The New Jersey Devils will have a busy offseason considering they have exactly no goaltenders, five defensemen, seven forwards, and Eric Boulton signed for next season. They have a total of 11 UFAs from the NHL roster and another 4 in the minors. While there are some players Devils fans want to be re-signed, like a guy named Zach Parise, it's not likely the Devils will retain all of their impending unrestricted free agents. The team may have to look at the free agency market on July 1 to fill in any spots on the roster.
While this year's class isn't heavy with top forwards like Zach Parise, there are a few notable players available. The Devils may not be able to replace Parise from the market, but they can find guys to take over the minutes played by Petr Sykora, Alexei Ponikarovsky, or any of the fourth line should they want to go that way. I can't say there is anyone in particular that I want the Devils to go out and get. In fact, there are a few notable free agents I think the Devils should avoid. Still, with July 1 being only a few days away, I think it's good to highlight some of the forwards that Devils fans may have on their mind.
Since the team really doesn't need centers, I've focused on wingers. After all, the Devils have 7 impending UFA forwards, so that's where the short-terms holes will be in the roster. I've included some suggestions I've received on Twitter. The summaries includes links to basic and advanced stats, some pros, some cons, and some brief thoughts. See them all after the jump.
Note: I used CapGeek for all cap and UFA status information; NHL.com for basic stats; and Behind the Net for all advanced stats. They are linked accordingly for each player. Feel free to dig in deeper than I have in these short summaries.
|2011-12 - Shane Doan||79||22||28||50||-8||48||5||0||5||226||9.7|
Who: Shane Doan has been a Coyotes lifer. However, he's apparently going to test the market this summer. As a consistent 50+ point and 200+ shot producer who can play big minutes, he's going to get a lot of attention on July 1.
Pros: Right-shooting right winger, fairly consistent production, and he can drive the play forward against not-easy competition. Doan's a good player and he would definitely upgrade the Devils (and many other teams) at right wing.
Cons: Anyone who signs him is going to be bound to that contract since he's 35. And he's not likely going to take a big pay cut, either. His production and effectiveness may dip in later years; making a long term deal risky.
Thoughts: As good as he has been and could be, I can't shake the feeling that signing him would be like signing Brian Rolston again. If he wants a short term deal and the Devils feel they need a big name, Doan can be that guy. If he wants three or more years, then I'd pass on him.
|2011-12 - Ryan Smyth||82||19||27||46||-5||82||4||0||4||194||9.8|
Who: Left shooting left winger who's played the majority of his season with Edmonton, piling up the points. He's bounced around the league since being traded to the Islanders in 06-07, but he's been fairly productive.
Pros: Like Doan, Smyth has provided consistent second-line caliber production in a top-six role over the years. Smyth's work ethic is class, doing what he can even on a bad Oilers team last season. Also: he plays in all situations which speaks to his work in both ends of the rink.
Cons: He dropped in personal shooting percentage, but his above average PDO suggests it wasn't all bad luck that prevented him from cracking 50 points again. He's even older than Doan, and unlike him, it's not even clear he'll test the market. While he's coming off a $4.5 million salary last season, he won't be very cheap.
Thoughts: I like Smyth like I like Doan, but he doesn't really fill a positional need for New Jersey and I suspect he'll want more than he may be worth even if it's less than $6 million. I'd pass.
|2011-12 - P.A. Parenteau||80||18||49||67||-8||89||6||0||2||167||10.8|
Who: P-A Parenteau is the right shooting right winger who racked up the assists on Long Island last season. And he's going to go to the market for a raise this summer.
Pros: Believe it or not, Parenteau didn't break out in 11-12. He actually put up 20 goals and 33 assists in 2010-11, so this past season can be seen as a justification that he's not a flash-in-the-pan scorer. Plus, he was one of the few positive on-ice Corsi players on the Islanders last season, generous zone starts aside. He's definitely a playmaker and he would fill in a position of need on the Devils.
Cons: Of course, Parenteau hit those numbers playing alongside John Tavares. Would he have hit those numbers away from him? Throw in the fact he's just finished his second full NHL season at age 29 and there are real questions on whether his production can be sustained.
Thoughts: If he can be had for cheap, then I'd say jump on him and say "see you later" to Sykora (and move Zubrus elsewhere in the lineup). He may not get to 60+ points without Tavares, but I doubt he's not going to suddenly turn into nothing alongside, say, Patrik Elias. However, I fear he's going to be given way too much by someone else. I think the Devils should tread lightly on him and not commit a lot of time.
|2011-12 - Ray Whitney||82||24||53||77||26||28||8||0||1||185||13.0|
Who: What do you mean, who? He's the Wizard! (Note: Thanks to @crash_land for suggesting him.)
