2010 NHL Free Agency: Top Five Options for the Pittsburgh Penguins
On July 1st of this summer, the NHL's free agency period officially gets underway.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Executive Vice President and General Manager Ray Shero has not been one to shy away from making big moves since being named GM in 2006.
Expect more of the same from him this off-season.
With centers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal all signed to long-term deals, the Pens are always going to have a need for wingers, while the loss of Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill last offseason has rendered them desperate for defensive-minded defensemen.
The Pens enter this year's offseason with eight unrestricted free agents and not too much cap space to work with (approximately $14 million), but I still suspect moves will be made to try and bring in some of the top players in this year's free agent pool.
With that in mind, here are the top five unrestricted free agents who would fit in well with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James - SF
You can't have a free agency article these days without mentioning this guy, right?
Throw him on skates, stick him in front of the net, and you've got the best power forward in hockey.
Honorable Mention: Colby Armstrong - RW
2009-2010 Cap Hit: $2.4 Million
Going after Colby Armstrong would only make sense if the Penguins fail to sign unrestricted free agent Matt Cooke.
If that is the case, the Pens would lose a much needed physical presence and a guy who has the ability to get under the opposition's skin.
How could they fill that void? Go out and sign Colby Armstrong.
Armstrong plays a physical brand of hockey, has goal scoring capabilities, and was best friend to Sidney Crosby in his previous stint with Pittsburgh.
Colby was beloved by all of Pittsburgh, including his teammates, in his time there and could be the agitator to fill in for the loss of Matt Cooke if he is to leave.
5. Andy Sutton - D
2009-2010 Cap Hit: $3.0 Million
Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens have seen what an immense impact a big defenseman can have via the play of Hal Gill.
Gill was a crucial part of the Penguins' 2008-2009 Stanley Cup run and played a big role in the containment of Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the Montreal Canadiens in this year's playoffs.
With that in mind, at 6'6", 245 lbs, Andy Sutton is the biggest unrestricted free agent in this year's pool.
He's extremely physical and has a mean streak that the Penguins witnessed first hand after he drove Pascal Dupuis head first into the boards while playing for the Islanders in the 2009-2010 season. He also knocked out Pens' defenseman Jordan Leopold in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals while playing for the Senators.
I think that's a nasty streak the Pens could benefit from.
One down side to Sutton, however, is his age. At 35-years-old, the Penguins might be hesitant to make a move on him, especially if he demands the $3 million he earned last year.
4. Lee Stempniak - RW
2009-2010 Cap Hit: $2.5 Million
Lee Stempniak has received a lot of recent attention thanks to his stellar play with the Coyotes after being traded from the Maple Leafs before the 2009-2010 trade deadline.
In 18 regular season games with Phoenix, Stempniak tallied 14 goals and 18 points, was named the player of the month for March, and proved he could be the scoring winger the Penguins need.
Despite his lackluster performance in the playoffs (no goals, two assists in seven games), Stempniak is only 27 years of age and would have a great opportunity to develop aside the best group of centers in the NHL if he were to sign with Pittsburgh.
3. Alexander Frolov - LW
2009-2010 Cap Hit: $2.9 Million
Outside of Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Frolov is the best winger in this year's free agent pool.
In the 2009-2010 Regular Season Frolov had one of the worst seasons of his career, scoring just 19 goals and 51 points—small numbers for a guy of his talent level.
Frolov has long been touted as an underachiever; a guy who doesn't use his size (6'2", 210 lbs) to his advantage and takes plays off.
However, I think playing alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin could bring out Frolov's best, where he could become a consistent 30-goal scorer.
Frolov would take a decent amount of money for the Pens to sign, meaning they would probably have to let Bill Guerin walk, along with Ruslan Fedotenko and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
2. Dan Hamhuis - D
2009-2010 Cap Hit: $2.0 Million
It's only fitting that the top two free agent options for the Pittsburgh Penguins this offiseason would be two of the best defensemen in this year's pool—Dan Hamhuis being the second-best option.
At 6'1", 205 lbs, Hamhuis isn't going to overwhelm you with his physical presence, but he is a cerebral player capable of moving the puck quickly out of his own zone without making mistakes, something the Pens' current defensemen have yet to master.
There's nothing flashy about Dan Hamhuis, just a solid, stay-at-home defenseman that the Penguins so desperately long for.
1. Anton Volchenkov - D
2009-2010 Cap Hit: $2.5 Million
Anton Volchenkov is far and away the best option for the Pittsburgh Penguins entering the 2010 free agency period.
At 28 years of age, he is still relatively young, meaning the Pens could sign him to a long-term deal.
He's a physical force, coming in at 6'1", 230 lbs, and is one of, if not the best shot-blocker in the NHL.
In a star-studded Eastern Conference with the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Steven Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, and Zach Parise, the Penguins need a defensive pairing capable of shutting down their opponent's top line.
I think an Orpik-Volchenkov pairing could do just that.
Simply put, Anton Volchenkov is exactly the kind of player the Penguins need in order to make another run for Lord Stanley's Cup.