One Free Agent Every NHL Team Should Target in 2015 Offseason
The NHL's free-agency period begins on July 1. Though still three months away, it's never too early to consider possible free-agent targets for each team this summer.
Every club has roster needs that could require unrestricted free agency to address. Failing that, general managers could try to sign away another club's top restricted free agent with an offer sheet. Some GMs could attempt to re-sign pending free agents who were acquired via trade this season.
Here's a look at the one free agent every NHL team should target this summer. This list includes the reasons why those players should be pursued and the potential cost of signing them.
Player to target: The Anaheim Ducks should target Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid.
Reasons: The Ducks defense lacks a physical, stay-at-home defenseman with a mean streak. McQuaid, 28, could address that need. He has playoff experience, winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011. His physical style could provide a much-needed boost to their penalty kill.
Cost: McQuaid's current annual cap hit is $1.567 million. It could cost up to $3.5 million per season to sign him. Given concerns over his injury history, the Ducks could secure a three-year deal.
Player to target: The Arizona Coyotes should target Calgary Flames goaltender Karri Ramo.
Reasons: The Coyotes lack a quality backup for struggling starter Mike Smith. Ramo has proved capable of stepping up and filling in for inconsistent starting netminders. If the Coyotes hope to start improving next season, they need depth between the pipes.
Cost: Ramo's annual cap hit is $2.75 million. It could cost over $3 million annually on a two-year deal to secure his services. It's pricey but worthwhile to ensure stability in goal.
Player to target: The Boston Bruins should target Minnesota Wild right wing Chris Stewart.
Reasons: The Bruins unsuccessfully pursued Stewart, 27, via this season's trade market. They need to bolster their depth at right wing. Given his recent play with the Wild, Stewart has proved he can regain his scoring touch with a talented roster. His physical style should also make him a good fit with the Bruins.
Cost: The Bruins have limited cap space for next season. Though Stewart has an annual cap hit of $4.15 million on his current deal, the decline in his production means the Bruins could land him for a more affordable price. A three-year deal at $2.75 million per season might be possible.
Player to target: The Buffalo Sabres should target San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi.
Reasons: The Sabres lack an experienced starting goaltender, and Niemi could address that need. They have plenty of cap space and can afford to outbid other clubs for his services. Niemi would provide much-needed stability between the pipes for this rebuilding club.
Cost: Niemi is coming off a four-year deal with an annual cap hit of $3.8 million. It could take a four-year deal worth $5 million annually to lure him to the rebuilding Sabres.
Player to target: The Calgary Flames should target Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward.
Reasons: The Flames could use more size and experience at right wing. Ward, 34, has nearly 40 games of playoff experience and performs well in the clutch. He also has a decent scoring touch. Ward could bring an additional level of leadership to the young Flames players.
Cost: Ward is coming off a four-year deal in which he's earned $3 million per season. Given his age, the Flames might be able to ink him to a two-year deal worth $3.5 million per season.
Player to target: The Carolina Hurricanes should target Anaheim Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey.
Reasons: The Hurricanes are among this season's lowest-scoring clubs. They must bolster their offense. Beleskey reached the 20-goal mark this season for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old winger could be a good addition for the rebuilding Hurricanes.
Cost: Beleskey's annual cap hit is $1.35 million. The Hurricanes currently have over $53 million invested in next season's payroll, so they'll need affordable free-agent options. Perhaps they could get Beleskey inked to a three-year deal worth around $2.5 million annually.
Player to target: The Chicago Blackhawks should target Edmonton Oilers center Derek Roy.
Reasons: The Blackhawks will likely lose centers Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette to free agency. Even if they make a couple of salary-dumping trades, they'll still have limited cap space for next season. Roy could be an affordable short-term option. He has plenty of experience, and there's been improvement in his offensive numbers this season with the Oilers.
Cost: Roy, 31, is earning $1 million this season. Depending upon their available cap space, the Blackhawks might be able to land him with a one-year, $2 million deal.