Pros: The guy's a machine on offense. He'll give you at least 150 shots on net and set up a lot of plays while not taking a lot of penalties. He cracked 50 assists and 70 points last season to lead his team in scoring while finishing third on the Coyotes in on-ice Corsi against tough competition. He's also a right shooting left wing and he just proved - again - that age is just a number for him. All this can be had for about $3 million too.
Cons: Does he want to even keep playing? If so, does he want to leave Phoenix after a successful season? He's proven that age is just a number, but anyone who signs him would likely have make do for the short term. (That may not be a issue?) Also, a team wouldn't be getting him for his defense or his size.
Thoughts: I'd love to see the Wizard in Devils red and I wouldn't complain if he was signed for a year or so. But I'm not getting my hopes up. I doubt he leaves Phoenix at this point.
|2011-12 - Daniel Winnik||84||8||15||23||-11||52||0||1||1||184||4.3|
Who: Winnik is a fairly large (6'2", 210 lbs.) winger who just made a million dollars last season on San Jose's bottom six.
Pros: You want defense? Winnik can give you defense both at evens and on the PK. You want size on a third line? Winnik can provide. You want someone who can push the play forward? Winnik earned a 4.8 on-ice Corsi in spite of a 46.6% offensive zone start percentage; he can push the play forward.
Cons: You want offense? He's not going to give you that. His season high in goals is 11 and he just had 8 last season. His career 5.9% shooting percentage says he's not going to be a scorer.
Thoughts: If the Devils can't keep Ponikarovsky, then I think Winnik can take his minutes and contribute on defense. The problem is that he's not going to contribute much on offense and that may hold back the third line. I wouldn't say he's awful, but he's definitely not an ideal choice.
|2011-12 - Steve Sullivan||79||17||31||48||-3||20||5||0||1||140||12.1|
Who: A small (5'8", 161 lbs.) right shooting left winger who's been around the block so many times he knows it like the back of his hand. He broke into the NHL through New Jersey, honed his game in Chicago, played a while for Nashville, and just finished up a season with Pittsburgh. (Note: Thanks to Tom for suggesting him - and he doesn't have to worry about Blake Comeau now, Calgary signed him today.)
Pros: Sullivan's not going to hit his 60-point days, but he is a pretty good shooter (13.7 career shooting percentage) and did put up 17 goals and 31 assists in a secondary role on Pittsburgh. Plus, he did it on a very reasonable contract; he can provide secondary scoring on the cheap. Sullivan's also quite good with the puck and in motion. He can also set up plays on a man advantage as evidenced by his 16 power play assists last season.
Cons: While he faced a decent level of competition at evens last season and had a high Corsi rate (like a lot of players on Pittsburgh), he also got a very generous 62.8% zone start. This may mean he needs to be sheltered a bit to really contribute. Sullivan can also be hampered in physical games due to his lack of size and older age. Lastly, while he's not going to be awful, he's not going to provide a lot defense.
Thoughts: As a Sykora replacement, Sullivan could fit the bill. He might be available for a relatively cheap short-term deal. If the Devils want someone more stable to remain, then they should look elsewhere.
|2011-12 - Peter Mueller||32||7||9||16||-3||8||1||0||1||82||8.5|
Who: The 6'2" and 204 pound right shooting center (with only 10 faceoffs taken in 32 games, he really played wing) wasn't qualified by the Avalanche, so this impending RFA will be available on July 1. If you remember the 2006 draft, he was well regarded as Phoenix picked him eighth overall. (Note: Thanks to @ToddCordell for suggesting him.)
Pros: The guy averages around two shots per game, he's got great hands with the puck, and he's still young enough to put his game together. Provided he can actually play a whole season.
Cons: Injuries and consistency. Mueller has suffered from multiple concussions, including one that knocked him out of the entire 2010-11 season. He came back in 2011-12 and suffered another one that caused him to miss 41 more games with Colorado. As such, when he was available to play, he's only had flashes of performance. It's arguable his one good season in the league was in his rookie season - where he could play all 82 games. Lastly, he's not that great of a skater - which can be an issue when he's cleared to do so.
Thoughts: The concussion history alone makes me wary of the thought of the Devils signing Mueller. The lack of skating and flashes of performance when healthy only add to that. I can understand why the Avalanche didn't want to qualify a guy of his salary. The big question for any team interested in him is whether he can avoid injury for a whole season. I think he'll be signed by someone and for a lower amount, if only so he can prove a point. I don't think it will be New Jersey, and I don't think it should be.
|2011-12 - Alexander Semin||77||21||33||54||9||56||2||0||1||183||11.5|
Who: I give you the other under-30 scoring winger available on the UFA market this summer. Alexander Semin is coming off two straight one-year deals with Washington. The left shooting left winger may want something longer this time. (Note: Thanks to @josh_d_12 for the suggestion.)
