While tomorrow’s “free agent frenzy” should provide plenty of splashy moves and interesting deals, there is a slight sense that most NHL teams made it to the buffet table after Overeaters Anonymous already ran wild on the good stuff. Aside from the soon-to-be-rich(er) Ilya Kovalchuk, most of the restricted and unrestricted free agents are far from marquee talent.
So teams in need of offense might have to go to the bargain bin (I mean, unless they wildly overpay one of these guys). It can be awfully risky to hope that a player discovers the Hockey Fountain of Youth, but if a fallen star is willing to take less years and salary to attempt a career re-boot, everyone can win. It usually doesn’t work out that way, but every once in a while you see a situation like Teemu Selanne returning to Anaheim to light up the league.
Let’s take a look at three stars-turned-fringe-NHL’ers and see who might make sense.
Paul Kariya – While people rattle of names like Wade Redden and Cristobal Huet, I noted that Kariya flew under the radar as someone who practically stole money from his team. Kariya didn’t justify his $6 million cap hit during a single season in St. Louis, suffering from injuries and his own indifference in three mediocre campaigns. The small winger doesn’t have any jam to his game and won’t help you on defense, so you basically have to hope that he could score a lot at a low price. He’s also set to turn 36 in the 10-11 season, so a team better not give him more than two years.
I’m not a Kariya fan, but I guess it’s not impossible for him to flourish if someone talented was “baby birding” him points.
Jonathan Cheechoo – Cheechoo is a member of the “Joe Thornton Millionaire’s Club”, standing alongside such luminaries as Sergei Samsonov. There are two things that explain the winger’s plunge from a 56-goal Maurice Richard season: 1) no longer playing with Thornton and 2) injury troubles. It’s difficult to argue with Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, who says that his career in the NHL is likely over.
Alex Tanguay – When the Tampa Bay Lightning landed Tanguay for what seemed like a frugal $2.5 million, I thought it would be one of the best bargains of last summer. Instead, he languished with a career-worst 37 point campaign. He’s now three seasons removed from being a point-per-game player and, like Kariya, doesn’t bring much to the table when he isn’t producing points. Still, I think if he takes a direction that Kariya should look into (going for a one-year, dirt-cheap retribution deal), he might just rejuvenate his flailing career.
While Cheechoo looks done, Tanguay and Kariya should be able to find at least a couple semi-interested suitors. Should your team go after one of these low-rent former stars? Tell us in the comments.