Ten most promising potential UFA forwards in 2011 (plus a complete list)

Thumbnail image for jumbojoevchicago.jpgWhen a sports team (or group of fans) spouts the “Wait ’til next year” line, they usually mean that the next season could bring better things. Yet after a few days of the free agent frenzy, that saying might also apply to July 2011.

It’s very early to look at future unrestricted free agents – especially since many of them will probably sign extensions at some point before then – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun picturing different scenarios.

In the next few posts, I’ll go over some of the most promising unrestricted free agents by position.

Let’s begin with the forwards. All of the eligible forwards (listed by CapGeek.com) are included in the spreadsheet below. (Click to enlarge)

ufas2011.JPG

OK, now that you have the full list, here are the 10 best potential 2011 UFA forwards. These aren’t necessarily in order from top to bottom, though the top five are better than the bottom five.

Joe Thornton
Current Age: 31
Previous Cap Hit: $7.2 million

Could Jumbo Joe become the gem of the 2011 summer? That remains to be seen, but even if you think he shrinks from the playoff spotlight, he’s still regularly among the league leaders in assists and points. If he decided to test the free agent market, he could really garner some interest.

Brad Richards
Current Age: 30
Previous Cap Hit: $7.8 million

I often call him Brad “RICHards” for a reason … the one-time Conn Smythe winner landed a ridiculous contract after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Despite being a great playmaker, Richards isn’t quite worth that money, but he’s still young enough that he could get another good deal or two. Will he stay with Dallas?

Alex Seminsemin2.jpg
Current Age: 26
Previous Cap Hit: $6 million

He’s injury-prone (missed nine games, 20 games and 19 games in the last three seasons), not particularly defensively sound and floundered a bit in the playoffs … but he’s still a dynamic, young scorer. He scored 40 goals and 84 points last season and 34 and 79 in only 62 games in 08-09. He has his warts, but would still be in his prime come UFA time.

Mikko Koivu
Current Age: 27
Previous Cap Hit: $3.25 million

As a member of the offensively stunted Minnesota Wild, Saku’s younger brother flies under the radar a bit but he’s a nice two-way player whose numbers keep improving (from 42 to 67 to 71 points in the last three seasons) as he enters his prime. He could be an under-the-radar gem if the Wild don’t cough up the money to keep him.

Simon Gagne
Current Age: 30
Previous Cap Hit: $5.25 million

When he’s not dealing with concussion problems or other injuries, Gagne is one of the league’s natural goal scorers. He’s already the source of trade rumors in Philadelphia, so chances are another NHL team will be sending him paychecks starting in 2011-12.

After the jump, the next five forwards who could be desirable unrestricted free agents next summer. (Plus some honorable mentions)


Jason Arnott
Current Age: 35
Previous Cap Hit: $4.5 million

He’s getting older, but Arnott is a big center with some offensive zest. He’d garner a nice amount of demand as an unrestricted free agent.

Patrice Bergeron
Current Age: 24
Previous Cap Hit: $4.75 million

It’s hard to believe Bergeron is only 24 right now; it seems like he’s been through a career’s worth of challenges with his injury history. He won’t blow you away with his skills, but he can score a bit, play sound defense and win more than half of his faceoffs.

Mike Knubleknuble.jpg
Current Age: 37
Previous Cap Hit: $2.8 million

Knuble’s had quite the career supporting some of the league’s most talented scorers, spending time with Peter Forsberg and Alex Ovechkin among others. He might be a little too old to command big money next summer, but if he decides to keep playing, he could once again be a great depth signing.

Ville Leino
Current Age: 26
Previous Cap Hit: $800K

If Leino can play like he did for the Flyers during the playoffs, he should see an enormous pay increase from his frugal current deal. Even if this postseason was a bit of an outlier, he should see a raise of some kind.

David Backes
Current Age: 26
Previous Cap Hit: $2.5 million

OK, he hasn’t lit up the world, scoring-wise. Still, Backes is a big body who has a 31 goal season to his credit. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he might be in higher demand than some guys with heftier resumes but grayer hair.

Honorable mentions

Injury prone players: Tim Connolly (a potential point per game guy with atrocious luck on the IR), Steve Sullivan (see: Connolly), Justin Williams, Erik Cole, Marco Sturm

Getting older but still valuable: Jamie Langenbrunner, Cory Stillman, Andrew Brunette

Flighty but skilled: Alex Kovalev, Michael Ryder

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    Report: Patrick Eaves is driving serious trade interest for Stars

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Patrick Eaves #18 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2017 in New York City. The Stars defeated the Rangers 7-6.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    NHL teams are especially interested in trade talks with the Dallas Stars regarding Patrick Eaves, and it’s not because of his stellar beard-per-capita.

