April 11, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter (20) defends Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas HolmStrom (96) in front of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) during the second period in game one of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators beat the Red Wings 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE
After a little delay, we get back it with a look at the Central Division's UFA's. The Central Division could be considered one of the best in hockey, has some of the NHL's better players, and a couple of those players look like they might be hitting the free agent market this summer. All 5 teams look like they will have some money to spend this offseason, with a couple looking at possibly replacing some very important players. The Blue Jackets & Predators look like they are the 2 teams that are going to have the most interesting summers, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Red Wings being huge players in the UFA market this year. The Preds have over half of their roster in some form of free agency and also have 2 of the biggest potentially available names currently on their roster. The Blues are also in a similar boat, having only a few UFA's, but they have some important pieces that are RFA's. But the team that could look completely different come the 12/13 NHL season is the Blue Jackets. They went wild in last summer and it sort of blew up in their face. They already traded away one of those coveted pieces and it now looks like the will be trading the face of the franchise. All-in-all, it looks to be a very intriguing offseason in the Central Divison.
As mentioned before, here is what I have done. I broke down the UFA's by team with a small blurb on each player. If the UFA played in less than 20 games in 2011/2012, I simply listed them without a blurb. This is actually the first "less than 20 games played" list that I find a couple of interesting players. While theses players would be "projects", they could yield a nice "bang for your buck". So take a look and let me know your thoughts on these potential free agents and whether you believe any could help the Canes out next season. I should have the Northwest Division UFA's up by Sunday.
Andrew Brunette - LW/RW - Brunette is a guy that doesn't really stand out, but he seems to always be pretty productive. He has decent size and works well down low, but skating is an issue for him. He will also be 39 before next season starts, so his best days are probably behind him.
Brendan Morrison - C/W - Another older player that seems on the downside of his career. He could possibly be a adequate 3rd line center, but he is not much of a physical player. He still is alright at dishing the puck, but he's probably not a full season guy anymore.
Jamal Mayers - C/RW - Mayers is a tough 4th line player, but he too is "seasoned". He will provide some energy and can play some on the PK, but he's not going to offer much offense. He'll probably get some minimum contract somewhere, but there are better options for the Canes.
Johnny Oduya - D - Oduya is a very solid defenseman that doesn't really excel in any particular area. He's good defensively, but he's not really a shutdown guy. He will chip in occasionally on offensive, but he's not going to put up big numbers. He's not small, but he's also not big or physical. He's a good 3rd pairing defenseman, that could play at times in the top 4. He will probably get more money than what he is worth, so I don't see him in the Canes future.
Sean O'Donnell - D - O'Donnell is a big, stay-at-home defenseman that is also getting up there in age. He's a good team player that can work on the 3rd pairing and provide some "veteran" leadership. He's will provide a few assists, but isn't much in the offensive zone. If your blueline needs some size, he would be a cheap addition.
Sami Lepisto - D - Lepisto is a depth, offensive defenseman. He can move the puck pretty well and put up some numbers, but he's not more than a 7th or 8th defenseman. He's not small, but isn't physical. This is a pass for the Canes, as we have plenty of better options already within our system.
Darryl Boyce - C/LW - A 4th line energy guy that plays with heart, but his skills don't translate to much production in the NHL. He's never played more than 46 NHL games and will probably always be one of those tweeners.
Derek MacKenzie - C/LW - MacKenzie is another 4th liner that will give it his all, every game. He's not going to put up big numbers, but he'll get a few goals and is pretty good in the faceoff department. He doesn't have great size, but will throw his body around. He would be a decent add if a 4th liner was injured in the preseason.
Ryan Russell - LW/C - Seems like a common theme, another energy guy. Russell is sort of small though and really isn't going to impress much. Given his projected role and his size, the Canes should steer away from him.
Brett Lebda - D - Lebda has bounced around a little over the past couple of seasons. He's a tiny guy that doesn't really have the offense to make him worthwhile. He can skate and can get the puck out of the zone, but struggles against bigger opponents and that's pretty much everybody. He really wouldn't fit on the Hurricanes blueline.
Aaron Johnson - D - Johnson is pretty much your run-of-the-mill tweener defenseman. His skill level pretty much maxes out in the AHL. He can contribute some offensively, but he plays a little lost in his own zone. You would have to be very careful as to who you play with him, so we should look elsewhere.
Curtis Sanford - G - Sanford is the definition of a backup goalie. He doesn't have the ability to be a #1, but can get you buy when your top guy needs a rest. He is just over 0.900 in save percentage and doesn't have to see a lot of action to be be ready. If Boucher was not here, we might work as a cheap backup for our workhorse.
Players with less than 20 games this past season - Kristian Huselius LW/RW, Radek Martinek D, Alexandre Giroux LW/RW, Nick Holden D, Curtis McElhinney G, Martin St. Pierre C, Mark Dekanich G, Dane Byers LW
Jiri Hudler - RW/LW - Hudler is a player that has a lot of skill, but only adds (or subtracts) to our lack of size. He's a sniper and should get you 20+ goals. Again, his size is an issue and he is not the best defensive forward. He has also bolted for the KHL once, so you never know if he'll do it again. He's an option, but I wouldn't say a top option.
