It happens every year, and 2010 will be no different. A player will enter the free agency market with high expectations for themselves. They'll set a price that their former team doesn't match, or had no intentions of even discussing with them. A few teams will nibble around with lower offers or shorter terms, but none will go quite where the man in question wants. As July 1 turns to July 2, days become weeks, and weeks become months, the bulk of the free agency activity will have finished.
And that player will be left out in the heat of late August with nowhere to go, having to settle for a training camp invite and a five-man battle for a final roster spot.
Some have had glorious offensive spurts in their offensive career, but get overlooked for one reason or another. Sure there are surprise talents like Maxim Afinogenov who turn it around after no quality offers came there way. But for every one of those there are five or six Jason Allisons or Adam Deadmarshes.
So while Robert Lang and Saku Koivu may see a rebirth through this route come September, here are ten other players that may need a training camp invite more than anyone else...
10. Adam Mair, Forward, Formerly a Buffalo Sabre
Mair hasn't done much offensively during his career, but that was never what was expected of him. He's a tough, gritty, down-low kind of guy who'll do wonders for a third or fourth line. A true character guy who'll go to war ever night for you. And hey, there's upside: He recorded his first power play point post-lockout this year.
9. Dean McAmmond, Forward, Formerly a New Jersey Devil
Only twice has McAmmond really ever tapped into the offensive talent that he displayed in junior, settling for a checking line role when healthy. And of course, that's the key, as he's battled more than just concussions since entering the league in 1991. After 17 NHL seasons teams know what they're getting with McAmmond, but they might benefit from a 15 goal season if they run the injury risk. Please note: It's a big risk.
8. Ruslan Salei, Defenseman, Formerly a Colorado Avalanche
Recent reports have the Anaheim Ducks interested in their former defenseman, so Salei might see himself with a little job security come the end of July. Either way, Salei played a solid 15 games this year after seeing his regular season and playoffs erased by injuries. If healthy, he'll at least bring a veteran presence to a blueline that could use some shoring up. A best case scenario? He stays in he lineup and puts up 20-25 points. Worst case? He throws his back out trying to demolish a right winger too short to ride a roller coaster.
7. Jamie Lundmark, Forward, Formerly a Toronto Maple Leaf
Every so often Lundmark figures out his offensive game at the NHL level—it just never seems to last a whole season. In his first full season with the New York Rangers, Lundmark had 19 points in his first 55 NHL games. Then in 2005/06, he had 18 points in 38 games with Phoenix. And two years ago? We thought Lundmark had it down pat when he nabbed 16 points in 28 games as a Calgary Flames call-up. But after spending last season split between Calgary, Toronto, and Abbotsford we're left to wonder again. The way it looks, within the next two years Lundmark will probably hit another hot streak.
6. Fredrik Modin, Forward, Formerly a Los Angeles King
If you need a poster boy for injury-prone production, look no further than Modin. Once a hulking 30-goal threat, Modin's career was ripped apart by injuries. There's great promise still in that aged, 6'4" frame, the trick is just keeping it on the ice. Following his acquisition from Columbus, Modin looked to fit in pretty well walking out from the corner with the Kings, and in the playoffs had three goals in six games. While five goals in 44 games isn't very promising, the Swede may have one 20-goal campaign left, and someone could get it on the cheap. Or he retires on IR. It's 60/40 really.
5. Matt Pettinger, Forward, Formerly a Vancouver Canuck
Pettinger probably has the most on his side of anyone on this list so far. While he hasn't seen production levels like Modin has, he's been far healthier than most of the others. Over the course of a season with a little bit of ice time, Pettinger has been known to squeak together a 15-goal, 35-point season if he can stay in the NHL an entire year. That might be easier written than accomplished though: Pettinger is a nice, robust minus-50 in the NHL since the start of the 2003/04 campaign. Bizzaro-Selke anyone?
4. Kyle Calder, Forward, Formerly an Anaheim Duck
Calder came across multiple leagues to make it on this list. The former-Chicago Blackhawk battled his way out of the ECHL this year, shrugged off an eye injury, and proved that he's still got some AHL pop (30 points in 40 games). In 2005/06 he had 59 points but then it all seemed to go downhill. His last full NHL season saw him push in 27 points, and those AHL numbers suggest he may have something left to give a team. Either that, or he just goes back to dominating the ECHL.
3. Brian Pothier, Defenseman, Formerly a Carolina Hurricane
Pothier is a quick-moving offensive defenseman that had 35-40 point potential. If the world was fair, Pothier would probably be licking his chops at the opportunity to get a fair bit of cash thrown his way this summer. Alas, like one out of every sixteen NHL'ers (Made up stat but it sounds pretty close eh?) Pothier's concussion problems made things a tad difficult. Even this year he couldn't escape the injury bug, but his 61 games and 15 points give him a leg to stand on.
2. Mike Van Ryn, Defenseman, Formerly a Toronto Maple Leaf
Transitioning from head to leg injuries, Mike Van Ryn should be on a few radars. Granted having not played in the NHL since the 2009 Trade Deadline doesn't help, but he was a 30-35 point guy when he was healthy. It'll be interesting to see what he's got left mobility-wise after his MCL problems, but for a team like Calgary or Boston (amongst the bottom-dwellers in Power Play goals for last year), you could just prop him up on the blueline and let him shoot. I mean, it's worth trying isn't it?
UPDATE: Well it appears that Van Ryn won't be playing in the upcoming season. So seeing as he won't be utilizing a training camp invite, we'll sub in another defenseman. Perhaps a guy like former Chicago Blackhawk Jassen Cullimore? Nothing spectacular, but he can provide low-pairing depth and a solid mentor to some young defenders. If not, then what about Fernando Pisani or Andreas Lilja.
1. Jonathan Cheechoo, Forward, Formerly an Ottawa Senator
This strange spiral that Cheechoo has been on since winning the 2006 Rocket Richard Trophy continued this year with a trip to the AHL, and culminated in the Sens giving up after one season. His 14 points were a career-worst at any level during any season he's played in, and it has to be the fastest fall from grace in NHL history. It's likely that Cheechoo settles for a training camp invite, but stranger things have happened. If he gets one though (Contract or invite), he'll have to make good on it. For him, it's now down to "produce or go home".