The massive contracts have been handed out, the big names put pen to paper in early July and dreams of winning Lord Stanley's Cup, making the playoffs or simply improving on last year's record have been already begun for management, coaches, players, and fans alike. Simply put, the pomp and circumstance that is the beginning of the National Hockey League free agency period is long gone.
Unfortunately, some NHL players, including more than a few well-known ones, have yet to find a home. With training camps just around the corner, time is definitely ticking. For some, finding a team is still a possibility whether they are signed to a one year veteran's minimum deal, or a professional tryout contract (PTO) which worked wonders for the New Jersey Devils when they signed veteran forward Lee Stempniak, who went on to produce 16 goals and 41 points for the team before being traded to the Boston Bruins.
For other players, playing overseas could be another option, and while it is usually sad to see it, retirement is the last resort. Due to the amount of names still on the free agent market, we here at TheSportster present to you, the Top 15 Remaining NHL Free Agents and Where They Might Sign.
15 15. Barret Jackman - Retirement
The 2003 Calder Memorial Trophy winner (NHL Rookie of the Year) just finished his 13th NHL season. Before playing with the Nashville Predators last year, he spent the previous 12 seasons with the St. Louis Blues, where he was a physical shutdown Defensmen. Jackman, who played 74 regular season games, and all of his team's 14 playoff contests this year, was bought out of the final year of his contract by the Preds. The Preds are obviously not bringing him back, as they're clearly going for speed on the blueline, as evidenced by shipping out Shea Weber for the more mobile P.K. Subban.
14 14. Tomas Fleischmann - KHL
The former Washington Capital, Florida Panther, Anaheim Duck, Montreal Canadien, and Chicago Blackhawk brings speed, creativity, and production to the table. This past season as a member of the Habs, he scored 10 goals in 57 games, before he was traded to the Windy City at the trade deadline. In 19 games with the Hawks including the playoffs, the Czech had 4 goals. Despite his attributes, I think for Fleischmann to continue his career, the 32-year old will need to play overseas, where he still style of play will be more beneficial on the bigger ice surface.
He proved to be quite the servicable player when playing in a reduced role, but he would definitely thrive by returning to Europe. He could either go to the KHL if he wants a bigger payday, or he could return to his homeland and play in the Czech league.
13 13. Christian Ehrhoff - New York Rangers
If teams are looking for a defenseman who is going to take care of things in his own zone, then they'll need to look elsewhere. If they're looking for an offensive defensemen who can help out on the power play and score 5-on-5, than look no further than Ehrhoff. The recently turned 34-year-old knows what to do with the puck on his stick, as he has recorded at least 20 points in all but three of his 12 NHL seasons. That's why the Blackhawks brought him in last year, as they felt he could help them offensively, but they decided to bring back Brian Campbell, who will play a better all-around game for them than Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff will have to take a 'prove it' deal to stay in the league.
I expect him to sign with the New York Rangers.
12 12. Dominic Moore - Los Angeles Kings
A top penalty killer and face-off man (he won over 55%) last year with the New York Rangers, it is a bit surprising that Dominic Moore is still without a team at this stage of free agency. Even though his point total has dipped in recent years, the recently turned 36-year-old center is also great in the locker room, and has speed that just can't be coached. As training caps open and injuries start to pop up as they always do, I expect Moore to find a home. Teams always look for character players to help the locker room and Moore still has plenty to contribute. It won't hurt bringing him in, as at this point, he'd likely sign a one-year deal at $750,000. It's a good bargain for any team looking for depth down the middle.
11 11. Matt Bartkowski - New York Islanders
After spending parts of five seasons with the Boston Bruins, the 28-year-old is coming off a season in which he achieved career highs in goals with 6, and games played (80) in his first campaign with the Vancouver Canucks. Surprisingly, the club chose not to bring him back after singing him to a one-year deal last summer. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that he was a minus-19 (4th worst on the team). Despite being almost 30, Bartkowski doesn't have much NHL wear and tear on him, as he had only played 131 games before this year. The best might still be yet to come for the defenseman. Having him as a seventh blue-liner at a bargain salary could help a team.
I think he will end up signing with a team that needs depth like the New York Islanders.
10 10. Alex Tanguay
While nowhere near the player he once was in his prime, the 36-year-old still knows what to do with the puck on his stick, as he is a skilled passer and play-maker. Over the last two year split between the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes, the former All-Star put up an impressive 77 points, and has a total of 863 career points in 1,088 career games. Whether on a contending team, or a rebuilding club who wants to surround their young players with veteran leader who is still productive, Tanguay will be a good fit.
I expect him to sign with the Buffalo Sabres. They have plenty of young talent ready to break out, so mixing them with a veteran like Tanguay can help their careers. This signing likely wouldn't come until well into training camp.
9 9. Karri Ramo - Minnesota Wild
After putting up impressive numbers in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for 4 years (99-48 record) the former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, signed a two-year deal with the Calgary Flames to return to the NHL. His tenure with the Flames was up and down, as it was highlighted by injuries and inconsistent play, that was partly due to him being shuffled back and forth between starter and backup role by former Flames' head coach Bob Hartley. Any job he gets in the NHL at this point will be in a backup role.
Despite all of that, Ramo still posted an above .500 record (49-42) which proves that when he's on, he has proven that he can lead a team, and at worse being a dependable Look for a team with a questionable backup like the Minnesota Wild to sign the Finn.
8 8. Dennis Seidenberg - Edmonton Oilers
If it wasn't for injuries, Seidenberg would be much higher on the list. In fact, he probably wouldn't be here at all. Unfortunately for the 35-year old, injuries have severely impacted his ability to stay on the ice the last few seasons. In the 2013-2014 season, the veteran defenseman missed nearly 50 games after injuring both his ACL and MCL.
