The 2014 NHL offseason has started to shape up as one of the most intriguing in years, but there are still several big-name free agents on the open market who could shift the balance of power in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
While many of the top stars have already signed with their new teams, players like former Vancouver Canucks left wing David Booth are still waiting for a team to take an educated risk on them.
Here are the top remaining free agents, their predicted landing spots and a focus on the most intriguing option left on the board.
|Top 2014 NHL Free Agents and Predicted Landing Spots|
|Rank||Player||Position||Predicted Landing Spot|
|2||Michael Del Zotto||D||Carolina Hurricanes|
|3||Steve Ott||C||Buffalo Sabres|
|4||Dustin Penner||LW||Philadelphia Flyers|
|5||Martin Brodeur||G||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|6||Lee Stempniak||RW||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|7||Dany Heatley||LW||New York Rangers|
|8||David Booth||LW||Buffalo Sabres|
|9||Brenden Morrow||LW||Dallas Stars|
|10||Devin Setoguchi||RW||Winnipeg Jets|
|Predictions and rankings via Donald Wood.|
Free Agent to Watch: David Booth, LW
There are several potential difference-makers left on the market, but none have the long-term potential that Booth possesses.
Booth has the unique mixture of youth and experience that teams are looking for. While he may only be 29 years old, he already has eight years of knowledge in the NHL with both Vancouver and the Florida Panthers.
After spending the first five full seasons in Florida, Booth was traded to the Canucks in 2011-12 after coming off a 40-point season. Injuries and inconsistent play plagued his time in Vancouver, and he only managed 51 points in 134 games.
Booth was due another $4.25 million in 2014-15, but the Canucks bought out his contract.
Craig Custance of ESPN talked about his buy-low possibilities:
When asked about Vancouver’s decision to cut ties with his client, Booth’s agent, Mike Liut, told Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun about the player’s reaction to the news and what’s next:
We didn’t expand on the why, and the why doesn’t matter. It wasn’t something that was unexpected and, therefore, you push on. David’s response was that it’s an opportunity to start over again and that he’s excited about it. The way the season ended for him, in his mind, he knows he can play. He’s getting back to 100 per cent and it’s a new challenge.
There is undoubtedly a risk associated with Booth’s history of injuries and inconsistent play, but there are likely several organizations in the NHL that need depth and would love to add a player with the offensive firepower he possesses.
The best landing spot would be the Buffalo Sabres.
After struggling last season and trading away many of the team’s high-priced players, Buffalo is just above the salary-cap floor and has plenty of room to add another offensive piece. With serious needs throughout the depth chart, adding Booth at an affordable price would be an ideal move.
The Sabres were already active on the free-agent market, signing the likes of Brian Gionta, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick, and the franchise also traded for Josh Gorges.
Buffalo will still struggle this season, but adding Booth would give the team the chance to win the close games. It would be a smart signing for both the team and the player.
Predicted Landing Spot: Buffalo Sabres
*Stats via NHL.com.