Part 'B' of the third in a series of posts on the UFA market that will hit this coming off-season. Part 'A' is directly above this one.
Who To Target?
For my money the best players to target are (from each group):
Peterson / Ritchie
For less money than Briere or Gomez might make, Drury will provide more versatile and dependable play AND he can play the tough minutes. A team could do worse than making Drury one of the key building blocks of their forward group and a long-term deal on $6 mill/yr would be money expensively, but well, spent. Drury is also good as a 'put-us-over-the-top' guy on a short-term contract.
I only like Gomez and Briere on long, long term deals where they can become the identity of the team and the team can be built around them. I think Briere will actually stay in Buffalo but in any case both figure to be very expensive signings. I don't like them for the Oilers at all.
Smolinski and White are veteran guys who can anchor the 3rd line or cover the 2nd line and as such, if a team needs help in that area they would be great signings - short or long-term. I do think that they would both prefer longer-term deals in the 3 -4 year range at $2 mill /yr or so. Those would be good deals.
Belanger is a guy I like however. Given that quality 3rd line guys make anywhere from $1.5 to 2.5 mill /yr regardless, the smart GM will sign this guy to a long-term deal (5 years+) that tops out at $2 million but averages $1.6 mill /yr. Quality 3rd line cornerstone at an affordable price and inflation protected out the wazoo - what's not to like?
Sykora and Lang are both good pick-ups for a team that needs offensive depth for now and is willing to trade them at the deadline if the play-offs are out of sight for a while. Short-term deals of a single year is preferable - even if a premium has to be paid. I pegged their prices above.
Bonk has transformed himself into a valuable player. He is generally underappreciated and as a defensive minded guy he is undervalued. Belanger is the lesser version of Bonk imo. The smart GM knows what Bonk offers and gets him to sign a long-term deal in the $2 mill /yr range. Barring personality issues this is the kind of guy who can become a 'core' player on a good team.
Walz is a good, short-term, solution to any team needing veteran defensive depth and a leadership boost. Much like Lang/Sykora however his best use is as trade bait at the deadline. Short-term deal for few bucks means a nice draft pick later.
Peterson and Ritchie are great for any team that needs a veteran to baby-sit some rookies on the 4th-line and as such they should get picked up by some enterprising GM. I like them because they should stay at or near the minimum and out-perform their price at that level. 500k /yr for a couple of years.
So those are the centers. Were I Lowe and I was going to play it conservatively ('make-the-play-offs') I make my plays for:
-- Gomez, Briere or White.
Seriously. this team is so far away that only the offense of the big boys may get them a shot at the play-offs. White is a 'chance' pick in that he might help Horcoff and Stoll enough that the three of them carry the team in.
If I treat my team as a rebuild I look at:
-- Peterson, Bonk, Lang, Sykora and Belanger.
Peterson because he plays utility forward on the bottom two lines for me, Bonk because eventually Horcoff/Stoll may move on or be traded, Sykora nd Lang because I want the prospects/draft picks that come with trading them later and Belanger because I want to risk a little to maybe gain a lot.
Not a lot of solutions for the Oilers from the UFA centers available this off-season.
Have a great evening everyone.