Penny Pinching: Finding That Free Agent Bargain

Scott WeldonCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2009

Free agent frenzy has long since died. Most teams have filled their rosters. Some have gorged themselves to the point where they'll be hiding contracts in the AHL or buying out players before the season starts. There are a few teams out there with roster spots still to fill and money yet to spend. 

The cream of the free agent crop has been signed. Among the players left are the too old: Roenick, Brisebois, CuJo, McCarty, Chelios, a bunch of former checkers: Guite, Fritsche, Malhotra, Nilson, Dandenault, Hinote, Axelsson, Bonk some youngsters who are yet to pan out: Mitchell, Brule, Pogge, Novotny, Pyatt, Riismiller and some players who for various reasons, physical and otherwise, seem to be done in this league: Bertuzzi, Battaglia, Lang, Comrie, Afinegenov, Bell, Calder, Gauthier, Grier, Isbister, Parrish, and York.

The players left unsigned have to start believing they may not be signed. Brendan Shanahan didn't sign last year until the trade deadline. He might not get picked up at all this year. There are still a lot of players out there who can play hockey and help a team. A smart team in need of help may be able to sign some cheap talent. 

I can't quite believe that in a league where Tyler Arnason, Donald Brashear and Steve Begin can get contracts these players aren't signed. These I believe are the best of the remaining free agent players available.

1/ Phil Kessel                70 GP  36 G  24 A  60 P  +23   RFA

 Phil was a highly touted youngster once thought to be as good as or better then Sidney Crosby. He's a fast,fast skater and has finally grown in to his offensive potential. He had the fourth in points on the Bruins last year and was a key part of the team. Unfortunately for the Bruins he's an RFA on a team that has already spent $3.5 million past the cap. 

Boston has managed to sign Krejci, Hunwick and Recchi but they have little room left to fit Kessel in to the mix. Another team should be able to make a 3-4 million dollar offer for this young talented player and lock him up for his prime. The Bruins will have to stick Tukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron in the minors to fit Kessel on their payroll. It might be worth their while to do it. 

2/Alex Tanguay               50 GP  16 G  25 A  41 P  +13   UFA

Alex, at 30, is not an old player but he's had a history of injury that seems to have put more miles then years on him. He was one of Montreal's best players when he was healthy and the quick playmaker can certainly help a team with room and a quick sniper looking for someone to get him the puck. He can probably be had for much less then the $5 million he made last year. 

3/Marc-Andre Beregron   72 GP 14 G  18 A  32 P  +5   UFA

Every year, teams are searching for power play specialists and every year Bergeron has to scratch around for a job. He's fast and has a huge shot from the point. When he broke in, in Edmonton fans saw him as the reincarnation of Paul Coffey. Since that time he's been seen as way too small and way too weak in his own zone. However a team looking for a power play point man and a defenceman who skates like the wind could do a lot with Bergeron.  

4/ Josh Harding          .929 sv pct    2.21 GAA   870 minutes played   RFA

Josh replaced Fernandez in Minnesota and, at times, looked like the stronger pair in the tandem with Niklas Backstrom. Last year however Backstrom won the starting job and ran with it. Harding played just over 15 games. He has shown flashes of greatness and should be at worst a great young back-up goalie who could push your starter. He'll be dirt cheap and could end up as a teams starter. 

5/ Sergei Zubov             10 gp     0 G   4 A    4 P        -4           UFA     

Zubov has been one of the best offensive defenceman in the league. He's nearly forty and is coming off hip surgery. He's been injured the last two years. For the nothing it'll cost to sign him you could have a 50-60 point offensive defenceman. You won't be able to play him a ton and he'll always be an injury risk but he gives you more then the comparably aged Matt Schneider, if he can play.

6/ Nik Zherdev               82 GP     23 G     35 A    58 P   +6        UFA 

The flaky unpredictable Zherdev can't be expected to give a team more then the 58 points and 23 goals he got last year. That being said that's not a horrible second line contribution. He's a depth offensive player but he's still young and played 82 games last year. His only risk is whether he'll try to play next year.


 7/ Petr Sykora             76 GP       25 G      21 A    46 P   +3      UFA

Petr as a world junior hockey player was one of the best I'd ever seen. Once the other players got as big as him however he was never the same. He had moments as a point a game player in New Jersey but not again. He should be able to supply secondary scoring for a needy team at a bargain price but he'll need players to play with. I'd rate him ahead of Zherdev but he's eight years older. He's stayed healthy his whole career.     

8/ Manny Fernandez     .910 sv pct     2.59 GAA   1644 minutes played   UFA

Manny played a third of the games on a Boston team that gave up a lot of shots. His numbers were still fair. He's a good veteran goalie who will give a team strong starts as a back up for a reasonable price.   

9/ Manny Malhotra           77  GP    11 G      24 A   35 P     + 9     UFA

Manny was expected to be a successful power forward in the NHL. He's hung on as a checker. He's pushing 30, so he's younger then a lot of those other checkers out there fighting for a job. He's a decent size and a reasonable skater. His offense is nothing great but again it's better then a lot of other checkers provide.

10/ Torrey Mitchell  RFA         

Torrey broke his leg in two places last year and lost his entire season. He played four playoff games. He's an exceptionally fast skater and still quite young at 24. He has some offensive skills and could be a great pick up if San Jose doesn't retain him. 


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