Cullen: Tracking NHL Free Agent Frenzy

Scott Cullen
7/9/2013 2:42:32 PM
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Breaking down all free agent deals and notable trades for 2013 NHL Free Agent Frenzy.

The most significant deals will get the full Numbers Game column treatment, like these:
Blues add Roy.
Bruins bring in Iginla.
Jets land Setoguchi from Wild.
Devils ink Ryder.
Lightning lure Filppula to Tampa Bay.
Red Wings reel in Weiss.
Horton heads to Columbus.
Maple Leafs add Clarkson.
Senators get Ryan from Ducks.
Coyotes invest in Ribeiro.
Alfredsson joins Red Wings.
Seguin to the Stars in seven-player swap.
Canadiens bring in Briere.
Flyers land Lecavalier.
Canucks ship Schneider to Devils.

Shawn Horcoff, 34, has done some heavy lifting for the Oilers over the years, starting shifts in the defensive zone and matching up against the opposition's best lines, freeing up younger Oilers forwards for more advantageous matchups.

At the same time, Horcoff's production has declined. After scoring 53 points in 2008-2009, his fourth straight season with 50-plus points, Horcoff has tallied 109 points in 236 games, a pace of 37.9 points per 82 games. As mentioned, scoring was no longer his top priority, nor will it be in Dallas, where Horcoff figures to slide into the third centre spot behind Thursday's acquisitions Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley. It's not inconceivable that Horcoff could pull ahead of Peverley on the depth chart, but given his lack of offensive production lately, a third-line role seems to fit.

Horcoff is also a bit of a bargain, compared to his cap hit, as he counts $5.5-million against the cap, but has a total of $7-million remaining on his contract for the next two seasons.

Edmonton has some holes to fill down the middle, behind Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, since they are also getting rid of veteran Eric Belanger. Prospects like Anton Lander and Mark Arcobello could challenge, but if the Oilers are going to make a legitimate push for a playoff spot, they will need a quality veteran checking centre.

Philip Larsen is a 23-year-old right-shooting defenceman who took a step back, after a decent showing as a rookie in 2011-2012. Looking at Edmonton's current defensive depth chart, Larsen fits on their third pairing, though he could easily be bumped into extra status depending on what other acquisitions the Oilers make this summer. The Oilers also received a seventh-round pick in 2016.

Keith Ballard is a 30-year-old in desperate need of a fresh start after three unfulfilling seasons in Vancouver, during which he played 15-16 minutes per game after logging 21-23 minutes per game in Florida.

Ballard can play a physical game and, at his best, handled some tough defensive assignments, but that's well in the past at the moment, so going to Minnesota should allow Ballard an opportunity to first, play regularly, then see about working his way up the depth chart.

Signing a two-year deal, worth $3-million, makes this a good opportunity for Ballard to re-establish some career value.

Ray Emery is 30-years-old and getting a fine opportunity to re-establish that he's a bona fide number one goalie again after a terrific season in Chicago as the backup to Corey Crawford.

In 21 games, Emery was 17-1 with a 1.94 goals against average and .922 save percentage. As he's recovered from hip surgery, over the last four years, Emery has a .909 save percentage, which ranks 40th among goalies with at least 50 games played, but is also ahead of Steve Mason, the goaltender with whom he will be competing for playing time in Philadelphia. Between those two, the edge ought to go to Emery.

Chicago has already signed G Antti Raanta, who had a .939 save percentage in Finland over the last two seasons, and he figures to get first crack at backing up Crawford next season.

Signed to a one-year, $1.65-million deal, Emery has an opportunity to win the starting job, play 50-plus games and earn a bigger free agent contract next summer.

Peter Regin is a 27-year-old who showed some real promise as a rookie, scoring 13 goals, 29 points and posting a plus-10 rating in 75 games in 2009-2010, but he's been injured and unable to establish a consistent place in the lineup since, scoring five goals and 24 poins in 92 games over three seasons since.

Signed for one-year and $750,000, Regin is a typical Islanders signing, a low-risk investment, with some chance to pay off. He's 6-foot-2, has shown some possession skill and might be able to chip in a little offensively. He may end up being nothing but a spare part, but if Regin manages to be a regular in the lineup, that would be nice value for the Islanders.

