On Wings and Prayers

Posted on July 04, 2013 by Mike Vogel

For the second straight summer, the Washington Capitals don’t figure to be among the more active NHL teams in terms of free agent shopping. If the Caps do show interest in any of the players due to hit the market at noon on Friday, they’d likely be patrolling the center and defense aisles of the store.

 

Teams looking for help on the flanks this summer will find the pickings a bit slimmer on the right side than the left. But the NHL’s Free Agent Emporium has its shelves stocked with a wide variety of options at a number of different price points. Here’s a look at those portside and right side wingers available for purchase beginning on July 5.

 

Cash, checks, Visa, MasterCard and American Express all accepted.

 

Left Wings

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota – Drafted eighth overall by Minnesota in 2002, the 29-year-old Bouchard has been limited by concussions over the last several seasons. He has missed 165 games over the last four campaigns. When healthy, Bouchard is a strong playmaker with good wheels who thinks “pass” more than he thinks “shoot.” He had three straight seasons with 50 or more points before the concussions, but is likely looking at a deal that pays around half of the $4.08 million he averaged on his last five-year pact.

 

Ryane Clowe, New York Rangers – A year ago, Clowe looked like a guy who was poised to cash in on the free agent’s market. Big (6-foot-2, 225) wingers who play a physical game and average 20 goals a season (as Clowe did for four seasons before 2012-13) are always in high demand. But Clowe played through some injuries and his production has dipped over the last two seasons. He managed just three goals in 40 games in 2012-13. Coming off a four-year deal that paid him an average of $3.625 million per season, Clowe still might be able to command a similar deal just because of the scarcity of his skills set. He turns 31 just before the start of the upcoming season. I could see him getting a three-year deal for about $10 million.

 

Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh – Hating on Cooke is a popular sport in North America, but the ex-Cap hasn’t missed a game in the last two seasons and is a very useful third-line winger and penalty killer. His offensive output has been amazingly consistent since his short stint in the District late in the 2007-08 season; he’s been between .38 and .46 points per game every season since with a career high of 19 goals in 2011-12. He turns 35 before the start of the upcoming season, but it’s not hard to envision him getting a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $1.5 to $2 million a season.

 

Ruslan Fedotenko, Philadelphia – Fedotenko has played his way through the Atlantic Division over the last half decade, failing to stop only in New Jersey. The 34-year-old Russian has played on two Cup championship teams, but his production is on the back slope of the bell curve now. He could get a one-year deal for very short money (he earned $1.75 million last season) in a bottom six/penalty killing role somewhere.

 

Simon Gagne, Philadelphia – The 33-year-old Gagne netted 47 goals in 2005-06 and followed up with 41 the next season. He tallied 34 times as recently as 2008-09, but has scored a total of 46 goals in the four seasons since. Gagne has missed 101 games over the last four seasons, most because of head/neck/concussion injuries.  Coming off a two-year contract that paid him an average of $3.5 million a season, I think Gagne is going to have to take less than half of that coin to keep his career going in 2013-14. Someone will take a flier on the ex-Flyer, perhaps even the Flyers.

 

Matt Hendricks, Washington – Hendricks has been a solid fourth-line contributor and fan favorite for the last three seasons in Washington. A foot soldier type with a high pain threshold and a willingness to do whatever it takes to win, he’ll find his share of suitors. Hendricks just missed the rare double digit-double of 10 fights and 10 goals in 2010-11 and narrowly missed the pro-rated version of that feat again in 2012-13. His ability to kill penalties and play center will make him attractive, and he may be able to get a multi-year deal for somewhere around double the $825,000 he averaged over the last two seasons.

 

Chris Higgins, Vancouver – A former first-rounder (14th overall in 2002), Higgins scored 20 or more goals in each of his first three seasons in the NHL starting in 2005-06. Dealt to the Rangers in the ill-fated (for the Habs, anyway) Scott Gomez trade, Higgins began to bounce around the league and was deployed in more of a checking role. Injuries were also a factor in his decline. After bouncing back with an 18-goal campaign for the Canucks in 2011-12, Higgins scored 10 goals but registered just 15 points in 41 games for Vancouver last season. He earned an average of $1.9 million over the last two seasons. At 30, Higgins could snare a multi-year deal in the range of $1-2 million a season.

