Mailbag: Are there any useful NHLers still out there?

Yahoo Sports
Daniel Winnik is an example of a free agent who might have something left in the tank. (Hannah Foslien/AP)
Daniel Winnik is an example of a free agent who might have something left in the tank. (Hannah Foslien/AP)

Seems like the big theme this week is mostly about how players will be acquired and used ahead of the season. Understandable, I guess, since there’s not much else out there these days, at the end of August.

While training camps open in just a couple weeks here, most of the hockey world seems to be pretty settled for next season at this point; soon, it’ll just be “this season,” which is nice but also strange to think about.

[Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues are open: Sign up now for free]

Anyway, enough preamble. Let’s get into it already:

Pat asks: “Now that we’ve reached the ‘Talk yourself into signing Cody Franson’ part of the summer: any UFAs still out there who might be good and/or useful?”

A quick look at CapFriendly’s Free Agents page is all you’re gonna need to determine that, ah, not really. Rick Nash could probably help someone for short money if he were going to play, but he isn’t. Lee Stempniak seems to have finally hit that wall where he’s not going to move the needle anymore. The ship seems to have finally sailed on guys like Jussi Jokinen, Ales Hemsky, and Mike Cammalleri doing anything for you, too.

I dunno, could Dom Moore be some team’s fourth or fifth center this season? Sure. Could Brandon Davidson prop up someone’s third pair if injuries cropped up? Yeah I bet he could.

There are a few guys — Tomas Jurco, Dan Winnik, Drew Stafford, Scott Hartnell — where I’d throw them a PTO and maybe a sub-$1 million deal if they’ll take a lesser role, just because they’re probably decent fourth-line guys in a pinch. But if it’s a choice between one of those guys and a 23-year-old from my AHL team, gimme the kid.

Overall, yeah, I mean the carcass is pretty well picked over at this point. Seems like there aren’t too many market inefficiencies in the UFA market at this point. At least not right before Labor Day weekend.

Deej asks: “Are there any of the current crop of coaches, new hires included, that might be willing to challenge the status quo and play a creative, offensive style where players aren’t benched for one turnover even though they generated five scoring chances?”

To your point about new coaches, I don’t know that Dave Quinn has too much to lose on Broadway, y’know? The Rangers are gonna stink regardless of whether Pavel Buchnevich turns it over once or twice more than a more conservative coach would like. Everyone knows they’re gonna be bad, and Quinn’s college coaching career didn’t exactly punish high-end kids for bad turnovers if they were, y’know, “trying something.”

Jim Montgomery in Dallas might find himself in a similar boat later in the season but one assumes the Stars are a little more geared up to be competitive (at least until they aren’t, which could be as soon as Christmas).

I’m also eager to see how much slack Rod Brind’Amour has to pull that kind of approach given what Carolina’s problems were under Bill Peters. I can see him being “creative” and I can see him being “conservative.” Just another reason to keep close tabs on the ‘Canes this year, I guess.

Eddie asks: “How will Dave Hakstol manage to ruin Hextall’s offseason roster work for the Flyers?”

The good news is that the number of times he can give Andrew MacDonald ice time over Shayne Gostisbehere or whatever is dwindling. Even the biggest holdouts on the “MacDonald can play” have to be converted, and the forward group is (mostly) loaded with enough actually talented players that, even if you wanted to, you kinda couldn’t weigh down anyone’s line too badly.

Of course, the real issue is that Hextall’s offseason work is probably going to be undone by last summer’s offseason work. Michal Neuvirth is, even at 30, still something of a mystery in terms of quality but Brian Elliott absolutely is not. He’s bad now and that’s it. The Flyers could be good at a lot of positions this season but I can’t see goaltending being one of them, and that’s outside Hakstol’s purview.

You gotta play one of these guys every night. Sorry!

Tom asks: “Out of all the FA signings over the summer, which one do you see not turning out the way the team thought it would?”

