The NHL Free Agency Period is about a month in and we still have a great crop of players available that could help any team. A lot of the best players available have not been obtained by a new team because of their age, but as the offseason progresses, this will surely change as teams start editing their rosters. Other players also may not have been signed at this point because they are coming off of down seasons and are not necessarily trusted. Yet, these players often end up finding a new home, either by one year deals or professional tryout offers.
Through this list, we will be looking at fifteen current NHL free agents and where they should sign by the time the offseason is over. Each one of these players still have enough skill to play at the NHL level and most likely will return by October 2017. A lot of these NHLers are looking for the chance to win their first ever Stanley Cup, so expect them to sign with legitimate contenders. That is a necessity for these players because at the end of the day, the Stanley Cup is the primary goal.
Nonetheless, here is a list of fifteen NHL free agents and the destinations that should go to.
15 Daniel Winnik: Boston Bruins
Daniel Winnik is a very reliable fourth line forward who often is not praised for his skill. Yet, he has quietly put up solid offensive numbers as a defensive forward for the past few seasons. He was a very good fit with the Washington Capitals, but sadly, they could not bring him back due to their cap issues. Winnik will be missed because he was a very solid penalty killer in Washington.
Winnik should consider signing with the Boston Bruins because they are a team that is looking for a veteran presence in the locker room. This offseason, they lost Dominic Moore to the Toronto Maple Leafs and have yet to find a replacement for him. Winnik is a very similar player to Moore because they both play strong defensively and are great voices in the locker room.
14 Francois Beauchemin: Montreal Canadiens
Francois Beauchemin has been a great defenseman in the league for over a decade now, but it is clear that his play is easily starting to diminish. Yet, that does not necessarily mean that he would be a bad pickup for a team looking for defensive help. It is important to note that Beauchemin was only bought out because he was the victim of a bad contract on a rebuilding team with the Avalanche.
Being French Canadian, Beauchemin should return home and play for the Montreal Canadiens. Interesting fact, Beauchemin was a member of the Canadiens, but he only suited up for one game for them. Montreal very well could be losing Andrei Markov due to cap issues, so Beauchemin would be a far cheaper replacement and someone they should consider.
13 Brian Gionta: New Jersey Devils
Brian Gionta is another player on this list that is definitely nearing the end of his career. Gionta is no longer an elite talent in the league, but he could provide great leadership to a team who could benefit from his services. It is important to note that Gionta has been a captain of two NHL franchises and has a lot of experience under his belt.
Gionta should seriously consider returning to New Jersey where it all began. Gionta would be a solid player for the Devils to pick up not only for his experience, but his overall legacy in New Jersey. Gionta was a young star during the Devils’ cup run in 2003 and could show the rebuilding squad what it takes to actually win. He could even be a good candidate to be an alternate captain for the team.
12 Cody Franson: Colorado Avalanche
Cody Franson is a solid offensive defenseman who definitely deserves the chance to play on a new team. Although he has struggled the past few seasons, Franson is still a threat in the offensive zone and is capable of obtaining over thirty points in a season. It is just a matter of him finding the right location for him to reach his full potential once again.
Franson would be a solid acquisition for the Colorado Avalanche because they are a team that can really use anyone to improve. The Avalanche are not particularly strong on the back end, so getting Franson could help them both on the powerplay and even penalty kill. Franson is definitely the type of free agent who is a low risk, but could provide a very high reward. The Avalanche should consider it.
11 Dwight King: Arizona Coyotes
Dwight King is an absolute beast of a man and is a very underrated power forward in the NHL. Although King will not light up the score sheet, he will provide a strong physical force to any hockey club and can protect a team’s best player. He is coming off a down season, so it is fair to assume that he would not be a large cap hit or carry a long term with his deal.
It has been noted that King wants to return the Western Conference and a good fit for him would be the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are a team that are finally showing signs of improvement because they have a solid mix of veterans and prospects. King would slot perfectly on their fourth line and help protect their young talented players, such as Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller
10 Mike Fisher: Nashville Predators
Mike Fisher quietly became one of the best captains in the league last season. Although he is not necessarily a superstar, he is a team first type of player and clearly knows how to pump up the players around him. This is evident by the fact that he led the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance this past season. The young players on the Predators really looked up to Fisher and respected him immensely.
Mike Fisher belongs in Nashville and should play for any different city. Fisher has become the heart of the franchise and is beloved by all the fans around him. Also, from a family standpoint, there is no way that his wife, Carrie Underwood, would want to leave her home of Nashville as well. Overall, do not be surprised to see Fisher back in yellow next season, if he decides to play again.
9 Drew Stafford: Boston Bruins
Drew Stafford is no longer a top-6 forward like he was back in Buffalo, but that does not mean that he is still not a valuable player. Stafford is the type of utility player that every NHL team wants. He has the ability to kill penalties, but also score clutch powerplay goals. He is also beloved for the veteran presence he gives to the locker room, which is something all teams need.
Due to his success in Boston, it would make sense for Stafford to return there. In Boston, he had the chance to play on their second line and had a lot of chemistry with David Krejci. The Bruins should consider bringing back Stafford, especially because they are a team that has lost a handful of forwards already this offseason. A Stafford return is not too late and should be explored.
