With free agency looming, the Devils have quite a few needs- re-signing Zach Parise, dumping problem contracts and finding a puck moving defenseman. Of course, this will be quite hard to do, as we all know the team's up against the cap. So the team will have to go to the bargain bin to find some players- seeing as they're cheap and they can be kept for a short period of time. There are a few ways to find bargains- but one easy way could be unqualified RFAs- who will become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Considering that they're young and relatively cheap, they could make for good bargains. While Anssi Salmela might not be a Devil after next season, he could end up finding an NHL job with another team. Pro Hockey Talk has a list of all the unqualified RFAs for this season- so you could look at some of them yourself. Here are some of my picks.
If David Clarkson is a on the chopping block like most would expect, the Devils would be in the market for a big, physical winger. Brodie pretty much fits that to a T. He had 10 fighting majors in 50 games for Carolina- which is interesting, because outside of the 50 PIMs accumulated from fighting majors, he only took 2 minor penalties in the 50 games. He can provide some toughness sans the terrible penalties. Brodie will also come cheap- he made the league minimum last season, so if the Devils were to pick him up, he'd be signed for real cheap. The only downside is that Brodie is a serious downgrade from Clarkson in terms of offense. But i'd much rather have Brodie with a $500K cap hit than Clarkson with $2.66 M cap hit.
Lepisto might be a potential candidate for a puck moving defenseman. Lepisto could make for a useful powerplay specialist/bottom pairing defenseman. In comparison to Matt Taormina, Lepisto is much bigger and more defensively sound. However, he doesn't look like he possesses the same offensive abilities Taormina has. Additionally, Mark Fayne looks like he can do what Lepiston can, except in a more important role. He might be a plan B if a good puck-mover like Anton Babchuk isn't available.
Another potential plan B- Gilroy is more expensive than Lepisto, but does provide a similar offensive skillset. Defensively, Gilroy's not that great- meaning he could potentially put up 20-30 points but provide Salmela-esque defensive coverage. Matt Taormina at around $500-550K/year would probably be better than Gilroy at $1-1.5 M/year IMO- but Gilroy's experience at the NHL level does give him a significant edge here.
D'Agostini is a very interesting UFA- Despite scoring 21 goals and 46 points, D'Agostini wasn't qualified by the Blues. Considering the Devils weren't exactly lighting up the opposition (even post MacLame), his 21 goals is good enough for second on the Devils (tied with Patrik Elias), and his 46 points would be good enough for 3rd in team scoring. However, considering that he can score, teams looking to improve their offense (e.g. Ottawa, Florida, Columbus) might be willing to pay abit more for his services than the Devils could.
While there are other unqualfied RFAs who could make a difference, these four stand out to me the most. With that being said, would you like any of the four afformentioned UFAs to become Devils after next season? Are there any other unqualfied RFAs you think the Devils would have interest in? Thanks for reading.