    Nope, it’s instead that he provides such excellent bang for the buck. You won’t find many players who already have 20+ goals and are making just $1 million, particularly outside of the artificial ceiling created by entry-level contracts.

    Eaves, 32, is enjoying arguably the year of his career, but it’s that bargain price that makes him the Stars’ best bargaining chip (and maybe one of the best in all of the league), according to Pierre LeBrun during the latest round of TSN’s Insider Trading.

    Interesting, Eaves could conceivably present a now vs. later debate for those in the bidding.

    While his cap-friendly contract makes him easy to drop in just about any contender situation, his affordability may prompt the Stars to ask for richer future assets.

    Of course, with an expiring contract, the Stars would still need to walk that tightrope between getting something for Eaves and letting him leave for nothing (assuming they wouldn’t re-sign him).

    That’s a delicate balancing act for any GM, and Jim Nill has mainly been accustomed to buying in Dallas so far.

    Want some more trade talk? Check out that full Insider Trading segment and also Sportsnet batting around ideas below.

    WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 15: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild tries to get off a shot against Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 15, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    The Minnesota Wild haven’t lost often, particularly in the past month, but they did fall to the Chicago Blackhawks in their last meeting.

    That was a spirited affair that ended with a 4-3 overtime win for Chicago, a setback that began what’s been a mostly successful run of home games for the Wild.

    The Blackhawks aim for a similar result – ideally this time in regulation – to make up ground against the Wild in the Central Division.

    At the moment, the Wild have more points (84 to 77) a game in hand, more wins (39 to 36) and more ROW (36 to 34). Catching the Wild even with a win tonight wouldn’t be easy for Chicago; a regulation loss would make the odds extremely slim.

    If their last game was any indication, this should be a fun one on NBCSN. You can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.

    Rough night for Carey Price so far

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    A large portion of the hockey-loving population in Montreal let out a big sigh on Tuesday night. Especially worrisome types may still be holding their breath about Carey Price, however.

    Many gasped after hearing that Price left pre-game warm-ups early after taking a Paul Byron shot up high.

    Video even surfaced of the moment, with Price looking very uncomfortable following the shot. (Byron might have felt uncomfortable too.)

    Yikes.

    It doesn’t sound like Price is going to miss time because of that incident. Of course, in many cases upon further reflection/once the adrenaline of competition wears off, he might think differently. So we’ll see.

    As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, the theme of Habs nearly hurting Price continued during the game, too. Sheesh.

    Trade deadline auditions? Quincey, Pateryn in action tonight

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 09:  Greg Pateryn #8 of the Montreal Canadiens in action during the first period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    NHL executives, scouts and fans aren’t just watching their teams or the teams they’re jockeying with for playoff position tonight. They’re also likely taking a gander at potential trade deadline targets.

    At least two possible defensemen on the move are getting into lineups on Tuesday: Kyle Quincey with the New Jersey Devils (vs. the Senators) and Greg Pateryn for the Montreal Canadiens (against the Rangers).

    Will there be a dogged pursuit for Quincey?

    Quincey told the Bergen Record that the situation even has his dog on edge (gasp).

    “It’s not just me that’s on eggshells,” Quincey said. “It’s the wife and the kids and the dog. You’ve got to uproot your life. But I’m definitely not thinking about it. The only focus is getting some wins because we’re definitely not out of it.”

    (Sadly, some cursory searches did not provide insight as to the breed or name of Quincey’s dog. We’ll assume it’s first name is John.)

    Quincey’s getting his first bit of action since logging a little more than 23 minutes in a game on Feb. 4. He’s played in 51 games this season, generating 12 points and mediocre (but arguably adequate) possession numbers. At 31, a contender could conceivably target him if the price is low.

    Pateryn being shopped

    TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that the Habs are indeed looking to move Pateryn, who returns to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 11 (replacing Nikita Nesterov, no stranger to changing locales).

    Pateryn is far less experienced than Quincey, but also has fresher legs at 26.

    He has six points in 22 games this season and some solid possession numbers.

    ***

    Now, neither of these blueliners are expected to make a big splash. Still, the price to even “rent” the likes of Kevin Shattenkirk could be huge, so teams might consider going after bargains like these two defensemen.

    Games like tonight’s contests could very well make or break decisions for some teams, for all we know.