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NHL Free Agency: 10 players to watch this week
The puck has dropped on NHL free agency with a two-day negotiating window before players _ other than those whose contracts were recently bought out _ can sign Friday.
Here’s a look at 10 free agents to watch after Vincent Lecavalier took himself off the market by signing with the Philadelphia Flyers and Pascal Dupuis chose to stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins instead of finding out Wednesday what he would have been worth to other teams:
1. Danny Briere. Like Lecavalier, the 35-year-old forward can sign as soon as he wants after he was bought out by his former team. The Flyers let him go with two years left on his $52 million, eight-year deal. Briere scored just six goals in 34 games during the lockout-shortened season, but he’s two years removed from a 34-goal, 34-assist year.
2. Jarome Iginla. He didn’t help his stock with four goals in 15 playoff games for the Penguins. Several teams, though, may be happy to add a 36-year-old player with 530 career goals _ ranking third among active players _ and a good reputation on and off the ice.
3. Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers said it was a “costly mistake” when they bought out the 33-year-old only two years into a $51 million, nine-year contract. Before a shaky season, he was 111-56-23 during the previous three seasons for Philadelphia and Phoenix. He ranks ahead of the other available goalies: Evgeni Nabokov, Ray Emery and Tim Thomas.
4. Mike Ribeiro. He averaged more than a point per game in his only season with Washington after averaging about 70 a season over the previous five years in Dallas. The Capitals wouldn’t give the 33-year-old center the long-term deal he wanted, but another team probably will soon.
5. Nathan Horton. If Horton didn’t have a history of concussions, he would be higher on this list. He showcased his health and skills with seven goals and 19 points for the Eastern Conference-champion Boston Bruins after he had 17 points in the playoffs for them two years ago.
6. Andrew Ference. Teams don’t let great players become free agents, and seldom allow even good defensemen to hit the market. The 34-year-old Ference, though, was deemed expendable by Boston and becomes the best blue-liner available.
7. Patrik Elias. The New Jersey Devils are still trying to strike a win-win deal with the 37-year-old center in part because he has played his entire career with the franchise. Other teams, though, are allowed to begin making their pitches to the dependable veteran on Wednesday.
8. David Clarkson. A year after losing Zach Parise in free agency, the Devils were also hoping to bring back Clarkson. He scored a career-high 30 goals a year ago and had 15 during the shortened season, making the 29-year-old forward an attractive option all around the league.
9. Valtteri Filppula. The Finnish forward has shown flashes of promise _ scoring 23 goals during a 66-point season a year ago _ but scored just nine times and had a mere eight assists during the shortened season. He contributed only six points in 14 playoff games in what might’ve been his last run with the Detroit Red Wings.
10. Jaromir Jagr. The 41-year-old proved he can still play and showed he doesn’t have to score to contribute, going 22 games without a goal in the postseason for the Bruins while making plays that didn’t show up on the scoresheet. The NHL’s active goals and points leader will likely have little trouble getting a one-year deal.
Other players to keep an eye on: Rob Scuderi, Ryane Clowe, Brenden Morrow, Toni Lydman, Michael Ryder, Stephen Weiss, Damien Brunner, Nabokov, Emery and Thomas.
By John R. Bolton
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