Anyone who has followed the Hurricanes recently knows that the team is in the market for a 3rd line center. There happen to be quite a few good, reasonably priced players to look at that will be available July 1st. I'm going to make a "CanesCountry Wishlist", a listing of centers who I think Canes management should take a look at. If they don't sign Scott Walker they'll also be needing another forward, but we'll just look at the centers today.
I have created a new listing of available free agents which is titled "CanesCountry UFA Listing" and a link to the page has been placed on the left sidebar for future use. I found the names from a listing on TSN.com and incorporated last year's salaries from the NHLPA.com website. The listing is subject to change of course if the player's current team signs them before the July 1st deadline.
First of all, let's eliminate the players who will not be targeted for one reason or another. You have the cream of the crop class who will command way too much money for 3rd line pay. Players like, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Scott Gomez, and Peter Forsberg will all be earning huge salaries, so there is no need to even include them in consideration. Here's my best shot at where they will end up though. Drury goes to San Jose, Briere stays in Buffalo, Gomez goes to the Flyers, and Forsberg returns to the Avs.
There is another grouping of centers who might end up in the salary range the Canes are looking for, but I don't think would fit in with the team system or they just aren't worth the money in my opinion. They include Alexei Yashin, Mike Comrie, Kyle Calder, Eric Belanger, Joe Vasicek, Patrik Stefan, Robert Lang, Petr Nedved, and Mike York. There is yet another grouping of centers who are just about washed up and we should just stay away from them, period. They include, Jeremy Roenick, Eric Lindros, Mike Ricci, and Wayne Primeau.
Now, who should the Canes be targeting?
My number one choice is Bryan Smolinski. Bryan is a consistent high teen goal scorer and has almost always scored over 40 points per year throughout his career. He's responsible in his own end and has a plus 37 for the past 3 years. The downside? At 36 years old, he's getting a bit long in the tooth and his speed isn't what it used to be. Overall though, he would be an upgrade over Belanger and Vasicek from last year and he usually brings an edge of grit to his game. Target price, 1.5 to 2.3 million per year for a two year deal at the most. Smolinski made 1.5 million last year.
Number 2 is Todd White. White is another consistent high teen goal man who is also responsible in his own end. He's a career plus 52 player and is younger and faster than Smolinski, but is a bit more injury prone. He's had some 20 goal seasons when he was with Ottawa. The downside? He had one of his worst years last year and only scored 13 goals. He literally disappeared in the playoffs in 2007 and has worn out his welcome in Minnesota. Target price, 1.5 to 1.8 million per year for a two year deal at the most. White made 1.5 million last year.
Number 3, Yanic Perreault. Perreault is a consistent 20 goal a year player. Two years ago he had 22 goals and 57 points for Nashville. Last year Phoenix was thrilled with his production and traded him at the trade deadline because he was one of the few positive assets they had. Yanic's skill might provide some help for the team's beleagured shoot out results last year. Also, he consistently is at or near the top in the league in face-off win percentage. With him and Brind'Amour, the Canes would have the two top face-off men in the league! The downside? He's also 36 and getting up in age. He tends to disappear on defense and is a career negative player with a -19. Also, he did nothing to help the Leafs after the trade deadline deal last year. Perreault interests me though because he might come cheap, at 1 to 1.3 million which would give the Canes more money to sign Scott Walker. Target price, 1 to 1.3 million for one year. Perreault made 700K last year.
Number 4, Michal Handzus. "Zeus" is a popular, hardworking player with similar stats as White and Smolinski above. He's a bit younger than they are and could have more upside, but I have him ranked lower on my "wishlist" because of his probably inflated price tag and because of last year's "torn ACL" major knee surgery. This is a similar surgery to what Vasicek went through and I don't think Joe ever fully recovered. Consider that and the fact that "Zeus" will most likely demand a salary in excess of 2 to 2.5 million per year, I just think the risk is too high for that kind of money. If the Canes can sign him for 1.5 million though, it's a different story. Target price, 1.5 to 1.8 million. Handzus made 2.128 million last year, but only played 8 games.
Number 5, Michael Peca. Peca is another player who might be a good acquisition for the right price, but the Canes certainly don't want to invest too much in the guy. His high scoring days are behind him as he is averaging less than 10 goals scored per year for the past 4 years. He's also missed many games due to a variety of injuries, but Peca brings an intangible grit to his game that might be considered by many as borderline "dirty." He usually plays on the edge and got hot at the right time for the Oilers during the playoffs in 2006, scoring 6 goals for them. He could be considered an asset, but at what price? My target price for him would be 1.5 million for 1 year, he's too much of an injury risk to pay more. He made 2.5 million last year.
Number 6, Tyler Arnason. Tyler is the youngest of this bunch and comes with the most possible upside. He also has the least experience and would be a gamble to sign for a long term contract, which is probably what he would be seeking. He's been healthy throughout his career and is perfectly capable of scoring goals in the high teens or low twenties. Will he be available in the Cane's price slot though? Target price, 1.5 million per year for a max of 3 years. Last year Tyler made 900K.
As you can see, each player comes with some positive and negative aspects to their game. In my opinion, there is no slam-dunk sure thing out there. There's usually a good reason why their present teams haven't signed them yet. The players either want too much money or the present team wants to move on for whatever reason, (like the Canes and Vasicek). The primary thing that will separate these players from each other and what will make one of them most attractive to the Canes is the contract they are willing to sign for. I am assuming the Canes have 1.5 to 2 million to spend on this slot. They have another 2 million available for Walker's slot. Which player will accept those terms for a limited number of years will determine a lot. But my money says that the Canes will sign one of those 6 players. Time will tell!
Here's the best of the rest. They are possibilities, but I don't see them coming here unless the top 6 go elsewhere or want too much money and the Canes get more desperate. These players should all still be available well after the first few days of signings. In no particular order, Danius Zubrus, Pierre Turgeon, Jozef Stumpel, Wes Walz, Radek Bonk, and Jeff O'Neill.
If the Canes don't sign Scott Walker, they will be in need of yet another forward. We'll take a look at those possibilities in a couple of days. That's all for now!