The UFA’s are dropping like fly’s the last few days and I expect that trend to continue until Sunday.  Dennis Wideman to the Flames (another gem by Feaster, like everyone says if you’re in a hole…keep digging), Hal Gill re-signed with Nashville, Shane O’Brien, Jarret Stoll, Josh Harding, Barret Jackman, Brad Stuart and on and on and on. 

So with that being said I thought I would take a look at what is left and give you 5 guys that I believe could be great bang for your buck and 5 guys that I believe will be busts for the contracts they will get.  So let’s start with the great finds.

Alex Semin LW/RW – WHAT?!?!  Yes, he is on my great buy list.  You don’t hear anyone talking about wanting him.  There for I believe he ends up signing a 1 year deal, maybe for around 5 mil.  Not much risk there and if you are Semin you will be motivated to redeem yourself after last season and cash in next offseason.  I wouldn’t give him any years (2 at the most), but if the years are kept down it’s a great risk to take because the guy has incredible talented.

Shane Doan RW/LW – Again we aren’t talking about some unknown, but I believe Doan won’t care nearly as much about the dollars as he will about the oppurtunity.  Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Detroit, St.Louis, etc.  I believe a team like that is where he will end up with a legit shot at winning the Cup.  And if he signs with one of them I would bet he gets a 1 or 2 year deal and only around a 3-4 mil cap hit.  Great get for whichever team lands him if he does go to market.

Dustin Penner LW – True story, I think Penner much like Semin could be a great buy.  A lot of times when guys start to get overpaid they get underrated.  As good as Penner was in the playoffs I don’t believe his stock rose that much in the eyes of other GM’s because his regular season was THAT bad.  But with Dustin you just have to focus on what he is, not what he could be.  He is a 2nd line winger with great size who plays very methodical and can own the boards.  He won’t ever be a guy that can carry a line, he won’t be an overly physical guy, but he can be a very effective guy and if you can bring him in for the right price he is a very good get.

Jonas Gustavsson G – “The Monster” was pretty much a bust in Toronto.  When he signed with the Leafs in the summer of 09 a lot of pundits believed that in time he could develop into one of the league’s top netminders.  But it never happened and now he is a free man.  In Toronto he never played behind a good defensive team, and goaltenders can look awful playing behind poor defensive teams.  He may sign with the Jets (who dealt for his rights at the draft) which would be a great fit.  But even if he doesn’t, should he go to a team that plays a good defensive system he could be this year’s Mike Smith (don’t expect THOSE numbers, but in terms of reviving his career and becoming a number 1 guy).  But it has to be the right situation.  He is low risk and very high reward.

Mark Dekanich G – This is a personal favorite of mine.  Dekanich dominated the AHL 2 seasons ago, then last summer he signed with the Blue Jackets with the expectation to be the backup to Steve Mason (and he would have ended up with the job).  But the kid had the worst luck imaginable, injury after injury (each one different) didn’t allow him to get into a single NHL game last year.  So he will sign a 2 way contract, but if he can come back healthy he could be an absolute steal for some team. 

And now for the easy part of this, the busts.  It’s easy because a lot more guys bust then they actually live up to their contracts given in unrestricted free agency.

Jason Garrison D – I don’t know if there is anyone in the hockey world that doesn’t think this is a disaster waiting to happen for some team.  He only had a good first 30 games or so, and he lived off Brian Campbell feeding him on the PP.  He doesn’t have a good first pass, isn’t a playmaker, is OK in his own zone, but does have a bomb from the point.  He is just a number 4 that I believe some team will pay like a 2 or 3.

Matt Carle D – No coincidence here that it’s another D-man here as D-men are usually overpaid on July 1, and especially when they’re scarce like this season.  Carle like Garrison is no more than a number 4 who will likely get paid like a 2 or 3.  He can move the puck, he can QB a PP, but the last time I checked the purpose of playing defense was to DEFEND.  He is a bit of a train wreck in his own zone.

Paul Gaustad C – The theme of all this is things that are scarce.  Something that is scarce other than D is centre’s with size that can play in their own zone.  Who wouldn’t love this guy on their team?!  I would, but not for the overpayment that some GM might do for him.  I could see Gaustad getting a 5 year/20 million dollar deal and if that’s the case no thank you.  He is valuable, but he has overpayment written all over him.

Olli Jokinen C – Uh oh.  This guy established himself as a solid player again.  This likely means big contract, which likely means the return of “the Joke”.  If Jokinen is your 2nd line centre and isn’t getting more than 4 mil per on a 2 or 3 year deal then he is a great buy.  But I see a team bringing him in to be a 1st line centre at over 5 mi per on a 3 or 4 year deal.  No thank you.  Also, shoot first centre’s are extremely difficult to fit into a lineup.  Centre’s are supposed to be playmakers and make your wingers better, not the other way around.

Brandon Prust LW – He established himself as an NHL regular in New York.  He was a heck of a find for the Rangers and was great in his role.  He isn’t a heavyweight but will drop the gloves with just about anyone (perhaps you recall Steve MacIntyre giving him a beat down a few years back).  But when you can fight and play a little teams tend to overpay in free agency.  I could see Prust getting over 2 mil a season from some team.  In my opinion you find these guys, you don’t pay for them.

Again, it all depends on the type of contracts these guys get.  Last year I thought Eric Belanger was going to get well over 2.5 mil a season and the Oilers got him for 1.75 (although he was still a bust).  Jokinen for example might be smart and sign with a team where he fits nice and doesn’t look for the gross contract just something that both he and the team can be good with.  We will have to see what happens between now and Sunday but July 1st more often than not hurts teams a lot more than it helps them.  Buyer beware!

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