The free agent market has almost dried up, but there are still a few names sitting out there who can help a team. Who are the best available?
To sum up the NHL’s free agency season in three words: fits and starts. We saw a deluge of unrestricted free agents sign July 1, albeit not as many as we saw last summer, perhaps because the 2015 class is relatively weak and in lower demand. Over the past week, we’ve seen more restricted free agent signings than UFAs. A few of the more coveted names on the open market remain, however. Let’s explore some of them and where they fit best in light of which teams have filled roster holes and which haven’t.
10. BRAD BOYES, RW, 33
How he can help a team: Boyes can still plug holes as a secondary or tertiary scorer. He has decent offensive touch, and he can slot into an offensive role in a team’s top six without embarrassing himself. He can play on the power play, too. Still good for at least 15 goals and 35 points, with upside for more depending on his linemates.
What he’ll cost: He’s approaching the mercenary stage of his career, so Boyes is likely to sign a one-year deal for about $2 million per season.
Best fits: The Carolina Hurricanes are desperate for right wingers. Since they should be a lottery team next season, they could sign Boyes and plan to flip him at the trade deadline for a mid-round pick. The Pittsburgh Penguins desperately need to fill out their bottom six, though they require left wingers more than righties and Boyes has more of a top-six skill set.
9. CHRIS STEWART, RW, 27
How he can help a team: Stewart is a big, tough, bludgeoning body who has a decent amount of natural goal-scoring ability and is tough to move around the net. Questions about his fitness and work ethic have greatly diminished his worth over the past few seasons, but just because he isn’t a first-liner anymore doesn’t mean he can’t help a team seeking size and nastiness on the wing. His floor is still, say 15 goals and 30 points.
What he’ll cost: Stewart’s last contract paid him $4.15 million annually. Considering Matt Beleskey didn’t even get that much, Stewart is a lock to take a paycut on his UFA deal. A team isn’t likely to trust him with a long-term pact, so a short-term deal of one or two years with a $2-3-million cap hit seems about right.
Best fits: Since the Penguins need bottom-sixers more than top-sixers, Stewart seems an even better fit than Boyes. Stewart wasn’t a bad fit with the Minnesota Wild after they acquired him for the stretch run, but GM Chuck Fletcher has said he doesn’t think he has the cap space to bring Stewart back. The Anaheim Ducks have plenty of cap space and a dearth of true right wingers. The New Jersey Devils need help on the right side and are sitting around the salary floor right now, so they might be the best fit of all.
8. CURTIS GLENCROSS, LW, 32
How he can help a team: Glencross has overachieved for much of his career, chipping in a 24- and a 26-goal season and producing at the same rate over a pair of shortened seasons after that. He’s a hard worker who probably has third-line talent but often scores like a legit second-liner, though he regressed a lot in 2014-15.
What he’ll cost: Glencross just completed a four-year deal with a $2.55-million AAV. He won’t get that kind of term again at 32 and coming off a down season. He could get close to the same money on a two-year deal, though.
Best fits: The Penguins always seem to need wingers, so Glencross would fit their top nine nicely. The Winnipeg Jets lost Michael Frolik and won’t re-sign Lee Stempniak or Jiri Tlusty, so they could use a bottom-six guy as well.
7. SEAN BERGENHEIM, LW, 31
How he can help a team: Bergenheim is a speedy winger who can play anywhere from the second to the fourth line. He likes to shoot, his puck-possession rating is strong and he has a history of scoring big goals in the playoffs.
What he’ll cost: Bergenheim picked a bad time to have his worst offensive season in a decade. Though advanced statistics factor into negotiations more than ever, GMs still want players’ pure numbers to sparkle. Bergenheim scored just nine goals in 59 games including the playoffs and cost himself money in the process. Winding up a healthy scratch didn’t help, either. He’s still versatile enough to land a modest multi-year deal for $2 million per.
Best fits: Bergenheim is the ideal replacement for Daniel Winnik on Pittsburgh’s third line. Get it done, Jim Rutherford. The Flyers need left wingers, too, and Bergenheim would make a fine checking mate alongside Sean Couturier.
6. MAREK ZIDLICKY, D, 38
How he can help a team: Zidlicky is old, but he can still kick-start a power play. He tallied 11 points in 21 games with Detroit as a rental this past spring, and eight of those points came with the man advantage.
What he’ll cost: Zidlicky sustained a concussion in 2014-15 and pondered retirement upon season’s end. If he returns, it will almost certainly be on a one-year deal worth just enough coin to lure him back. He could re-up for another $3 million, if not slightly less.
