NHL Free Agents 2014: Rumors, Predictions for Top Unsigned Talent

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur stands in goal late in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Newark, N.J., Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Devils won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Mel Evans/Associated Press

Believe it or not, there are still some NHL players on the market after the initial rush on available talent in the first few days of free agency. 

The Stanley Cup may not be won or lost based on the next few contracts signed, but there is plenty of talent out there for teams looking to bolster their chances. Some of that talent is even legendary in status.

With that in mind, here is a look at some rumors and predictions for some of the best remaining players on the market.

Martin Brodeur

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

It’s not every day that the winningest goalie in the history of the league is readily available as a free agent, but the reality is Martin Brodeur is 42 years old. His best days are clearly behind him.

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN filled fans in on some of the latest rumblings regarding the legendary goalkeeper:

Brodeur won’t make a team instant Stanley Cup contenders with his presence alone like he did in his prime, but teams could do much worse from a backup perspective. He seems comfortable accepting a role like that if his comments, via Luke Fox of Sportsnet.ca, are any indication:

If I get a job as a No. 1, I think I’m able to handle the workload of 50 to 60 games. If I don’t, and I get a backup job on a team I feel has a chance to win the Stanley Cup, anything between 20 to 30 games I’d be comfortable with in the right situation. I want to play the game. I understand my age, for people, is a big deal, but I stayed healthy all year. I played 39 games. Didn’t miss a practice. Didn’t miss a game. I was pretty happy about that.

Imagine a contending team that loses a goalie to injury late in the year. In terms of backups, putting in a surefire Hall of Famer isn’t a bad option. 

The thought here is that Brodeur waits it out this summer and signs with someone as the season approaches in the fall. Some squad will be desperate for more goalie depth, and Brodeur will happily oblige if the situation is correct.

Lee Stempniak 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05:  Kevin Klein #8 of the New York Rangers skates with the puck against Lee Stempniak #22 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 05, 2014 in New Yor
Scott Levy/Getty Images

Lee Stempniak is a solid right winger who still has plenty left in the tank at age 31. Craig Custance of ESPN The Magazine and Andy Strickland of the Big 550 KTRS and Fox Sports Midwest passed along some of the latest rumors:

Stempniak is a solid role player who will fill in as a second- or third-liner and rack up a few points as the season progresses. Every Stanley Cup winner has glue guys like him to provide some depth alongside the best players.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05:  Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers skates against Lee Stempniak #22 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 05, 2014 in New York City. (Ph
Scott Levy/Getty Images

He didn’t play particularly well for the Penguins in the playoffs, which is likely part of the reason they let him go, so there will also be some motivation to produce next season. The thought here is that Stempniak signs with the Boston Bruins, who have an opening after losing Jarome Iginla. 

Jamal Mayers of the NHL Network agrees:

Michael Del Zotto 

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 12: Michael Del Zotto #5 of the Nashville Predators takes a slapshot against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at Bridgestone Arena on April 12, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
John Russell/Getty Images

David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period provided an update regarding Michael Del Zotto:

The fact that Del Zotto is receiving plenty of interest should come as no surprise, even if he struggled to find his footing with the New York Rangers and the Nashville Predators. In fact, the realization that he failed to get a qualifying offer from Nashville could motivate him going forward.

Del Zotto is only 24 years old and could have a bright future in front of him in the right situation. What’s more, he should come a bit cheaper than in the past after struggling last season, which is encouraging for any club trying to sign the man who once posted 41 points in a season.

The thought here is the Carolina Hurricanes, who have been particularly active in free agency already, continue their makeover and sign Del Zotto. He could be a younger and potentially more productive version of John-Michael Liles. 

That could certainly work for the Hurricanes.

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