Every summer, fans from across the league speculate about where the big name free agents are going to end up. Last season, it was names like Mats Sundin, Brian Campbell, and Marian Hossa that stole all the headlines. This year it's players like Marion Gaborik, Jay Bouwmeester, the Sedin brothers, and Marian Hossa (again) making us eagerly hold our breath in anticipation.
While these stars are deservedly the center of attention, the second-tier free agents are equally as important in building a competitive team. Here's a look at the best affordable players available.
Mike Grier, Age 34, Salary: $1,775,000
Grier is big body (6'1", 225) who can go to the net. He is a responsible forward who uses his size well and still has the skating ability to keep up with the play. His age has diminished his value, but he should be available at around 1 to 1.25 million. He would be a good asset if a team is interested in solid third or fourth-liner that can chip in 30 points.
Samuel Pahlsson, Age 31, Salary: $1,400,000
Pahlsson isn't going to contribute much offensively, but if a team needs help on the defensive side of the puck, they could do worse than taking a chance on Pahlsson.
Mikael Sammuelsson, Age 32, Salary: $1,200,000
Sammuelsson put up 40 points on a deep Detroit squad. If the Wings don't resign him, he should be expected to stay around that output on another team. At 6'2", 211 lbs., any team looking to add some affordable size should look his way.
Travis Moen, Age 27, Salary: $925,000
Moen is 6'2", 216 lbs. and an effective forechecker. He isn't going to pot too many goals (11 is his career-high), but at under a million dollars, he's a cheap option to give opponent's defencemen something to think about when they go into the corners.
Dominic Moore, Age 28, Salary: $900,000
Moore is one of the better players flying under the radar in my mind. He's got good size, skates well, and plays well in both ends. He had a career year last year, putting up 45 points. He brings a great energy to the lineup and would be an ideal third-line center on any team with that hole to fill.
Chad Larose, Age 27, Salary: $875,000
This is a player I absolutely love. He brings it every night and is willing to do whatever is needed to win. Blocking shots, going into the corners, taking a hit to make the play, Larose does it all. Also, he should be good for 30 to 40 points.
Apparently, the Canes are having trouble resigning him, which means he may be asking for too much, but I would run to sign this guy at anything under $1.25 million.
Stephane Yelle, Age 35, Salary: $750,000
His age is definitely a deterrent, but he can still chip in the occasional point here and there. More importantly, at $750,000, he is a huge bargain for any team desperately needing help in the faceoff circle. I'm looking at you, Edmonton.
Blair Betts, Age 29, Salary: $615,000
A number of sources are speculating that the Rangers will let Betts walk. If this happens, Sather is an even worse GM then I thought he was. Betts is an absolute steal at his minuscule cap-hit. He is terrific defender and penalty killer.
Paul Mara, Age 29, Salary: $1,950,000
When people talk about the Rangers defence, Mara is somehow constantly overlooked. The 6'4" 219-pound bruiser could be the poster boy for an underrated, unflashy defencemen.
He's doesn't have the highlight reel hits of Niklas Kronwall or the end-to-end rushes of Mike Green, but he always separates his man from the puck and clears the zone. By the way, he put up 21 points last year. This guy can play on my team any day.
Mathieu Dandenault, Age 33, Salary: $1,750,000
After being bounced around under Carbonneau's juggling system, it looked like as if Dandy was going to earn a permanent spot on the blueline after some other players went down with injury.
He was playing solid in both ends and was one of the Canadiens most consistent players for a stretch. Then, Dandy broke his arm (though he finished his shift anyways). Terrific skater, doesn't panic, good passer, team first attitude, he is an ideal fifth or six defenceman for any team with the need.
Francois Beauchemin, Age 29, Salary: $1,650,000
I hesitated to put Beauchemin on this list because I think he's one of the best free agents available, but his salary merits him a spot. He has great hockey sense, has a smooth skating style, and has the potential to contribute offensively. The only drawback is that he often goes down with small injuries. He's due for a raise, but as long as it isn't anything ridiculous, he will benefit whichever team picks him up.
Jordan Leopold, Age 28, Salary: $1,500,000
Another player due in for a raise, Leopold plays like a seasoned veteran despite his age. Effective in both zones, Leopold would be a solid three or four on any team. Florida would do well to sign him as they attempt to replace Jay Bouwmeester and Nick Boynton.
Kurtis Foster, Age 27, Salary: $1,025,000
This is kind of a sentimental pick for me. I'm a huge fan of Foster, but he only played 10 games this season coming back from a horrific leg injury; however, in those 10 games, he put up six points and ended up a +7. Foster is an all-around player with tremendous character, and with his salary, he is a steal. Putting him on this list may be a moot point simply because I would be stunned if he isn't resigned by the Wild.
Rob Scuderi, Age 30, Salary: $725,000
He is not flashy, but he is willing to do the little things to win. He also has a tendency to raise his game when it matters most. Unfortunately for the Penguins, his performance in the playoffs probably raises his salary out of their price range.
Johnny Oduya, Age 27, Salary: $600,000
Oduya might be the steal of the summer if a team can pry him away from New Jersey. Due for an increase of at least a million, Oduya is a durable puck-moving defencemen who can consistently contribute offensively. His strong skating and and decision-making put him at the top of many people's short list of best defenceman available.
Thanks for reading, and good luck to everyone's favorite teams in attracting some of these players.