NHL 2014 Free Agency Frenzy Guide: Which players are actually worth it?

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It’s the NHL Free Agent Frenzy, a.k.a. Someone’s Bound To Do Something Stupid Day!

You can view all of the free agent skaters here and free agent goalies here. Following along with our Chatterbox here!

And now, a look at some of the key free agents in the NHL, and whether they’re actually worth the money.   


Dave Bolland, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

Why He’s Worth It: Well, according to Steve Simmons, he scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks, and hence brings an invaluable intangible to any team that signs him. Please note Michael Frolik assisted on that goal; where’s his supper? 

Why He’s Not: Because five years and $25 million is a hell of a lot to pay for a third-line center with unquantifiable benefits.

Possible Destinations: Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks

Best Guess: A reunion with Dale Tallon in Florida.

Mike Cammalleri, LW, Calgary Flames

Why He’s Worth It: He’s 32, hit 26 goals last season (his best offensive year since 2009-10) and was one of the best possession forwards on the Flames last season (plus-6.7 percent corsi rel).

Why He’s Not: Hasn’t hit 70 games since 2009. He’s also making $6 million against the cap already.

Possible Destinations: Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils

Best Guess: He re-signs with the Flames, who give him term. 

Ales Hemsky, RW, Ottawa Senators

Why He’s Worth It: Because all the numbers point to him blowing up in the right situation, i.e. a team that isn’t abjectly terrible.

Why He’s Not: He played 75 games last season but has been injury prone in the past.

Possible Destinations: New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Guess: The Penguins expressed interest in Hemsky last trade deadline, but that was before everyone was fired. Meh, maybe that’ll go down that road again.

Jarome Iginla, RW, Boston Bruins

Why He’s Worth It: Because he showed he can be a first-line stud with 30 goals skating with Milan Lucic and David Krejci.  

Why He’s Not: Why because according to the Boston media, he’s a “borderline Hall of Famer” who has to figure out if he wants “his best chance to win a Cup and sign the one-year, bonus-laden deal with a Bruins team he helped turn into the President’s Cup winner, or is he looking for the bigger, better deal from somebody else on July 1?” (This is, by the way, the first time a player has been on his way out of Boston and had his character assailed.)

Possible Destinations: Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks.

Best Guess: Still have to think Iggy will make something work to stay on a line he starred on and a good situation in Boston. If not … how about Minnesota or Tampa?

Nikolai Kulemin, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs

Why He’s Worth It: Because he’s affordable ($2.8 million against the cap last season) and 27 and one of those players that seems primed to take his game to another level away from Randy Carlyle.

Why He’s Not: He and Mikhail Grabovski are apparently the Russian Selanne and Kariya, as they want to be a package deal in free agency.

Possible Destinations: Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins.

Best Guess: The Penguins have targeted him and have this Malkin fellow he’s fond of.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He’s Worth It: Because he’s like a Swiss Army Knife at forward, able to play on the top line or down the lineup. He had 7 goals in the playoffs.

Why He’s Not: Given the lack of quality forwards in the UFA market, one assumes he’ll get some nutty contract offers.

Possible Destinations: Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets,

Best Guess: The Jets seem primed to give him a rather large contract to make a free-agent splash for the first time in Winnipeg 2.0.

Matt Moulson, LW, Minnesota Wild

Why He’s Worth It: Because he’s capable of hitting 30 goals with the right center and is a big body on the wing …

Why He’s Not: ... who isn’t all that physical. And unless you’re getting John Tavares too, 30 goals aren’t a given.

Possible Destinations: Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders

Best Guess: Moulson heads back to Buffalo, as the Islanders go in another direction for Tavares’s linemate.

Mike Ribeiro, C, Arizona Coyotes

Why He’s Worth It: Because he’s a point producing center that can anchor a second or third line and be an asset on the power play.

Why He’s Not: Because he’s a complete head case who was bought out of a long term contract for “behavioral issues” that included missed practices and misses buses.

Possible Destinations: Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, anyone that could use a second-line center on a short-term contract that doesn't mind he's a creepy malcontent. 

Best Guess: He lingers on the market until training camp.

Brad Richards, C, New York Rangers

Why He’s Worth It: Well, that all depends on the price. Because he sure as [expletive] wasn’t worth it at $6.67 million annually anymore. But if you’re looking for a second or third line center that can man the power play, look no further. Provided he’s asking for about half that.