 

Ryan Jones, Edmonton – Jones can play either wing and can play up and down the lineup, so his versatility is a plus. The fact that he dipped from 17 goals in 2011-12 to just two in 27 games in 2012-13 is a minus. Jones sees some penalty-killing duty and figures to draw less than the $1.5 million he averaged over his just-completed two-year contract. He’s a bit of a reclamation project, but could be had on the cheap.

 

Guillaume Latendresse, Ottawa – A big, lumbering winger with two 20-goal seasons to his credit in the NHL, Latendresse tallied 25 times for the Wild in 2009-10. Since then, he has played in just over 25% of his team’s games over the last three seasons, putting up 14 goals and 25 points in 54 games along the way. He earned $2 million last season, but will be lucky to get half that this season, if he’s even offered a contract. A second-rounder in 2005, Latendresse is still only 26 years old.

 

Clark MacArthur, Toronto – Coming off consecutive 20-goal campaigns – including a career high 62-point effort in 2010-11 – MacArthur had eight goals and 20 points in 40 games for the Leafs last season. His ’10-11 performance earned him a hefty two-year deal that paid him an average of $3.25 million over the last two seasons. MacArthur is still just 28, and he could get a two- or three-year deal but is likely to take a pay cut in the process.

 

Brenden Morrow, Pittsburgh – The former Stars’ captain moved to Pittsburgh just ahead of the 2013 trade deadline. A rugged winger/leader (think: Dustin Brown forerunner) who has been in the league since 1999-00, Morrow started to fade over the last two seasons, but did experience a bit of a rebirth (14 points in 15 games) in his short Pittsburgh stay. Now 34, Morrow should still have plenty of suitors. He’s coming off a six-year deal that paid him an average of $4.1 million annually. This time around, he may get two or three years max at a ceiling of about $2.5 million annually, depending on who is interested.

 

Eric Nystrom, Dallas – A former first-rounder, Nystrom has settled in as a bottom six forward. He was second among all Dallas forwards in penalty-killing ice time per game last season and averaged a career best 14:21 per night while playing in all 48 games with the Stars. Coming off a three-year deal that paid him an average of $1.4 million a year, Nystrom can expect shorter term and similar – if a bit less – money.

 

Dustin Penner, Los Angeles – Penner is the last player to change teams via a free agent offer sheet; he opted to take $21.25 million over five years to duck Anaheim for Edmonton in the summer of 2007. Traded to Los Angeles after some ups and downs with the Oilers, Penner has produced just 11 goals and 37 points in 117 games with the Kings. He’s big (6-foot-4, 242), somewhat young (31 in Sept.), and talented (29 goals in ’06-07 and 32 in ’09-10) so some team is likely to give him a couple million or so annually on short term deal.

 

Alexei Ponikarovsky, New Jersey – The 33-year-old Ponikarovsky has four 20-goal seasons on his résumé, the last of those coming in 2009-10. Since then, he has moved around like Mike Sillinger while scoring a total of 23 goals. Dwindling production and ice time will result in a deal less than or around $1 million this time around, assuming he even remains in the NHL.

 

Vinny Prospal, Columbus – Back in 1993-94, Prospal started his North American odyssey with the Hershey Bears. He spent three seasons there before graduating to the Flyers in 1996-97. Since then, Prospal has toiled for seven different NHL clubs. Bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning several years back, Prospal has rebounded well since. Now 38, Prospal hasn’t missed a game in two seasons and is still an effective top six winger. Over his career, he has averaged .69 points per game. His numbers over the last four seasons have been: .77, .79, .67 and .63. A one-year deal would be prudent at this juncture. He made $2.5 million last season, and should come in close to that figure again. He’s likely to re-up with the Jackets.

