It's that time of year again.
Tomorrow (July 1) marks the beginning of the NHL free agency period, where teams attempt to reshape their roster to solve any underlying problems from the previous season. Some teams overspend on in-demand scorers, while others are able to find the right bargain on an overlooked player.
There's really no telling what George McPhee has planned, considering he landed a productive second-line center in the Mike Ribeiro trade back on the first day of the NHL Draft. Given the fact that McPhee has changed his tune regarding signing free agents, it's possible that the Washington Capitals stand pat while allowing the other teams to overspend on assets.
"I prefer to make a trade than sign free agents," McPhee told reporters at the draft in Pittsburgh. "That other process is expensive, and usually more term than you want, and by the end of November, you're asking yourself 'What did you do here?"
Not exactly sure who he's talking about, but the evidence may point to the 3 year, $12 million contract that Joel Ward signed last offseason. (sorry, Joel)
However, with the departure of Alex Semin (Caution: RMNB may bring you to tears) it opens up some spending money for the 2012-13 season.
I created a roster on Capgeek that implements all of the current Capitals, including every RFA. Even with all the contracts of the RFA's, Tom Poti, and prospect Stanislav Galiev, there is over $13 million to spend before reaching the cap. The money is certainly available if McPhee wants to spend it.
Here is a short list of players that GMGM may elect to go after:
Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils)
2011-12 salary- $6 million Age: 27
Parise is absolutely the most-coveted prize in the FA pool; he recorded 31 goals and 39 assists for the Eastern Conference Champions and has plenty of productive years left in him. While many don't expect McPhee to go after the big fish, the hiring of Adam Oates in Washington could create an advantage for GMGM. The star winger has expressed how much he liked having Oates coaching him in New Jersey, and may want to join the party in D.C. Pitching the idea that Parise could play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin would be very tempting. (NOTE: this is the most unlikely scenario of any free agent move)
Jiri Hudler (Detroit Red Wings)
2011-12 salary- $2.875 million Age: 28
The winger registered 25 goals and 25 assists for Detroit in 2011-12. While he isn't viewed as one of the top-targets, Hudler probably should be. Of all the UFA forwards under age 30, Hudler was only behind Parise, Semin, and P.A. Parenteau in terms of points this past season. Hudler would immediately step into a second-line role, pushing either Troy Brouwer or Jason Chimera to the third-line. If the price is right, I could easily see GMGM making the move.
Kyle Wellwood (Winnipeg Jets)
2011-12 salary- $700,000 Age: 29
You're probably wondering 'why is Wellwood here?' Going by the aforementioned Capitals roster that I created, there appears to be a hole in the third-line center spot. Wellwood is one of those guys that may be overlooked who has the ability to outplay his contract. Hell, he made less than one million dollars this past season and recorded 47 points. If McPhee believes that Laich has the ability to play on the top line and the "Ribeiro-effect" will increase point totals for Chimera and Brouwer, Wellwood is the perfect fit.
Mikael Samuelsson (Florida Panthers)
2011-12 salary- $2.5 million Age: 35
Samuelsson is another guy who might fly under the radar that warrants consideration. The winger recorded 30 goals and 53 points in 2009-10 with the Vancouver Canucks, and followed that up with a 50-point season. He was traded to the Panthers less than a month into this past season, and managed to register 13 goals and 28 points in just 48 games.
SIGNED: DETROIT RED WINGS 2 YEARS, $6 MILLION
Filip Kuba (Ottawa Senators)
2011-12 salary- $3.7 million Age: 35
Kuba played alongside Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson this past season, frequently covering for Karlsson's defensive mistakes. The big bodied defenseman certainly still has a few years of good hockey left in him. If McPhee doesn't acquire a top forward, he will have plenty of spending money to ink Kuba to a two or three year contract. Kuba would be a perfect fit to play with Mike Green, moving Roman Hamrlik down to play with Dmitry Orlov.
SIGNED: FLORIDA PANTHERS 2 YEARS, $8 MILLION
Sami Salo (Vancouver Canucks)
2011-12 salary- $2 million Age: 37
Salo has been the pillar of consistency since he entered the league in 1998. Not including an injury-plagued 2010-11 season (27 games), the 6'4" defenseman has registered at least 25 points in each of the last 8 seasons. Even better, Salo has never recorded a negative plus/minus rating. With prospects Cameron Schilling and Patrick Wey on the horizon, a one-year deal with Salo could be a great match.
SIGNED: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 2 YEARS, $7.5 MILLION
Sheldon Souray (Dallas Stars)
2011-12 salary- $1.65 million Age: 35
When Souray stays healthy, he's one of the best all-around blue-liners in the league. Unfortunately, he has only been able to stay injury-free for three of the past six years (including a short injury stint this year). Souray is known to have one of the hardest slapshots in the game, and frequently squared off with Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber in hardest-shot competitions. A 64-point effort with the Montreal Canadiens in 2006-07 and 53-point campaign in 2008-09 with the Edmonton Oilers shows the type of impact Souray can have. He even played with the Hershey Bears in 2010-11 amidst contract issues with the Oilers and produced a solid season with 19 points in 40 games.
SIGNED: ANAHEIM DUCKS 3 YEARS, $11 MILLION
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