Impatient general managers' favorite time of year is almost here in 2014—NHL free agency.
The class as a whole isn't anything special, but the best unsigned players could significantly improve a team. Here are four of those players and where they'll land.
4. G Ryan Miller, St. Louis Blues
Prediction: Vancouver Canucks
Miller is 33 years old. His age may scare some teams away, but not ones as desperate as the Canucks. Their offense is a greater weakness than their defense, but that doesn't mean Miller wouldn't be an upgrade over Eddie Lack.
ESPN's Craig Custance (subscription needed) thinks they'll be a favorite to acquire him: "If Vancouver thinks it can still win with a new regime in the short term, Miller is their best opportunity to get there, and GM Jim Benning knows Miller well: He's the guy who drafted him in Buffalo."
Miller didn't perform well for the Blues in the playoffs, but he still finished third in the NHL in saves this year.
3. RW Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning
Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay just traded for Callahan. He didn't do enough to prevent a sweep by the Montreal Canadiens, but the Lightning will be reluctant to let Callahan walk after trading their captain, Martin St. Louis, for him at the deadline.
Hockeybuzz.com's Eklund reported that the two sides have made progress in contract talks:
Callahan finished this season with 36 points. It certainly wasn't the most productive campaign of his career, but he's battled injuries the past two seasons. If he can stay healthy on the Lightning, he'll have them back in the playoff hunt.
2. C Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche
Prediction: New York Rangers
After missing over half the season the previous year, Stastny bounced back in 2014 to score more points than he had since 2010. He'd be a welcome addition to almost every NHL team.
Custance (subscription needed) expects Stastny to be on top of the Rangers' free-agent target list. They certainly could've used his offense against the Los Angeles Kings.
Los Angeles shut out New York in Game 3 and held it to two goals in a win-or-go-home Game 5. Stastny wouldn't have been enough to swing the series—but it may have lasted longer.
1. LW Thomas Vanek, Montreal Canadiens
Prediction: Minnesota Wild
Only five left wings scored more points during the regular season than Vanek. While he played poorly against the New York Rangers, one series shouldn't be enough to scare teams away from him—specifically the Wild.
The Star Tribune's Michael Russo reported this offseason, "Thomas Vanek is no longer a given. Four or five months ago, I think it was a given."
But considering how the Wild's season ended, they can't be picky. In their four losses to the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota scored a combined five goals. They need offense badly, and that's what Vanek would add.
David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.
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