Poacher's delight: This summer's best targets for offer sheets

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grossmanandryan.jpgSigning a player to an offer sheet is a risky, flawed endeavor. For one thing, the opposing team could match the offer sheet, like the Chicago Blackhawks did when the San Jose Sharks went after defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. It can be a mistake even if a team lands the player, as the more money you hand out, the more draft picks your team loses. So, it makes sense that offer sheets are a rare occurrence in the NHL.

Still, there’s so much talent out there – and so many cash-strapped teams – that I’m surprised general managers don’t roll the dice with offer sheets more often. With that thought in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the best possible options for potential poachers. Keep in mind that being a restricted free agent doesn’t guarantee that a player is susceptible to offer sheets; players like Antti Niemi who filed for salary arbitration aren’t available for such deals.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of restricted free agents (click here for that), either. Instead, it’s a list of the players I think could be worth a try, offer sheet-wise. I’ll provide a blurb for each player, but we might expand on some of the bigger names and/or most interesting options.

jamesneal18.jpgForwards
Bobby RyanThe Ducks are shooting down rumors of Ryan being traded for a reason; he’s a crucial player for Anaheim.
Bryan Little – He’d have more bargaining power if he scored 31 goals in 09-10, but instead he did so in 08-09.
Peter Mueller – Concussion issues cut his nice run in Colorado short, but Mueller showed some of the potential people were waiting for during his struggles with the Coyotes.
Chris Stewart – The budding power forward had a breakthrough sophomore season, with 28 goals and 64 points overall.
James Neal – He already has two 20-plus seasons in two NHL seasons so far. With the Stars’ money troubles, Neal could be an interesting target for opportunistic teams.
Justin Abdelkader – The man known as “Afrogator” doesn’t put up big numbers, but could be interesting.
Darren Helm – Helm is a classic hard-worker with questionable finishing ability. At the right price he could be a very useful player.
Sam Gagner – He’s fallen a bit short of his potential so far, but Gagner has loads of offensive talent.
Patric Hornqvist – Scored 30 goals under the radar in Nashville last season. He might be the league’s most underrated scorer.
Nick Foligno – He’s a lot like Abdelkader: a nice player without big numbers.
Darroll Powe – Another solid, scrappy player.
Martin Hanzal – While his career-high 35 points is far from amazing, his 6-5 frame impresses many.
Devin Setoguchi – A lot like Little, Setoguchi saw a big drop from 08-09 (65 points) to 09-10 (36).
David Perron – His career is coming along nicely, putting up 50 and 47 points the last two years.
Steve Downie – Bonehead or not, he proved to be more than a cheap shot artist with a 24 goal output in 09-10.

Erik Johnson.jpgDefensemen
Nicklas Grossman – He’s far from flashy, but Grossman is a solid, rugged blueliner.
Marc Staal – The Rangers are really struggling to sign the defensively sound member of the Staal clan.
Paul Ranger – Is he in Steve Yzerman’s plans? If not he could be a decent offensive defenseman somewhere else.
Erik Johnson – The No. 1 pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft has had his highs and lows, but he’s clearly a promising (and gifted) young defenseman. Edit: Ol Goaler states that Johnson won’t qualify for an offer sheet thanks to his golf cart injury-related lost season.
Cody Franson – He’s a bit before his prime, but Franson has some definite promise.

Goalies
Ondrej Pavelec – He had a decent mini-run this season, but my guess is demand will be low for him.
Josh Harding – One of the best backup goalies in the league, Harding would probably get more attention if it wasn’t such a horrible market for goalies this summer.
Carey Price – The Habs seem more or less forced to sign him, but you never know with that odd Montreal franchise.

Report: Ducks’ Stewart suffered broken jaw in fight (Video)

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Per the Columbus Dispatch, Anaheim winger Chris Stewart reportedly suffered a broken jaw in his fight on Thursday night with Jackets d-man Dalton Prout.

Stewart, who has eight goals and 18 points in 47 games this year, left the game following the scrap and didn’t return from the third period. Head coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t provide any update on the veteran’s condition following the contest.

