The Best Fit for the Top-10 Remaining 2014 NHL Free Agents

Lyle RichardsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

The Best Fit for the Top-10 Remaining 2014 NHL Free Agents

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    It's barely a week into the NHL's unrestricted free-agent period, and the pickings are slim for available talent, as are the potential destinations for the remaining crop of unsigned free agents.

    For those players, it now becomes a case of finding a team on which they could fill a pressing need.

    Some clubs could use an experienced backup goaltender. Some need either a good puck-moving or shot-blocking defenseman. Others have holes in their forward lines which must be addressed.

    The following is a list of the best destinations for the top NHL players still available in this summer's free-agent market.

    Age, experience, skills and leadership abilities factored into the compilation of this list.

     

    All salary information from CapGeek.com. Unless otherwise indicated, all player info is from NHL.com.

10. Tomas Vokoun

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    Best fit: Boston Bruins.

    Why he belongs there: The Bruins could use an experienced backup to spell starter Tuukka Rask of some of his heavy workload. At this stage in his career, Vokoun is no longer a starting goalie, but he's a proven, reliable backup. He also has playoff experience, which could prove worthwhile if there's a need to pull Rask during a postseason game. 

    Potential cost: The Bruins are squeezed for cap space, so it would have to be a one-year deal worth less than $1 million.

     

9. Devin Setoguchi

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Best fit: Carolina Hurricanes.

    Why he belongs there: Beyond Alexander Semin, the Hurricanes are thin at right wing. Setoguchi is a three-time 20-plus goal scorer. At age 27, he still has good speed and offensive tools and could prove an affordable gamble for the Hurricanes.

    Potential cost: Setoguchi recently completed a three-year, $9 million deal between Minnesota and Winnipeg. Given his recent struggles, he could be had for a one-year deal worth between $1.5 million and $2 million.

8. Dany Heatley

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Best fit: Winnipeg Jets.

    Why he belongs there: The Jets lack experienced depth at left wing on their third and fourth lines. While Heatley isn't a top-six winger anymore, he could still have some value as a third-line left wing and provide an extra measure of scoring ability. He could also be useful in power-play situations. Heatley had a decent 2013-14 postseason with the Minnesota Wild, notching six points in 11 playoff games.

    Potential cost: He just completed a six-year, $45 million deal. While he won't command anywhere close to that now, a one-year deal worth around $2 million is a possibility.

7. Michael Del Zotto

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    Best fit: New York Islanders.

    Why he belongs there: The Islanders lack a swift-skating defenseman with offensive skills, especially on their power play. Del Zotto is only two seasons removed from a 41-point season, and at 24 years old, he still has room to develop. Islanders general manager Garth Snow has a history of reclamation projects (see Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner). Del Zotto could be a good fit with the rebuilding Isles.

    Potential cost: He's coming off a two-year, $5.1 million contract, but his stock declined last season after washing out with the New York Rangers and Nashville Predators. He could accept a one- or two-year deal worth under $2 million annually.

     

6. Steve Ott

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    Best fit: Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Why he belongs there: The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Michael Russo reports that he's heard the Leafs have shown interest in Ott. The 31-year-old forward is experienced and physical, and he possesses both a decent scoring touch and versatility—he can play every forward position. As a former captain of the Buffalo Sabres, Ott would bring an additional measure of leadership to the Leafs' ranks.

    Potential cost: Ott's coming off a four-year, $11.8 million contract. The Leafs have over $13.2 million in cap space, and he could command a two-year deal worth $2.5 million annually.

     

     

     

5. Anton Volchenkov

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    Andy Marlin/Getty Images

    Best fit: Minnesota Wild.

    Why he belongs there: The Star Tribune's Russo reports that Minnesota "lacks physicality" on their blue line and that GM Chuck Fletcher said he's looking for value via trade or free agency. Russo listed Volchenkov atop his list of free-agent possibilities.

    Though Volchenkov's physical style often leads to injury, the 32-year-old is still an effective physical defenseman. Despite playing only 56 games last season, Yahoo! Sports indicates Volchenkov lead the New Jersey Devils in hits (129) and was second in blocked shots (91).

    Potential cost: Volchenkov was earning $4.25 million annually prior to his buyout by the Devils. A one-year deal worth half that could entice him to join a rising young Wild team.

     

     

4. David Booth

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Best fit: Arizona Coyotes.

    Why he belongs there: The Coyotes lack experienced scoring punch on left wing. Booth is a three-time 20-plus goal scorer with terrific speed—when healthy—and good offensive instincts. He could also take some pressure off of promising Max Domi if he cracks the lineup next season. Booth can also play either wing, which provides an extra measure of roster flexibility.

    Potential cost: Having been bought out of the remaining $4.75 million of his contract by Vancouver, Booth could be an affordable short-term pickup. A one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million could prove acceptable.

     

3. Daniel Alfredsson

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Best fit: Detroit Red Wings.

    Why he belongs there: Prior to the start of the unrestricted free-agency period, the Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James tweeted that Alfredsson informed the Red Wings he'll either play for them in 2014-15 or retire. MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports the Red Wings will reserve an offer until August in order to gauge if his back is healthy enough for them.

    Potential cost: Khan anticipates Detroit would offer a low base salary of around $2 million with a games-played bonus, which could be applied to the 2015-16 cap.

2. Martin Brodeur

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Best fit: Nashville Predators.

    Why he belongs there: Lack of a quality backup goalie proved costly for the Predators last season when starter Pekka Rinne missed 51 games to hip surgery. The 42-year-old Brodeur would provide considerable experience and leadership, and his presence would reduce the risk of overplaying Rinne and reaggravating his hip.

    Brodeur recently told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun he's willing to consider different opportunities.

    "I'm open-minded," he said, "whether it's a team with a good young goalie or being in a spot where I've got a chance to win a Stanley Cup again...just look forward to seeing what's out there." 

    Potential cost: The Predators are a budget club, and currently have over $15.9 million in cap space. A one-year, bonus-laden deal with a $2 million base salary could be the best fit.

1. Mike Ribeiro

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    Best fit: Washington Capitals.

    Why he belongs there: The Capitals lack a skilled second-line center. In Ribeiro's all-too-brief stint with the Capitals during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he tallied 13 goals and 49 points in 48 games. While the Arizona Coyotes bought out his contract citing "behavioral issues," perhaps a return to Washington can help get his career back on track.

    Potential cost: Having been bought out of his deal, which was worth $5.5 million per season, Ribeiro could be an affordable signing for the Capitals. Making the dollars work could be sticky, however, as they currently have just over $1.1 million in cap space.