Alex Kovalev

Still need free agent pickups? Buyer beware as free agent crop is awfully thin now

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It’s nearly been a week since free agency began to officially kick off the NHL offseason. After all the signings we’ve had since last Friday, chances are if you haven’t found what you’ve needed for your team you might be out of luck. If you’re wondering who else is still out there, CapGeek has been doing a good job of keeping their lists updated as to who your team might be interested in.

Of course, if your team is in dire need of help virtually anywhere around the ice, they might be in some big trouble. As for who the best of the rest might be, we’ll take a look at each set of positions (forwards, defensemen, goalies) and show you who the next wave of guys to sign might end up being.

Forwards

Depending on what your needs are, you could still find a little bit of what you’re after. If you need depth scoring and perhaps an aging veteran to spice things up there’s no one better to pick than Alex Kovalev. He’s 38 years-old and coming off a season that saw him split time with Ottawa and Pittsburgh scoring a total of 16 goals adding 18 assists.

source: Getty ImagesIf Kovalev doesn’t do it for you, there’s always the slightly younger Sergei Samsonov. Last season, Samsonov split time with Carolina and Florida scoring a total of 13 goals with 27 assists. Through his whole career he’s been a 40-point player so if you need a little scoring on your third line, go for it. The other more interesting skill forwards to be had include: Cory Stillman, Vinny Prospal, Nikolai Zherdev, and Rob Schremp.

If you’re in need of a speedy winger that can help kill penalties, Fredrik Sjostrom is available as is Steve Bernier. If you’d rather have a physical winger guys like Mike Grier, Brad Winchester, Ethan Moreau, and Eric Boulton. If you’d rather sign an older center who may just have a year or two left in them there’s always Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Brendan Morrison, or John Madden.

Then again, if signing agitators and fighters is what your team needs look no further than Jarkko Ruutu, Eric Godard, or Cam Janssen. With Godard you get a guy that will come off of the bench to defend your goalie in a fight and with Janssen he’ll make sure to book his fights in advance on Twitter.

The selections here aren’t mind-blowing, but if depth is what you need then you’re in luck. There’s also Teemu Selanne who’s technically a free agent but if he doesn’t play for Anaheim, he’s probably not playing in the NHL ever again. Sorry Winnipeg.

Defensemen

source: Getty ImagesIf you’re in need of a top flight defenseman, you’re better off trying to swing a trade elsewhere. If you’re looking for a second or third pairing guy then there’s a few choices that could pan out well and play in certain roles well. If your team needs another power play quarterback type Bryan McCabe is available. Other offensive-like guys are Anton Stralman and Sami Lepisto who were both set free from Columbus.

Defensive defensemen are key as well and should a team need a guy that can body up reasonably well and play sound defensively former Caps defenseman Scott Hannan or Habs blue liner Brent Sopel could work out well. Hannan is a bit more physical while Sopel will also double up and block shots as well. Former Predators defenseman Shane O’Brien could fit the bill for that role as well although his penchant for bad penalties could scare teams off.

Paul Mara could also be a nice complimentary defensive role player, especially if you’re in need of a guy to get in Alex Ovechkin’s business often. Other names to be found here: Anssi Salmela, Freddy Meyer, Karlis Skrastins, Steve Eminger, Jason Strudwick, and Mike Lundin.

If your team is in need of guys that have wild last names, defense is where it’s at with both Jeff Woywitka and Severin Blindenbacher both formerly with Dallas.

source: Getty Images

Goalies

Here’s where things get dicey, there’s not many guys left if you want someone with NHL experience. Of those available you have your choice between a guy who’s still young but injury prone in Pascal Leclaire, feel-good veteran in Ray Emery, perennial backup favorite Ty Conklin, and elder statesman Chris Osgood.

Failing that a team could try to keep Marty Turco away from being a TV star or could think that Joey MacDonald did enough with Detroit last season to earn a backup job.

As it is, most jobs are spoken for in goal both in starting and backing up and Detroit is the one high profile spot remaining and that could be down to Ty Conklin or another year on pins and needles with Osgood.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).

Contract coming? Rakell’s agent negotiating ‘frequently’ with Anaheim

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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More updates from Anaheim, the land of contractual impasses…

Rickard Rakell, the still-unsigned RFA forward, sounds as though he’s closer to an extension with the Ducks than teammate Hampus Lindholm, who’s working out in Sweden.

From the O.C. Register:

Rakell has yet to resume his training after being unable to play for his homeland in the World Cup of Hockey. But it is believed that while the Ducks would prefer to stay lower than Rakell’s six-year, $24 million asking price, they’ve made more headway with the center’s agent, Peter Wallen.

In an e-mail to the Register, Wallen confirmed as much while saying Rakell has slowly started to work out again and will need “a couple of weeks” to get back in top shape. “Back negotiating,” Wallen said. “More frequently now.”

Rakell finished fourth on the Ducks in scoring last year, with 20 goals and 43 points, and led the team in game-winning markers. His emergence over the last two seasons — he had 31 points in 73 contests in ’14-15 — his age (only turned 23 in May) and his versatility (can play center or right wing) are the big reasons why he’s angling for a significant payday.

For Anaheim, it’s one of those problems teams wish they had.

Though they’re stretched thin financially, the Ducks have an arsenal of good young talent up front that will eventually replace the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. Rakell is chief among them, and he’ll soon be followed by the likes of Nick Ritchie, Nick Sorensen, Julius Nattinen and both of the club’s first-round picks at this year’s draft — Max Jones and Sam Steel.

The key, of course, is keeping all those young guys in the fold.

And that starts with Rakell.

Related: Lindholm seeking eight-year deal from ducks, at least $6M per

Schwartz injury increases focus on Blues who could step up

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 24:  Ty Rattie #18 of the St. Louis Blues passes around Trevor van Riemsdyk #57 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 2-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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It was already going to be interesting to watch the St. Louis Blues without David Backes and Troy Brouwer.

Then came today’s news that they’ll be without Jaden Schwartz for at least the first two weeks of the regular season.

Now the focus really turns to players like Ty Rattie, the 23-year-old winger who’s piled up the points in the AHL but still has to establish himself as a regular NHLer.

Can he help fill the void?

“It’s him, it’s (Kenny) Agostino, it’s (Samuel) Blais, it’s (Magnus) Paajarvi,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, per In The Slot. “These are guys that, man, they can make our team be a little bit different here, quite a bit different and really be one of those teams where we’re dangerous right throughout our lineup if they can make the grade.”

Backes had 21 goals last season, while Brouwer chipped in 18. The Blues did partially answer their departures with the David Perron signing, but they’ll need others to step up as well. That includes veteran Alex Steen, whose goal totals have fallen from 33 to 24 to 17 in three consecutive seasons, and 20-year-old Robby Fabbri, who had 18 goals last season as a rookie, but has the talent to score more. Paul Stastny only had 10 goals last season. He can do better.

Schwartz, too, will need to stay healthy when he returns. He only played 33 games last season after fracturing his ankle in October. He has to be doubly frustrated after sustaining yet another injury in practice.

And, of course, Vladimir Tarasenko will need to keep scoring. He had 40 goals last season, the fourth most in the NHL. Any falloff there would hurt.

The Blues finished 2015-16 with 107 points, then made it all the way to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. They still consider themselves Stanley Cup contenders.

But first things first, they have to get back into the playoffs.

“This is my sixth season in the Central Division and this looks like the most challenging year yet,” Hitchcock told The Associated Press yesterday. “The crunching between the top and bottom started last year, and it’s going to be closer this year.”