Marians Hossa and Gaborik, big Jay Bouwmeester, the brothers Sedin…there are several interesting options on the market as the NHL’s unrestricted free agency period opens on July 1. And, no doubt, the previously mentioned players will sign for big bucks, amid major hoopla, shortly after the negotiating period begins Wednesday.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lesser-known players available, at a much more palatable price.
Here are the NHL’s First and Second All-Overlooked Free Agent Teams:
F – Mikael Samuelsson (Detroit) – The Red Wings sniper is buried beneath an onslaught of superstars in Detroit. He doesn’t get much power play time and rarely skates on the top two lines. But in a more prominent role on anther team, he could score 30 goals.
F – Nik Antropov (NY Rangers) – Big and skilled, with a team-first attitude and nicely disguised mean streak, too. With his propensity for injury hopefully behind him, Antropov provides second-line offense at an affordable price.
F – Steve Sullivan (Nashville) – Any time you sign a player who has missed the past two years due to injury, you’re taking a big chance. But Sullivan could come cheap and with a big payoff…if he builds on his end-of-seasons efforts last year and avoids the back woes that sidelined him for so long.
D – Johnny Oduya (New Jersey) – Do you want Johnny Oduya? Yes, you do, if you’re a fan of two-way defensemen at a bargain-basement price.
D – Dennis Seidenberg (Carolina) – Big German defender – but not Uwe Krupp big – came over as a 21-year-old in 2002 and finally came into his own with the Hurricanes last season. Good mobility and capable at both ends, Seidenberg appears ready for top-four ice time and responsibilities.
G – Scott Clemmensen (New Jersey) – Martin Brodeur’s longtime backup finally got a chance to start – and delivered 25 victories in 39 decisions. Of course, he had the Devils defense in front of him, but surely Clemmensen’s breakout will earn the consummate professional a big-time contract.
F – Chad LaRose (Carolina) – Young speedster already owns a Stanley Cup ring from Carolina’s 2006 playoff run – and now he’s discovered how to score at the NHL level. A third-liner who can kill penalties and add offense, LaRose is a hustling producer who would help any team.
F – Tomas Kopecky (Detroit) – Like Samuelsson, Kopecky has been lost amid the stars in Detroit. He’s had some injury woes, too, missing most of 2006-07 with a broken collarbone. But the fact he’s good enough to be in the Wings lineup when he’s healthy says all you need to know.
F – Joel Ward (Nashville) – At 28, Ward was too old to be rookie-eligible last season (he played 11 NHL games in 2007-08). But he scored 17 goals while cast in a defensive role for the Predators, including a couple shorthanded markers. This guy can fly, adding wings to any team’s forecheck.
D – Christian Backman (Columbus) – Quietly efficient and ever improving, Backman is the kind of support player that every blueline needs.
D – Greg de Vries (Nashville) – An effective veteran who can muck it up, de Vries brings battle and experience – and a Stanley Cup ring, with Colorado in 2001.
G – Craig Anderson (Florida) – Tomas Vokoun gets most of the credit, but Anderson was a revelation in the Panthers net – especially in the first half of the season, when he was called upon more frequently.
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