The unrestricted free agent market has slowed to a crawl, but there are still some noteworthy players left for the taking and they might end up with buyer-friendly contracts at this point.
Here’s a sampling of the most interesting names:
Cody Franson — His return to Nashville didn’t go as scripted, but he’s still a 27-year-old (28 in August) defenseman that recorded 33 and 36 points in each of his last two seasons. Agent Gerry Johannson felt back in June that Jeff Petry’s six-year, $33 million extension was in the right “ballpark” for Franson, but at this point it would be interesting to see if he would settle for a one-year contract in the hope of finding more favorable conditions with his next deal.
Alex Semin — He had just six goals and 19 points in 57 contests last season and Hurricanes GM Ron Francis cited his compete level as a reason for buying him out. Semin has had a wildly inconsistent career, but when he’s at his best, he’s a top-tier goal scorer. The fact that he’s reportedly interested in a one-year deal suggests that the risks involved in signing him will be managed. Under those conditions, he at least has the potential to provide any team with a significant boost.
Christian Ehrhoff — Concussion problems limited Ehrhoff to just 49 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and that’s likely part of the reason he’s still on the open market. However, he has breached the 30-point mark six times and most recently in 2013-14. So perhaps his next one-year deal will go better than his last.
Marek Zidlicky — He’ll celebrate his 39th birthday in February, but he can still be a big contributor with the man advantage. In fact last season he was tied for 12th place among defensemen with 20 power-play points (34 overall).
Brad Boyes — He had a decent 14 goals and 38 points in 78 contests in 2014-15 with a Panthers team that didn’t do much offensively, but was nevertheless bought out. Although he’s unlikely to ever rise to the level he was at in 2007-2008 when he scored 43 goals, he’s still a decent secondary scorer and has traditionally be very effective in shootouts.
While Johnny Oduya is out there too, he’s expected to make his decision within the week. The Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks are among his potential destinations.
With the Chicago Blackhawks still near the cap after trading Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, unrestricted free agent Johnny Oduya might ultimately have a new home next season.
Sabres GM Tim Murray has been trying to lure over the 33-year-old defenseman and hasn’t given up as we near the third week of the UFA period.
“He hasn’t signed anywhere yet, so I haven’t moved on,” Murray told the Buffalo News.
He added that he is also looking at other free agents and trade opportunities.
For the record, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman hasn’t ruled out re-signing Oduya. The defenseman, who has been waiting for the team to clear cap space for him, plans to make his decision within the next week, but Chicago would be allowed to go over the ceiling to sign him as long as it finds a way to get back under it in the fall.
If Buffalo is able sign him though, it would provide the team with a veteran leader that has won the Stanley Cup twice and can log around 20 minutes per game.
When the Chicago Blackhawks acquired the 20-year-old Marko Dano he found himself suddenly united with perhaps his ideal mentor.
Dano has plenty of connections to Marian Hossa, from the city they live in (Trencin, Slovakia), to the fact that the elder forward has played internationally with Dano’s father, to their similar style of play.
“But he’s at a different level,” Dano told CSN Chicago. “So I’m trying to catch him with that.”
Hossa should be willing to help him there. He reached out to Dano after the trade and they plan to meet for lunch in the near future.
“He’s a great player,” Dano said. “He’s played so many years here, so there are a lot of things I can learn from him.”
Chicago got Dano from Columbus as part of the Brandon Saad trade. He was taken with the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and had 21 points in 35 contests as a rookie in 2014-15.
He’s participating in prospect camp and will have to earn his spot with Chicago. However, he’s a clear candidate to secure a third line role next season and down the road his duties might expand substantially.
Related: Dano ‘an exciting player’ for Blackhawks
The Predators have one less potential arbitration hearing hanging over their heads.
Nashville announced that it has sent Taylor Beck to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Jamie Devane.
Beck, 24, was taken with the 70th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, but he stepped up after that with back-to-back 90-plus point seasons for the WHL Guelph Storm. From there he honed his game in the minors, scoring 17 goals and 49 points in 65 contests in 2013-14.
Although he enjoyed stints with Nashville prior last season, 2014-15 was his first full campaign at the top level. He was limited to an average of 11:55 minutes per contest though and finished with eight goals and 16 points in 62 games.
He was one of three Nashville restricted free agents that had filed for arbitration, along with Craig Smith and Colin Wilson.
Devane, 24, was selected two picks ahead of Beck back in 2009. Devane had 10 points and 208 penalty minutes in 94 AHL games over the last two seasons. Unlike Beck, Devane is still under contract for one more season on a two-way deal that comes with a $575K cap hit at the NHL level.
If the Columbus Blue Jackets enter the 2015-16 campaign with largely the same defense as last season, it won’t be because they didn’t try to make a big change.
Per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch:
The Blue Jackets were in on trade talks concerning Dougie Hamilton before Boston sent him to Calgary, and they’ve contacted the St. Louis Blues about Kevin Shattenkirk. The Jackets also made a contract offer to free agent Paul Martin before he signed with San Jose.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen plans to keep looking, but it’s worth noting that Columbus is only about $4 million below the ceiling after signing Brandon Saad and Matt Calvert, per General Fanager. That’s not to say that Columbus can’t still acquire a top defenseman, but it’s more likely that it would have to involve the other team either retaining salary or taking a contract in order to make things work.
As things stand, the Blue Jackets have one of the cheapest defenses in the league as their money has instead flowed to their forwards and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s thanks in part to the fact that blueliners David Savard, Dalton Prout, Ryan Murray, and Kevin Connauton each come with a cap hit of $1.3 million or less, but all of them will be restricted free agents next summer and the raises they might demand has to also be a consideration.
So ultimately Columbus might stick with what it has and hope Murray can stay healthy as the 2012 second overall pick has run into serious injury problems early in his career.
“To me, getting him healthy would be the best addition any team has made this summer,” Kekalainen said. “It would make a huge difference for us.”