Many of the top NHL free agents have been signed to new contracts since the market opened on July 1, but several quality players remain unsigned.
Teams that need forward depth, specifically on the third and fourth lines, should be able to find a player who can provide additional scoring and grit without paying a steep price.
Let’s take a look at the five best unrestricted free agents available.
5) Daniel Winnik
Position: Center/Left Wing
2013-14 cap hit: $1.8 million
Winnik is a quality bottom-six forward who could provide valuable scoring depth as a left-handed shot capable of playing down the middle or on the wings. The University of New Hampshire product’s penalty-killing skill, good size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and decent speed also should help him land a job in the near future.
Winnik tallied 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in 79 games for the Anaheim Ducks last season.
4) Lee Stempniak
Position: Right wing
2013-14 cap hit: $2.5 million
Stempniak is a bottom-six forward who provides depth scoring, grit, leadership and experience. He tallied 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 73 games between the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013-14.
Stempniak would be a good fit on a team in need of a sniper on the third line. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he makes up for it with a high hockey IQ and smart, accurate passes.
3) Mike Ribeiro
2013-14 cap hit: $5.5 million
Ribeiro’s value hasn’t been this low in a long time. He’s coming off an abysmal first season with the Arizona Coyotes that led to the team buying him out last month because of what it said was behavioral concerns.
On the right team, Ribeiro would be a good second or third-line center, and he also has proven to be a reliable point-producer on the power play. He’s only one year removed from posting 49 points in 48 games for the Washington Capitals during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Ribeiro still is a quality playmaker capable of tallying 10 to 15 goals and consistently creating scoring opportunities for teammates.
2) Derek Roy
2013-14 cap hit: $4 million
Roy would be a depenable third- or fourth-line center for a team lacking depth and offensive skill down the middle. He’s not the 60-point player we saw in Buffalo, but the veteran forward still could tally 25 to 40 points as a playmaking center. Roy isn’t terrible defensively and would provide valuable leadership for a young team. He also has 49 games of playoff experience.
1) Michael Del Zotto
2013-14 cap hit: $2.55 million
It’s a little surprising that Del Zotto remains unsigned. He’s a promising offensive talent, but after tallying 41 points for the New York Rangers during the 2011-12 season, he has posted just 37 points over his last 113 games. Del Zotto has good mobility, can create scoring chances on the power play and skates really well. The concern with Del Zotto is his defensive game. He’s not a physical player, gets caught out of position often and loses a lot of 1-on-1 puck battles along the boards and in the corners.
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