Best fits: Bruins GM Don Sweeney insists his team isn’t rebuilding. If that’s true, he’s risking a lot with Kevan Miller and Zach Trotman among his top six defensemen. Zidlicky could make a nice stopgap. Same goes for the Los Angeles Kings, who could replace the suspended/soon-to-be-jailed Slava Voynov with Zidlicky, another right-handed shooter.
5. ERIC FEHR, C, 29
How he can help a team: Remember when Fehr was a first-round pick in 2003? He has a bit of pedigree, and maybe that’s why he has respectable scoring touch for a 6-foot-4, 212-pound guy. Combine those measurements with 19 goals and solid faceoff work and you have a guy who should have plenty of suitors, especially among playoff contenders.
What he’ll cost: Fehr averaged $1.5 million on his previous deal. There is reportedly competition for his services, so he’s set to get a raise. Will someone overpay and even double his figure? It wouldn’t be a shock, though most teams have been modest in their spending this off-season. Let’s say three years at $2.5 million per.
Best fits: Trading for Zack Kassian told us Montreal wanted to get bigger. The Habs have plenty of centers already, but Fehr can play the wing as well, so he’s a logical target. Edmonton was in on Fehr but, after signing Mark Letestu, there’s less urgency there. What about the New York Rangers, whose depth chart is thinned out after Martin St-Louis’ retirement?
4. CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF, D, 33
How he can help a team: Ehrhoff isn’t an elite puck-moving defenseman, but he’s a solid second-tier guy, a strong skater who can help a team’s offense and log 20-plus minutes a night.
What he’ll cost: Ehrhoff’s megadeal in Buffalo paid him $4 million annually before the Sabres bought him out. His one-year pact with the Penguins paid him the same. He’s probably regressed just enough for a mild pay cut closer to $3.5 million.
Best fits: Having Mike Green as a No. 5 defenseman was quite the luxury for the Washington Capitals. They couldn’t pay him $6 million but have room for Ehrhoff at about two thirds the cost. Ehrhoff makes sense for Boston and L.A., too. The Dallas Stars’ blueline is getting crowded with youngsters, but it sure seems like they could use a true top-four veteran to support Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley and John Klingberg.
3. ALEXANDER SEMIN, RW, 31
How he can help a team: Semin has been maddeningly inconsistent throughout his career, no doubt. But does anyone think the pure goal-scoring ability has completely vacated his body? In the right situation, with his head in the right space, he can seriously help a team’s attack. He still has one of the NHL’s best releases.
What he’ll cost: He’ll keep making some nice money on Carolina’s buyout, so a big number shouldn’t matter much to Semin, who is reportedly open to a one-year deal as well. He could wind up a bargain if you cut his old $7-million cap hit in half.
Best fits: Imagine Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sharing Semin and Phil Kessel as their right wingers. Now try to stop salivating. Even though Pens GM Jim Rutherford signed Semin to the original bad deal in Carolina and even criticized Semin during it, if it’s just a one-year trial, could there be interest? Montreal desperately needs a goal scorer, too.
2. JOHNNY ODUYA, D, 33
How he can help a team: Oduya is a prototypical second-pairing defenseman. He’s a pretty good skater, he moves the puck pretty well, he’s pretty sound defensively, and he was a pretty big piece of Chicago’s Stanley Cup puzzle.
What he’ll cost: Oduya won two Cups as Niklas Hjalmarsson’s partner in Chicago, and that’s likely to inflate Oduya’s value a bit. He has plenty of teams interested and shouldn’t have a problem securing a multi-year deal that pays him like a top-pairing guy even though he isn’t one.
Best fits: He and the Hawks don’t want to part ways and are likely to reach a deal as long as GM Stan Bowman can make the cap work for his team. Otherwise, the Kings, Bruins and Dallas Stars would all look significantly more dangerous to start 2015-16 if they had Oduya.
1. Cody Franson, D, 27
How he can help a team: Franson is the closest thing to a big-ticket free agent still out there. He’s only 27, he can play top-pair minutes, he can help a power play and he is reasonably physical. Any team that could afford him would be interested.
What he’ll cost: Good question. Mike Green has a longer track record, but if we say Franson being younger offsets that, Franson is another right-shooting offensive defenseman who can put points on the board. He probably won’t get $6 million, but he’s looking at $5 million or more if Paul Martin can get $4.85 million. Unfortunately, that prices Franson out of many teams’ markets, and that’s probably why he hasn’t found a home yet.
Best fits: As long as the suspended Voynov doesn’t count against the Kings’ cap, Franson would be a deadly fit. The Bruins have reportedly shown interest, too. And what about the Vancouver Canucks, who traded Kevin Bieksa and have been awfully quiet in free agency this summer? The latter isn’t an ideal fit because the Canucks only have $4.2 million in cap space, however. Jim Benning would have to clear a contract out.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin