Credit to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, who has put together a list of value signings yet to be made in the free agent market – as of August 30, 2010. Let’s take a look at a segment of these remaining unsigned free agents, pinpoint some strengths, and identify which teams could be a fit for these players.
Antti Niemi – While I believe he has been slightly overvalued in the market, there are a number of teams that would have use for this guy. San Jose’s goaltending tandem includes Greiss and Nittymaki, a couple of back-ups in my mind. San Jose needs timely goaltending in the playoffs – something Niemi has proven capable of providing. Above all, his 2.5-3.5 million dollar price tag is reasonable for a starting goalie in the NHL.
Kim Johnsson – Isn’t Washington desperately looking to trade for a solid defenseman? Why sacrifice components of that explosive offense, when you can sign a guy like Kim Johnsson? He has fallen out of favor quickly because of a lengthy injury, but he was a proven top-four defenseman one season ago. No need to take on Souray’s 4 million dollar salary, when you can sign a cheaper, more defensively reliable option in Johnsson.
Owen Nolan – Surprised Nolan is still kicking around, considering some of the older players that have been signed in recent weeks. As a role player, Nolan can do it all. He’s a former captain; he can grind it out, play tough, penalty kill, and score. Even since he turned 35, he has shown he can still score between 15-25 goals per season. If I were a young team like the Oilers, Blues or Islanders, I would be looking to add Nolan’s veteran leadership to the fold. Not just a dressing room bonus: this guy can still contribute.
Brendan Morrison – Very capable second or third-line option. Given his history with Burke and the need for depth up the middle in TO, I could see Morrison fitting in well as a 3rd line centreman with the Leafs. He’s not getting any younger, but he’s still a solid player that can put up points.
Jose Theodore – I must admit, I haven’t seen near enough consistency from this guy in recent years. I could see Theodore going unsigned, as there are a number of affordable back-ups still available. He doesn’t differentiate himself enough from that group.
Marek Svatos – Personally, I can’t believe this guy hasn’t been signed yet. Svatos was bumped down the depth chart with the re-structuring in Colorado. A year or two ago, he was scoring some impressive goals and seemed a difference maker. He had a poor year this past season – no question. However, he’s still young, talented, and very affordable considering his upside. I could see him fitting in on a second line in Toronto, Calgary or Ottawa – three teams that struggled to score last season.
Andreas Lilja – valuable 5-6th defenseman, who spent a few seasons under Mike Babcock in Detroit. Boston has some key defensive pieces in place, but could use some shutdown depth. Lilja could provide that an affordable rate.
Kyle Wellwood – He’s got skill, but could use some time away from the limelight. From Toronto to Vancouver, this guy has taken a beating in recent years. With some experience as a scoring component, perhaps a young team like Florida could use Kyle Wellwood as a third line option - pretty quick, some offensive capability, and shootout creativity to boot. Plus, it’s safe to say he can just play hockey in Florida, and not worry about any “Kyle Well-Fed” chants.
Marc-Andre Bergeron – Owns a great shot from the point. He’s a power play specialist, and proved to be a valuable addition to Montreal’s playoff run. His shutdown ability can be sketchy, but he’s a solid point-producer. Also, he’s only 30. Who’s looking for some offensive punch from the back-end? I would suggest Dallas could benefit from a depth signing like Bergeron.
Fredrik Modin – I had viewed this guy as more of a spare part, but I think he proved his value as a two-way role player in the playoffs last season. He’s a bigger body that can kill penalties, and screen the goaltender on the powerplay. While LA didn’t get past the first round, I found Modin to be one of the more notable forces in that series; logging tough minutes and chipping in with some key goals. Modin could provide some playoff intangibles and much-needed grit in San Jose.
Nigel Dawes – How did 29 teams pass on this guy? Surprisingly, Nigel Dawes was placed on waivers by the Flames in late June, and his value has dropped as a result. He collected 875, 000 last season, and contributed with 14 goals. While he’s a smaller player, Dawes has tremendous hands and sees the ice very well. He put up outstanding numbers in Junior, and continues to show flashes of skill. Capable of providing secondary scoring in a second/third line role. Personally, I hope he gets an opportunity somewhere. Dawes could fit in well with Montreal or Carolina.
Miroslav Satan – Miro the Hero for Boston in the playoffs, Satan reminded us that he can still score key goals. Getting up there in age, but he could still compliment a cup contending team with some scoring balance: Washington? Philadelphia? Detroit?
Patrick O’Sullivan – O’Sullivan has suffered the same career decline as many Oilers before him. He was bought out by Edmonton this summer, and has been somewhat forgotten in the process. Still a young player, O’Sullivan experienced a shocking blow to his development since being traded from the Kings. Considering the cash he will be collecting from his buyout, he’s a candidate to become one of the better value signings of the offseason.
With a snapshot of some of the players still available for NHL contracts, we could see an unusually busy September.
Thanks again to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail for his unsigned RFA/UFA lists. Have a look at Mirtle’s article in its entirety here: