If a team is still looking for a right wing this offseason, they're going to have to look from the very top of the list "right" down to the very bottom in hopes of finding one on the free agent market.
Bad puns aside, that could very well be true. From the very start of NHL free agency this summer, which opened July 1st, the pool of UFA right wings has been very, very shallow. Although there are quite a few youthful RFA's with plenty of potential, such as Nashville's Patric Hornqvist, Boston's Blake Wheeler, and Atlanta's Niclas Bergfors, the selection of unrestricted right wingers is slim.
In fact, according to NHLnumbers.com, only two right wingers have yet signed with a different team than they played for last season: Colby Armstrong in Toronto and Tim Jackman in Calgary. Furthermore, there were only 37 UFA right wings at all when free agency opened (and I'll go ahead and say not many of those 37 are even worth considering), compared to 54 original UFA centers and 48 original UFA left-wingers.
Despite the limited options, however, there are still plenty of players left looking for a contract. Whether they'll get one or not is still yet to be determined...but here are 10 right wingers who might have a chance to make an impact next season.
2009-2010 Team: Edmonton Oilers
2009-2010 Salary: $2.5 million
When a player gets paid $2.5 million to produce eight points and a minus-16 rating in 40 games, it's always a bad sign for his team. It's also always a bad sign when that player is among the top 10 of anything, as he is here.
Fernando Pisani is, simply put, not exactly the most appealing player left on the market. While, due to his age and production issues, Pisani could probably settle for near a million less he was paid in his expiring contract, it will be hard to see much interest in the Canadian.
Pisani's size (6'1", 205 lbs.) and experience (over 400 games played) may attract a few phone calls, but don't expect much hype surrounding Pisani until he signs.
2009-2010 Team: San Jose Sharks
2009-2010 Salary: $0.55 million
Jed Ortmeyer is the cheap quick fix to a fourth-line right wing need.
His 19 points and plus-four rating with San Jose this past year was certainly worth his inexpensive $550,000 salary, but it appears the Sharks may let him go.
However, those 19 points were a career high for Ortmeyer, which isn't exactly a compliment for a 31-year-old player. In fact, before this past season, he hadn't yet reached double-digits for a season in five years with the Rangers and Predators.
For a team in need of some depth at right wing that won't take up any significant portion of their cap space, though, Ortmeyer could fit right in.
2009-2010 Team: Anaheim Ducks/Atlanta Thrashers
2009-2010 Salary: $1.0 million
Evgeny Artyukhin, a 27-year-old bruiser, has played for three teams over just two seasons, and he could be headed to a fourth sometime soon. While the Russian posted just 16 points this season, practically matching his totals in his first two NHL seasons, Artyukhin's willingness to stand up for opponents in a fight may draw the interest of some size-lacking teams.
Size he will bring, too; at 6'4" and 255 lbs, Artyukhin might be better fit to be an NFL running back. Nonetheless, if he doesn't sign with the KHL where he does say he's received offers, Artyukhin may still be young and tough enough to draw some, although not too much, interest.
2009-2010 Team: New York Islanders
2009-2010 Salary: $0.8 million
Richard Park may be one of the most overlooked players in the NHL, and that's holding true in the lack of interest surrounding him this summer. In fact, the 34-year-old is just the second Korean-born player to reach the NHL level, and he's actually played very well at the NHL level over the years.
Park already has 13 NHL seasons and 684 appearances under his belt, adding to his experience of being assistant captain for the Islanders over the past three years. This past season, Park contributed 22 points and four game-winning goals, albeit a minus-nine rating, highlighting his defensive struggles, and a less-than-mediocre 6.4 goals-to-shots ratio.
Park brings some experience at a cheap price, certainly, but does has some flaws. With the complete silence surrounding his name, however, some team may use the lack of competition to ink him to a short, less-than-$1 million deal.
2009-2010 Team: Philadelphia Flyers
2009-2010 Salary: $0.64 million
Arron Asham's physical play through the 2010 NHL Playoffs made a name for himself. Now, it's time for him to find a new team for himself, as well.
The relentless winger, who racked up 126 minutes last season and is actually (and should be) proud of it, has spent time all over northeastern North America during his career. Now, if he's not re-signed by the Flyers, Asham may be bringing rough play to a new team.