Tomas Holmstrom - RW/LW - Holmstrom is old, slow, and not really good at even strength, but he still excels in one area, the power play. He is the example of what you should do on the PP. He parks himself in front of the net and screens the goalie perfectly. 10 of his 11 goals came on the PP. But I do not think he is going to leave Detroit, I think he would retire first.
Nicklas Lidstrom - D - Lidstrom is 42 years old and is still one of the best overall defensemen in the league. He is a lifetime Red Wing and I can't see that changing, but retirement seems to be a real option this offseason.
Brad Stuart - D - Stuart is the type of defenseman we need to add. He's a shutdown guy that can skate pretty well. He throws some hits and is willing to block shots. He doesn't contribute a lot offensively, but that's not what we need him for. I've heard that his family lives out west, so coming to Carolina is unlikely. But I wouldn't mind seeing him in a Canes sweater next season.
Andrei Kostitsyn - LW/RW - Andrei is a strong, skilled player that has scoring ability, but he also lacks worth ethic and makes bad decisions. He has actually been on decline, stats-wise, since 07/08. Andrei could also be a player that goes to the KHL at any moment, so signing him would be a huge risk.
Paul Gaustad - C - Gaustad is a beast that will throw his huge frame around and is excellent in the faceoff circle. He's not much of a scorer, but his normal duties revolve around shutting down the opposing lines. It's tough adding a former Sabre, but Gaustad might be a good option if the Canes decide to try Sutter out on the 2nd line.
Jordin Tootoo - RW/LW - Tootoo is like a version of an earlier Chad LaRose. He's a agitator, provides energy, will throw his body around, and can contribute a little offensively. He doesn't score many goals and will take bad penalties, but he does play his role well. I really don't see a need for another type of this player on the Canes, so I don't see any reason to sign him.
Brandon Yip - RW/LW - Yip is a bottom 6 guy that has a little upside. He skates well and gives it his all. He not overly big and not extremely skilled, but he could be a 20 to 30 point guy. He needs a little more seasoning, but it could happen. He's not really a solution for any Canes hole, but I would imagine some team signs him.
Brian McGrattan - RW - McGrattan is a big boy and plays his role as enforcer well. He's not really going to provide much of anything else and probably cannot be considered a full-time player, but he adds toughness. He's not really what a team looking for an upgrade in talent is in search for.
Ryan Suter - D - Most likely the cream of the crop of UFA defensemen. Suter is an all-around beast. He is a good point producer and is very sound defensively. He logs a ton of minutes, plays in all situations, and blocks a good number of shots. The only thing he doesn't really do well is throw hits. He's going to be a hot commodity this summer and I hope the Canes at least make a pitch for his services.
Hal Gill - D - Gill is a giant of a man and if the Canes are looking to replace Bryan Allen, Gill might be an option. He doesn't have the best wheels, but he is a steady player. He's a shutdown defenseman that can play on the PK, will through some hits and block shots. His size, abilities, and veteran leadership might make a good playing partner for one of our young right-handed defensemen.
Francis Bouillon - D - Bouillon is a smaller defender that plays a physical game. He can get pushed around due to his size, but works hard and is willing to throw his little frame around. He doesn't do much in the point production area, but can be a reliable 3rd pairing player. He's no spring chicken and wouldn't be my first choice, but he can still play.
Players with less than 20 games this past season - Tyler Sloan D, Brodie Dupont LW/C
Jason Arnott - C - Arnott is an aging center that continues to put up solid, not spectacular, numbers. He's got really good size and plays a responsible game. He isn't the very fast and is on the downside of his career, so he could become unproductive at almost any moment. I don't think he would be a good option for the Canes.
Jamie Langenbrunner - RW/LW - Jamie is the type of player that can play up & down the lineup and even though he is getting up there in age, he still has pretty good speed. But his production over the past couple of years has really dropped off. He not really a big guy or someone who is going to be very physical. I don't see him staying in the league too much longer and think the Canes should look elsewhere.
Scott Nichol - C - Honestly, I've always liked Nichol. He's a little guy that gets under everybody's skin and is excellent in the faceoff department. He's not going to provide hardly any offense and he's getting up there in age. He's solid defensively and plays on the PK, he's a pretty good 4th liner. But he really isn't needed in Carolina.
Chris Porter - LW/RW - Porter is pretty much your run-of-the-mill 4th liner. He's not extremely skilled, not extremely big, but he will do whatever is asked of him. He'll work his butt off, but just isn't going to be much of a difference maker.
Kent Huskins - D - The best way I can describe Huskins is steady. He's nothing special in any particular area of his game, but is solid. He doesn't put up many points, doesn't really deliver many hits, but he generally ends up in the + column. He's a good depth defenseman, but I'm not really sure he is needed on the Canes.
Up next: The Northwest Division.