With Monday's announcement that Ilya Kovalchuk was returning to the New Jersey Devils with a massive long-term contract, most of the biggest free agent names in 2010 have now been secured. Former Senators blueliner Anton Volchenkov is joining Kovalchuk on the Devils, defenceman Dan Hamhuis is heading to the Canucks, and Ottawa has locked up veteran defender Sergei Gonchar.
But with all of the marquee names already spoken for, there are still some impressive second-line forwards and chippy role players up for grabs. So who's left?
TSN.ca breaks down the best of the rest with a list of selected free agents still available on the market:
The Russian forward had 24 goals and 37 assists for the Thrashers last season, equalling his career-high in points (61, a mark which he had previously set during the 2006-07 campaign). Last season was Afinogenov's first year with a team other than the Sabres, where he had spent nine seasons (he was drafted by Buffalo in 1997). At 30, Afinogenov seems poised to bring some added scoring to a team looking for a solid offensive force with lots left to offer.
Bergeron had 13 goals and 21 assists in 60 games with the Habs last season but has not yet been locked up by any team. The 29-year-old Quebec native has seen his fair share of NHL squads over the years, having played for the Oilers, Islanders, Ducks, Wild and Canadiens. He has lots to offer, including a booming point shot, but it remains to be seen which defensive scheme he will fit into in 2010-11.
The Russian forward had 19 goals and 32 assists for the Kings last season and, at age 28, still has lots to offer to a potential suitor, despite the fact that his numbers have decreased in each of his last three seasons (71 points in 2006-07, 67 points in 2007-08, 59 points in 2008-09 and a still-respectable 51 points last season). Frolov has spent all seven seasons of his NHL career with the Kings. He was drafted 20th overall by L.A. back in 2000.
Bill Guerin, F
On-ice skills and numbers are one thing, but a leadership presence in the dressing room is a huge factor as well. While the 39-year-old Guerin did register an impressive 45 points with the Pens last season, it's also his veteran know-how that is an attractive quality of this American-born forward. The fact that he's still putting up good stats as he heads towards 40 is a bonus.
Paul Kariya, F
Kariya, who will turn 36 in October, has been in the NHL since 1994-95 and brings a veteran presence to any team he plays for. With 43 points in 75 games for the Blues last season, Kariya's production is nothing to sneeze at for an older player; he can still bring a noticeable offensive presence to a team - if he can stay healthy, a big issue for potentially interested franchises.
The Canucks' blueliner was out for the final two months of the regular season with a concussion, an unfortunate turn of events that also caused him to miss the playoffs. It seems fair to say that the main factor in his potential attractiveness to teams will be their trust in his ability to stay healthy. Mitchell had 12 points in 48 games for Vancouver last season. The 33-year-old has spent the last four seasons with the Canucks. He was drafted 199th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
The Pens acquired the 30-year-old Ukrainian from Toronto last season after he had spent eight-plus seasons in the blue and white, but he never really hit his stride in Pittsburgh. The 6'4 forward had 21 goals and 29 assists between the Leafs and Pens last year, and would likely be a welcome addition to many teams looking for a mid-level forward with some solid production. Poni's best season came in 2008-09, when he registered 23 goals and 38 assists for Toronto. His perceived inconsistency with that team was a frustrating point for fans, who saw Ponikarovsky put up as few as 28 points (in 2003-04) or as many as 61 (in '08-'09).
Most people have their money on Selanne either returning for another year in Anaheim or calling it a career. The 40-year-old Finnish veteran had 27 goals and 21 assists in 54 games with the Ducks in '09-'10. He has spent the last five seasons with the team, which he originally played for from 1995-96 to 2000-01 before stints with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. At this point, it seems likely it is just be a matter of finding the right deal in California or, alternatively, just hanging up the skates. Selanne was originally taken 10th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.
With 48 points last season combined between the Leafs and the Coyotes, the former Maple Leaf really excelled after leaving Toronto and heading to the desert. The 27-year-old native of West Seneca, New York set a career high with 28 goals during the 2009-10 campaign. Stempniak could be a nice piece of the puzzle for a team looking for a secondary scorer; he put up 52 points in 2006-07 with the Blues and has shown moments of brilliance in the years since. He was drafted 148th overall by St. Louis in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Andy Sutton, D
Sutton had five goals and eight assists in 72 games last season, but it was the intangibles, not the stats, that made him valuable to the team. He gained a reputation as a player willing to get in the way of shots and throw the body around, and could be a valuable presence on both of those fronts with a new squad.
Theodore was 30-7-7 with a 2.81 GAA last season - extraordinarily strong numbers - but the Caps seem to be going in the direction of youth. Semyon Varlamov, 22, will be the No. 1 guy in Washington, while Michal Neuvirth, also 22, will be the backup. Despite Theodore's impressive performance in 2009-10, he's 33 years old and doesn't seem to be in the gameplan for the Capitals, so it will be intriguing to see which team will pick him up and look to ride last year's momentum through to another strong season in the blue paint.
Marty Turco, G
Respected NHL veteran Marty Turco, who will turn 35 in August, has spent the last nine seasons with the Dallas Stars, who drafted him back in 1994. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native was 22-20-11 with a 2.72 GAA for the Stars last season. It will likely be challenging for Turco to find a No. 1 position in the NHL, so where he ends up may depend on his willingness to take on a backup role.
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