NHL Free Agents 2010: Top Ten Depth Guys Still Out There
Every year the players that get the most ink are those that light up the scoreboards. But often it is the depth players that make the big difference come playoff time.
In the past it was players like Mike Ricci, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Claude Lemieux, Jay Pandalfo, Ken Daneyko, Fernando Pisani, and the list goes on and on.
These are the unheralded third and fourth line players that play their hearts out for less pay than your average scorer.
Without further banter, here are the top remaining depth players currently available as unrestricted free agents (in no particular order).
Please comment below with your agreements, disagreements, comments, or other players you felt should garner attention.
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Alexei Ponikarovsky: Left Wing
The 6'4" 229lb, 30-year-old left winger from Kiev, Ukraine played last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Last season he recorded 146 hits, 43 blocked shots, 18 takeaways, 184 shots, 50 points, one game-winning goal, and a minus-one rating.
After spending his NHL career entirely with Toronto, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the deadline.
He was supposed to add another hard shot to the wing, but he appeared lost in much of his time with the Penguins.
He is a big body with a hard shot and although he does not use his big frame quite as much as he should he is still a valuable commodity.
He would settle in well in a second or third line role with a contending team.
Freddy Meyer: Defenseman
The 5'10" 192lb, 29-year-old defenseman from Sanbornville, NH, United States played last season for the New York Islanders.
Last season he recorded 178 hits, 87 blocked shots, 42 takeaways, 56 shots, 15 points, and a minus-two rating.
The 2009-10 NHL season was his third season with the Islanders after being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes on waivers November 10, 2007. In that time he has steadily become a solid third pairing defender.
While he does not provide too much in terms of offense and he is a little on the small side, he makes up for it with his physical play and willingness to compete.
Aaron Ward: Defenseman
The 6'2" 209lb, 37-year-old defenseman from Windsor, ON, Canada played last season for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Anaheim Ducks.
Last season he recorded 177 hits, 136 blocked shots, 12 takeaways, 41 shots, 13 points, and a minus-15 rating.
He just completed his 13th, full NHL season at the age of 37.
He is also a former Stanley Cup winner, and he could be a valuable addition to a young team looking to make the playoffs.
Since he is nearing the end of the road in terms of his playing career, he did spend some time as an analyst for TSN this past season.
During his time on the broadcast crew he proved to have a knack for it and will likely find a role as a media member after his playing days are over.
Sean Bergenheim: Left Wing
The 5'10" 205lb, 26-year-old left winger from Helsinki, Finland played last season for the New York Islanders.
Last season he recorded 127 hits, 37 blocked shots, 57 takeaways, 133 shots, 23 points, and a plus-one rating.
He has now completed his third full NHL season and each year he has at least 10 goals and 20 points.
He has become a solid third line winger that may still have second line scoring potential.
He would be worth it to a young, rebuilding team taking a chance to see how much he could develop. If nothing else he should be a solid 15 goal, 30 point third line for much of his NHL career.
Richard Park: Right Wing
The 5'11" 190lb, 34-year-old right winger from Seoul, Korea played last season for the New York Islanders.
Last season he recorded 39 hits, 56 blocked shots, 61 takeaways, 146 shots, 31 points, one shorthanded goal, four game winning goals and a minus-nine rating.
The veteran just finished his fourth full season with the New York Islanders.
He is been very durable, playing in 316 of 328 games from the 2006-07 season to the present.
He is a solid 10-goal, 30-point third line player.
He is not a grinder by any means with only 39 hits in 81 games last season. But he is a solid penalty killer and would be very valuable to a contending team.
He also has a knack for scoring important goals with 18 of his 95 career goals being game winners. Last season four of his nine goals were game winners.
Ruslan Fedotenko: Left Wing
Mike Weaver: Defenseman
The 5'9" 186lb, 32-year-old defenseman from Bramalea, ON, Canada played last season for the St. Louis Blues.
Last season he recorded 48 hits, 127 blocked shots, 30 takeaways, 33 shots, 10 points, and a plus-10 rating.
He spent his second NHL season with the St. Louis Blues and, despite his size, he showed himself to be an effective NHL defender. He would be a serviceable sixth or seventh defenseman for any team in the league.
Steve Begin: Left Wing
The 6'0" 192lb, 32-year-old left winger from Trois-Rivieres, QC, Canada played last season for the Boston Bruins.
Last season he recorded 184 hits, 32 blocked shots, 25 takeaways, 110 shots, 14 points, one shorthanded goal, two game-winning goals and a minus-seven rating.
He was originally drafted in the second round by the Calgary Flames in 1996.
He found a full-time role as a solid defensive fourth line player that can kill penalties and saw time in 51 games in 2001.
He is a favorite of current Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. He coached him when he was with the Montreal Canadiens and again last season in Boston. Look for the Bruins to resign this effective veteran player before the start of the season.
John Madden: Center
Jay Mckee: Defenseman
The 6'4" 203lb, 32-year-old defenseman from Kingston, ON, Canada played last season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Last season he recorded 59 hits, 137 blocked shots, four takeaways, 42 shots, 10 points, and a plus-6 rating.
This past year he averaged 2:42 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill and 15:09 minutes overall per game.
Although he is still solid defensively, he offers little in terms of the offensive side of the game.
He just finished his 13th full season in the NHL.
Although he is still a solid veteran capable of playing on the third pairing for a contending team, the wear and tear is beginning to show on his body.