With the 2013 NHL Draft now over and many of the Devils' own free agents either signed or close to being signed, it's time to turn some attention to the free agent market. The Devils appear to have their goaltending situation sewn up at this point and they already have seven NHL defensemen signed (with a Zidlicky signing possibly on the way and more who could be ready to make the jump from the AHL), so they should have one clear need to fill, and that need is at forward. David Clarkson may not be long for this team and, at the very least, it appears he will be testing the free agent market come July 5th. Within the Devils' organization, replacement options are limited and unlikely to replace Clarkson's production even if they do stick. Add in the fact that the Devils weren't lighting a ton of lamps (or MUPS) this past year, even with Clarkson in the lineup, and it is clear that the Devils could use some scoring help on the UFA market.
Potential UFA Targets
While there aren't necessarily any elite-level talents bouncing around the market this year, there are certainly options out there for teams looking for scoring help. There are guys just entering their UFA years, some older veterans who are starting to wind down their careers, and everything in between on the market and the Devils will have to figure out exactly what they want to achieve with their signings.
I put together a brief table of some possible UFA targets from other teams and included their age, scoring stats, previous cap hit, and some possession numbers for reference. This list isn't comprehensive, but it should include a lot of the players fans are likely keeping an eye on. A good place to start for your own UFA research is CapGeek's handy UFA Finder tool; I recommend it to get an idea of everyone who could potentially be available (some of those players, as you might notice, are likely to return to former teams).
|Player||Age||GP||Goals||Assists||Points||ATOI||Former Cap Hit||Corsi On||Corsi Rel||OZ Start %|
So those players really fall into three groups: guys under 30 who are likely looking for something longer-term, veterans under 35 who may or may not command a longer-term deal, and guys over 35 who probably won't (or at least shouldn't) really get much more than 1 or 2 years. Locking a good younger player up long term is probably preferable in a lot of people's eyes, given the general oldness of much of the Devils' roster, but the dangers of overpaying are ever-present in free agency. So who's out there?
UFAs Under 30
This is the category we're likely to see the most money/years getting thrown around in. When rumors are floating around that Tyler Bozak is looking for 8 years / $40 million, you know things are going to be pricey.
- Nathan Horton - Here's who I think many would consider the big prize in the free agent market. A solid two-way player, Horton always has great possession numbers and, while he had a bit of a down year, he's typically good for about 0.7 PPG or so. A lot of Devils fans have him on their wishlist, and they are likely not the only fanbase to feel that way. He's had a couple injury hiccups the last couple years and will need shoulder surgery this offseason. Regardless, he will not come cheap.
- Damien Brunner - Brunner got off to a hot start in his first season coming over from Switzerland. He cooled off a bit and ended up with a decent 26 points on the season total. He's an interesting case in that he's 27 but really has no NHL history. He did put up decent possession numbers, though with favorable zone starts. I think teams will (or at least should) be cautious about giving him a long-term deal, given his lack NHL experience, so maybe he isn't too pricy. We shall see.
- Clarke MacArthur - MacArthur is another player whose value is hard to assess. He certainly wasn't one of Randy Carlyle's favorite sons up in Toronto, but he put up a decent 0.5 ppg and was the best possession player on an incredibly possession-negative team. I think he'll be undervalued and might be a good bargain pickup.
- Viktor Stalberg - Stalberg, fresh off the Cup with Chicago, will likely be on the market. He's a speedy player who put up some decent numbers in not a lot of ice time this year and his possession numbers were pretty good too. He had some issues in the playoffs and ended up scratched a couple times, and his value might have taken a hit from that. Seems like a good opportunity to buy low on a guy, as we know the shortfalls of dishing out contracts based on playoff aberrations.
Veterans Over 30 but Under 35
This group is always a tough one to deal with as it's hard to judge exactly when the twilight of a player's career will sneak up on them. The NHL is littered with bad contracts handed out to guys on on the wrong side of thirty, so it's important to tread carefully in this group.
- Vinny Lecavalier - Lecavalier just got bought out, and from the sounds of it, is working on a contract that some other team will need to buy out in 3 years. Lecavalier can still put up some decent numbers, but his production is on the decline at this point. It's possible that teams have learned their lesson and won't give him a term/money they later regret, but I certainly wouldn't bet on it.
- Mike Ribeiro - This is a tough one to figure out, because Ribeiro managed a point per game, but he had some lousy possession numbers. He's more of a playmaker than a scorer and may not necessarily be what the Devils need anyway. He'll probably get paid pretty well based on the points alone.
- Pascal Dupuis - Pascal Dupuis has put up some pretty decent numbers the past few years and is likely looking for his chance to cash in here. One has to wonder how much of his production is a result of lining up with Crosby, though PensBurgh took a look at his season and decided he was pretty good, regardless. I wouldn't mind seeing him in NJ, provided the term isn't too long.
- Brad Boyes - Boyes has bounced around a few different teams the past few years, and was a steal this past season for the Isles at $1M. His point production was very good, though it certainly doesn't hurt when you line up next to John Tavares. He will certainly get paid more in free agency than he did last season, but he's still starting from a low price, so maybe he could be had for a non-crazy amount of money.
- Brenden Morrow - Morrow got dealt to the Penguins at the deadline this year and put up about a PPG after a rough first 2/3 of the season with the Stars. He's up there at 34 years old, so if the Devils were to sign someone of his ilk, I'd certainly only want it to be 1 or 2 years. Whether that's enough to get it done is another matter.
- Michael Ryder - Another Dallas cast-off this past season, Ryder put up a pretty strong campaign with 35 points altogether. Ryder has been up and down with his production throughout his career and he might be a risky pickup has he is liable to put up anywhere between 30 and 60 points in a given season.
- Other possible options: Dustin Penner, Ryane Clowe, Derek Roy, Stephen Weiss
- Jaromir Jagr - We all know what Jagr is all about at this point in his career. He's old, but he can still be a complementary scoring piece. Whether he can handle the rigors of a full season of NHL hockey is certainly a concern. If he wants to complete the Asham Trick before he retires, he's going to have to get moving on it. Maybe he can sign with the Isles with hopes of being traded to the Devils at the deadline to complete the feat.
- Danny Briere - Briere, like Lecavalier, seems poised to goad another team into having to buy him out in a few years. He kind of stunk this past year, so maybe that's enough to keep his value down. I know some people are bullish on him as a reclamation project, but I'm not so sure it's a good idea. When he's playing well, he's certainly someone the Devils could use right now, it's just a matter of if he has anything left in the tank. He did have his lowest Sh% ever this past year, so I suppose he could be due for a bounce back.
- Jarome Iginla - Iginla is getting up there in age, but he can still be a valuable piece. He can still score, though he's definitely not the force he once was. Not sure it's worth signing him for more than a year or two if that's what he's asking.
- Other possible options: Vinny Prospal, Matt Cullen
So there's a kick-start for your free-agent speculation engines. Most of these analyses are more of the cursory variety, so if you disagree with anything in particular, have at it in the comments. While you're at it, talk about any new players you might like to see in black and red next season. Put on your Lou Lamoriello hat and start making 3-year offers to all of the 36-year-olds you desire. Thanks for reading and go Devils.