Hello fellow Forecheckers,
My name is David Yampolsky, and I will periodically be a guest blogger here on On The Forecheck. I am currently a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in both Communications and Biology. Not only am I a huge fan of the Predators, but I have worked for them too. This past semester, I worked as an intern under Willy Daunic for the Predators Radio Network. I helped out with the Pre- and Post-Game Shows and also performed locker room interviews. I guess the advantage I had was that I am a native Russian speaker and so was able to get some "insider information" from the Kostitsyn brothers, and you guessed it, good old Radulov. It is an honor for me to be blogging for On The Forecheck now, and I hope to be able to contribute greatly as I will continue working with the Predators Radio Network this upcoming year.
My first piece is a two-part review of which free agents I think David Poile should focus on. Today's piece will cover unrestricted free agents, and I have compiled a detailed analysis of both forwards and defensemen who I think will be invaluable assets to the Preds in the upcoming years if they really want a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Please feel free to leave comments and offer your input, as these free agents are just proposals based off of my knowledge and research, and I am sure a case can be provided for others as well. Thanks!
Olli Jokinen is arguably the best center available on the market right now, and if the Predators want to have a real shot at the Cup next year, they are going to have to bring in some offensive superpower. Jokinen, who has scored over 50 points in each of the last four seasons, had 61 points in 82 games with Calgary this past season. He also had 9 power play goals this past season for the Flames Bottom line is: don’t count the 33-year-old from a strong season next season. The Preds can use Okinen on the second line possibly, moving Legwand down to the third line if needed. Jokinen earned $3 million last year, so expect him to get a slight raise and a 2-3 year contract if the Preds can entice him to travel across the border to Music City next season.
|2011 - Ray Whitney||82||24||53||77||26||28||8||0||1||185|
At 40 years of age, Ray Whitney may be one of the few players in NHL history who still can still be looking forward to a raise at his age. He was 24-53-77 last year while playing in all 82 games for the Phoenix Coyotes, with a career-best plus-26 rating. Moreover, Whitney has averaged 22.2 goals per year in the five seasons since. The Coyotes want Whitney to return, but general manager Don Maloney is hesitant to offer a 40-year-old anything more than a one-year deal, especially at Whitney’s asking price (more than $3 million per season). The Predators, with enough cap space, can sign Whitney to a multi-year deal and see him off until his retirement. The Preds would benefit from the veteran leadership Whitney would provide on the offense, and he could take over Andrei Kostitsyn’s spot and really strengthen the Preds’ second line this upcoming season.
|2011 - P.A. Parenteau||18||49||67||-8||89|
According to hockey analyst Renaud Lavoie of RDS, New York Islanders forward P-A Parenteau will hit the free-agent market on July 1. The 29-year-old, who posted a career-high 67 points after collecting 18 goals and 49 assists in 80 games this past season, has failed to reach an agreement with GM Garth Snow on a new contract. Yes, Parenteau’s success was due largely to being centered by John Tavares, but the Predators are in desperate need of a young talented Right Winger to fill the void left by Alexander Radulov, and Parenteau may well be prepared to step up to the challenge. Due to his significantly improved offensive performance in the past two years, Parenteau is due for a significant pay raise, and the Predators would have to offer Parenteau something along the line of $4 million at 4 years to woo him to join the Preds for the upcoming season.
|2011 - Ryan Smyth||19||27||46||-5||82|
Ryan Smyth is widely regarded as the second-best net-front man of his generation, behind Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom. Smyth is a leader who plays with grit and determination around the crease and has been a consistent scorer, notching 20 or more goals 11 times. Despite years of wear and tear, he played in every game the past two seasons. The 36-year-old can provide the Preds the offensive spark they need, especially on the power play, which seemed to falter greatly during the playoffs this year. If the Preds have lost their chemistry on the power play, Smyth may be the one to restore it. He would most likely take Andrei Kostitsyn’s place on the second line. Smyth made $4.5 million last year, but a two-year deal worth $3 million might do the trick, considering Smyth is contemplating finishing his career after these last couple seasons. This might be the short-term investment the Predators need to make to improve their chances of ever making it past the second round of the playoffs.
