NHL free agency opened on July 5, and most high-profile UFAs were signed and sealed in the first couple of days. But there’s still a few big names and several serviceable players available; in fact, there’s enough to ice an entire UFA Leftovers All-Star Team. It might be a long shot for the Stanley Cup, but we think it’s got at least a Blue Jackets’ chance at making the playoffs. (Note: Teemu Selanne wasn’t included due to his annual return-to-Anaheim-or-retire rite of summer passage, but everyone else was fair game.)
Here it is, the UFA Leftovers All-Star Team, the best club that money can buy in the middle of the summer. The team’s strengths are up front, especially on the wings, and there's decent overall depth. Weaknesses? Everything else. Blame the GM for skipping the entry draft and waiting two weeks into free agency before starting to build a team…
Center: Peter Mueller. A big gamble, but Mueller is also a big body (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) with a big pedigree (drafted 8th overall in 2006) and he’s only 25. The talent’s there; he scored 22 goals and 54 points as a rookie.
Left wing: Brenden Morrow. No longer one of the league’s preeminent power forwards, but still a solid veteran who wins puck battles along the boards and goes hard to the net. Plus, he probably gets the ‘C’ on this team.
Right wing: Jaromir Jagr. Giving him a 7-year deal and paying the max, but only because we need to get to the cap floor.
Center: Mikhail Grabovski. If Mueller falters, Grabovski’s an undersized warrior who is capable of playing on the top line. In a perfect world, however, he’s the whirling dervish No. 2 pivot behind the prototypical biggie-sized No. 1.
Left wing: Mason Raymond. Reliable, two-way winger adds speed and scoring. With chemistry and ice time, he could break out for 25-plus goals.
Right wing: Damien Brunner. Just like his second-line mates, he makes up for a lack of size with great offensive instincts. He’s got a goal-scorer’s touch around the net.
Center: Manny Malhotra. Faceoff specialist and penalty-killer is considering a comeback from eye injury that derailed his career. We’ll gladly give him a shot on the checking line.
Left wing: Danny Cleary. One of the first players we’d sign, Cleary can do it all from the first line to the fourth, plus special teams and holding late leads.
Right wing: Kaspars Daugavins. A big winger with skill and skating, and our first shooter in every shootout.
Center: Nathan Gerbe. Real small, but real good. Gerbe can move up to a top line if needed, and he’s a weapon on the power play.
Left wing: Simon Gagne. Scoring veteran who can fill whatever role is required. And like his linemates, he can fill in on a scoring unit and help the PP.
Right wing: Milan Hejduk. He’s slowed down, but we’ll make room for classy scorer.
Spares: Chuck Kobasew, Guillaume Latendresse. Speed, offensive ability, physicality and versatility.
DEFENSEMENFirst pairing: Ron Hainsey & Carlo Colaiacovo. Really, these three pairings are interchangeable, with a physical, stay-at-home presence (Hainsey, in this case) and a more mobile partner (Colaiacovo). No, our defense corps isn’t going to intimidate anyone. But that’s why we tried so hard to trade up for Seth Jones…
Second pairing: Douglas Murray & Radek Martinek. Murray’s a moose, Martinek’s a veteran mobile defender who’s been ravaged by injuries throughout his career. Here’s hoping they can play 20 minutes a night.
Third pairing: Filip Kuba & Ian White. Steady, dependable duo with hard slappers from the point and experience manning the power play. This tandem has the most upside and could be pushing 25 minutes a night by the end of the season.
Spare: Andrew Alberts. Let’s get physical.
Starter: Ilya Bryzgalov. He’s going to face so many shots on this team, he’ll be too tired to talk himself into trouble with “unprofessional” media types.
Backup: Tim Thomas. Why have one wacky goalie when you can have two?
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