 

Mason Raymond, Vancouver – Raymond is a speedy, lefty-shooting winger who has played on both sides. He scored 25 goals for the Canucks in 2009-10, but has been nagged by injuries since, the most serious of which was fractured vertebrae sustained in the 2011 Stanley Cup final against Boston. Raymond plays a little on both special teams and turns 28 just prior to the start of the 2013-14 season (born on the same day as Washington’s Alex Ovechkin). A sound, two-way winger who is capable of playing in the top six when healthy, Raymond figures to get a multi-year deal in the neighborhood (or upwards) of the $2.275 million he earned last season.

 

Viktor Stalberg, Chicago – One of the speediest wingers in the game, Stalberg also scored 22 goals as recently as 2011-12. He netted a dozen goals in his first season in Chicago despite averaging less than 11 minutes per night. The Hawks got Stalberg in their last Stanley Cup sell-off; he came from the Leafs for Kris Versteeg. A third-line winger with wheels who should chip in 15 goals and can play on the second power play unit, Stalberg might be able to get a multi-year deal in the $1.8-$2.2 million average annual value ballpark.

 

 

Right Wings

Craig Adams, Pittsburgh – He doesn’t score at all and he plays only about 11 minutes a night. But Adams is a gritty winger who is very adept at killing penalties in addition to his fourth line duties. Teams in need of a shorthanded boost should be able to snag the 36-year-old veteran without breaking the bank; he earned $675,000 annually on the two-year deal he inked a couple years back. Pittsburgh is probably interested in re-signing him. Adams was the Hartford Whalers’ last-ever draft choice (ninth round, 223rd overall in 1996).

 

Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa – It’s difficult to envision Alfredsson in a uniform other than that of the Senators, but it sounds as though the 40-year-old is up for another season in the NHL. He and the Sens could come to terms on another one-year extension, but other teams – such as the Bruins and Red Wings – are also making their interest known. The Ottawa captain isn’t what he was in his prime, but he could likely still be useful as a second or third line option on the right side. Alfredsson averaged more than 19 minutes a night last season and missed just one game. His just-concluded four-year deal paid him $4.875 annually, and he may be able to get between $3 and $4 million on a one-year pact for 2013-14.

 

Brad Boyes, New York Islanders – Boyes was a first-round (24th overall) selection in the 2000 draft, and he has been the property of six NHL organizations since. He scored 43 goals in 2007-08 and just eight in 2011-12, and that’s indicative of the wild swings in his production over the years. He signed a one-year deal with the Isles in ’12-13 and came through with 10 goals and 35 points in top six duty, his best season in terms of points per game since ’07-08. The 31-year-old winger earned $1 million last season, and he might be in for a raise this time around.

 

Danny Briere, Philadelphia – Injuries and age have combined to curtail Briere’s effectiveness, leading to a buyout from the Flyers. He turns 36 just before the start of the ’13-14 season, but Briere can still be a useful piece for a team in need of a second line right winger and power play piece. He is likely to earn about half of the $6.5 million he averaged yearly on the deal that Philly paid to get out of, and Nashville, New Jersey and Montreal have been mentioned as possible landing spots.

 

Damien Brunner, Detroit – Listed as a center on NHL.com, Brunner took all of five face-offs last season and is a RW for our purposes. The 27-year-old Swiss import totaled a dozen goals and 26 points in 44 games for the Wings in his first NHL season in 2012-13. He has good hands (led Swiss league in scoring in 2011-12) and wheels and averaged better than 15 minutes a night for Detroit. Brunner had a strong playoff showing and should draw a great deal of interest. He should get a multi-year deal if he wants it, and should be able to double his $1.35 million figure of last season.

 

David Clarkson, Toronto – Clarkson uses his hands to fight and to score. He’s a power forward who goes to the net and battles well along the wall and in the corners. After scoring 30 goals in 2011-12, he scored 15 in 48 games in ’12-13. The hard-nosed winger has missed only two games over the last three seasons and should have a number of teams clamoring for his services. The Devils are vying to re-sign him, and he’s also a likely fit in his native Toronto with the Leafs. Clarkson’s last deal was for three years at an average annual payout of $2.67 million. He’ll likely be able to command $4 million or more annually on a multi-year deal this summer.

