NHL Free Agency: 10 Free Agents To Avoid
Every NHL team has at least a few of them every year.
Some are prime players who seem to have no problem getting signed right away.
Others...well...it's a little harder.
These are the players who are injury-prone, had less than stellar seasons, or have attitude issues that keep them from playing well with others.
These players can sometimes remain unemployed almost right until the start of the season. They go unsigned while others snatch up the prime contracts.
Whether these free agents have already (mistakenly) been signed or are still on the market, here are 10 free agents to avoid this summer.
Be sure to let me know what other players are out there who you think aren't worth looking at.
Olli Jokinen: Center, New York Rangers
Jokinen has played in 54 games with Calgary over parts of the last two seasons, scoring 21 points in 28 games in 2008-09 and 35 points in 56 games in 2009-10.
However, with the Flames struggling this past year, Jokinen was sent to the New York Rangers for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik. He posted 15 points in 26 games with the Rangers.
Jokinen's numbers aren't the problem. The problem is his inability to mesh with the Flames, notably Jarome Iginla.
Mark Ritter, one of my favorite featured columnists on B/R, recently wrote about the rather disappointing offseason the Flames were having so far.
Jokinen was recently re-signed by the Flames despite having on-ice chemistry problems with Iginla and being one of the main culprits as to why the team struggled last year.
While Jokinen still has a lot of on-ice talent, I have to agree with Mark and wonder why the Flames would sign someone who cannot play well with their franchise player.
Check out what Mark said about Jokinen:
Braydon Coburn: Defenseman, Philadelphia Flyers
Coburn has spent the last three seasons with the Flyers and was recently signed to a two-year contract extension.
However, since coming to the Flyers in 2007-08, his production has steadily gone downhill. He had 36 points in 2007-08 but only 19 points this year. His plus-17 rating from that season became a minus-6 rating this year.
Furthermore, during the Stanley Cup Finals, Coburn only had one assist and was a minus-9 rating.
Just like the majority of the Flyers, Coburn choked when it mattered most.
I'm not sure why Coburn's Finals performance merits a contract extension. I wonder what Paul Holmgren was thinking here...
Alexei Ponikarovsky: Left Wing, Pittsburgh Penguins
Once upon a time, the Pittsburgh Penguins were short on scoring wingers.
Ray Shero decided to fix the Penguins' problem by trading away top prospect Luca Caputi for someone who he thought was the answer: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Ponikarovsky came to the Penguins, put up unbelievable numbers, and the Penguins lived happily ever after...
That's not quite how it worked.
Prior to his trade, "Poni" put up 41 points in 61 games for the always struggling Maple Leafs.
After not being able to come to Pittsburgh right away due to some visa issues, Ponikarovsky finally made it across the US-Canada border.
Poni ended up being a healthy scratch most of the time and managed nine points in 16 games. He followed that up with five points in 11 playoff games.
Poni also has limited playoff experience. Before he played for Pittsburgh this past postseason, he last played in the playoffs in the 2003-04 season.
Lots of talk. Not enough walk.
Last I heard in the Twitter-verse, Shero wanted to sign this guy to another contract.
I know Shero is brilliant, but I would have to disagree with this one if it came about.
Petr Sykora: Right Wing, Minnesota Wild
Don't worry, Petr Sykora. I still have some affection for you.
After all, you scored that awesome goal in overtime of Game Five of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, ensuring the Red Wings wouldn't celebrate a win on their home ice.
But honestly, you've fallen fast and hard...and you're just not worth it anymore.
Sykora exited the Penguins on a low note after being a healthy scratch for much of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. That summer, he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild.
Sykora didn't exactly live up to his high-scoring potential with the Wild. He posted three points in 14 games before going down with a concussion.
In January, Sykora was put on waivers. After being passed on, he did not report to Minnesota's AHL affiliate and was considered a free agent.
Considering no one picked up Sykora then, and someone has yet to now, I don't have high hopes for him this summer. The fact that he burned a bridge in Minnesota will make it even harder.
Jose Theodore: Goalie, Washington Capitals
Theodore was on his way out of the Capitals organization in 2008-09 when he was pulled in favor of rookie Semyon Varlamov during the playoffs.
