By Alessia Cianni
NHL Free Agency is just days away but to say this year’s class of unrestricted player’s lacks depth would be an understatement. Today, Brooks Laich signed a six year, 27 million dollar deal to stay with the Washington Capitals, taking arguably the second best forward off the free agent list. Cue the General Manager’s sighs around the league.
Still, the top dog on Friday will be Dallas Stars centre Brad Richards, but whether or not the appeal is warranted is questionable.
Richards had 77 points in 72 games last season. To put that into perspective a bit, the Leafs leading point getter was Phil Kessel with 64 in 82 games. Richards finished fourth in the league in assists and second in power play production. We all know how Toronto’s special teams units have been the last few season…Needless to say, Brian Burke might have a tiny bit of interest in this guy. But, anytime a player has a concussion on their list of past injuries, there is reason for concern.
Top wingers on the market include Canadian Simon Gagne, and seasoned veteran Teemu Selanne. Okay I know, Selanne is pretty old but he still has amazing hands and managed to rack up 80 points last season. If he still wants to play in this league, Selanne could be a great veteran presence for any team and will steadily contribute on offense. Maybe the Jets will even consider bringing him in, for old time’s sakes! As for Gagne, injury troubles make him unattractive to a lot of teams but you also have to look at the stats. In 30 games after the all star break, Gagne totaled 27 points. He added another 12 points in 15 playoff games this post-season. The potential is there, but it will be a bit of a risk for any team who signs him. One of the youngest forwards available who could fit into the Leafs plans is Max Talbot. He’s 27 years old, doesn’t take a big cap hit and knows how to kill a penalty. Toronto needs all the help they can get on the PK, they just have to pry Talbot away from Pittsburgh first.
The best defenseman still available is Christian Ehrhoff but with the Canucks locking up Kevin Bieksa yesterday, you gotta think Ehrhoff is next on the list. Ehrhoff had 50 points last season plus another 12 during the Canucks playoff run. Vancouver would like to keep their old team in tact but Ehrhoff might be looking for more money. Another fairly young and gritty d-man that could be useful is James Wisniewski. The 27 year old had 51 points last season with the Islanders/Canadiens. There’s also a pair of former Maple Leaf defensemen on the market in Bryan McCabe and Stanley Cup champion Tomas Kaberle. Both will likely have to take a pay cut if they want to strap on the skates next season.
John-Sebastian Giguere will be a free agent come Friday but Tomas Vokoun is by far the biggest name available in the crease. Even though he spent the last 4 seasons playing behind mediocre Florida Panthers teams, Vokoun still managed to make a name for himself. His numbers aren’t spectacular but he could be a good fit for a few teams with problems in goal, like the Colorado Avalanche.
This year’s free agent class should be classified as elderly, injured, and risky. There’s still plenty of hidden potential left in the group but apart from Richards, none of these guys will have a significant impact, wherever they end up.