 

Dan Cleary, Detroit – Chosen 13th overall in the 1997 draft, Cleary struggled to get his career going in Chicago, Edmonton and Phoenix. He found a home in Detroit, and has been a valuable piece of the Wings’ puzzle for eight seasons now. Cleary turns 35 in December and his production has declined in each of the last two seasons. He is probably looking at a one- or two-year deal for about half of the $2.8 million he averaged over the last five seasons.

 

Milan Hejduk, Colorado – Hejduk was one of the league’s top scorers in the first decade of this century, but the 37-year-old saw his 11-season streak with 20 or more goals come to a half when he totaled 14 in 2011-12. Last season, Hejduk managed just four goals and 11 points in 29 games. He hasn’t made it clear whether he wants to try to extend his career, but if he does he is probably looking at a one-year deal for no more than $1 million. He earned $2 million on a one-year deal in ’12-13.

 

Nathan Horton, Boston – Chosen third overall in the bountiful 2003 draft, Horton has been a reasonably effective power forward over the years. But he has also had the feel of a guy who had more to give. Horton scored 31 goals in his third season in the league, but hasn’t been able to repeat. A string of six straight 20-goal seasons ended in 2011-12 when injuries cost him half the season. Horton is 28 and figures to draw plenty of interest. He may even get a raise on the $4 million he has averaged over the last six seasons.

 

Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh – Iginla joined the Penguins from Calgary just ahead of the 2013 trade deadline. Although the Pens did not go on to win the Cup as everyone seemed to predict, Iginla performed well in Pittsburgh both in the regular season and during the playoffs. Although he just turned 36 and has been in the league since 1996-97, and although he did experience a slight decline in offensive output last season, Iginla is still capable of manning the right side of a top line and should be a top six forward for at least another two or three seasons. He won’t get the $7 million he has earned annually over the last five seasons, but I won’t be shocked if Iginla gets a three-year deal similar to the one Patrik Elias signed to stay in New Jersey ($5.5 million per season).

 

Jaromir Jagr, Boston – Jagr didn’t score in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, but he was still an effective players. Returning to the NHL after a three-year absence while playing in Europe, Jagr has averaged .75 points per game over the last two seasons in the NHL. At 41, he is still effective enough to be a top six right wing in the league and should be able to convince a team to part with $2-3 million for next season. Jagr was paid $4.55 million in 2012-13.

 

Chad Larose, Carolina – Larose is a swift-skating winger who has spent his entire NHL career with the Hurricanes. He played up and down the lineup over the years in Carolina, posting 11-19 goals and 22-32 points in each of five straight seasons before falling off precipitously (two goals, four points, 35 games) in 2012-13. Larose’s dip will scare some, but his gritty, fearless style should ensure that he has at least few teams interested in employing him. He earned an average of $1.7 million over the last two seasons, and is likely headed for at least a slight cut.

 

Michael Ryder, Montreal – Three times a 30-goal scorer (including as recently as 2-11-12), Ryder owns a blazing shot but struggles with some other aspects of the game. A team in need of a sniper/power play weapon will ink the 33-year-old Ryder somewhere well south of the $3.5 million he averaged over the last two seasons.

 

Teemu Selanne, Anaheim – Selanne is one of the game’s best ever players and best ever guys. Most of us would love to see him play forever. He is 43 and has slowed perceptibly, but takes great care of himself and had gears that no one else had in his prime, giving him a step or two to lose at this stage of his career. I fully expect him to sign only with Anaheim, and only for a year, if he opts to continue. I hope he does.

 

Steve Sullivan, New Jersey – Sullivan debuted with the Devils in 1995-96, and returned to Jersey for the tail end of 2012-13. That could represent the prefect circle for the 38-year-old winger, whose last 20-goal season was in 2006-07. If he wants to continue his career, he’ll get no more than a one-year deal for less than half of the $2.6 million he pulled down last season. A ninth-rounder in the 1994 draft, Sullivan battled through some debilitating injuries and forged a 1,000-game NHL career. Kudos to him.

 

 

Posted in: Sports
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