NHL Free Agents 2014: Rumors, Predictions for Top Players Remaining on Market

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NHL Free Agents 2014: Rumors, Predictions for Top Players Remaining on Market
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Let's be honest, folks—the free-agent market in the NHL was picked pretty clean in a little over a day, as a flurry of signings left beat writers, pundits and fans alike reeling from the whirlwind. 

There were still some leftovers on Day 2 of free agency, but the juicy names were snatched up faster than the average American dad claims the Thanksgiving leftovers and makes himself a turkey sandwich while he watches college football on Black Friday. 

Still, there are some players on the market worth monitoring. Are they the sexy names? No. But hey, a team is built with smart, bargain-bin signings, too. 

Martin Brodeur

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It might be a long summer for Martin Brodeur. But from all indications, he's willing to be patient. 

We've heard several teams reportedly express interest in the 42-year-old, but to this point, he hasn't found a home. And Pierre LeBrun of ESPN tweeted he's prepared to wait teams out, no matter how long it takes:

Katie Strang of ESPN.com offered a similar report:

Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Toronto were floated as possible landing spots for the three-time Stanley Cup champion, but the Penguins signed backup Thomas Greiss, the Maple Leafs opted (at least for now) not to trade James Reimer and the Wild curiously stood pat despite their uncertainty in net. 

Brodeur is currently evaluating a few different options, but is content to wait longer than originally anticipated if the right fit does not present itself, a source told ESPN.com. 

How long exactly? It may behoove Brodeur to wait until training camp, when an untimely injury could prompt a team to seek immediate help. 

Brodeur is a legend, no doubt, and his eventual decline came later than most goalies experience, but he's long past the days of being a valuable starter. And thus far in free agency, it seems NHL teams are wary of his value in a backup role, as well. 

That might change eventually. But at the moment, it appears Brodeur will be on the market all summer long.

Prediction: He won't be signed until the fall.

Steve Ott

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For teams looking to add a gritty forward who can win faceoffs, kill penalties, antagonize opponents and provide leadership, Steve Ott is just the man for the job. Sure, Ott can take his "tough guy" role a bit too seriously at times, but in general, he's very good at the role he plays.

And according to Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that might make him a valued target for a few teams:

Remember, at some point, the Wild’s expected to acquire a physical defenseman to replace Clayton Stoner. It may also look to replace the gritty element up front of Cody McCormick. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun -- the great Pierre LeBrun, I may add -- reports the Wild has shown interest in Steve Ott, the former Dallas Stars agitator/smack talker and Sabres captain who was dealt with Ryan Miller to St. Louis last season. He once fought Cal Clutterbuck twice in the same game after Ott ran Josh Harding either that game or the game before, I can't remember. Ott can play center and wing and kills penalties.

Toronto has also shown interest in Ott, I have heard.

Perhaps the best way to describe Ott is that he's a man you love if he's wearing your sweater and a man you despise if he's donning someone else's colors. On a third or fourth line, he's an effective forward. On a team that needs some attitude, he's a darn effective forward.

But where will he end up?

Prediction: The Toronto Maple Leafs will scoop him up. He'd pair nicely with Leo Komarov and will give the Leafs a do-it-all guy at forward. It's a solid fit. 

Peter Mueller

Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

The man who could end up being the bargain buy of free agency is Peter Mueller. Injuries and declining play eventually led to him signing with a Swiss team for the 2013-14 season, but all indications are that he's ready to return to the NHL, according to LeBrun:

Adds Craig Custance of ESPN:

Of course, it remains uncertain where Mueller might land. Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News has an inkling, however:

It makes sense. The Philadelphia Flyers haven't made much of a splash in free agency, a relative shocker for the team, and they could really use a player who can score some goals. Mueller is also just 26, so he'd fit in nicely with the youth movement the Flyers have fostered in the past several years. 

Prediction: The Flyers. If he can stay healthy and regain his scoring touch in the NHL, this could be the steal of free agency.

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