In addition to all the hitting, Asham also put up 24 points during the regular season and seven more in the playoffs, creating some decent offensive numbers while playing a role primarily as a defensive bottom-six forward.
Asham will be cheap, and he will be tough: there's no question some team will be happy to have him. However, for now, we just don't really know what team that'll be.
2009-2010 Team: Boston Bruins
2009-2010 Salary: $0.7 million
After playing much of his career with the Buffalo Sabres, Miroslav Satan has recently traveled around the league as he ages into his mid-30s, making appearances for the Islanders, Penguins, and Bruins in just three years.
After being signed mid-season by Boston, Satan did play well after a time without a contract, putting up nine goals and a plus-eight rating in 38 regular season games before using his experience to add 10 more points and three game winners in 13 playoff games.
The winger will bring plenty of veteran leadership to the table wherever he goes, boasting over 1,000 career games and 735 points, in addition to eight different postseason berths. Satan has also represented Slovakia in the Winter Olympics three times during his career, including this past winter.
While any deal is unlikely to be very long-term, Satan brings enough to the table that he could be a solid addition for any young team.
2009-2010 Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
2009-2010 Salary: $2.0 million
If you want leadership, look no further.
Bill Guerin was drafted 21 years ago, has played in 1,263 NHL games for eight different teams, has already won the Stanley Cup...and can still put up 20-plus goals, as he showed in his 45-point performance for Pittsburgh last season. While he might have to take a major salary bump from his $2.0 million earned last year, Guerin can still bring a lot to a team at age 39.
While he isn't a perfect candidate for a franchise looking to rebuild, a young but contending team such as Los Angeles or Colorado could be perfect places for Guerin to sign a brief one-year contract. Despite a few injury issues over the past half-decade, Guerin is still as hardy as they come and can still produce like a legitimate second- or third-line winger.
2009-2010 Team: Anaheim Ducks
2009-2010 Salary: $2.0 million
Five-time Finnish Olympian Teemu Selanne is an improved Bill Guerin, in truth. Although he's a year older, Selanne's 1,186 career games, 606 career goals, 1,260 career points, and 97 career game-winning goals add plenty of NHL experience to any leadership-lacking team.
Like Guerin, Selanne may also see a drop in salary in any new contract, but he has still been productive enough to produce 102 points in 119 games over the past two seasons, despite suffering through injuries both years. Anaheim appears to be interested in re-signing him, but in the meantime, there are plenty of other teams looking into Selanne at the moment, and for good reason.
2009-2010 Team: Toronto Maple Leafs/Phoenix Coyotes
2009-2010 Salary: $3.5 million
Unlike many of the players we've already mentioned, Stempniak is significantly more expensive. However, he's also the only UFA right wing under the age of 30 to score more than 20 points last year...and he easily topped that mark.
Actually, Stempniak managed to put up a solid 48 points last year, including 30 with Toronto up to the trade deadline and then 18 from there on out with Phoenix. However, once Stempniak was moved to the desert, he was able to double his goal total (from 14 to 28) in less than one-third of the time it took him to reach 14 originally, in addition to turning his plus-minus rating around (from a minus-10 in 64 games to a plus-10 in 18 games).
Stempniak's best season wasn't actually this year, though. In 2006-2007, Stempniak recorded 27 goals and 25 assists for the St. Louis Blues, despite missing the playoffs.
With plenty of years left to go at age 27 and an already-established niche as a primary goal scorer, teams lacking in goals would all over Stempniak were his asking price just a tad lower. For now, though, we're left to speculation.
2009-2010 Team: Atlanta Thrashers
2009-2010 Salary: $0.8 million
After spending much of his career in Buffalo, playing 569 games there, the Sabres let him slide due to some persistent injury issues. However, one Atlanta picked him up, Afinogenov played his first full 82-game season and produced one of the best seasons of his career.
Tripling his 2008-2009 total, Afinogenov put up 24 goals and 37 assists for the Thrashers, finishing tied for first on the team in goals and also setting a career high in that regard. Amazingly, after playing for a Buffalo team that made the playoffs four times while he was there, Afinogenov was able to do this on an Atlanta team that finished five points out of the playoffs.
Many teams could be interested in acquiring Afinogenov for several years at just around $1.0 million per season, but with Toronto fighting hard to sign him, it may take a higher bid than that.