Finding value in the rubble
The best UFAs on the market
The list of available unrestricted free agents I've been keeping is probably a little deceiving.
At first glance, it looks long. Potentially full of valuable "sleepers." It also gives the impression there are quite a few NHL-calibre players yet to be signed.
Picking apart the list a bit, however, leaves us without much to chew on. Eliminating players that didn't play in 20 games and at least 10 minutes at even strength a game, there are only 18 forwards and 20 defenceman unsigned.
Of those 38 players, it's likely close to half have played their last NHL game.
I'm going to break down the players by situation and position in a search for some value among the rubble. Gabe Desjardins lends a helping hand, as per usual:
Power play (ranked by GF/60)
Defencemen who played a PP role last season :
Patrice Brisebois, Sandis Ozolinsh, Bryan Berard, Magnus Johansson
Forwards who played a PP role last season:
Jason Williams, Teemu Selanne, Ladislav Nagy, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Rucinsky, Randy Robitaille
Assessment: Brisebois, even at 37, can add a little value as a depth defenceman in this department, but he also benefited from playing on a lethal power play. Ozolinsh and Berard both struggled at even strength and didn't do enough on special teams to warrant another job.
Up front, Williams was the top performer, chipping in from the point position on a Chicago power play that struggled without him. Nagy had a rotten season with the Kings, but the team produced with the man advantage when he was out there. Shanahan, Rucinsky and Robitaille aren't good options here.
Penalty kill (ranked by GA/60)
Defencemen who played a PK role last season:
Marek Malik, Aaron Miller, Jaroslav Modry, Branislav Mezei, Bret Hedican, Jassen Cullimore, Andy Wozniewski
Forwards who played a PK role last season:
Mike Johnson, Stu Barnes, Marty Gelinas, Marty Reasoner, Brendan Shanahan, Mathias Tjarnqvist, Bryan Smolinski
Assessment: Malik, in general, put up strong numbers for what was considered a lost season, and was good on a very good Rangers penalty kill. Miller was also half decent, while the others were mediocre. (Except Wozniewski, who might have been the league's worst penalty killer, statistically speaking, last season.)
Johnson is the highest-ranked forward, but he played in few games this season, which can skew the numbers. Barnes and Gelinas were very good in this regard, and Reasoner is a decent option, too. Smolinski struggled.
Here's everybody in my unsigned group, ranked by GF/60 minus GA/60, with quality of competition and Pts/60 figures included:
Assessment: On defence, those that left are almost all bottom pairing defenders who played against relatively weak competition. The major exceptions are Marek Malik and Bret Hedican, who can provide value next season to a team.
Cullimore had a strong comeback season as a No. 4 or 5, while Dallman could potentially catch on somewhere in a similar role.
Among forwards, we've got a few obvious candidates who performed well: Sundin's, by far, the best player available at any position, and Selanne provided offence while limiting goals against.
If I had to sign depth forwards from the list, Williams would be at the top of it, followed by Gelinas, Shanahan and Hlavac. Robitaille and Nagy can provide a little offence, but certainly not in a starring role.
It'll be interesting, given how few teams are still looking to add pieces, how many of these players catch on with teams. My guess is there are a lot of retirement notices on the way.