The Top NHL Free Agents Still Available at Each Position
Past the two-week mark of the NHL’s 2013 free-agency summer spree, the remainder of the market is permeated primarily with quality wingers.
The shelves of every other position are comparatively sparse, but not quite barren from a quantitative or qualitative standpoint.
Some of the bigger names among remaining unrestricted free agents (per capgeek.com) may be free agents in name only. That is, their odds of actually going to a new team are infinitesimal, but they are still worth keeping in the discussion by virtue of what they can offer any given club.
Elsewhere, there are players whose lowlights are jutting out too prominently to ignore, but whose plus points are nonetheless good enough for a franchise in need to at least keep them on the table.
Such is the nature of this stage in the offseason when the vast bulk of the can’t-miss free agents are long gone off the market.
Starting up front and working back to the crease, here are the NHL’s top UFAs who, as of Sunday, have yet to ink a new contract.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com
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His 6-8-14 scoring log in 15 outings with Pittsburgh after posting a 6-5-11 transcript in 29 games for Dallas this past season is evidence that playing for a contender gives him the requisite spark to perform.
Suitors who missed out on Alfredsson and Iginla ought to pine for his hunger, grit and leadership.
Mason Raymond: Renowned for his speed, Raymond had somewhat of a bounce-back campaign in the shortened 2012-13 season after missing 27 games in 2011-12. Save for a pair of five-game pointless droughts, he produced with appreciable consistency en route to a 10-12-22 log in 46 games.
Vinny Prospal: At 38, Prospal is flying under the radar as yet another aging veteran who is short on opportunities to win his first Stanley Cup. He is coming off a year where he was Columbus’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy and contributed substantially in both tangible and intangible manners to a stimulating, albeit shortcoming, push for the postseason.
More of the same on a more immediately certifiable contender could pay dividends for player and team alike.
Danny Cleary: A specimen of seasoned depth, Cleary has seen his peak years coincide with those of his latest team in Detroit, which is reportedly keen on keeping him, according to Sean Gentille of Sporting News.
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Damien Brunner: The Detroit Red Wings are abandoning their experiment with the Swiss import after essentially half a season. When free agency began, Detroit News reporter Gregg Krupa wrote that Brunner’s “passivity and durability raised questions, and the Red Wings entered Friday trying to be a bit more about now than the future.”
But that does not mean he cannot fit in with any other NHL team or elevate his impact as he continues to acclimate to this continent.
Jaromir Jagr: Can the 41-year-old legend go on another fruitful, and potentially inspiring, full-length 82-game ride? By all accounts, it is worth a try.
Brad Boyes: A change of scenery from Buffalo to Long Island sparked Boyes in the shortened 2013 season. His final point total of 35 in 48 games marked his best production rate since his first two full seasons in St. Louis (2007-08 and 2008-09).
How much of that had to do with fortunate placement on a line with John Tavares is up for debate, and Boyes’ defensive aptitude is still suspect. Nonetheless, he has proven he can plug a top-six hole and mesh well enough with his offensive colleagues.
Teemu Selanne: He probably won’t make himself available to anybody other than the Anaheim Ducks. But still, Selanne has resembled Jagr in that his hunger for one more hurrah has translated to ageless offensive output.
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Mikhail Grabovski: Given his unsavory remarks about Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle, attitude has surfaced as a potential drawback in the wake of Grabovski’s buyout from Toronto. Consistency is another in that his 2013 game log featured four scoreless skids of at least five games apiece, including one that lasted seven.
Still, four straight seasons of assists in the 20s and three in the 20-goal range before the Carlyle era began indubitably leaves something to build upon.
Nik Antropov: Another hot-and-cold pivot in the production department, Antropov has had at least one pointless drought lasting seven games or more each of the last three seasons, including a 13-game drought in 2011-12.
He cultivated all of 18 points for the Winnipeg Jets this past season, most of them in bunches. Later on, he sat out eight games in April with a lower-body injury, a little more than a year after another ailment of the same classification sidelined him for five games.
Despite those red flags, someone can still pursue Antropov’s services and reap rewards for doing so. Whoever does land him will surely aim to get the most out of his remarkable versatility and actively bank on a new environment, nailing the pegs down on his consistency.
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Ron Hainsey: Playing the last two seasons for the geographically displaced Winnipeg Jets, Hainsey did not always have his valiance translate smoothly to the stat sheet. During the most recent season, Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press took note of the 32-year-old’s valuable “veteran smarts.”
Another Free Press reporter, Gary Lawless, opined that “Hainsey plays a cerebral game and is almost always in the right position” and added that “Hainsey is a very solid No. 5 defender on almost every team in the NHL.”
It is therefore worth asking if Hainsey, Winnipeg’s ice-time leader, could achieve more with a lesser role on an established contender. Or, at least, it would be worth asking if that were even a question.
Douglas Murray: An NHL full-timer since 2007-08, Murray has only once skated more than 20 minutes per night in any of his six full seasons. But he has also brooked only one “minus” campaign in any of his eight full or partial seasons, that being the shortened 2012-13 run that saw him change scenery for the first time near the end.
Anyone needing depth in the form of a stay-at-home specialist can still find one on the market in Murray.
Any of those may or may not resurface going forward. But anybody who is willing to roll the dice on the risks will simultaneously leave the door open to a reward in the form of veteran presence and middle tier-caliber defense.
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Ilya Bryzgalov: Two particularly encouraging seasons in Phoenix abruptly gave way to two clunkers in Philadelphia, culminating in a buyout after 2012-13. The most logical conclusion, though not quite foolproof, is that Bryzgalov can still be effective as long as he is not playing under heat lamps in a more demanding hockey market.
Jose Theodore: At age 36 and coming off an injury that cut his 2012-13 campaign short, Theodore is a long shot to be a clear-cut starter in the NHL again. But he can still be useful in a backup gig.
Tim Thomas: A self-imposed, season-long respite has kept Thomas out of NHL action for 15 months and counting. It is hard for virtually anyone to get a reliable read on where his game shape stands at this point, but his track record of defying his odds just might woo a suitor if nothing else comes up.