After a flurry of activity in the first couple days of the free agent season, the market cooled off, leaving a lot of players sitting on the sidelines waiting for their phones to ring. There was a sense that everyone was waiting for Ilya Kovalchuk to sign and then the remaining pieces would start to fall into place. Well we are approaching August and although Kovalchuk is not officially signed, I would be surprised if he did not end up with the Devils shortly.
This past week a couple of the remaining UFA’s (Alexander Frolov and Alexei Ponikarovsky) were inked to one year deals. It appears as though there isn’t an appetite to sign these mid tier free agents to multi year deals. That does not bode well for the players on my list as they too will probably have to settle for a one year deal in hopes of cashing in next year.
I will preface my list by saying that probably the best available UFA, even at the tender age of 40, is Teemu Selanne. However, it is pretty clear the Selanne will either retire or sign on for another year in Anaheim.
Here are my top 10 remaining UFA’s:
10) John Madden – Madden is a veteran player who knows how to win. He is perfect for teams needing some PK help and some stability in a fourth line center role. Could be a perfect fit for a team looking to make the leap to a cup contender (i.e Blackhawks last year)
Potential Landing Spots – LA, Washington, Vancouver, Toronto (not a cup contender but a hometown guy)
9) Eric Belanger – Belanger is a similar player to Madden, minus the cups and with more offensive upside. Belanger is suited for a third or fourth line role and as a prime penalty killer.
Potential Landing Spots - LA, Washington, Vancouver
8) Willie Mitchell – Mitchell would have been signed long ago but because of his injury issues he is still available and will be great value to any team that signs him if he can stay healthy.
Potential Landing Spots – LA, Washington, Montreal, Buffalo, Anaheim, Colorado
7) Jose Theodore – Theodore could potentially be the biggest impact player on this list, or he could be relegated to taking a backup role and not make much of a difference at all next year. There aren’t many teams looking for starting goaltending right now, but I think Theo will be able to land in a place where he’ll have a chance to play.
Potential Landing Spot – Philadelphia, Montreal, San Jose, Colorado
6) Andy Sutton – Sutton is a big physical defenseman that played well in Ottawa after being traded by the Islanders. All teams can use a defenseman like Sutton in their bottom pair.
Potential Landing Spot – Ottawa, NY Islanders, Washington, Anaheim, Buffalo
5) Randy Jones – Jones was a salary cap casualty early in the year for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was claimed on waivers by the LA Kings and put up some pretty good numbers (21 points in 48 games, 18:10 TOI/g). Jones is only 29 years old and could be good value to a team looking for defensive help.
Potential Landing Spots – Buffalo, Anaheim, NY Islanders, Atlanta, Columbus
4) Lee Stempniak – The big question about Stempniak is what are you going to get? Are you going to get the Dog who played with the Leafs the last two years or are you going to get the guy who scored 14 goals in the last 18 games with the Coyotes. Stempniak is only 27 years old and is probably a guy who can score you 25 goals in a second line role. His salary demands will really determine where he goes. If he wants to win and take a one year deal to raise his stock he might be inclined to sign with a team like Pittsburgh who could use some help on the wing.
Potential Landing Spot – Buffalo, Pittsburgh, NY Islanders, Nashville
3) Paul Kariya – Paul Kariya may be near the end of the road but he can still fly. Put in the right situation he can still put some pucks in the net. I am sure he is looking for the right situation to try and sip from the cup next spring.
Potential Landing Spot – Pittsburgh, San Jose, Boston, LA
2) Patrick O’Sullivan – O’Sullivan is only 25 years old and was once thought to potentially be an impact player in the NHL. He had 53 points in his first full season in the NHL (07-08) but he has struggled since he’s been traded to the Oilers. I still think that he has the potential to be a top 6 forward, and at only 25, that could make him a valuable addition to any team. Think of Ville Leino last year…
Potential Landing Spot – Florida, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Nashville, Atlanta, NY Islanders
1) Arron Asham – Asham is a heart and soul player that any team can use on their third and fourth line. I am surprised that he is still unsigned based on his play last year, especially his play in the playoffs. Unless he is asking for the moon I would think that every team in the NHL would be interested in this guy.
Potential Landing Spot – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto, Vancouver