What About These Guys?
Everyone’s heard of the big names on the market. Fedorov, Hatcher, Selanne, Robitaille, Potvin, Prospel, McCarty, Leetch, deVries. But what about the smaller, less heralded guys who are no less effective? Here’s a list of 12 forwards and 7 defensemen on the free agent market that you hear absolutely nothing about. They aren’t necessarily in best to worst order, more alphabetical for what team they played for last season. Oh, a couple of them might not be moving or might have some circumstances around them I’m not aware of, I was using a free agent list. If I screwed up on some, don’t chew me out. Chew out the person who made the list.1. Ray Whitney
I cannot understand why this guy has not been mentioned at all. Of all the free agents on the market, only Fedorov and Prospel out scored him. Whitney finished tied for 21st in NHL scoring with 76 points, despite playing for Western celler dweller Columbus. He was tied with or within 5 points of all the following players: Karyia, Hossa, Mogilny, Kovalev, Jagr, Hull, Satan, Prospel, Lecavalier. How much do you think he’d fetch on the market though? Probably no more than 4 million, probably less even. Definately a steal for whichever team gets him.
2. Andrew Cassels
A “See: Whitney” would suffice. He was linemates with Whitney and put up a respectable 68 points, good for a tie for 31st in the league in scoring. He was also, amazingly, only -4 on Columbus, perhaps as impressive a feat.
3. Slava Kozlov
Kozlov put up 70 points playing for Atlanta. He was probably buoyed by his linemates Kovalchuk and Heatley, who put up 67 and 89 respectively, but he’s still a solid player who consistantly puts up decent offensive numbers.
4. Cliff Ronning
Ronning scored 48 points for Minnesota and provided some veteran leadership for the young squad. He’s not a prolific scorer, but would be a nice pickup for a young team in the Nashville or Atlanta mold.
5. Joe Niewendyk
I’m surprised his name doesn’t come up more often, seeing as he plays for the champions and everything. He scored 45 points this season, a far cry from his old numbers but still a good, veteran player with two Cup runs to his record.
I’m not seeing him leaving Anaheim, except for retirement, but who knows? He found a new life playing for the Ducks, helping them on their improbable run to the Finals. Most Ducks players attest he was an invaluable locker room presence, a big reason they pulled off the run to the Finals that they did.
7. Ulf Dahlen
Despite getting only 14 minutes a game, Dahlen put up 37 points and a +11 playing for Dallas last season. Two seasons ago, he had 52 in Washington. On the right team, he could provide some nice depth scoring for a small price.
8. Martin Rucinsky
He had 30 points for the Blues last season, but turned it on in the playoffs for 6 points in 7 games, tied for second on the team. This guy has amazing credentials however: he even played well on the Rangers, putting up 13 points in 15 games in a brief stint two seasons ago. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Blueshirts to gamble on him for a full year.
9. Dave Andreychuk
Does this guy need a description? Sure-fire Hall of Famer, deadly on the power play, though somewhat useless now on even strength (28 of 34 points were on power play). Veteran leader, could have enough gas for one more Cup run, much like Robitaille on Detroit two years ago.
10. Jonas Hoglund
Despite the constant dissing Leafs fans do on this guy, he’s really not that bad. He hovered around 50 points until last season, where his ice time was cut to a trickle. Suspect defensively, perhaps, but he has some offensive talent. He has the potential to join the long list of Leafs castoffs to play well for other teams (Modin, Sullivan, Thomas, Cross). Worth gambling on, for the right price.
11. Trent Klatt
Not an offensive talent by any means, but I’ve heard Canucks fans raving about him throughout the year. He could shore up the checking line of more than a few teams around the NHL.
12. Sergei Berezin
A solid 20 goal scorer who’ll come cheap. Had 37 goals with Toronto in the 98-99 season, so he has breakout potential.
1. Jason Woolley
I don’t know why the Sabres put this guy on waivers, and I don’t know why the Wings won’t resign him either. With talent around him, this guy shines. For a mere million dollars, he’s a bargain. He has offensive talent, is good at moving the puck up, and is solid in his own end. For a team like the Kings, he would be a perfect pickup.
2. Steve Staios
I have to think the Oilers will resign this guy. Wasn’t he your captain, or am I mixed up there? I’m not positive on that, but he’s a solid defensive defenseman worth signing.
3. Dmitry Yushkevich
This guy’s been tossed around the past year, but he’s a solid defenseman. The Avs should be interested in him, as ravaged as their defensive corp is.
5. Calle Johansson
A veteran player who has put up solid numbers both offensively and defensively for Washington over his career. A well rounded defenseman that should interested a lot of teams who can’t afford to be in the Hatcher sweepstakes.
6. Ken Klee
Had a great season in Washington, with 17 points and a +22 that ranked 18th in the league. Definately worth signing, could round out the bottom pairing of any team quite nicely.
7. Boris Mironov
A bit of a headcase, perhaps, but has an offensive upside (49 points back in 1999). Worth gambling on, he should come relatively cheap. Could be a Steve Duschense (Detroit) type pickup.
Now, will any of these players make or break a team? Probably not. However, in this list, you can be sure there will be a couple of sleepers who will break out for a tremendous, unforeseen season, and the rest will likely perform solidly, if quietly, for the teams who sign them.
So instead of focusing on the big name “game breakers” who almost always fall short of expectations, take a look at some of the smaller guys who truly shape the teams that grasp Lord Stanley’s chalise.