Pros: Semin just oozes offensive talent. He's got a great shot, great hands, great vision, and he can skate rather well. He even was a positive possession player, so it's not all just flash and dash. Also: he shot a career season low 11.5% in 2011-12, so there may be reason to believe he'll be able to put up more than 21 goals in the upcoming season. After Parise, Semin's the other left winger one could say is a bona fide offensive winger.
Cons: For someone who's 6'2" and 208 pounds, he doesn't exactly use it. Then again, I'm not sure a team would want Semin in those spots anyway. What concerns me are his shots. He hit a career high in goals and points in 2009-10 as he put up 278 shots on net. In the next two seasons, his shot totals were only 196 and 183. Keep in mind that he played more games in 2011-12 than in 2009-10. Forget the reputation, why did he have such a big drop off in shots on net? He's coming off $6.7 million and his people knows he's one of the few offensive wingers on the market after Parise. It's going to get pricey to get him. He could command a lot of money for someone who only put up 54 points last season. Lastly, he may not even hit UFA if the Caps trade his rights as Darren Dreger hinted on Twitter today. Presumably he'd go to someone who wants to sign him.
Thoughts: The Devils really don't need Semin, especially at the cost he's going to command on the market. If the Devils can't sign Parise for sure, then I can see the team kick the proverbial tires on him; but I doubt they'll go after him hard. If he could return to shooting at a similar amount as he did in 2009-10, then I'd say there's something to explore. Since he hasn't in the last two seasons, I'm wary that he'd cost more than he's worth.
|2011-12 - Dustin Penner||65||7||10||17||-7||43||1||0||0||119||5.9|
Pros: Penner is big. 6'4" and 242 pounds big and he knows how to use it. He also gut undercut by some awful luck at shooting. His shooting percentage was a mere 5.9%, far lower than any of his seasons in Edmonton. Speaking of, Penner showed he can be a viable secondary scorer with the Oilers; his 7-goal and 17 point season with L.A. may be an aberration. Besides, he was a positive possession player so it wasn't like he was a complete waste with the Kings.
Cons: Still, 7 goals and 17 points isn't exactly endearing for any team who wants him, decent playoff performance or not. Especially since he's coming off a deal where he got $4.25 million and just won the Stanley Cup. He may take less, but it likely won't be enough less for a guy who provides around 45 points when mostly healthy through the season.
Thoughts: If it wasn't going to be for $3 million plus per season, then I'd want the Devils to at least consider him. However, I doubt he's going to take that much less from anyone. I'd pass if I were the Devils unless they got money to burn.
|2011-12 - Mikael Samuelsson||54||14||17||31||1||20||7||0||1||138||10.1|
Pros: Samuelsson has a lot going for him. He was a positive possession player while facing tough competition (second among Florida forwards) and getting less than 50% offensive zone starts. He's got good size at 6'2" and 218 pounds. He's provided a decent amount of production in a secondary role while providing good defense. He doesn't take too many penalties. Lastly, he's a right shooting right winger.
Cons: Samuelsson isn't going to blow anyone away with his production. He's also not going to crush many people with his size. He works hard, but he's not out there to out-power opposing players. At age 35, he is who he is at this point. It's also a bit concerning he missed about a quarter of last season with a groin injury. It didn't come up again later in the season, so it may not that be that big of an issue. Lastly, he's 35 so whatever deal he gets will count - which may be fine if it's a short term deal.
Thoughts: If Samuelsson could play left wing, then I'd say he'd be a good fit on the third line. He's not going to produce so much that he needs more minutes. He has played in that role as recently as last season with Florida with good underlying results. He could replace Sykora. Yet, he may not bring as much offense as Sykora did on the second line. I wouldn't mind him as a Devil, but I wonder how he'd be utilized.
I'm going to leave it here for now. I may not be all that enthused by them; I don't think there's an ideal player the Devils need to go out and get on July 1. Perhaps you see the market differently. In any case, let's talk about these wingers. Who from this group would you want on the Devils and why? How much would you offer for the player from this group that you want to see in Devils red? Would you want any of them to replace Petr Sykora and/or Alexei Ponikarovsky? Or do you think this is an underwhelming group and the Devils would be better served retaining the non-Parise free agents they have? Please leave your answers and other comments about these impending UFA wingers in the comments.
I will admit that this is not a comprehensive list. I'm sure there are other wingers Devils fans may be thinking about for Sunday. I didn't include any fourth liners on the basis that there are a lot of people who can qualify for that. I'll tell you what. If I get enough legit suggestions for other wingers (this includes centers who can line up at wing) that I missed today, I'll do another post like this for them on Friday. Please leave those in the comments by Thursday evening (let's say 6 PM). Of course, I'll credit those who made the suggestions in the post.