We will break the rest of the upcoming Unrestricted Free Agent class into groups, but first we need to clarify some ground rules:
- We're looking at this from a Flyers perspective, so cap and roster constraints will come into play.
- As long as Vinny actually retires, there shouldn't really be any monetary limits, but we don't want to commit a lot of money long-term.
- We seem to be set at the goalie position for the foreseeable future, and we are also probably content with our overall outlook on defense. So we're looking primarily at forwards.
- Let's plan on Ron Hextall re-signing Ryan White to provide some high-energy minutes on the fourth line.
- Let's also plan on Hextall re-signing Michael Raffl and Brayden Schenn to make our top nine forwards next year 28, 93, 17, 14, 24, 10, 12, Konecny, and a free agent or a minor league call-up (Laughton, Cousins, Leier, Straka, etc).
- That plan would mean we're seeking a third center in this exercise, but a winger would also work if Schenn or Konecny could carry their own line.
Definitely Going To Be Too Expensive, But It's Fun To Think About
Steven Stamkos, Lightning
Anze Kopitar, Kings
I almost didn't include these two, because it's just going to be sad when they ultimately end up somewhere else. Could you imagine replacing the Laughton-Umberger-Read line with a Raffl-Kopitar-Simmonds checking line? Or giving Claude Giroux a pair of wingers (Voracek and Stamkos) that would make his line the best in NHL history?
Probably Going To Be Too Expensive, But Maybe For The Right Deal
Eric Staal, Hurricanes
Milan Lucic, Kings
David Backes, Blues
Andrew Ladd, Jets
Mikkel Boedker, Coyotes
Kyle Okposo, Islanders
Backes, especially, is an interesting short-term solution. He's made about $30 million in his career, and I wonder if he would even entertain the idea of not signing a long-term deal. He would immediately come in and center the third line (Raffl-Backes-Laughton?), and his defensive prowess would lift that line to respectability, ideally on a 1- or 2-year deal to allow Laughton a little more time to grow into the role.
Okposo is a more long-term solution, though he's probably a pipe dream. But he's young, talented, American, and we'd be poaching him from a division rival. The Islanders have a little bit of cap space (helped by captain John Tavares' team-friendly deal), but they will likely have to pay Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas more, so they would have to commit all of their extra space to give Okposo a raise on his current $2.8 million salary. Could he be had for a Wayne Simmonds-style 4 year/$16 million deal? Probably not, which is why he's in this category and not the next one.
What About These Guys, You've Heard Of Them I Guess, Maybe
Sam Gagner, Phantoms
Kris Versteeg, Hurricanes
Loui Eriksson, Bruins
P.A. Parenteau, Maple Leafs
Matt Martin, Islanders
Gagner is, of course, mostly a joke because he hasn't found a role in this year's team yet. I hope they figure out what they want to do with him before the trade deadline, because he could fetch an asset instead of leaving for nothing this summer.
Martin, while he does play a nice physical game, figures to be re-signed by New York.
We will get a glimpse tonight of what Eriksson can do, but he may end up commanding more money than the Flyers are willing to pay him. He's 30, so he's also probably seeking a longer term than would make sense for us. Similarly, age/term could be too much of an issue for Parenteau.
Versteeg probably wants more money than Hextall's willing to give him after he turns 30, but there's no denying he is a capable contributor for at least a couple more seasons (this would ideally be similar to the plan I laid out for Backes). Versteeg was nominated for the Calder his rookie season, won two Stanley Cups in Chicago, and I had completely forgotten that he was a Flyer for like five months in 2011. His 27 points through 43 games this season would rank him second on the Flyers, behind only Giroux.
Four Guys In Their Late 20's Who Could Hit The Market And Be In Our Price Range
Michael Grabner, Maple Leafs
Jamie McGinn, Sabres
Riley Nash, Hurricanes
Dale Weise, Canadiens
When I say "in our price range" I really have no idea what I mean. Shit, Okposo could be in our price range at $5 million per season. I honestly don't have a clue. We're just dicking around here.
But this group of guys would be decidedly considered "role players" on a good NHL team. They made it through their rookie contracts and RFA years without impressing their teams enough to get locked down at big money.
Grabner scored 52 points in one season as an Islander, but has seen his number slip since then and figures to score around 20-30 points for the rest of his useful life.
Jamie McGinn is the older brother of Former Flyer Tye McGinn. Tye was, in my recollection, a bit of a savage. Jamie is slightly less of a savage, but his numbers have been very inconsistent and he's bounced between the NHL and AHL quite a few times. Despite the inconsistency (including scoring just 6 points in 19 games all last season with Colorado), McGinn figures to project in that 20-30 point class like Grabner.
Dale Weise is bald. He's going to turn 28 this summer. He's never made more than $1.025 million in an NHL season, and his career earnings are less than Cherry Hill Native Bobby Ryan's annual salary. Yes, somehow, I find myself thinking he's an attractive candidate for a short-term deal.
Riley Nash is an absolute A++ hockey name, and at age 26 he's the youngest player that figures to be available as an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Cornell product is in his third full season in the NHL (he split 2011-12 and 2012-13 between the NHL and AHL), and has totaled just 6 points this season. But he scored 24 and 25 points respectively in the past two seasons and obviously has some years left in his career to turn it around. Nash made $2.6 million on his rookie deal, $1.2 million combined on his first two-year UFA deal, and $1.2 million this year. Obviously, he was hoping for more impressive numbers to carry him to a larger long-term deal, but his poor first half could result in him being a bargain for someone this summer.