This off seasons UFA’s are getting some quite justifiable love. There’s Parise who’s the cream of the crop at forward. Blueline bastion Ryan Suter is more than enough to make anyone with a dram of hockey sense salivate on sight. But there’s so few UFA’s of quality that it’s going to be a choice of offering a stupid amount for something you probably won’t get or concentrating on other things.
Sadly this has left a truly tantalizing RFA class largely ignored. While none of the highs are quite as high as Parise and Suter, there’s some damn fine property waiting for a deal, and who knows maybe an offer sheet and change of address.
The man who should have won the Norris Trophy last season heads the list. Shea Weber is simply the best defenseman in the NHL under 30. Any fan who wouldn’t want him on their team is an idiot. Any general manager who doesn’t inquire about him is incompetent. He’s 27 and has been the most dominant defensemen in the Western Conference the last three seasons.
If there’s a successful enigma wrapped in a mystery, tucked inside a puzzle in the NHL his name is Kris Versteeg. At 26 he’s in his fifth organization since being drafted in 2004. Along the way he’s played at the games zenith and it’s nadir. As part of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks he’s got his name in silver, as a former member of the Leafs he’s seen the worst, and he’s played in Philadelphia and most recently a very respectable season as part of the Florida Panthers.
As the heir-apparent to the mantle of Dryden and Roy one could almost see Carey Price signing an offer sheet as a way out of the cuckoo’s nest that is the Montreal media storm. The Canadiens would be very much in need of a paddle, and there’s not a market in the NHL with as much of a collective goalie fixation. There are at least half a dozen teams who could employ Price to their betterment. If I were Marc Bergevin I’d devote as much energy and time as I could to signing him before July first, or alternatively to trading him at the draft if would improve my team overall.
If anyone wanted to pull the plug on the Winnipeg Jets season, the perfect opportunity lies before them. Evander Kane. Physical, talented, healthy and growing a player, what more could a team ask for? Despite a concussion that cost him a few games the pugnacious former Vancouver Giant popped in 30 goals in a team with very limited offensive abilities. Did I mention he won’t hit the creaky age of 21 until August? Yeah.
If only he had some other offensive talent to play with is a lament applied to any number of players in the league. In the case of David Perron, the question is even more tantalizing. Imagine him getting fed by centers the quality of Joe Thornton, Nicklas Backstrom or Anze Kopitar? What’s his ceiling then, is it thirty goals, thirty-five? Who knows but it’s certainly better than what’s been shown in the offensively parched St Louis Blues system.
Three words speak of the best potential of an RFA defenseman under 25 in this years class: Michael Del Zotto. Good skater, good shot, and continually improving defensively? Check. Check and Check! Ten goals in the regular season and over half a point per game in both the regular and post season? Check and check. While his offensive numbers aren’t as flashy as the guy on this years first round opponent, if I had to pick one to be the last defender back I know who I’m putting my money on.
He’s not going to get many headlines this summer, but is T.J. Oshie the NHL’s perfect second or third center? We’ve covered the offensive shortfalls of the Blues already, Oshies team was 21st overall in offense. On that team he was tied for the lead with 54 points. Part of his duties were a respectable amount of penalty killing and two and a half minutes of powerplay time. If he were slotted into say the Florida Panthers roster how much better would his and his linemates offensive and defensive numbers be? Would they win the division two weeks earlier, a month perhaps? What about filling the two slot in Chicago with fellow American Patrick Kane as his co-conquistador?
@PuckSage is not your average hockey writer. He’s got a much, much bigger…vocabulary, and he actually likes hockey. That’s two up on some of the key smashers in hockey media, particularly some of the ones working for CSNNE in Boston.