Assuming Stewart misses time with the injury, it would be a blow to the Anaheim lineup. Though he averages just 10:40 TOI per game, Stewart is a physical presence and has played pretty well of late, with three points in his last five games.

 

With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity

Montreal Canadiens' Devante Smith-Pelly , center,and Brendan Gallagher, left, celebrate their victory over the Carolina Hurricanes with goalie Ben Scrivens at an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Last year, it was Devan Dubnyk who saved the Wild and salvaged his career.

This year, could Ben Scrivens do the same for the Montreal Canadiens, and himself?

Admittedly, the odds are against him. But with Carey Price possibly done for the season, there’s at least the potential.

Scrivens, you’ll recall, was acquired from Edmonton in late December. While his first four starts did not go particularly well, he’s been downright solid lately. On Tuesday, he won his third straight, stopping 37 of 39 shots in a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay. His save percentage in those three wins was .959.

The 29-year-old will make a fourth straight start tonight in Buffalo, getting the nod over Mike Condon, whose save percentage has fallen to a lowly .905 for the season.

Like Dubnyk prior to joining the Wild, Scrivens has had success as an NHL goalie. In 2013-14, he boasted a .931 save percentage in 19 games for the Kings, before he was traded to Edmonton (right after the Oilers had traded Dubnyk, oddly enough) and things started to fall apart.

Also like Dubnyk, Scrivens had to spend some time in the minors before he got another shot with an NHL team.

Look, we’re not saying this is definitely going to happen. Scrivens has only had three good games, and the Habs’ issues since Price went down have extended beyond goaltending.

All we’re saying is that there’s the potential.

Tonight’s game is the first of three on the road for the Canadiens. They play Monday in Arizona and Wednesday in Colorado, before returning home to face Philadelphia next Friday.

Avs waive veteran d-man Guenin, again

at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.
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Less than a month after exposing Nate Guenin to waivers, the Avs are at it again.

On Friday, Colorado placed the veteran defenseman on the wire (per TVA), just hours after he was scratched from a 4-3 win over Ottawa on Thursday night.

Guenin, 33, has only appeared in 29 games for the Avs this year, going pointless while averaging just over 13 minutes per night. It’s a far cry from the ’14-15 campaign, in which he posted career highs in games played (76), assists (13) and points (15).

Guenin appears to have been passed on the depth chart by Andrew Bodnarchuk and Chris Bigras, both of whom played against the Sens (another defenseman, Zach Redmond, was a healthy scratch along with Guenin).

Per General Fanager, today’s move might be more about shedding a contract than anything else:

Preds entering key (and tough) stretch before trade deadline

Shea Weber, Roman Josi
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Since an 11-3-3 start that saw them pile up 25 points in their first 17 games, the Nashville Predators have played 37 more times and gained just 33 points.

For comparison’s sake, in all 30 teams’ last 37 games, only the Montreal Canadiens (in the midst of a shocking collapse) and the Buffalo Sabres (just not very good) have gained fewer than 33 points.

So yeah, it’s been a struggle. The goaltending and defensive play have been sub-par. Offensively, it hasn’t been very good either.

The good news for the Preds is that they’re still in the playoff race. In fact, thanks in large part to the imploding Wild, Nashville currently occupies the final wild-card spot in the West.

With just nine games remaining before the Feb. 29 trade deadline, the players know they’re entering a key stretch.

“I’m sure David Poile and the management have a few different plans,” defenseman Barret Jackman told The Tennessean, “but our thoughts in this room are picking up points and being a playoff contender… and making this team better and making a run for the Stanley Cup.”

By the way, here are those next nine games…

preds

Pretty tough, right? Only Montreal and Toronto aren’t in a playoff spot.

Suffice to say, it would be a huge disappointment if the Preds ended up missing the postseason — especially after acquiring Ryan Johansen, the number-one center everyone kept saying they needed.

Johansen has actually been very good for them; he has 16 points in 14 games.

It’s the team as a whole that needs to pick it up, and soon.

Related: Preds believe Vesey could ‘come in and play right away’