UFA's – Hidden Gems

Written by Darryl Dobbsfrom www.dobberhockey.com

It has been well do*****ented that Patrick Elias will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The same can be said about the dynamic duo in Ottawa, Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara.

That is where the big news lies – in the newsmakers. But what of the lesser known UFA’s? The unsung heroes? What is out there that can help your team? Which players are deep on your fantasy roster right now, but a move to a new NHL squad could suddenly make their numbers ‘pop’?

Most of the big name UFA’s are going nowhere. Is Edmonton going to let Dwayne Roloson walk NOW? Can you see Joe Sakic in another uniform? No. It’s the mid-level guys that will switch jerseys. So who will be the next Brian Rolston? That is to say – who will increase their output by 50%, simply be signing with a new team?

Here are my candidates:

Mike Leclerc, Calgary – If the 29-year-old can maintain good health for the better part of an 82 game season, he could flourish in the right situation. A rebuilding team, such as St. Louis, would see bigger numbers out of Leclerc because he would be one of their go-to guys.

Manny Malhotra, Columbus – still just 25, Malhotra is not putting up the numbers expected of him when he was drafted seventh overall by the Rangers in 1998. Sometimes, players that jump into the NHL as 18-year-olds see their offensive development stalled. See Jason Weimer for details. That being said, Malhotra had a run of 15 points in 22 games before being derailed by injuries. His career high is 31 points. The right situation on the right team could see him garner as much as 50.

Johan Hedberg, Dallas – If he lands in the right situation as a backup goaltender, he could start as many as 40 games. Is Atlanta a good fit? All it would take is another injury-filled season by Kari Lehtonen, and suddenly Hedberg has legitimate fantasy value.

Radek Dvorak, Edmonton – With a great playoff run like this one, I can’t see the Oilers letting Sergei Samsonov go. Dvorak, however, is free to walk. If the 29-year-old walks onto the right team with the right linemates, he has 60-point ability.

Valeri Bure, Los Angeles – Remember him? After missing one season from the lockout, and another one from back surgery, he should be healthy again in the Fall. He is six years removed from a career-high 75 points. If he truly is healthy, he is cheap pickup for most teams to stick on their first or second lines. A fantasy dark horse for next year.

Kyle Wanvig, Minnesota – This 25-year-old has questions about his maturity and/or discipline. That said, he could third-line points and big time penalty minutes. Once again, he needs the right coach and the right team.

Jan Bulis, Montreal – At one point, the 28-year-old had a run going in which he garnered 17 points in 13 games. His average ice-time this year was just over 15 minutes. Eleven players had more time on the power play than Bulis did in Montreal. What if he had top-five PP ice time?

Next week: Part 2 of 2.

More fantasy hockey tips from Dobber at www.dobberhockey.com