Player to target: The Colorado Avalanche should target Los Angeles Kings defenseman Andrej Sekera.
Reasons: The Avalanche lack experienced depth among their top four defensemen. Sekera is a skilled blueliner who plays a solid game at both ends of the rink. He was among the Carolina Hurricanes' leaders in blocked shots this season. The 28-year-old veteran could bring much-needed stability to the Avs blue line.
Cost: Sekera's current salary-cap hit is $2.75 million. He's among this summer's best free-agent defensemen and is in line for a big raise. It could cost over $5 million per season on a four- or five-year deal to land him.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Player to target: The Columbus Blue Jackets should target Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin.
Reasons: The Blue Jackets are lacking experienced depth and leadership on their blue line, especially after trading away James Wisniewski this season. Martin, 34, could help the Jackets address that need. He can chip in offensively and plays a responsible game within his own zone.
Cost: Martin's current cap hit is $5 million annually. Given his age, he probably won't get many offers beyond three years. It could take $4.5 million per season to sign him.
Player to target: The Dallas Stars should target Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green.
Reasons: The Stars lack experienced defensemen, particularly those with right-handed shots. Green can certainly address that need. His puck-moving skills could be a boon to the Stars' offensive game. He could also provide them with much-needed leadership. In recent years, the 29-year-old Green has improved his defensive game.
Cost: Green's current annual cap hit is $6.083 million. Given his injury history, he probably won't receive similar offers this summer. The Stars might be able to get Green for a three-year deal worth around $5 million annually.
Detroit Red Wings
Player to target: The Detroit Red Wings should re-sign defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who was acquired from the New Jersey Devils at this season's NHL trade deadline.
Reasons: The 38-year-old Zidlicky has proved to be a good fit with the Red Wings in the short time he's been with them. NHL.com's Dan Rosen speculates the Wings could re-sign the veteran blueliner. He's addressed their need for an experienced top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot.
Cost: Zidlicky's current cap hit is $4 million per season. The Wings could re-sign him to a one-year deal worth $3 million with an additional $1 million in bonuses.
Player to target: The Edmonton Oilers should target Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Reasons: The rebuilding Oilers lack a top-two defenseman. The 21-year-old Hamilton emerged this season from the considerable shadow of Zdeno Chara to become a top blueliner in his own right. The Bruins possess limited cap space next season, making it difficult to match lucrative offer sheets for Hamilton.
Cost: Hamilton is coming off an entry-level contract. Assuming he's willing to entertain offer sheets, it could take a considerable pitch to interest him. With around $47 million invested in next season's payroll, the Oilers could afford to offer up a five-year deal worth over $6 million annually.
Player to target: The Florida Panthers should re-sign right wing Jaromir Jagr, who was acquired from the New Jersey Devils before this season's NHL trade deadline.
Reasons: The 43-year-old Jagr is a good fit with the young Panthers. He's provided a welcome boost to their struggling offense. His youthful teammates are also benefiting from his decades of experience and leadership. Management is reportedly interested in re-signing him, according to the Miami Herald (via NHL.com).
Cost: Jagr is on a one-year deal with a base salary of $3.5 million with $2 million in bonuses. Another one-year deal with similar terms could be all it takes for the Panthers to keep him.
Los Angeles Kings
Player to target: The Los Angeles Kings should target Winnipeg Jets right wing Michael Frolik.
Reasons: Provided the cap-strapped Kings can free up space, they could require a replacement for Justin Williams if he departs via free agency. Frolik, 27, has tallied 40-plus points four times in his career. He has playoff experience, having won a Stanley Cup in 2013 with Chicago.
Cost: Frolik's cap hit this season is $3.3 million. He could seek a four-year deal worth up to $4 million per season. If the Kings can free up cap space, Frolik would be a younger and likely more affordable option than re-signing the aging Williams.
Player to target: The Minnesota Wild should re-sign goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was acquired in a midseason trade with the Arizona Coyotes.
