With Matt Cullen’s signing with Pittsburgh for one year at a very modest $800,000 yesterday another free agent came off the market. Now a full 38 days past the start of the free agent period, Ron Francis has signed exactly zero new players. I keep clamoring for an Ehrhoff deal, but I am okay with the vast majority of deals that Francis theoretically passed on. And I did like the James Wisniewski trade to add one top 4 defenseman. Finally, I recognize that budget reality likely has a say in the situation.
But if I could pick through all of the unrestricted free agent deals that were signed this year and steal a couple, which would they be? I considered a few others, but living somewhere close to the Canes budget reality, I settle on three:
1) Cody Hodson – 1 year at $1.1M. He is coming off a down year, hence his buyout and bargain price. He has some gaps in his game not being the greatest defensively or the greatest skater. But he has produced offensively and was at his best with a high-end scoring wing on his side (Thomas Vanek). Could he find similar chemistry with Jeff Skinner? For this price, I might buy the lottery ticket to try. The other interesting twist is that he is a restricted free agent next summer. So if the experiment does work, the team that signs him gains the rights to his next contract too.
2) P.A. Parenteau – 1 year at $1.5M. He is coming off a down year, hence his buy out and his bargain price, but I like his upside and skill set. I am on (broken) record as saying that I think part of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner’s scoring struggles this year was lack of playmaking to increase the volume of chances they had. Alexander Semin had a tough year obviously, and I would not put Jordan Staal, Riley Nash or Victor Rask (at last in 2014-15) even remotely close to the category of pure playmaking center. Parenteau could bring playmaking from the Canes open right wing slot across from one of Skinner and EStaal and possibly both if Peters moved EStaal back to center and built and offense-heavy line with all three.
3) Matt Cullen – 1 year at $800k. How can you not like the price? Cullen still skates well enough to play in the NHL and is a versatile player who can playing scoring line or checking line, power play or penalty kill and left wing or center. At this stage of his career, his ice time might need to be a bit lower, but I think he is still a good complementary player with no risk at this price.
Disclaimer: To be clear, I am not suggesting that Ron Francis could have had any of these deals. It is not clear if these players would have been available to the Canes for the same price. Cullen, for example, likely took a discount to play with Malkin and Crosby that he probably would not have taken to play for the Canes.
The common theme is this:
–Potential offense, especially playmaking, upside.
–Bargain basement price.
–Only a 1 year commitment.
In this same category, Roy, Boyes and maybe Fleischmann are still out there.