NHL Free Agents 2014: Latest Rumors, Predictions for Top Available Players

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NHL Free Agents 2014: Latest Rumors, Predictions for Top Available Players
Mel Evans/Associated Press

NHL free agency opened with a bang, as some of the biggest names were snatched up on the first day teams were able to ink players.

Some quality names remain, and they'll look to find new homes in the near future. The last thing a player wants to do is sign late in free agency, as the uncertainty surrounding where one will play can often have a negative effect on a player's mentality.

The most interesting rumors after Day 1 of free agency have to do with older players teams will likely look to ink to short-term contracts. These players might not have huge roles on their new teams, but they still have some value left in the tank.

I break down those rumors below.

 

Martin Brodeur

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Despite his age of 42 and the fact that his save percentage was .901 last season, netminder Martin Brodeur has generated quite a buzz as a free agent. Chris Peter of CBSSports.com broke down the market for Brodeur:

According to Louis Jean of TVA Sports, goaltender Martin Brodeur's agent says the veteran is garnering interest from as many as six teams.

Jean reports the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are four of the six teams that have shown interest in Brodeur. The record-setting netminder, who is expected to part ways with the New Jersey Devils after more than 20 years with the club, desires going to a contender.

The aforementioned teams are good spots for Brodeur if he wants to win, as the Penguins, the Blackhawks and the Bruins were playoff teams last season. The Maple Leafs weren't far off, as they were eliminated from the hunt with just two games remaining.

The Devils won't be bringing him back, especially after Tuesday's news that they signed goaltender Scott Clemmensen, as reported by Rich Chere of NJ.com:

Brodeur likely isn't a starting goalie anymore. His save percentage dropped off big time last season, and, at 42, he's a liability between the pipes. He's not a bad option as a second goaltender, however, so I expect teams with holes on the depth chart to go hard after him.

Given the lack of cap flexibility the Blackhawks and the Bruins have to deal with, I think the Penguins and the Maple Leafs have a better shot at grabbing him.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Dany Heatley

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

A former 50-goal scorer, 33-year-old Dany Heatley is now an unrestricted free agent the Minnesota Wild likely won't look to re-sign, reports Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press:

Several players have said they interested in looking into offers from other teams. And the Wild have decided not to offer new contracts to several others.

Among the latter group is Dany Heatley. After three seasons with the Wild, his time in Minnesota is over.

Heatley scored just 47 goals during his three-year tenure in Minnesota, but in the latter stages of his time there, the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NHL entry draft served as a mentor for the team's younger players.

Heatley saw his time diminish because of those younger players. He simply didn't have any more speed in his skates, and the younger players provided more potential for a Minnesota team that finished with 43 wins last season.

There's still some value left in Heatley, and he isn't necessarily in one-year-contract territory yet. A multiyear deal might make sense for Heatley if the fit is right.

TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger tweeted that Heatley would be willing to take a short-term deal:

In all likelihood, Heatley will end up on a good team that will give him another shot at competing.

Prediction: Anaheim Ducks

 

Olli Jokinen

Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

Olli Jokinen, 35, had 43 points with 18 goals and 25 assists in 82 games last season. He is still valuable for teams in need of a center, and David Staples of the Edmonton Journal has heard that he might already have a serious suitor:

This just in from TSN’s Bob McKenzie, news of the apparent interest of the Edmonton Oilers in free agent centre Olli Jokinen: "Olli Jokinen is a name we’ve heard that the Edmonton Oilers are seriously kicking tires on. They’d like some strength and experience at that position."

With the Winnipeg Jets last season, Jokinen found most of his time on the second line and was good for winning defensive-zone faceoffs. The Jets relied on him to play physical hockey with the focus on puck control, as his ability to deliver big hits often ruined the offense's chances of getting into the Jets' zone.

Jokinen is a very good fit in Edmonton on a short-term contract. The Oilers could use another scoring center on the second or third line, and Jokinen would provide that.

Without any other rumored interest at this point, it's safe to say right now that Jokinen will be suiting up for the Oilers next season.

Prediction: Edmonton Oilers

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR.

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