8 Roman Polak: Ottawa Senators
Roman Polak is a steady defensive defenseman who is primarily known for his physical play. He has been a very solid player for the Maple Leafs over the years, but due to their cap issues, there was no way for Polak to return. It is a bit surprising that a player of Polak’s level is still on the free agent market, especially because all teams seem to covet strong defensemen.
Due to his desire to win, Polak should sign with one of the Maple Leafs’ rivals, the Ottawa Senators. This would make sense because the Senators recently lost Marc Methot to the expansion draft and need to replace him with a physical presence. Polak may not be the same player as Methot, but he would provide them with a great deal of depth on the back end.
7 Johnny Oduya: Chicago Blackhawks
Johnny Oduya is clearly not the same player that he once was, but that does not mean that he cannot perform at the NHL level. Oduya is only one year removed from his best NHL season when he piled up 21 points for the Dallas Stars. Although last season he showed signs of dropping off, Oduya should have one more chance to prove that he is still a talented player.
Oduya should return to the team where he won two Stanley Cups with: the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are always losing talent due to their cap issues, but Oduya returning would give them a solid defenseman for a cheap price. They already had to trade away star defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson and they have yet to bring in another left-handed shot to fill the void. Oduya could be that guy.
6 Thomas Vanek: Detroit Red Wings
Although he is no longer an elite forward in the NHL, Thomas Vanek has still quietly put up very solid seasons over the past few years. Vanek is primarily known for his scoring abilities and he would instantly make an NHL teams offense far better by acquiring him. The issue with Vanek is that he mainly has success playing in a top-6 role, which may be hard for him to obtain.
This past offseason, Vanek signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings and had a lot of success with them before being traded to the Florida Panthers. Vanek should consider signing with the Red Wings again because he would fit perfectly on their second line and it would give him a home that he is already familiar with. Although the Red Wings are rebuilding, a player like Vanek could give their prospects great wisdom with his experiences.
5 Mark Streit: Calgary Flames
Even at 40 years old, nothing seems to stop offensive defenseman Mark Streit from having productive seasons in the NHL. Although NHL teams may stay away from Streit because he is older, he should be given at least a one year deal to show the league that he still has it. Puck moving defenseman are hard to come by in the NHL and it is a bit shocking that Streit has yet to find a home.
Streit would be a great fit for the Calgary Flames because they need help defensively and he would give them strong leadership. The Flames are definitely a team that have a lot of talent offensively, so Streit would thrive on their powerplay and could even put up one of his best seasons in terms of points. Do not be surprised to see Streit in Calgary next season.
4 Shane Doan: San Jose Sharks
After twenty seasons in Arizona, it is time for Shane Doan to find a new team to play for and hopefully, it is a team that is a contender. Doan has been extremely loyal to a club who never had any chance of winning a cup since his arrival. After countless years as being a member of a rebuild team, it is time for Doan to have his first legitimate shot at a cup because it may be his last chance ever.
It has been noted that Doan wants to stay in the Western Conference, so he should sign with the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are looking for a replacement for Patrick Marleau and although Doan is not as talented offensively, he would give the Sharks another strong veteran presence. The Sharks almost won the cup in 2016, so it is fair to say that Doan going there would be a smart decision and increase his chances of winning himself.
3 Andrei Markov: Philadelphia Flyers
Andrei Markov sadly will most likely never be a member of the Montreal Canadiens due to the amount of money he wants and their cap situation. Markov is still a t
op-4 defenseman even at his age and would be a solid pickup for any team that is looking for offensive help. Even at age 38, Markov has still had a lot of success offensively in the NHL and can fit on any team’s powerplay.
There have been numerous reports that the Philadelphia Flyers want Andrei Markov and he would make a solid fit there. The Flyers are looking for a veteran presence to help their defensive prospects grow into stars, so Markov going there would make a lot of sense. The Flyers are also a team on the rise, so adding Markov would only help increase their chances of making the playoffs.
2 Jarome Iginla: Edmonton Oilers
Future Hall of Fame forward, Jarome Iginla, is still looking for an NHL home this offseason and this could very well mark the end of his illustrious career. Yet, all hockey fans would love to see Iginla play one more season because we all want him to win a Stanley Cup. After dedicating himself to the Calgary Flames for over a decade, Iginla has not been able to obtain the cup and has bounced from team to team.
Iginla should sign with his hometown team, the Edmonton Oilers. Iginla would have a great chance of winning the Stanley Cup with the Oilers because they have great talent up and down their roster, especially with Connor McDavid. Iginla could slot on any of the four lines and instantly make the team far better because of his experience and leadership. Iginla should consider this, even if the Flames are the Oilers biggest rival.
1 Jaromir Jagr: Nashville Predators
Jaromir Jagr is still an elite NHL player even at the age of 45. He had a down season this year in Florida, but that was mainly because the team as a whole struggled. Jagr easily has more gas in the tank to at least play one more season. With Jagr, any NHL team would improve because his offensive production and ability as a leader.
Jaromir Jagr should sign with this year’s runner up, the Nashville Predators. The Predators are already so talented on the back end, but they are looking for more scoring up front. At this point, Jagr would be their best option because he would be a short term player and would also put up strong numbers in Nashville. The Predators came so close to a cup last season and a player like Jagr could make all the difference in 2018.
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