Reasons: Prior to acquiring Dubnyk on Jan. 14, the Wild were 12th in the Western Conference, eight points out of playoff contention. As of April 1, they were fifth in the West. Dubnyk significantly improved the Wild's goaltending, which in turn dramatically improved their performance. Put simply, he saved their season.
Cost: Dubnyk, 27, earned only $800,000 on a one-year deal this season. It could take a three- or four-year deal at $3.5 million to keep him in Minnesota.
Player to target: The Montreal Canadiens should pursue Boston Bruins center Carl Soderberg.
Reasons: The Canadiens must boost their anemic offense. Soderberg, 29, would bring decent size and versatility to the Canadiens' forward lines. He can play center and wing and possesses excellent playmaking skills. He's exceeded 40-plus points in each of his two NHL seasons.
Cost: Soderberg's current annual cap hit is $1.008 million. It could take a three-year deal worth around $3 million per season to sign him.
Player to target: The Nashville Predators should pursue Ottawa Senators right wing Erik Condra.
Reasons: The Predators lack skilled checking-line depth on right wing. The 28-year-old Condra is an aggressive penalty-killer who can also chip in on offense. Despite being sidelined earlier this season by injury, Condra could exceed his career-best points total.
Cost: Condra's cap hit this season is $1.25 million. It could cost $2 million per season on a three-year deal to sign him. He could be an affordable fit with the cost-conscious Predators.
New Jersey Devils
Player to target: The New Jersey Devils should target Chicago Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette.
Reasons: The Devils need scoring depth. Vermette is among the few decent scorers available this summer. He's a versatile forward who can play center or wing. Vermette also plays a solid two-way style, which would fit in well with the Devils' defensive system.
Cost: Vermette is earning $3.75 million annually on his current deal. It could cost over $5 million per season to land him. His age (32) means he'll likely get at most a four-year deal.
New York Islanders
Player to target: The New York Islanders should target left wing Erik Cole.
Reasons: The Islanders lack experienced scoring depth at left wing. Cole, 36, reached the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career this season. He's also improved his defensive game and remains a physical winger. The Isles could benefit from his experience and leadership.
Cost: Cole's current annual cap hit is $4.5 million. Given his age, the Isles could sign him to an affordable one-year, bonus-laden deal with a $2 million base salary.
New York Rangers
Player to target: The New York Rangers should target Nashville Predators center Mike Santorelli.
Reasons: The Rangers need help in the faceoff circle. According to ESPN.com (via NHL.com), they had interest in the 29-year-old Santorelli prior to his trade in February from Toronto to Nashville. He is a versatile checking-line forward who can play center or wing. Santorelli also has a decent scoring touch.
Cost: Santorelli earned $1.5 million this season. Given the Rangers' limited cap space and need to re-sign several key players, Santorelli could be an affordable addition on a two-year deal worth around $2 million per season.
Player to target: The Ottawa Senators should target St. Louis Blues defenseman Zbynek Michalek.
Reasons: The Senators give up too many shots and could benefit from an experienced defensive blueliner. The 32-year-old Michalek could address that role, as he was among the top shot-blockers on the Arizona Coyotes this season. He is also the older brother of Senators winger Milan Michalek.
Cost: Michalek is earning $4 million per season on his current contract. Depending upon the market and this summer's salary cap, the cost-conscious Senators might be able to land him on a two-year deal worth $3 million per season.
Player to target: The Philadelphia Flyers should target Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry.
Reasons: The Flyers are in need of skilled blue-line depth. They gave up too many shots this season. Petry is a hard-working defenseman with good size who plays a responsible game in his own zone. The 27-year-old is also a smooth skater with a hard shot from the point who can jump up on the rush.
Cost: Petry is earning $3.075 million this season. The cap-strapped Flyers could find it difficult signing him unless they dump some salary this summer via trade or buyouts. A three-year deal at $3.75 million per season might be possible.
