It’s been a relatively quiet start to the first day of the NHL free agency signing period, with most teams looking for deals with role players while a few look to land a big fish out of a small pond.
The two biggest fish still available — New Jersey Devils star forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators franchise defenseman Ryan Suter — are wisely taking the time to weigh all their options. Both have received numerous offers (teams such as Philadelphia, Minnesota, Detroit and Carolina have reportedly made pitches to both players), and neither seems to be in a rush to decide where he will play hockey for what could be at least the next 10 years. There is an excellent chance that neither player will announce where he will skating next year until Monday, as there are simply too many factors to consider and taking an extra day is a prudent move.
That’s not to say there haven’t been other signings so far. Here are a few I feel are worthy of a mention.
1. Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars, wing: The man they call “The Wizard” might be 40 years old and entering his 21st season, but he is definitely worth the two years and $9 million the Stars offered. Whitney is coming off a year that saw him score 24 goals and 77 points in playing all 82 games. More importantly than his offense, though, is his leadership and demeanor. He is known throughout the league as an outstanding person with a tremendous work ethic. Whitney is one of those guys who “gets it” and make those around him better. Good work by Stars GM Joe Niewendyk seemingly coming out of nowhere to make this happen.
2. P.A. Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche, right wing: After picking up 67 points last year while playing in Long Island, Parenteau knew he’d have to move on to another team to get the kind of money he felt was deserved. He got it from the Avalanche, who are showing the NHL that they are ready to make a move back into the Western Conference playoffs. He will make $16 million over the next four years and will probably have a chance to play with Avs center — the No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 draft — Matt Duchene. The irony there is that Parenteau played with John Tavares — the No. 1 overall pick from that same draft whom the Isles chose over Duchene — for most of last year, and many naysayers felt that he was the reason for P.A.’s career year.
3. Filip Kuba, Florida Panthers, defense: A few years ago I might not have included Kuba in this column, but now I will. He’s coming off a good year in Ottawa that saw him record 32 points (6 goals, 26 assists) and had an impressive plus-26 rating. He paired with Erik Karlsson most of the year and allowed the young Norris Trophy winner the freedom to “go” with the puck when he wanted. This signing most likely means Florida defender Jason Garrison will be finding a new home, as his price tag will probably exceed $5 million per year.
4. Brandon Prust, Montreal Canadiens, wing: Prust probably didn’t want to leave the New York Rangers, but knew he would get more money elsewhere. Enter the Canadiens and their new GM Marc Bergevin. Montreal needed to get tougher to play against (their forwards were regularly referred to as “Smurfs”), and Prust will help with that a lot. The price tag of $2.5 million per year for four years might be a little high, but that’s what being a free agent is all about. While Prust is coming off a season in Manhattan where he only scored 17 points, it was his contributions on the fourth line, as a penalty killer and protector of his teammates, that made him very valuable. He’s also durable, as his 82 games played in each of the last two seasons shows.
5. Adam Burish, San Jose Sharks, center: While this might not appear to be an enormous signing to many people, I like this for San Jose as they need to get grittier to play against, and Burish will provide that. Despite only playing in 13 regular-season games, he was a well-respected member of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup-winning team in 2010. His presence in the playoffs that year helped complete that Hawks lineup with his willingness to battle, take face-offs and block shots. He battled injuries last year in Dallas, mainly a result of his tenacious style of play. Burish has an instant connection in San Jose with his former University of Wisconsin teammate Joe Pavelski, and will make $1.8 million per year for four seasons.
6. Guillaume Latandresse, Ottawa Senators, left wing: The big power forward (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) spent most of the last three years in Minnesota. However, he only played in 27 games over the last two years due to concussions. His career high is 40 points, but the feeling is that he’s underachieved throughout his career. If he can stay healthy (a big “if”) and he brings a good work ethic with him, this could be a nice signing for the Senators. He signed a one-year deal at $1.25 million, which would be a steal if he plays to even three-quarters of his potential.
Thumbnail via Facebook/Ray Whitney