By: Matthew Solomon
With the kickoff to NHL free agency starting today, July 1st, we figured now would be a good time to take a look at the market for free agency in the NHL. What you will read here is some of the bigger names in the NHL and where I feel would possibly be the best fit for them. I am basing on the talent of certain clubs or cap space available. So with that in mind here we go with NHL Free Agency.
There are too many names to fully go through so what will happen here is we will take a look at some of the big names that are on the free agent market this year by position. The first two names to really jump out at you among the left wingers are Ryan Smyth and Zach Parise. Last year, Parise was 3rd on the Devils in scoring with 69 points on 31 goals and 38 assists. This past season was a slightly down one for Zach. He missed most of the year before due to injuries, but in his last two full seasons prior to this he scored 84 and 95 points respectively. So it’s no real secret that Zach can put up points. His salary last season was $6 million even and the Devils appear to have the cap space to be able to bring him back. The big question is where does Zach want to play next season. Rumors have been floating around of a few teams that he might be interested in such as the Rangers, Wild, and even possibly Pittsburgh (although there is no guarantee he considered them). One team that would need his skills the most would be his current team the Devils, as he is their Captain and one of their top scorers. The other is the Wild who were last in the NHL in goals per game last season at 2.02. So where he ends up is still a mystery but it would be nice to see him stay put in Jersey.
As for Ryan Smyth, he has a big choice to make with his career. He’s 36 years old and will be attempting to come back to Edmonton this season. He finished 5th on the young Oilers club last year with 46 points, his lowest point total as an Oiler since 1999. Smyth’s salary is at $6.25 million a year and the Oilers have the cap space to burn right now at over $26.6 million. The question with the Oilers is how badly do they want to keep Captain Canada in Edmonton. I think the Oilers need him enough as a scorer and leader. This is why Smyth stays an Oiler.
Moving on to right wingers, there are three big names hitting the market this summer: Alex Semin, Jaromir Jagr, and Teemu Selanne. As for Alex Semin, he is tougher to read. He was 2nd on Washington in scoring last year with 54 points, behind only Alex Ovechkin. Semin’s salary last season was $6.7 million per year and cap space isn’t an issue in DC as the Caps have a shade over $20.9 Million in space to work with. Biggest priority for the Caps this offseason, aside from hiring a new head coach, is bringing back Alexander Semin who is the 2nd best offensive player on the club behind Mr. Ovechkin.
With Jaromir Jagr, his age really has to be taken into account here, same thing with Selanne. Last year, Jagr was 3rd on the Flyers in scoring with 54 points, and had a salary of $3.3 million. He said he wanted to try and test the free agent market this summer and see if any other teams might be interested. There are no reports as to who may take a shot on Jagr, but there are a few teams that have plenty of cap space to go after him. Only thing I worry about with Jagr is that he’s 40 going on 41, so whatever team decides to pick him up would be taking a slight chance.
Another guy getting up there in age and still going strong is Teemu Selanne. The Finnish Flash is 41 and commanding a salary of $4 million a season. He led the Ducks in scoring last season with 66 points, but the Ducks failed to make the playoffs. There are two places I can really see Selanne going; either he is going to stay put in Anaheim or he will try and possibly go back to the Jets in Winnipeg and finish his career in the city he started, although not with the exact same franchise. Both the Ducks and Jets have plenty of cap room to try and make a bid for the Flash.
The center position doesn’t offer too much in terms of quality available this year in free agency. The biggest free agent centers this year are Daymond Langkow, Oli Jokinen and Jason Arrnott. Langkow is 35 years old and put up 30 points last year, good for 9th on Phoenix in scoring. He usually hits around 50 points or higher a season but has had a little trouble scoring the last few years. The Coyotes have enough cap space to consider keeping a guy like Langkow, but with others on the team about to hit free agency like Aucoin, Doan, and Whitney, the Coyotes may want to see if they can get him at a slightly lower price.
With Jason Arrnott, he was 7th on the Blues in scoring last season with 34 points, and that is slightly below average for him. Again, age is a factor in this decision and Arrnott is 37 and had a salary last year of a shade over $2.8 million. The Blues have enough cap space at over $28 million to be able to keep him.
Finally, with Oli Jokenin, he is coming off a good year, finishing 2nd on the Flames in scoring with 61 points, just 6 points back of team leader Jarome Iginla. Joeknin made $3 million last year in Calgary and the Flames have plenty of room in the cap space left at over $20 million. So I’d be looking for the Flames to retain him this season, and for a few more to come.
As it comes to defensemen there are plenty of quality players to choose from on the blue line, all of whom command a high salary. There are three in particular that are worth looking at and they are: Michael Rosival, Denis Wideman, and Pavel Kubina. Rosival commands the highest salary among free agent defensemen this year, with him earning $5 million a year with Phoenix last year. He scored only one goal and had 12 assists for 13 points in getting the Coyotes to the playoffs. Phoenix has a tough decision to make this summer as to whether or not to keep him or Adrian Aucoin. Aucoin makes $2 million a year which is $3 million less than what Rosival had. Picking between the two, age has to be a factor as Aucoin is 38 and Rosival is 33. With both guys healthy, Aucoin has put up SLIGHTLY better offensive numbers than Rosival but Rosival is younger. I wouldn’t worry too much about it because the Coyotes have plenty of cap space to try and sign both guys. This is just something to think about. If the decision were mine I would keep Rosival only because he has a few more quality years in him than Aucoin.
As for Denis Wideman, he has a decision to make. He’s 29 years old and won a Cup with Boston in 2010. He is making a shade under $4 million with the caps right now. And Washington needs to worry about trying to lock up two other key players in Alex Semin and restricted free agent Mike Green. If you look at other teams that may try to pick Wideman up, Boston can’t really because they don’t have much available cap space left with the roster they already have. Teams that may possibly make a bid for Wideman, based on needs and cap space, would possibly be the Islanders, Jackets, Leafs, Lightning and Jets. So we shall wait and see where he ends up.
Finally, we look at options for Pavel Kubina. He won a Cup in ‘04 with the Lightning and right now that might be the place I can see him heading back to. He’s 35 and earns about a shade over $3.8 million a year. Tampa looked after last season like they really needed some help on the blue line and in goal. By adding Kubina back to the mix that would really be able to help them out.
The last position we need to look at is goaltending. Before taking a look at some of the goalies available, the teams that need help with goaltending the most are the Lightning and Islanders. Tampa Bay had the worst goals against per game average in the NHL last year. Dwayne Rolson is 42 and a free agent and I can’t, in all honesty, see Tampa picking him up again after the dismal year he had last season. Right now Matheau Garon is the only goalie locked up under contract to the lightning. So for Tampa to try and add some stability to the position I would say they try and look into either Antero Ninttymaki or Michael Leighton. As for the Islanders they only have a healthy Nabakov under contract as DiPietro is still a question mark with all his health issues. Now it has been rumored, repeat rumored, that Al Montoya is going to try and play overseas. If that’s the case then fine, there is nothing they can do. But if not I would at least try and bring him back into the fold as he is a very capable netminder.
The one surprise goalie on this list is Andrew Raycroft. He won the Calder trophy in 2004 as a member of the Boston Bruins but since hockey came back after the lockout he hasn’t seemed the same. For a once good goalie this is a sad scene and here’s hoping he can find a steady job in the NHL and return to form.
NHL Free Agency kicks off July 1st and as it has been in the past, makes for a fun summer of watching who is gonna sign where.
*Salary Information provided by Capgeek.com*
** Stats provided by nhl.com**
** Stats provided by nhl.com**
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