NHL Free Agents 2011: 5 Free Agents Who Provide Best Additions to New Teams
Guys like Brad Richards and Jaromir Jagr are certainly more than capable of stealing the spotlight when it comes to a July free-agent signing. And not without good reason.
These are All-Star players with piles of points at the NHL level. But for every superstar on the team you need at least two or three lesser known "moving parts" to fill in the spaces between big contracts and bigger players.
And while bringing in a skater like Richards could possibly lead to a march toward the Stanley Cup, more often it is the peripheral signings that really start to shine come playoff time.
If you're looking for a list of the top names that moved this July, then you're in the wrong place. These are five non All-Star type players that could reward their teams in various different ways throughout the regular season and possibly the playoffs.
Mark Dekanich, Columbus Blue Jackets
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There he is folks. My dark horse for the Calder Trophy.
While you probably haven't heard of him yet, you may become very familiar with Mark Dekanich by the end of the season. He comes from the goalie factory that is the Nashville Predators with an outstanding pedigree.
The guy does nothing buy stop a high percentage of shots, hovering around .930 save percentage at every level he's played at, including the AHL, where he was an All Star. He came to Columbus on the promise of a one-way deal and the chance to backup the barely still the starter Steve Mason.
A guy like Dekanich only plays second fiddle to a goalie with a GAA over 3.00 for so long. The opportunity is there, and I don't think it'll be too long before we see him start taking the lion's share of the starts for an improved Columbus team.
Jamie Langenbrunner, St. Louis Blues
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The St, Louis Blues are a young team just brimming with 60-point scorers and potential. After an injury filled season they were looking for a way to get back on track and took a tried and true method in doing so.
Turns out getting guys like Jamie Langenbrunner in the room to wear their shiny Stanley Cup rings can make quite an impression on some 20-something players looking for an identity.
So the signing made a lot of sense for St. Louis—inject some veteran leadership into the young core. The Blues may have got a lot more than they could have hope for though, as Langenbrunner has really clicked on the team's top line and second power play unit.
Nothing beats bringing in a guy to flesh out your bottom six only to find he works out a lot better in a scoring role.
Steve Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
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I've been pretty vocal about how much I love the addition of Steve Sullivan for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sure, the old timer may be a bit fragile and may not play the entire 82-game schedule for the Pens, but he is still a talented winger—something they are a bit short of in Pittsburgh. His $1.5 million cap hit is very reasonable, and the team was banking on him developing some chemistry within the top six.
If the preseason was any indication, he'll fit in quite nicely as a complimentary piece to the dominating offensive talent that is on the roster for this squad. Thirty goals isn't out of the question for Sullivan. The only thing holding him back is his bill of health—or rather, the lack thereof.
Ian White, Detroit Red Wings
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The Detroit Red Wings started off their summer with a bit of a surprise, as blue-line anchor Brain Rafalski walked away from the last year of his contract and retired.
Replacing a top-pairing, puck-moving power play specialist in three months time while there is a shallow market for defenders is a tricky proposition. After free agency got underway, it was clear that teams were willing to overpay for exactly this commodity.
In true Kenny Holland fashion, he refused to play ball and buy into the ridiculous market. Instead he found a guy in Ian White that wanted to be a Red Wing, and at a fair price. No one is going to mistake White for Rafalski. Ever.
But he is a steady guy on the back end and is capable of making crisp outlet passes and perhaps even pitching in on the second power play unit.
Brian Boucher, Carolina Hurricanes
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Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward played in 74 games last season.
While there is little doubt that Ward is a workhorse of a netminder, that many games will wear on even the most tremendous athlete. What would have happened had the team made the playoffs? A feat that they weren't too far away from.
It's hard to think that Ward would have been geared up and ready for a long run.
The 'Canes seemed to acknowledge that when they upgraded their backup goalie by adding veteran Brian Boucher. It wasn't too long ago that Boucher was the guy in Philadelphia (though he was so five goaltenders ago...literally) and he brings a lot of stability with him to Carolina.
Expect at least 15 less games played from Ward this year in an attempt to keep him fresh for a playoff run, with those starts falling to Boucher.