When the National Hockey League free-agent doors swing open July 1, buyers won’t see stocked shelves with high-end items.
There will be some intriguing names, however, who could fill gaps on NHL rosters.
general manager Peter Chiarelli will scrutinizing the free agents,
especially in the defenceman category, even after adding Eric Gryba and
Griffin Reinhart to the team in trades at the draft.
Here’s a look at 10 free agents on the market:
1. Mike Green, Washington Capitals
made $6.08 million last year and was Washington’s No. 5 defenceman. The
Caps would bring him back for about half that price, but Green, 29, is
moving on. The Detroit Red Wings will make the biggest push because he
could play with Niklas Kronwall and they sorely need a power play guy.
2. Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings
33, but he has three Stanley Cup rings. He also won the Conn Smythe
Trophy in 2014, but the Kings can’t squeeze him into their salary cap.
The Pittsburgh Penguins seem the most logical destination. They need a
winger for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and general manager Jim
Rutherford worked with Williams in Carolina.
3. Joel Ward, Washington Capitals
34-year-old winger had a terrific playoffs for the Caps with nine
points in 14 games and is a bull in the corner He wants a three-year
contract and the Caps are only offering two. They have to sign younger
forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. A team like Montreal,
with small forwards, would be ideal for Ward.
4. Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks
defenceman is a steady influence in Anaheim as No. 4 guy but the Ducks
only want him if he’ll take a one-year deal. They have Clayton Stoner
who could take his spot and they may want to give young Josh Manson a
spot in their top six. Beauchemin would look good in Edmonton as a
mentor for Oscar Klefbom, Justin Schultz and Darnell Nurse.
5. Antoine Vermette, Chicago Blackhawks
a lukewarm start with the Hawks after his trade from Arizona, the
32-year-old had three playoff game-winners in a third-line role. He’s a
No. 2 centre almost anywhere else and an excellent faceoff guy. Somebody
will give him $5 million or more.
6. Cody Franson, Nashville Predators
of the free agent defencemen, Franson often leaves you wanting more.
He’s a second-pairing D, not a first, but he has a big shot and he’s a
rightie — something everybody’s looking for. Would the Oilers go five
years for him at $5 million? Maybe, because of his age and power play
7. Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames
highlight reel saves, but scouts feel he may not be as technically sound
or consistent as other goalies. On the other hand, he’s a battler and
had strong games for the Flames down the stretch last season. The San
Jose Sharks are still looking for goalie, and the Philadelphia Flyers
need a backup for Steve Mason.
8. Matt Beleskey, Anaheim Ducks
27-year-old left-winger is coming off 22 goals. Is that the tip of the
iceberg for the versatile forward or a one-off? Bryan Bickell got four
years at $16 million after a big playoff for Chicago and they regretted
9. Michael Frolik, Winnipeg Jets
He had 41 points
for the Jets (19 goals) and his speed, along with his ability to move
up and down the lineup, is a hot commodity. But, is he worth $4 million a
year as a role player? That might be a stretch, although he’s only 27.
10. Jarret Stoll, Los Angeles Kings
before his drug arrest after the season, Stoll, 33, was in tough to
return to the Kings because of salary cap problems. He’s dynamite on
faceoffs and he’s right-handed, something every team’s looking for. He
is a solid third line NHL centre.