Player to target: The Pittsburgh Penguins should re-sign forward Daniel Winnik, who was acquired before the trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Reasons: The 30-year-old Winnik has proved to be a good addition in his limited time with the Penguins. He's primarily a checking-line forward who can play center or wing and can chip in on offense. Winnik's versatility gives the Penguins some options when necessary to cover for injured players.
Cost: Winnik's annual cap hit this season is $1.3 million. The Penguins have limited cap space next season, so he could be an affordable re-signing. A three-year deal worth $2 million annually could do the trick.
San Jose Sharks
Player to target: The San Jose Sharks should target Nashville Predators defenseman Cody Franson.
Reasons: Sharks defenseman Brent Burns is best suited as a forward. Franson, 27, could take over the role of puck-moving blueliner for the Sharks. He has a tremendous shot and could anchor the Sharks power play. Franson had 32 points in 55 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season before he was dealt to the Predators in February.
Cost: Franson is earning $3.3 million this season. Re-signing him won't come cheap, as Franson will seek a multiyear deal. The Sharks might be able to use a lower-than-expected salary cap for next season to their advantage. A three- or four-year deal at $4 million annually might do it.
St. Louis Blues
Player to target: The St. Louis Blues should target Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya.
Reasons: The Blues must re-sign or replace their pending UFA defensemen this summer. Oduya's playoff experience (he won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013) could be invaluable for the Blues. He's a good skater who plays well in his own zone.
Cost: Oduya's annual cap hit is $3.383 million this season. The Blues have limited cap space for 2015-16, but they might be able to sign the 33-year-old to a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Player to target: The Tampa Bay Lightning should target Florida Panthers left wing Scottie Upshall.
Reasons: The Lightning will need to replace aging left wing Brenden Morrow. Upshall, 31, is a hard-working, physical forward. He's a good skater, can play either wing and also has decent scoring ability.
Cost: Upshall's annual cap hit is $3.5 million, but the decline in his offensive production means he won't get anywhere near that amount this summer. The Lightning won't have much cap space, but Upshall might be affordable on a one-year, $1.5 million deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Player to target: The Toronto Maple Leafs should target Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll.
Reasons: The Leafs could stage a significant roster rebuild this summer. They'll need veteran leaders to mentor their young players. The 32-year-old Stoll has won two championships with the Kings. His experience and leadership could be crucial. He's also a seasoned checking forward who can play center or wing.
Cost: Stoll is earning $3.25 million per season on his current contract. It could cost the deep-pocketed Leafs $3.75 million annually on a three-year deal to land him.
Player to target: The Vancouver Canucks should target Winnipeg Jets forward Jiri Tlusty.
Reasons: The Canucks could use depth at left wing. Tlusty, 27, is a versatile forward who can play center or either wing position. He has 20-goal potential with good playmaking skills and could be a good fit on their second line.
Cost: Tlusty has a $2.95 million annual cap hit on his current deal. It could cost $3.5 million on a three-year deal to sign him.
Player to target: The Washington Capitals should target Los Angeles Kings right wing Justin Williams.
Reasons: The Capitals lack scoring depth on right wing, forcing them at times to use team captain Alexander Ovechkin in that role. Williams is a reliable top-six right wing with considerable playoff experience. He's won three Cup championships in his career. His experience and leadership could be valuable to the Capitals' Cup hopes.
Cost: Williams' cap hit on his current contract is $3.65 million. He'll turn 34 in October, so he's unlikely to receive long-term deals from here on out. It could cost around $4.25 million per season on a two-year deal to sign him.
Player to target: The Winnipeg Jets should re-sign winger Drew Stafford, who was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres as part of the Evander Kane trade in February.
Reasons: Stafford quickly fit in well with the Jets, tallying 17 points in 21 games. The 29-year-old winger has provided a welcome boost of experience and offensive skill to their roster. Stafford's offensive game, which suffered in Buffalo, has been rejuvenated in Winnipeg.
Cost: Stafford is earning $4 million per season on his current contract. He might be willing to consider the same salary on a two- or three-year extension to stay in Winnipeg.