As a result of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the salary cap was reduced by roughly $6 million for the 2013-14 campaign. Simultaneously, new rules regarding how a contract can be structured removed the possibility of heavily frontloaded deals and likely resulted in top players being tied to greater cap hits. Those factors helped create a free agent period wherein many of the riskier veteran players have struggled to find work.
With the season approaching, some of them have opted to accept professional tryout agreements hoping they will lead to guaranteed contracts. Could any of these players still be worth grabbing in standard fantasy leagues? Let’s analyze a few of these situations below:
Brad Boyes-RW-FLA- In 2008-09, Boyes recorded a career-high 72 points, but he ended up with 42, 55, and 23 points in the three seasons that followed. The New York Islanders took a chance by signing him to a one-year contract last season and he rewarded them with 10 goals and 35 points in 48 games. Granted, he was playing on a line with John Tavares, but it was still a solid showing. It just wasn’t enough given the circumstances of this summer. The good news is that the Florida Panthers do have some openings and he’ll probably get a chance to serve on one of their top two lines if he makes the squad. Assuming he finds a job, and we think that’s likely, even if things don’t work out in Florida, he could push the 50 point mark this season.
Ryan Whitney-D-STL- Whitney is a gamble for two reasons. There are the obvious injury concerns after he was sidelined for significant parts of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns, and secondly he struggled to re-establish himself in Edmonton even when he was healthy last season. That said, Whitney at his best is a great offensive defenseman, so he’s a tempting gamble even after failing to secure a contract over the summer. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Blues don’t look like a good fit for him. They pretty much have their defense set up after re-signing Alex Pietrangelo, making Whitney a tough sell even as a power-play specialist. He’s definitely still worth keeping an eye on, though, because if he ends up getting signed by a team willing to play him regularly, he should still have some fantasy value.
Damien Brunner-RW-NJD- Brunner was hot and cold in the shortened season, but ended up with a solid 12 goals and 14 assists in 44 games with the Detroit Red Wings. He added another five goals and nine points in the playoffs. Still, that’s all the NHL experience the 27-year-old has and before that, he spent the entirety of his professional career in the Swiss league. He was probably too much of an X-factor to appeal to cap-conscious teams, especially given that he was likely seeking a multi-year deal. The Devils are perhaps not the best fit for him because they already have plenty of competition up front, but he still should find a top-six job somewhere this season. Like everyone on this list, he’s an obvious gamble, but out of the forwards mentioned here, he’s the one with the most short-term upside.
Mason Raymond-LW-TOR- Raymond broke out in 2009-10 with 25 goals and 53 points in 82 games. He hasn’t even come close to replicating that level of success since. Getting a fresh start away from the Vancouver Canucks franchise that drafted him in 2005 might be for the best, but first he’ll have to prove himself with the Toronto Maple Leafs. So far he’s shown some encouraging signs, but he’s not someone worth gambling on in standard leagues.
Tim Thomas-G-FLA- The last time Thomas played, he was one of, if not the best goaltender in the league. The only real question is if he’s slowed down upon turning 39 and after taking a year off. If he hasn’t, then the Florida Panthers have obtained the crown jewel of the bargain bin crop. Although the Panthers aren’t nearly as good a team as the club Thomas left behind, the Bruins, he could be the difference between them making and missing the playoffs. Of course this is all speculation, but here’s the bottom line: if you have a standard draft today, take Thomas if he’s still available by the last few rounds. At worst, you’ve wasted a low-value pick and you’ll end up grabbing someone else on waivers and at best you got yourself a great goaltender.
Ian White-D-WPG- White led the Detroit Red Wings in playing time per game in 2011-12 and recorded 32 points in the process. As is the case with most players on this list, he fell from grace, but his case is still somewhat unique, given how quickly it happened. White has had only one bad season after recording at least 26 points in each of the previous four seasons. That’s no small feat when you consider he played for five different teams over that span. The Winnipeg Jets have seven defensemen signed to one-way contracts and that doesn’t include Jacob Trouba, who is likely to make the team. But don’t count White out yet. He might not enter the season with Winnipeg, but he’s just 29 years old and should have a comeback in him. We can’t recommend drafting him, but he’s certainly worth keeping an eye on with the mindset that he could be one of your early waiver wire pickups.
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