Posted on: July 23, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 2:35 pm
By Adam Gretz
When the Columbus Blue Jackets lost Kristian Huselius for four-to-six months after an injury he suffered while lifting weights, it was pretty much assumed that general manager Scott Howson would be bringing in another forward to help replace him. On Saturday, Howson announced -- via his own Twitter feed -- that the club had signed free agent Vinny Prospal to help fill a top-six spot in the lineup.
Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports it's a one-year deal worth $1.75 million (plus bonuses).
There weren't many strong forward options remaining on the free agent market, but Prospal is probably among the best of the bunch. In 29 games last season with the New York Rangers, the 36-year-old winger scored nine goals to go with 14 assists after missing the first half of the season with a knee injury. He is just one year removed from a 20-goal, 58-point effort.
He's not likely to completely replace Huselius from an offensive standpoint at this point in his career, but for one year and that cap hit it should be a solid addition to a Columbus lineup that's already seen a boost thanks to the offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski.
For his career, Prospal has scored 227 goals in 978 games with six different teams (Ottawa, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Tampa Bay, New York and Florida).
If you remove Teemu Selanne from the list (he's either going to play for Anaheim or retire), the free-agent forwards still available ranked by point total from last season are Sergei Samsonov, Cory Stillman, Alexei Kovalev, Rob Schremp and John Madden.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: July 13, 2011 8:32 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 10:36 am
By: Adam Gretz
The Columbus Blue Jackets picked up what should be a huge upgrade to their offense earlier this summer by acquiring Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, due to some bad luck over the weekend, they lost another player that should have been one of their other top six forwards when Kristian Huselius tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights in Sweden, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.
General manager Scott Howson said, via Portzline's Puck Rakers blog, that Huselius is expected to miss four to six months, which could keep him out of the Blue Jackets lineup until January.
Huselius is entering the final year of a four-year contract -- that pays him $4.75 million per year -- that he signed prior to the 2008-09 season. He was limited to just 39 games last season due to injury, scoring 14 goals.
Now that that Columbus has another hole on its top lines for a large chunk of the season, the search now turns to the remaining free agent market and anybody that could potentially step in. The options are not promising. Looking at the forwards still available, and ranking them by goals scored in 2010-11, the top 10 players are as follows: Teemu Selanne (31), Antti Miettinen (16), Alexei Kovalev (16), Nikolai Zherdev (16), Sergei Samsonov (13), Rob Schremp (13), Cory Stillman (12), John Madden (10), J.P. Dumont (10) and Brad Winchester (10). Yikes.
Selanne, even at age 41, can obviously still play at a high level as shown by his 31 goals last season, but he is not an option (Selanne is either playing for Anaheim or he's retiring). Madden doesn't really fit seeing as how he's a checking line center as opposed to a goal-scoring winger, and the Jackets have already been through the Nikolai Zherdev experience.
Stillman is a reliable veteran that has been on a pair of Stanley Cup winning teams, while players like Samsonov and Schremp might offer the faint hope of a boom-or-bust signing.
There's never a good time to lose one of your top offensive players -- especially when it's two weeks into the free agent signing period in what was already a weak group -- when all of the best players have already been picked over.
Photo: Getty Images
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Posted on: July 4, 2011 1:37 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 12:55 pm
NHL free agency is unilke any other sport's. Within the first few hours -- first day at the latest -- the majority of the free agents, let alone impact players, are off the market. But not all of them.
Atop the list of players still looking for work is Tomas Kaberle. A bit maligned in Boston for the team's power-play struggles, it's not as if Kaberle isn't still good at what he does. Last season for the he had four goals and 43 assists.
It is still no foregone conclusion that he won't be back in Beantown next year. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said before free agency opened that Kaberle would test the waters, but that they would continue negotiations.
Or perhaps he could be on the radar of the Rangers down the coast. New York still needs a little bit of help on the back end and Kaberle could be a nice fit. If he doesn't make sense cap wise (the Rangers have $15 million but multiple restricted free agents left to sign) then they could stick with Bryan McCabe at a cheaper rate.
Regardless, there is still some useful talent to be had. Here's a look at the best available.
Jason Arnott: He's a bit long in the tooth, but Arnott can be a solid veteran center for any team in the market. Scored 17 goals with 14 assists last season between New Jersey and Washington.
Jamie Langenbrunner: It will be interesting to see what role teams think Langenbrunner can fill at this point. Saw a drop of 19 points between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Antti Miettinen: He has a little bit more youth than most of the players still up for grabs and he can provide some decent scoring. Last season with the Wild he had 16 goals, the season before he had a career-high 20. However, he could be KHL-bound.
Vaclav Prospal: Prospal played only 29 games last season due to injury, but was pretty darn productive in that time for the Rangers when the 36-year-old had nine goals and 14 assists.
Sergei Samsonov: Samsonov found a little spark after being traded to Florida at the end of last season, tallying three goals and 11 assists in 20 games for the Panthers. There is probably a home on a third line somewhere for him.
Teemu Selanne: The suspense here isn't where he will play, it is if he will play. Selanne will sign with the Ducks if he decides he'll play another season, if not it's off to the world of retirement. Still very productive with 31 goals and 49 assists last season.
Cory Stillman: Like many of the guys on the list, he is a veteran with plenty of experience but can still wield the stick a little. Stillman had 12 goals with 27 assists last season between Carolina and Florida.
Nikolai Zherdev: Zherdev has youth on his side compared to the rest here at just 26 years of age. Didn't have an incredibly productive year (and played just 56 games) with Philly last season, but with an increased role he could show more of the form that saw him score 23 and 26 goals the previous two seasons.
Scott Hannan: Hannan is a solid own-end defenseman who will find a home somewhere for teams looking to lock down in the back end. Because of his lack of offense (one goal, 10 assists last season) he should come at a pretty cheap price for whoever signs him.
Tomas Kaberle: After spending 11 seasons in Toronto, Kaberle could be joining his third team in three years if he doesn't return to Boston. He is still young enough (32) that he can get a pretty nice contract from some team.
Bryan McCabe: One of the better power-play captains a few years ago, McCabe still does a good job commanding the special teams. He won't command anywhere near the same contract he's coming off of and should be an affordable offensive option. Still very possible he could return to the Rangers.
Brent Sopel: Like Hannan, he's more of a defenseman's defenseman, a guy that will block shots and do his best to keep the puck out of the net. Teams interested in him won't be in the market for a top-four defenseman, but that doesn't mean he has no value, his plus-6 last season in 71 games for the Habs evidence.
Ray Emery: I thought Emery might be one of the goalies teams would target, but now he and the rest of the guys on this list are left in a tough spot as the goaltender market dried up pretty quickly and the need isn't big. But Emery should find a home.
Pascal Leclaire: Leclaire could be out of luck for NHL jobs, perhaps waiting until the middle of the year when some team is looking for depth. The concern with him is the injury history as he has struggled to stay healthy for his whole career.
Marty Turco: After years as the starter in Dallas, Turco has now been pretty much relegated to a backup, playing last season behind Corey Crawford in Chicago. Could be a midseason acquisition for teams searching for some depth and experience.
By Brian Stubits