Well here’s a glib one and then a real one: Every signing the Canucks made this summer indicates that they think they’re gonna do something of note besides “crater” this coming season. Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel for four years each is insane, even leaving aside the money, which is also insane. But I think everyone not in the Canucks front office sees that going poorly.

Here’s a real one, though: I don’t get why LA is giving Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s my age, three years and $6.25 million. Do they think this is what they need to not get swept by Vegas in the first round? Because they weren’t even that good; they needed an uncharacteristically great season from Jon Quick (unlikely to be replicated), and an MVP-type campaign from Anze Kopitar that turned Dustin freakin’ Brown into a 60-point player again to even get to the point where they were fourth in a crap division and got slaughtered by Vegas in the first round.

Kovalchuk does little to change that. He’s real good and everything but he’s also (probably) a power play specialist. Yeah, scoring on the power play counts the same as it does at 5-on-5, but the real issue is that this is basically a one-year deal — insofar as LA probably thinks about blowing it up to some extent if they can’t get anything going this season — spread over three years at a big price point.

I also don’t think this is gonna go how Kovalchuk wanted, because he said specifically he was looking to join a Cup contender and I’m not sure this is even the fourth-best team in its division this year.

Tyler asks: “Team from each conference that everyone is saying is going to make the playoffs, but ultimately will not.”

Well Tyler, first of all this is not a question and that’s very rude to do when I ask specifically for mailbag questions.

Second of all, because I am so nice, here is me providing a response anyway: I think people legitimately believe Buffalo and Colorado are playoff teams this season and I truly do not see it.

The Avs needed St. Louis to be surprisingly bad and get an elite performance from Nathan MacKinnon to barely make it, and the Blues really beefed up this summer.

And as I’ve said before, I love most of the additions Buffalo made this summer, but they missed the playoffs by 35 points and play in maybe the toughest division (at least 1-4) in the league. I can’t see anything getting them into the playoffs short of a 102 PDO.

BJ asks: “As a Wings fan, is it blasphemous to think Osgood is more deserving of Hall of Fame discussion than Hank?”

Absurd assertion. Neither of them are Hall of Famers for me but Zetterberg is certainly closer; he’ll probably get in but I would just barely not vote for him.

I’ve banged this drum a lot in my career but you could have put half the goalies in the AHL behind those 1996-2009 Red Wings teams and gotten about as many Cup runs out of it as Osgood did.

Osgood finished second in Vezina voting one time — mainly because he led the league in wins and only lost six times in 50 appearances, because this was the ’95-96 Red Wings we were talking about. (That same season, less than 7 percent of the voters gave Dominik Hasek any Vezina consideration, despite him going .920 in 59 games, when the league average was .898, so this was a diseased era for the sport.)

Otherwise, Osgood was never considered even a top-five goalie in the league, and he shouldn’t have been because he kinda sucked.

Going just by the numbers in his career, Zetterberg was a little overrated but he was still very good, which you could almost never say of Osgood. He won a Conn Smythe, finished top-five in Selke voting a couple times, had four seasons of point-a-game hockey, etc.

Plus Zetterberg had an international career Osgood never could have imagined: Gold at the Olympics and Worlds (making him a member of the Triple Gold Club) plus silvers at both those events as well.

That someone would even ask the question shows how silly Red Wings fans are in their reverence for a guy who, over the course of his career, was a below-average 1b goaltender.

Gabriel asks: “If you could swap two players from different eras (i.e. Orr and Karlsson, Brodeur and Sawchuk), who would you pick and why?”

I would swap Tom Wilson for Gordie Howe from his heyday, so I didn’t have to hear how Gordie Howe was the third-best player ever anymore. Tom Wilson would dominate the NHL of the 1950s because he could lift the puck off the ice. He’d go two points a game with ease.

Howe might be okay in this era, of course, maybe a lower-end middle-six guy. But he would also be aghast to see that goalies don’t fall over backwards if you skate near them too fast, so who’s to say.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

What to Read Next