Although the UFA market for defence is rather weak, this years’ crop of free
agent forwards is deeper in certain categories. There aren’t any premier
players on the market but teams in the market for second liners should have no
shortage of options to choose from. Here are some of the better names
available that Marc Bergevin may be making contact with in the near future.
I’ve sorted the players into five different categories that may be of
interest to the team. Although only four players are listed in each, there
are several other players beyond this list that are worthy of consideration.
Note: There are a few players that are likely to re-sign with their
current teams (Selanne, Koivu, and Alfredsson for example) so I’ll stay away
from discussing those players here.
Tyler Bozak (TOR): The eight years he’s reportedly seeking is nuts but
he is one of the few UFA’s who is young enough to still conceivably play well at
the end of the contract. He showed improvement in all facets of his game
in 2012-13 while his faceoff prowess is something every team would covet.
In terms of players with upside that are available, he still has some but he
certainly won’t come cheap.
Mike Ribeiro (WSH): For all of the flak he receives – and a lot of it
is justified – he has been one of the better and consistent point producing
centres in the league and picked up over a point per game with the Caps this
past season. He’s seeking a long-term big money contract and there’s a
good chance he’ll get it.
Derek Roy (VAN): He was hoping that a trade to Dallas would revive his
offensive abilities after a tough 2011-12 campaign but his struggles continued.
It was then hoped that a trade to Vancouver would get him going…but the
struggles continued. He may want big years and big dollars but with the
other options available, I could see him being the odd man out and being forced
to go short-term with someone.
Stephen Weiss (FLA): The fact that he got injured early on in the year
has kept him under the radar somewhat. He doesn’t put up as many points as
Ribeiro does but he is a little more of a well-rounded player. He was
seeking a long-term, big money contract from Florida prior to being shut down
for the year but given the other centres on the market, he may be wise to go
short-term and rebuild his value.
Damien Brunner (DET): It hasn’t often happened where the prized
European forward acquisition comes in and has an impact right away in the NHL
but Brunner did just that in 2012-13. He also picked up his play in the
postseason and looks like he can be a legitimate second line winger moving
forward. Like Bozak, as he’s 27, there is still some possible upside for
the team that signs him.
Jaromir Jagr (BOS): He faded down the stretch for the second straight
season but Jagr showed that he still has something left in the tank. He
may be miscast as a second liner at this stage of his career but on a team that
rolls three offensive lines, the 41 year old might still be able to contribute.
I’m not sure he’s a great fit in Montreal though given how slow he is and how
fast the Habs are on the attack.
Vaclav Prospal (CBJ): Even though Tampa Bay bought him out years ago,
Prospal has been a pretty consistent points producer in recent seasons and has
shown that even though he’s getting up there in years, he still has something to
contribute. A one year deal is the way to go here and he should be able to
provide 20 goals to whoever inks him.
Michael Ryder (MTL): We all know too well that he’s a streaky scorer
that doesn’t bring much else to the table but his track record in terms of
lighting the lamp is somewhat impressive. We know the Habs don’t intend to
bring him back but Ryder shouldn’t have too much difficulty securing a
multi-year deal with similar money to what he has earned in recent years.
Top-6 wingers with size/grit
David Clarkson (NJ): Personally, I think he’s one of the most
overrated players on the free agent market this year. Yes, he can hit and
fight and has a good scoring touch around the net and those are all things that
teams want. However, I’m not sure he’s all that much better than Chris
Neil was in his prime – a banger that in a 3rd line role (which is ideal for
Clarkson) can get 20 goals, a very valuable asset to have. Is that worth
$6.5 M per year, which his agent is reportedly asking for? Is it worth
$4.5 M annually, what many think he’ll inevitably sign for? I don’t think
so and I figure whoever gets him will regret it before long.
Ryane Clowe (NYR): The belief is that most players have career years
in their free agency season. Clowe had the exact opposite happen as he
struggled to score all year and battled concussion issues after joining the
Rangers. Although he’s still young for a free agent, you have to wonder if
his style of play is starting to catch up with him. Or, did he just have a
bout of bad luck and he’ll rebound to the solid top-six physical winger he has
been? He’s a high risk signing but it’s a high reward if he gets back to
his old ways.
Nathan Horton (BOS): Horton won’t help much in the physical department
but he uses his size well to protect the puck and demonstrated in the playoffs
that he can be a go-to scorer on a good team. Like Clowe though,
concussions are a concern moving forward with him but I don’t think it will
deter teams from going after him. $5 M per year should be attainable for
him and if enough teams get into a bidding war, going higher is certainly
Jarome Iginla (PIT): It’s almost as if moving to Pittsburgh and being
a second liner has pushed him under the radar somewhat. He isn’t the top
end power forward he once was but as a second line winger, he can still play a
very important role on a good team. At 36, he’s subject to the 35+ rule in
a multi-year contract so I’d be surprised to see him get more than a two year
pact, maybe three if a team is desperate. If the Habs are looking for more
of a short-term fit, he would be a good option to ponder.
Bottom-6 forwards with size/grit
Matt Cooke (PIT): You can debate whether or not he has truly reformed
but what can’t be debated is that he’s still an effective checker that can
contribute on the scoresheet a bit more often than typical third and fourth
liners do. His reputation will likely keep a lot of teams away so whoever
gets Cooke may be able to get a bargain deal out of him.
Matt Hendricks (WSH): He isn’t the best of fourth liners in terms of
his overall play but he brings a lot of intangibles to the tables that teams,
including Montreal, can use. He’s an effective hitter, will drop the
gloves from time to time, and he’s particularly adept at the faceoff dot (at
least 53% the past three years). He also can really contribute in the
shootout, going 8/13 in that area the last three seasons. He is one of the
more intriguing options out there.
Maxim Lapierre (VAN): I can hear the groans already but Lapierre is
still a physical centre who is decent at the faceoff dot and can still drive
everyone crazy. I think he has matured since he asked to be dealt from the
Habs a few years ago and would be content with the fourth line role that he is
best suited for.
Dustin Penner (LA): Eventually, teams will realize that he can’t be a
consistent second liner and that he’s better off as a third liner. He can
hit and has a knack for timely goals. His reputation from years ago still
carries some weight though so he may price himself out of Montreal’s range in a
Options for Hamilton
Even with the acquisition of Christian Thomas and the hopeful signing of Sven
Andrighetto, the Bulldogs could stand to add several more offensive players to
the fold. There are several higher end AHL’ers to go after but the team in
the past has opted for veterans who are best suited to second line roles.
With that in mind, here are some players who would fit that bill.
Alexandre Bolduc: He got into 14 games with the Coyotes in 2012-13
(zero points) but was nearly a point-per-game player on the farm. He’s a
decent defensive player as well and could be used in a variety of roles with the
Francis Pare: Those who are looking for big players won’t like him
(he’s just 5’9) but the Quebec native has been a consistent 40-50 point producer
since turning pro five years ago.
Greg Rallo: 10 of his 11 NHL games came last year (with Florida who
was missing nearly half their team) but he’s a reliable second line veteran
centre in the minors.
Jamie Tardif: The 28 year old has improved considerably in recent
years and can play both centre and the wing. He hit the 30 goal plateau
last year but moving forward, something in the 20’s is more realistic.