Thursday, June 27, 2013

2014 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents: Key Forwards and Defensemen

There has been much talk about the 2013 NHL free agent class.  That said, let's take a look at some key forwards and defensemen who will be eligible to sign with another squad after the 2013-14 NHL season as part of the 2014 NHL unrestricted free agent class.

Key Unrestricted Free Agent Forwards
  1. Dany Heatley - The 32-year-old winger is coming off his 11th NHL season.  His season was shortened by a shoulder injury, limiting him to just 36 regular season games.  His offensive performance in those games was strong however, as he tallied 21 points (11 goals and 10 assists).  He'll likely need to take a salary reduction, unless he has a career year in 2013-14 coming off shoulder surgery, as he will make $5 million in 2013-14 matched with a $7.5 million cap hit.   

  2. Joe Thornton - Thornton has proven himself to be an assist machine in his time with the Boston Bruins and particularly the San Jose Sharks over his stellar NHL career.  The Sharks will be in a situation where they'll need to address a few of their key players at the same time.  In addition to Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and defenseman Dan Boyle will be free agents. 

  3. Thomas Vanek - The Buffalo Sabres forward scored more than a point per game in his 38 regular season contests during the lockout shortened season. He has been above that point per game mark in earlier seasons and when he wasn't, he was within a stones throw. If Buffalo plans to re-sign Vanek, they will also have to plan a supporting cast around him. What the Sabres do during the 2013 free agent season may well play into whether or not Vanek has the propensity to extend his NHL career in western New York.

Key Unrestricted Free Agent Defensemen
  1. Dion Phaneuf - Number 3 on the Toronto Maple Leafs is a big, tough defenseman entering the prime of his career.  In a full slate of the 2012-13 season's regular season games, Phaneuf bagged 28 points with nine goals and 19 assists.  He also logged over 25 minutes of ice time on average, for the fourth consecutive season, proving his durability.  

  2. Kris Letang - UPDATE: Letang signed a maximum 8-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, taking him through the 2021-22 season, worth a total value of $58 million.  Letang, who was in contention for the 2012-13 season's Norris trophy before it was awarded to P.K. Subban was among the finest offensive defensemen in the league in 2012-13.  The regular season saw this blueliner score more than a point per game (1.09 points per game to be exact).  He was not far off that pace in the playoffs either, tallying 16 points, three of them goals, in his 15 playoff appearances.   At 27 years old when he becomes a free agent, if the Penguins don't lock him up first, his services will be in high demand across the league.

  3. Andrei Markov - An assist machine.  That says it all about Montreal Canadiens' defenseman Andrei Markov.  Number 79 has 399 career NHL regular season points, of which 308 are assists.  There may be bigger names out there on the free agent market for 2014, but none better from the point at setting up their teammates to score.  

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