Takin' a T/O With BT: The Bargain Basement Veterans of Free Agency

xx yySenior Writer IJuly 30, 2008

Have you ever been to a garage sale late in the day? Chances are the sale's been going for a few hours, all of the "quality" merchandise is gone, and the bargains have started coming out.

As you walk the driveway, you notice a box full of old records and start rummaging through it, hoping that you'll find that one treasure that no one else was able to find.
Whatever it is—be it Elvis, ABBA, the BeeGees, or Queen—the moment it hits your hands, you know you've found your diamond in the rough, and a record that would sell for some outrageous price on the open market out of a retail outlet is yours for fifty cents.

That's kind of what August is like for the NHL—by mid-July, a lot of the quality free agents are off the market, leaving teams to scrape around the bottom of the barrel, looking for players to fill out their roster and maybe find a quality character guy, or a player who could put up ten or fifteen goals.

So with August one day away, who are the best of the rest in NHL free agency this season? Well, the obvious answer is Brendan Shanahan, Teemu Selanne, and Mats Sundin. But obvious isn't fun, so get ready to dig a little deeper and journey through some of the veterans remaining on the NHL free agency list.

Remember, this isn't so much the "best of the rest" as it's...well...the rest:

Glen Murray and Mark Parrish

We're going to start the list off with recently bought-out forward Glen Murray―a former 30-goal scorer who became hindered by a defense-first system (and barring a waiver claim, Parrish will be bought out by Minnesota).

Teams may first shy away from Murray because of his age. At 35, the legs that propel that 6'3", 215-lb. frame will start to slow, and his hands may not be as soft as they used to be. His numbers from last year (17 goals, 13 assists in 63 games) may not do much to diffuse his downward trend.

But don't be fooled—Murray has proven to be one of the few big men that hasn't been hindered by the lockout and the infusion of free-range hockey.

Despite last season's less-than-stellar showing, Murray scored 24 and 28 goals in the years following the lockout. And if he had played in those extra 19 games he missed with a hip flexor injury last season, Murray could have easily broken the 20-goal barrier for the sixth straight year.

Thirty-five or not, a team in need of a big strong forward who has a nose for the net should eye up Murray, who was more of a cap casualty—making $4.15 million this season—than anything.

Speaking of cap casualties however, the Minnesota Wild seem to be ready to part ways with Mark Parrish, as they've waived the veteran forward who still has three years remaining on his contract.

At $2.65 million this season, a player of Parrish's potential offensive output seemed to be a bargain by today's standards, but the Wild didn't think so.

Since signing with the Wild, it seemed that Parrish had trouble finding the net—or that Jacques Lemaire had trouble getting his team out of the neutral zone—as Parrish had two consecutive years with less than 20 goals.

To put that stat in perspective, the only season in the NHL before that which Parrish had fewer than 20 was in 1999 with the New York Islanders.

Parrish is still at a prime age for an NHL player (31), and surely has the ability to put the puck in the net if he can find himself a nice, offensively-minded system to settle  into.

Stephane Yelle

Some teams (specifically the younger, rebuilding teams) don't need scoring as much as they need responsible, team-oriented, experienced players. This would be where Stephane Yelle comes in.

Yelle will never be a break-the-bank signing (he made $1.25 million last season), but in a lot of ways he'll never get the recognition he should.

On younger teams, Yelle can teach the value of being responsible for your man, the importance of killing penalties, and the art of blocking shots. Having never been a goal scorer in the NHL, Yelle can also teach players the importance of what they're doing when they aren't scoring goals.

That, and he's got a hard-earned Stanley Cup ring to boot.  If that doesn't perk up the youngsters eyes and ears, they may want to consider a career as a realtor.

To be completely honest, if the Leafs weren't already full-up on forwards, I'd push for them to sign Yelle. In fact, I've wanted to see him in Toronto for years.

But because he's 34, and due to the way he plays the game, Yelle may not have a lot of years left in his career.   One has to wonder whether he'd take on a leadership role with a rebuilding team, or if he'd rather take on a lesser role with a winning team.
Either way though, some team is going to get a hell of a player.

Jassen Cullimore

Aside from his Stanley Cup ring, you may only know Jassen Cullimore as one of the players that the Montreal Canadiens were able to acquire from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Sergei Samsonov.

Cullimore isn't worth much more than last years' $535,000 salary anymore, but as an extra defenseman on a team looking for experience, you can't really go wrong. That, and he was a plus-21 on the Florida Panthers last season

Martin Lapointe

Lapointe that played the Boston screwjob perfectly. Following a 27-goal season in 2000-01 with the Detroit Red Wings and two Stanley Cups in the mid-90's, Lapointe went to Boston and watched his production dissipate while signed to a pricey, four-year contract.

Following a total of six goals last season (spent between Chicago and Ottawa), no one is going to sign Lapointe and expect point production. They're going to expect a physical presence, some experience, and a two-way presence. He may be worth a training camp invite at this point in time.

Bryan Smolinski and Yanic Perreault

Neither player has blow-away offensive skills, but both can still win faceoffs at any point in the game.

The fact that Smolinski was unable to score in his final nine playoff games last season is a deterrent—although Perreault missed 21 of Chicago's last 27 games last year due to injury.

If your team is looking for a faceoff specialist to play low-line minutes and there isn't an NHL-ready player on the roster to fill that role, then these two are worth the consideration.

Needless to say, there are a lot of familiar names on here that may or may not have what it takes to play in NHL for a few more seasons.  There aren't that many "no-name" free agents out there that I'd be willing to give an opportunity to win a spot on my favorite team, so the best strategy at this point in time is to fill from within.

That is, unless you're hell-bent on your favorite team signing Jordan Sigalet, Prestin Ryan, or Jari Viuhkola. If that's the case, I'm pretty sure they're still taking contract offers.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report and an NHL Community Leader. If you want to get in contact with Bryan, you can do so through his Profile, and you can also check out his past work in his archives.


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