The Caps gave him another chance.
He did do OK the last two regular seasons. In 2008-09, he played in 57 games, and had a 2.87 GAA with a .900 save percentage.
This past year, he played 47 games and had a 2.81 GAA with a .911 save percentage.
But he ran into problems in the playoffs once again.
Theodore has only played in four postseason games in the past two years. In those games, he averaged a 3.70 GAA and a .846 save percentage.
Between his failure to show up in the playoffs and losing his starting spot to Varlamov, he will be hard-pressed to get a starting job this summer.
After all, he's not nicknamed "Three-or-More" for nothing.
Ray Emery: Goalie, Philadelphia Flyers
Ray Emery is crazy.
And not in a good way.
Aside from the fact that injuries limited his time with the Flyers to 29 games, he has a rap sheet longer than some real Philly criminals.
In Ottawa, he was known to fight with some of his teammates, both verbally and with his fists.
He has a history of being late for practices.
He has a lot of road rage. In fact, he's admitted to being stopped over 30 times by the police.
During a brief stint in the KHL, he had a fistfight with his trainer because he didn't want to wear a hat while sitting on the bench. He had just been pulled.
Need I keep going?
He is not a horrible goaltender. He had a record of 16-11-1 before he had to sit out the rest of the season.
But his wild personality and anger issues do not mesh well with the hockey culture.
Jody Shelley: Left Wing, New York Rangers
After looking at my notes, I realized that Shelley is probably the least problematic free agent on this list.
After all, every team needs an enforcer.
But Shelley does little else besides put up fighting majors.
He started the 2009-10 season with the San Jose Sharks, where he had three points in 36 games.
When he was traded to New York, he fared marginally better with six points in 21 games.
Wingers are supposed to be offensive-minded players, but Shelley doesn't really do a whole lot of that.
On top of his less than spectacular regular season totals, he has also appeared in 16 postseason games in his career, going scoreless in all of them.
But Paul Holmgren was amazed by this and gave Shelley a three-year contract.
Did the Flyers REALLY need another physical player who uses his fists so often?
Martin Biron: Goalie, New York Islanders
Biron spent the 2009-10 season with the New York Islanders and did not even play half the season, appearing in 29 games. He had a 9-14 record with a 3.27 GAA and .896 save percentage.
Biron was even sent to the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport for two games. He did not fare much better there, posting a 3.40 GAA and a .903 save percentage.
I know that the Islanders weren't exactly great this year, but I expect better from a goalie who has been in the NHL for 10 years and isn't exactly ancient at 32.
Glen Sather doesn't agree with me though. Biron got a two-year deal with the Rangers on the first day of free agency.
Dean McAmmond: Left Wing/Center, New Jersey Devils
McAmmond has been going downhill since he sustained a concussion when playing for the Ottawa Senators in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.
He got a second concussion in the following preseason and had pneumonia in 2008-09 before he was traded to the New York Islanders, where he put up nine points in 18 games.
As a result of his less than impressive 2008-09 campaign, McAmmond was left without any suitors during the 2009 free agency period.
He ended up joining the New Jersey Devils organization last October. After playing a short stint with the Devils' AHL team in Lowell, he was called up to New Jersey where he put up 17 points in 62 games.
The fact that McAmmond was not picked up until after the season began last year says that he does not have that extra "it factor" for a team to pick him up.
Marek Svatos: Right Wing, Colorado Avalanche
Svatos has somehow gotten injured every year since 2005-06, when he fractured his shoulder in the latter part of that season.
He has suffered a groin injury, a torn ACL, and a hand injury.
As a result of his injury problems, he did not play in any Avalanche postseason games during 2008 and 2010.
His offensive output has been down for the last three seasons. This year, he only put up 11 points in 54 games.
Svatos has some solid accomplishments, even with his limited playing time over the years. For example, when he tore his ACL in 2008, he was still second on the Avalanche with 28 goals.
But sooner or later, injury-prone players become too expensive, regardless of how much they do for the team.
Sergei Gonchar knows how you feel, Marek Svatos. And the Penguins cut ties with him as soon as free agency started last week.
Svatos is on his way to the same fate, and he has not done enough to convince a team to sign him in spite of the injuries.