This past season, the German missed nearly 20 games with an assortment of injuries including a concussion. When healthy, the vet is solid on both ends of the ice as he proved in 2011, when he played a key role on the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup winning team.
Expect Seidenberg to sign a PTO with a defensive-needy club like the Edmonton Oilers, whose current general manager Peter Chiarelli, was the GM of the Bruins, and the man responsible for bringing the defenseman to Beantown in 2011.
7 7. Matt Cullen - San Jose Sharks
His age might throw some teams off - he turns 40 this November - but Cullen has the speed, hands, and knowledge to compete with players half his age. In the regular season, the 19-year veteran produced 16 points and 32 points. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, he stepped up his game even more, as he played a huge role on the team 4th line, as well as on their power play and penalty kill for the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Cullen, who has suited up for 8 NHL teams over his career, made a paltry $800,00 last year. It's safe to say he is looking for more in his 20th season. Since the Pens haven't signed him yet due to cap issues. I expect him to sign with the team who he helped beat for the Cup in the San Jose Sharks. It's likely to be his final year.
Other possible fits: Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues
6 6. Brandon Pirri - Europe
His spot on the list is where it is based mostly on potential, as the 25-year old has yet to consistently deliver on a regular basis. Two of the main reasons Pirri has yet to deliver is because of health and inconsistency. In three full NHL seasons, the Toronto, Ontario native has played over 50 games only once. He has also only scored double digit goals on one occasion, doing so in 2014-15 as a member of the Florida Panthers (22). Blessed with speed, soft hands, and a nose for the net, I think it speaks volumes that some team hasn't given Pirri a shot yet despite his issues.
5 5. Kyle Quincey - Boston Bruins
The 6'2, 220 pound defenseman is coming off of a season where he played nearly 20 minutes a game for the Detroit Red Wings, and helped their young D-Men like Danny DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko take a big step in their development. Known as a solid defender in his own zone, Quincey is also capable of contributing offensively from time-to-time. Last year in 47 games with the Wings, he produced 4 goals and 7 assists. At 31 years old, Quincey, can make a difference as a 5th or 6th D-Man.
I think he will sign with the Boston Bruins. The Bruins always make a habit of having some hard hitters on their blue line and Quincey tends to make nights tougher for anybody venturing into his corner. He seems like he'd make a good Bruin.
4 4. Jhonas Enroth - Toronto Maple Leafs
Without a doubt, Jhonas Enroth is the best goalie available on the free agent market. Last year as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, the Swede won 7 of 13 starts, and posted a more than respectable .922 save percentage, and 2.17 goals against average. The 25-year-old, would be an upgrade over several team's current goalie situations. He will likely sign with a team with a shaky or unproven backup. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a good spot for him, as Frederik Andersen is the clear cut starter and Enroth won't have the pressure of beating him out for a starting job. The Leafs will likely finish near the bottom again, but they'll definitely want to try out several goaltenders this year.
Either way, it's unlikely a contender is going to sign Enroth.
3 3. Kris Russell
The king of blocked shots (he led the NHL in blocked shots per game last year) is surprisingly still on the market, despite the fact that he was one of the biggest names at last year's trade deadline. One of the reasons he is still available, has reportedly been his asking price, as he has been rumored to have rejected multi-year deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks among other teams.
While some people might over-rate the 29-year old (he has only recorded more than 30 points once in a season, and his high amount of blocked shots indicate that opponents get a lot of scoring chances when he is on the ice) he still can provide value as a bottom-pairing defensemen.
I expect him to sign with the Boston Bruins, who tend to value players like Russell.
2 2. Jimmy Vesey - Chicago Blackhawks
While some people might want to put the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner at the top of the list, I am going to hold off on placing a guy who has never played an NHL game, let alone a minute of professional hockey in the number one spot. Just to be clear, I am not ignoring Vesey's production, as the former member of the Harvard Crimson, and Nashville Predators' draft pick put up an amazing 104 points in 70 NCAA games.
There are numerous teams rumored to be interested in signing Vesey, who became a free agent this past week after he failed to sign a contract with the Buffalo Sabres who acquired his rights from the Preds earlier this summer. I think the college phenom will end up joining the Chicago Blackhawks, where he would have the best chance to win a Stanley Cup, and not have to worry about the spotlight and pressure too much, as he would have Johnathan Toews and Patrick Kane to help him along.
Update: Jimmy Vesey has signed with the New York Rangers
After consulting with his agents Pete Fish and Pete Donatelli today, Jimmy Vesey has decided to sign with NYR. #VeseyWatch is over.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) August 19, 2016
1 1. Jiri Hudler - Vancouver Canucks
Will the real Jiri Hudler please stand up? Two years ago, the Swede put up a career-high 76 points as a member of a scrappy Calgary Flames team that made it to the second round of the playoffs. His spectacular play even helped him capture the 2015 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is given to the NHL player who best exhibits sportsmanship while playing at a high level. While Hudler didn't put up the same type of numbers this year, he still recorded a more than respectable 35 points in 53 games with the Flames. He was traded to the Florida Panthers at this year's trade deadline, where he went on to produce 11 points in 19 contest (including the playoffs) for the team.
One of the reasons the Swede is still on the market is because of his asking price. Last year he made $4 million in the final year of a 4-year, $16 million deal he signed with the Flames in 2012. While the 32 year-old surely won't get that type of deal at this point, he has proven that he can still produce at a high level, and he would be a valuable addition to any team's second or third line.
I expect Hudler to land a short-term deal with a team looking for a boost on offense, as well as depth down the middle, like the Vancouver Canucks.
Other possible fits: New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild or Columbus Blue Jackets.
Update: Jiri Hudler has signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Dallas Stars
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