience.
General managers who need a third- or fourth-line center should consider signing Antropov at a bargain price because of his playmaking skill, size, veteran leadership and ability to establish a net-front presence on the power play.
3. Kyle Wellwood
Winnipeg Jets center Kyle Wellwood made just $1.6 million last season and would be a quality third- or fourth-line player on a team that needs veteran leadership and scoring depth.
He tallied 15 points in 39 games last year and should be able to put up anywhere from 25-35 points in a full 82-game season.
There aren't many quality centers left on the free-agent market, and as a player with 40 games of playoff experience and playmaking skill, Wellwood would be a good fit on a number of young teams.
1. Brenden Morrow
Brenden Morrow is a power forward capable of tallying 30-55 points and providing valuable leadership as a former captain.
He excels in a physical style of play, he'll win puck battles, kill penalties, block shots and do all the little things that coaches ask of role players.
At this stage of his career, Morrow lacks speed and quickness because of some injuries over the last few years, but he's still a great third-line forward and veteran who's highly motivated to win the first Stanley Cup of his career.
2. Mason Raymond
Raymond is one of the younger free-agent options on the market as a 27-year-old forward. He proved his durability last season by playing in 46 of the Vancouver Canucks' 48 regular-season games after missing 39 games in the previous two years.
When healthy, Raymond is a good third-line winger who can kill penalties, tally 25-45 points and provide valuable playoff experience—55 career postseason games—to a contending team.
For general managers who need to add scoring depth and don't have much cap space to work with, Raymond should be at or near the top of their free-agent target list.
3. Danny Cleary
Injury concerns have lowered Danny Cleary's free-agent stock, but he's still one of the better left wingers on the market because of his offensive talent and impressive playoff experience.
His strong leadership skills and postseason experience—121 career playoff games, including two Stanley Cup Final appearances—make him an attractive target for playoff-caliber teams that need a veteran forward.
Cleary can be expected to tally 20-35 points next season if he's able to stay healthy on a consistent basis. If he's willing to sign a one-year deal, the 34-year-old forward should be pursued by several clubs.
1. Teemu Selanne
The Finnish Flash has not publicly announced his intentions for next season, but judging by his impressive offensive production over the last few years, it would be a bit surprising if Teemu Selanne retired instead of playing at least one more year.
Selanne scored 12 goals with 12 assists in 46 games last year, proving he's still a quality second- or third-line winger on a playoff contender. He's also a good power-play performer, evidenced by his 61 goals with the man advantage over the last five years.
As a veteran leader, highly skilled forward and someone with Stanley Cup-winning experience, Selanne is one of the best players left on the free-agent market.
2. Brad Boyes
Following an impressive season in which Brad Boyes proved he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, it's a bit surprising that he's still unsigned.
The 31-year-old forward tallied 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 48 games for the New York Islanders last season. Boyes also proved that he could be productive for a fast team that plays an uptempo style of hockey.
As a player capable of providing 40-55 points and strong veteran leadership as a third-line winger, Boyes should not be unsigned for much longer.
He's still a quality offensive forward who can be trusted to make smart, responsible decisions in all three zones.
3. Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr played in the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins last season and isn't ready to put an end to a Hall of Fame career.
The 41-year-old forward is still a quality playmaker in a top-six or third-line role, evidenced by his 35 points in 45 games last year between the Dallas Stars and Bruins.
In addition to his ability to put up points, protect the puck and upgrade a power play, Jagr would also serve as a mentor and a positive influence for young players with his incredible work ethic. He's an ideal veteran presence for a young locker room.
On a one-year deal worth less than $3 million, Jagr would be a good addition to many playoff-caliber teams.
1. Douglas Murray
Douglas Murray is one of the most physical defensemen in the league, with impressive size—6'3" and 245 pounds—and defensive skill. He's also a strong penalty killer and veteran with 72 games of playoff experience.
The concern with Murray is his lack of speed and quickness, but despite those weaknesses, he would be a great third-pairing defenseman for a team that needs more physicality and experience on the blue line.
2. Ian White
Ian White did not have the best ending to his Detroit Red Wings career after not receiving a second of ice time in the team's 14 playoff games last year.
But the 29-year-old veteran has puck-moving skills and the ability to tally 10-20 points in a full season as a third-pairing defenseman, which makes him a valuable role player for teams lacking depth on the blue line.
3. Ryan Whitney
Injuries and poor performance resulted in Ryan Whitney being scratched several times last season, but he's still a serviceable third-pairing defenseman because of his scoring ability and size—6'4" and 219 pounds.
If he's able to stay healthy, which is certainly a concern, Whitney would be able to provide anywhere from 15-30 points from the blue line in addition to veteran leadership and 38 games of playoff experience.
1. Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas is 39 years old, but it's hard to imagine him not being able to win 30 or more games next season for a playoff contender lacking a reliable goaltender.
He's well-rested after taking a year off and will be highly motivated to perform at a high level if he makes an NHL comeback, because the United States' team for the 2014 Winter Olympics has not yet been announced.
Thomas was a backup on the 2010 squad that won the silver medal.
As a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Stanley Cup champion and someone with 50 games of postseason experience, Thomas is the best goaltender available on the free-agent market.
2. Johan Hedberg
Johan Hedberg is the best backup goalie option for teams lacking a veteran capable of giving a starter a rest and still being able to help his team win games consistently.
Hedberg has backed up New Jersey Devils legend Martin Brodeur for the last three seasons with a 38-29-7 record and eight shutouts.
3. Jose Theodore
Jose Theodore didn't enjoy a successful campaign with the Florida Panthers in 2013. The former Hart Trophy winner posted a 4-6-3 record with a 3.29 GAA and .893 save percentage, but to be fair, he didn't receive much help from his defensemen.
On a playoff-caliber team that wouldn't need him to start, Theodore is capable of being a quality backup. He's an athletic netminder with 56 games of postseason experience.
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. All salary information via CapGeek.com.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!