With unrestricted free agency opening this weekend, I am putting together a master list of the top free agents available on the market this offseason. Part one of my rankings covered the thin crop of centers hitting the market this weekend. Part two will cover a slightly deeper group of players, wings. I combined left and right wingers into this ranking, which will extend the total number beyond ten. Once again, the players are ranked on how popular they will be amongst potential suitors on July 1. Each player will get a short summary and those I see the Sabres targeting will get a little extra attention.
Zach Parise – LW – Age: 27 – 11-12 team: New Jersey – 11-12 Cap Hit: $6,000,000
Together with Ryan Suter, Parise forms the crown jewels of the 2012 UFA class. There are reports that he is attempting to work out a deal with the Devils, but I think he is smart enough to see what the other 29 teams may have to offer. An elite talent, Parise is going to command at least 47.5M on an annual basis with his new contract and may even break the $8M barrier. If the Sabres are to make an honest run at him, Tyler Ennis and Pat Kaleta will need to accept their qualifying offers and not reach for a more lucrative extension. Buffalo’s cap situation may prohibit them from chasing Parise, but he is the type of talent that will instantly make his new team better.
Alexander Semin – RW – Age: 28 – 11-12 team: Washington – 11-12 Cap Hit: $6,700,000
A mercurial talent, Semin could possibly be the most talented player in the league if he gave a full effort each night. However, there are more reports of his shortcomings than his successes. Semin will likely get an offer from a team looking for a shot in the arm in terms of goal scoring. Some have pegged the Sabres as a suitor but I fear that some of his more “typical Russian” characteristics wouldn’t work well under Lindy Ruff, in the Sabres room and alongside their newest toy, Mikhail Grigorenko.
Shane Doan – RW – Age: 35 – 11-12 team: Phoenix – 11-12 Cap Hit: $4,550,000
When the news broke the Shane Doan would indeed be testing the free agent market, things got a bit more interesting for teams looking to find the ever so valuable intangibles. Depending on where he signs, Doan will round out a top six or provide an above-average solution on a team’s third line. Since he plays such a great two-way game, there will be plenty of teams knocking down his door. Based on what he brings to the table, I’d almost be more interested in the Sabres taking a stab at him instead of Parise. The Sabres could use more help on the right side and a $5M hit is more manageable than a $8M hit.
Guillamme Latandresse – LW – Age: 25 – 11-12 team: Minnesota – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,500,000
Latandresse’s injury concerns are probably why he didn’t get a qualifying offer from Minnesota. He is probably going to command at least $3M, if not more. An unexpected addition to the UFA crop, Latandresse will draw plenty of interest in a thin market. I like the idea of Latandresse if he is paired with the right center. However, his recent injury history may scare some teams off. If he was a right winger I would think the Sabres would have some interest.
PA Parenteau – RW – Age: 29 – 11-12 team: New York Islanders – 11-12 Cap Hit: $1,250,000
Parenteau is testing the market after a successful year on Long Island. I wonder how he will adapt to a high salary and additional attention on the ice. Personally, I don’t know how much more than $2,500,000 I would offer him. Buffalo could be in the running for Parenteau as a second option, but I fear he could be the Ville Leino of the 2012 class.
Ray Whitney – LW/RW – Age: 40 – 11-12 team: Phoenix – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,000,000
If Whitney wasn’t 40 I would have him higher on this list. I also doubt if he will think to leave Phoenix as he has found a great situation in the desert. With his age working against him, Whitney probably won’t get many huge offers on the market, but he does fill a great second line scoring role. He is a right handed shot but plays the off wing, which gives him some versatility. If he didn’t hate Buffalo, maybe the Sabres make a run to add a bit more scoring depth.
Dustin Penner – LW – Age: 29 – 11-12 team: Los Angeles – 11-2 Cap Hit: $4,250,000
Here is a player who will probably be able to leverage his playoff performance into a similarly lucrative contract as the one he is leaving behind. Without a Cup ring, I’d imagine that Penner would be looking at a contract in the $2M neighborhood. He is still a big body who can score with the right linemates, he will garner plenty of interest.
Jaromir Jagr – RW – Age: 40 – 11-12 team: Philadelphia – 11-12 Cap Hit: $3,300,000
My money is on Jagr staying in Philly. However, as the days creep closer to July 1, the Red Wings and Penguins could potentially come calling. I’m not sure who else would have any sort of interest in Jagr, who had a very respectable campaign for the Flyers in 2011-12.
Peter Mueller – RW – Age: 24 – 11-12 team: Colorado – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,000,000
Just like Latandresse, Mueller will likely be followed by his injury history when any offer is pushed his way. However, is his situation continues to improve – as it did in 2011-12 – he could be a steal at a low cap hit this summer. I see Mueller as a low-risk signing around the $2M he made last year. The Sabres could take a flyer on him to provide some skill and depth on the right side. If he doesn’t work out, store him in the AHL.
Jiri Hudler – LW – Age: 28 – 11-12 team: Detroit – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,875,000
Hudler could be a nice add for the team that gets him. However, he doesn’t bring all that much upside to the table. He is a good two-way forward, but doesn’t necessarily have any attributes that would wow you. Some have put Buffalo among his suitors, but I question what he would contribute to the Sabres based on where he would fit.
Kristian Huselius – Age: 33 – 11-12 team: Columbus – 11-12 Cap Hit: $4,750,000
I don’t expect Huselius to leave Columbus. I think he has a good situation there and can still be counted on to aid in the overall rebuild of that team. His cap hit might decrease going into next year, but that is about all to expect.
Brandon Prust – RW – Age: 28 – 11-12 team: New York Rangers – 11-12 Cap Hit: $800,000
Based on his previous salary, Prust may end up receiving the biggest raise from a percentage standpoint. Prust is someone high on my list if he isn’t asking for any more than $1.5M. I fear that his success in New York may inflate his asking price. At the end of the day he plays with jam, can kill penalties and will give you a few points now and then. He is someone who makes your team hard to play against. If Darcy Regier can get him at an affordable rate, I’d jump at the opportunity.
Jamie Langenbrunner – RW – Age: 36 – 11-12 team: St. Louis – 11-12 Cap Hit: $2,750,000
Anyone taking a run at Langenbrunner will be doing it for their penalty kill and his intangibles. He will wear a letter no matter where he signs but probably won’t be worth more than 10-15 goals. Expect him to be back in St. Louis next year. From the Sabres’ standpoint, anything over $2.5M for a third or fourth line guy is a little steep, but he could add a lot of maturity to the locker room.
Ruslan Fedotenko – LW – Age: 33 – 11-12 team: New York Rangers – 11-12 Cap Hit: $1,400,000
Fedotenko is an affordable, experienced winger who can still score at a pretty solid rate. His previous Stanley Cup accomplishments seem to follow him to this day, which is a good thing for him. He has filled a solid role for the Rangers and can provide a two-way punch for the middle of a lineup.
Lee Stempniak – RW – Age: 29 – 11-12 team: Calgary – 11-12 Cap Hit: $1,900,000
Basically the same version of Mueller, just a few years older and without the concussion; Stempniak could give a team a few more goals for their second or third line. I could see the Sabres kicking the tires and playing him on the third line next season. Stempniak is still young and is good for 15-20 goals a year. I like him for some depth scoring on the right side.
Others to watch:
Steve Sullivan (PIT, $1,500,000), Travis Moen (MTL, $1,500,000), Ryan Smyth (EDM, $6,250,000), Jordin Tootoo (NAS, $1,250,000), Daniel Winnik (COL$950,000)