|2011 - Mikael Samuelsson||54||14||17||31||1||20||7||0||1||138|
If Dale Tallon is in fact interested in resigning Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison, on top of acquiring some more offensive talent to make themselves future Stanley Cup contenders, the Panthers are going to have to dish out a lot of dough to keep both players locked in long term. Mikael Samuelsson made $2.5 million the last three years, and the Panthers may not be inclined to pony up any more money for him. He was traded halfway into the regular season from Vancouver to Florida, and despite the fact he recently turned 35, Samuelsson hasn’t thrown in the towel quite yet. In only 48 games with the Panthers, he tallied 28 points on the Panthers’ second line. The Predators can use another veteran forward on the team, as it is not yet clear what the team’s leadership will look like in light of the uncertainty regarding where Ryan Suter will decide to sign ultimately.
|2011 - Lee Stempniak||61||14||14||28||-2||16||2||0||2||130|
In the 2008-2009 season, Lee Stempniak had a breakthrough season with 30 goals with the St. Louis Blues and later with the Toronto Maple Leafs after he was traded midway into the season. Since then, Stempniak’s performance has slightly staggered, though it hasn’t been horrible. In 2010-2011 with the Phoenix Coyotes, Stempniak amassed 19 goals and 38 points, and this past season with the Calgary Flames, he was able to score 14 goals and accumulate 28 points total. Stempniak is yet another decent veteran forward the Predators can look at. He made $2.3 million last year with Calgary, so landing him for $2 million for a short-term deal to see how he fits into the team and whether he can improve his performance would not be a bad move on the part of the Preds.
|2011 - Jiri Hudler||81||25||25||50||10||42||2||0||2||127|
The Predators need not look much further for more offensive depth than with Jiri Judler of the Detroit Red Wings. Hudler had 25 goals and dished out 25 assists, which was due largely to the chemistry he found with linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula, Detroit’s top line. There’s little doubt Hudler should be able to land a huge deal from another team looking for offense who would be willing to spend at least $4 million on Hudler per year (Hudler made $3 million last year). Though the Red Wings want to put their money in possibly signing Alexander Semin or Ryan Suter, they have expressed interest in resigning Hudler. However, if the Preds can present Hudler a better offer than the Red Wings come July 1st, than a fellow familiar face may be staying in the Central Division, but this time he will be wearing blue and gold, not red and white. Expect Hudler to take either the second or third line if he comes to the Preds.
|2011 - Matt Carle||82||4||34||38||4||36||3||0||0||132|
If Ryan Suter doesn’t come back to the Predators after July 1st, which is highly expected, the Predators need to act quickly if they at least want to lock in Shea Weber for a long-term deal. That certainly entails bringing in a top-line defenseman that will replace Suter. A very viable option is Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers. In some ways, he is very similar to Suter: he does not put up huge offensive numbers, but he moves the puck well and can join the rush. He is a good shot blocker, and he led the Flyers in ice time last season. Though the Flyers are highly interested in him, they may be very interested in signing Suter instead, in which case they will have no room to sign Carle. Carle is looking at $5 million a season right now on the open market, a $1.2 million increase from last season. Expect the Flyers to not give him up that easily.
|2011 - Jason Garrison||77||16||17||33||6||32||9||0||3||168|
Jason Garrison had a breakout season for the Florida Panthers in 2011-12, producing 16 goals and 17 assists in 77 games, and finishing with a plus-6. Garrison, 27, has very good size at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. He's got a wicket slap shot - one that helped deliver nine power play goals, and he's a solid penalty killer. He was second on the Panthers with an average of 23:41 minutes in playing time, and second with 124 blocked shots. Moreover, he was credited with 127 hits. He's coming off a two-year, $1.35 million deal, which, in light of the season he just had, makes him one of the best bargains on the market right now. Garrison is reportedly seeking a five-year/$25 million contract, and if the Preds lose Suter, Garrison can definitely be serious alternative. The Panthers are optimistic about resigning Garrison, but they may not be able to front the deal Garrison seeks, since re-signing Kulikov and Versteeg are also a priority for them.