NHL Free Agency 2011: The 13 Best Goal-Scorers Available and Where They'll Go
As we enter the final month of the the NHL offseason, we look at what was a fairly non-eventful free agency period of 2011. The free agent class was not all that impressive, but some big deals were made: among them, the re-signings of Zach Parise and Steven Stamkos, and the signings of Ilya Bryzgalov, Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Richards.
Now we take a look at what's left out there for unrestricted free agents. We rank the best remaining and where they will go. So without further interruption, let's gets on with the show.
13. Chris Clark, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
At one point, Chris Clark was a 30-goal scorer in the NHL. Today he's nothing more than a third- or fourth-line player on a good team.
He's a good gamble though for a team with some cap space. He's 35 years old and has already entered his downhill descent to retirement. What he can provide is veteran leadership and a solid two-way game. He's been injured pretty heavily since leaving Washington, so he could have one good season left in the can.
2011 NHL Team: Winnipeg Jets
A team in dire need of some veteran leadership, Clark here fills the void.
12. Ethan Moreau, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
Ethan Moreau won't wow you with offensive flair, but his leadership and defensive play are what makes him a great team guy to have on your squad.
2011 NHL Team: Edmonton Oilers
With the return of Ryan Smyth to the Oilers, it would not surprise me to see them also bring back Moreau. The team needs a lot of veteran leadership, so why not bring in two players familiar with the city, fans and front office to get the job done.
11. Rob Niedermayer, F, Buffalo Sabres
A very good faceoff man and a great veteran leader. He's a great guy to have on your bottom six and would likely elevate himself to a top penalty killer on any squad he goes on. He has some scoring touch, which should bode well for him as he winds his career down.
2011 NHL Team: Detroit Red Wings
With Kris Draper and Brian Rafalski retiring, and losing out of defender Christian Ehrhoff, I see Rob Niedermayer fitting in nicely with the Red Wings.
10. Mike Comrie, F, Pittsburgh Penguins
Yet another former 30-goal scorer, Mike Comrie has been hit by the injury bug the last few seasons. His last semi-full season came in 2007-08 with the Islanders in which he scored 21 goals in 76 games.
Comrie may not have an opening to play in the NHL next season, but who knows, he may make his way back someday.
2011 NHL Team: Anaheim Ducks
With a relatively old veteran second line featuring Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Jason Blake last season, adding Comrie to the mix wouldn't really make him an outcast on the squad. The Ducks need to sign at least four more players, and Comrie—after the season he had—could be a decent pickup. By moving to the L.A. area, he would be closer to his wife Hilary Duff.
9. Trent Hunter, F, New Jersey Devils
After being traded for Brian Rolston, I thought Hunter would stick with the Devils. But I was wrong, and the Devils decided to buy out Hunter as they re-signed Zach Parise to a new one-year, $6 million dollar contract.
Hunter can provide a good second- or third-line scoring right winger who can pot around 15-25 goals a year. He's only eclipsed the 50-point mark once in his NHL career, so the market is not buzzing about Hunter right now.
2011 NHL Team: Ottawa Senators
He's a nice veteran piece to add to the team's third line. Hunter could fit in pretty well with the Senators.
8. Kyle Wellwood, F, San Jose Sharks
With the St. John's Maple Leafs back in 2004-05, Wellwood scored 38 goals and added 47 assists. The small forward is only 27 and still has some upside.
He has great hands and good vision, but his lack of size and foot speed are the two issues with his game.
He's still a good add for any young squad looking for a third-line player to add to their attack.
2011 NHL Team: Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks only have 19 players under contract, and already being familiar with his game after playing with the Sharks, I can see the Ducks sending him an invitation to training camp. He could play alongside newcomer Andrew Cogliano.
7. Mike Modano, F, Detroit Red Wings
Mike Modano was the face of Dallas Stars hockey for many years and also a prominent face in American hockey for many years. Last season was one of the first years of his career in which he saw limited ice time.
The former 50-goal scorer with the Stars signed in Detroit, his hometown, for one season, possibly playing out the final days of his NHL career at home.
With no news yet of a retirement, Modano could still be contemplating a return to the NHL.
2011 NHL Team: Retirement
After all of this, I believe he will retire from hockey.
6. JP Dumont, F, Nashville Predators
In the previous two seasons, Dumont has seen his role with the Preds diminish greatly. However, Dumont eclipsed the 60-point mark in each of the prior three seasons.
Dumont is one of those candidates for comeback player of the year if he finds a team that could use him in their second or third lines. At 32 years of age, he still has plenty left in the tank.
2011 NHL Team: Montreal Canadiens
With the roller-coaster ride play of Andrei Kostitsyn, I can see the Habs going after Dumont, a Montreal native, as some insurance in case Kostitsyn decides to disappear again.
Dumont's veteran leadership and impact on the score sheet would be a welcome addition in Montreal.
5. Cory Stillman, F, Carolina Hurricanes
Another one of those decent offensive players who can provide a young team with valuable veteran leadership. Stillman is currently looking for a new home in 2011, as it was announced the Canes were going another direction and not resigning him.
2011 NHL Team: Boston Bruins
After losing Mark Recchi to retirement, I think Stillman would fit in nicely next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the Bruins' second line.
4. Chris Drury, F, New York Rangers
Chris Drury was recently bought out by the New York Rangers, officially making him a free agent. Drury's decline has been noticeable, and before the buy out, he had one of the top three worst contracts in the NHL.
So what can Drury still provide a team? He can still win draws, compete, kill penalties, add the odd goal or two and provide veteran leadership. He was the Rangers captain before the buy out.
2011 NHL Team: Phoenix Coyotes.
I think Drury is one of those perfect fits for the Dave Tippett system. He will look decent on that offense-by-committee team in Arizona.
3. Bryan McCabe, D, New York Rangers
I'm still surprised Bryan McCabe has not found a home for the 2011 season. He's a good option to have on the power play, as he's got a great shot—if it hits the net. He still has some shortcomings as he's pretty bad defensively and really is starting to lack good foot speed.
His role nowadays may be as a No. 4 to No. 6 defenseman who sees more ice time on the power play.
His best season came in 2005-06 with the Leafs, when he scored 19 goals and assisted on 49 for a total of 68 points in 82 games.
2011 NHL Team: Florida Panthers
They go with familiarity, so they elect to take the best defenseman left on the market. McCabe used to play for the Panthers until he was dealt to the Rangers to close out last season. I can see him playing alongside Dmitri Kulikov on the team's power play if signed.
2. Nikolay Zherdev, F, Philadelphia Flyers
If it wasn't for the KHL, Zherdev would be signed by now. However, teams are staying away from Zherdev because of the fears he'll leave for Russia. Well, that along with his overall lack of heart when playing the game could draw the ire of many head coaches in the NHL.
2011 NHL Team: Signs in KHL
I don't see a team taking him on, and he'll elect to go with the Alexander Frolov option and sign back home in Russia. Does it surprise me? Not really.
1. Teemu Selanne, F, Anaheim Ducks
Easily the best available player still standing in free agency, Teemu Selanne remains unsigned solely because he doesn't know whether he wants to play or not next season.
At the ripe old age of 41, Selanne is still scoring like the best of them, averaging nearly a point per game. If he signs, it will again be for one season.
2011 NHL team: Anaheim Ducks
If he returns, its my guess he'll re-sign with the Ducks and finish his career out in sunny Southern Cal.
The Ducks still have cap space and about four players to sign, so look for Selanne to be a Duck unless he retires.