Why He’s Not: Because he skates like he’s 34 going on 80. Especially in the postseason.

Possible Destinations: Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning 

Best Guess: The Predators, after they lose out on about 15 other centers.

Paul Stastny, C, Colorado Avalanche

Why He’s Worth It: The 28-year-old is the only legit No. 1 center on the UFA market, and will be paid accordingly.

Why He’s Not: Yes, he can be a No. 1 center. But he’s also never cracked 80 points in a season and has always been a center that depended on the quality of his linemates more than made average linemates into elite ones.

Possible Destinations: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues

Best Guess: He either wises up and takes less money to stay in Colorado or he’s either Chicago or St. Louis bound.

Thomas Vanek, LW, Montreal Canadiens

Why He’s Worth It: Because he’s a dynamic offensive force who can power a team’s offense on his own for stretches …

Why He’s Not: ... who utterly and inexplicably disappeared for the Canadiens in the playoffs last season.

Possible Destinations: Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders

Best Guess: Chuck Fletcher could offer to pay him in Juicy Lucys and he’d still sign in Minnesota.

Radim Vrbata, RW, Phoenix Coyotes

Why He’s Worth It: Solid scoring winger who hit 30 two years ago and popped in 10 power-play goals last season.

Why He’s Not: The last time he left Arizona to chase the money it lasted 18 games in Tampa Bay.

Possible Destinations: Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Best Guess: Barring a late push from the Coyotes, Vrbata could be Boston bound.


Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks

Why He’s Worth It: He’s an elite puck-moving defenseman who can quarterback a power play, and a valuable veteran to add to one’s locker room.

Why He’s Not: He’s 38 years old and looking for a 2-year deal. Also, you might get the same production out of cheaper labor.

Possible Destinations: Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs.

Best Guess: Detroit. He’s been their focus since the free agent derby began, and two years at $11 million should be enough to get it done.

Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabres

Why He’s Worth It: Younger than Boyle (32), a great puck-moving defenseman and power-play quarterback who can eat up minutes. He’s also good in his own zone.

Why He’s Not: The bidding war should drive his price up to around five years and $5.5-$6 million. 

Possible Destinations: Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Guess: It’s beginning to sound like Ehrhoff might be too rich for the Wings, which means Steve Yzerman gets him instead.

Matt Niskanen, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He’s Worth It: Good skater and a very solid possession player on the back end who had 46 points in 81 games last season.  

Why He’s Not: Last season was his coming out party, and it happened to be a contract year. We’ve also yet to see what he can do with a primary role on a power play that didn’t have Malkin and Crosby on it. Oh, he’ll be looking for a 7-year deal.

Possible Destinations: Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals

Best Guess: Let’s see … former Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden, who coached the defense, has joined Barry Trotz’s staff in Washington. Could the Capitals finally land a premiere free agent who isn’t just using them to jack up their price?

Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He’s Worth It: He’s not going to be, based on what he’ll end up getting, but he’s still a physical presence and a veteran backliner that can help the right team.

Why He’s Not: Because you’re paying for reputation.

Possible Destinations: Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals

Best Guess: Whoever is going to ante up $4.5 million for a player in decline.


Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

Why He’s Worth It: Because he’s Marty Brodeur.

Why He’s Not: Because he used to be Marty Brodeur. 

Possible Destinations: Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals

Best Guess: He’ll go where so many other people from New Jersey go to retire: Sunny Florida, with the Bolts.

Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks

Why He’s Worth It: He can be a No. 1-A starter with great numbers in the postseason (2.19 GAA, .932 save percentage).

Why He’s Not: Inconsistent in the regular season, and only has one season in which he was a workhorse (73 games in 2011-12).

Possible Destinations: Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets.

Best Guess: Wherever this next guy doesn’t go.

Ryan Miller, St. Louis Blues

Why He’s Worth It: Because he remains a No. 1 starter, and the only legitimate one in the UFA market.

Why He’s Not: He turns 34 this month. His playoff with the Blues was underwhelming. While he’s a thoughtful, insightful guy, he can also wear his emotions on his sweater a bit too much.

Possible Destinations: Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals.

Best Guess: Vancouver would seem like the best fit; San Jose is the most intriguing one.

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