A 34-year-old with 120 career playoff games under his belt, Andrew Ference brings experience to an Oilers blueline that has been desperate for stability in recent years. Ference has played significant minutes for Boston (19:29 per game in 2013), so he can be expected to play in Edmonton's top four next season, but it's also worth remaining cautious on Ference's health.

While he played all 48 games last season, Ference missed 111 games in the previous five seasons, with a lot of lower body (groin, knee etc.) injuries and if he's had those injury issues in his late 20s and early 30s, it stands to reason that injuries could cause him to miss time in his mid-to-late-30s too.

Boston's defence has young players -- Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski -- that will be available to play bigger roles on their blueline next season.

Ference is signed for four years and $13-million; not an unreasonable amount, particularly if Ference can be a steady defensive presence and play close to 20 minutes per night, but it's important to recognize that Ference is a part of the supporting cast, not one who is going to drive results.

After breaking through with the Maple Leafs in 2011-2012, 30-year-old Joey Crabb inked a one-year free agent deal in Washington, but he flopped with the Capitals, managing two points in 26 games before getting demoted to the AHL.

However, once in the AHL, Crabb put up a point-per-game in 12 regular season games then added five goals in five playoff games, showing enough to generate interest from Florida. Crabb can be a decent checker and penalty killer and if he fills that role for the Panthers, he could be a bargain at $600,000 per season over the next two years. If he ends up back in the AHL, he'll be an expensive minor leaguer.

Thomas Greiss has been sparingly used, yet effective, as the backup goaltender in San Jose, posting a .915 save percentage in 25 games over the last two seasons. While the 27-year-old doesn't figure to get a major increase in workload playing behind Mike Smith in Phoenix, Greiss shouldn't hurt Phoenix when Smith needs a rest.

Mike Komisarek, 31, desperately needed a fresh start after a disastrous four-year run in Toronto. Before joining the Maple Leafs, Komisarek was a physical defenceman who played some tough defensive minutes, but poor decision-making and erratic play led him to spend more and more time in the press box with the Maple Leafs.

He ended up going to the AHL at the end of the year, just to get ice time, so now he gets a chance to resurrect his career. Consider that the Hurricanes took Jay Harrison, who was a spare part for the Maple Leafs not too long ago and he's been playing 20 minutes per game on their blueline.

Komisarek will get a chance, on a one year $700,000 contract, to show that he is still capable of playing regular minutes in the NHL. Probably worth a try at that price.

After unloading Shawn Horcoff, the Oilers needed a checking centre to handle the primary defensive responsibilities and they got a good one, as 29-year-old Boyd Gordon has been a very good one, taking on tough matchups and starting the vast majority of his shifts in the defensive zone.

Gordon is a superstar on faceoffs, winning at least 55.8% of his draws in each of the past five seasons, so between faceoffs, penalty-killing and tough defensive assignments, his plate will be full. Of course, for three years and $9-million, he better do all of those things very well, but he should be a fine fit for an Oilers team that needs better defensive play, and not just from the defence.

After adding Mike Ribeiro in free agency, the Coyotes can let Martin Hanzal focus more on a defensive role, which suits his skills better anyway, as they cover for Gordon's departure.

A 29-year-old who finally earned a spot in the NHL last season, Andre Benoit is a smaller puck-moving blueliner who, in limited minutes (16:25 per game in 33 games), put up 10 points, a minus-3 rating and solid possession stats.

With the Avalanche's currently sparse defensive depth chart, Benoit has a legitimate shot to earn regular playing time and his one-year, $900,000 deal does indicate that the Avs at least expect Benoit to be an NHLer and that's a significant vote of confidence for someone with 41 NHL games in his career.

33-year-old Jason LaBarbera has been a quality backup in Phoenix, posting a .918 save percentage, which ranked third among goalies handling a backup workload over that time.

Signed to a one-year, $1-million deal, LaBarbera could see more action than he did in Phoenix, but appears to be a solid supporting piece rather than a challenger to starter Devan Dubnyk.

A skilled 29-year-old winger whose career has been derailed by concussions, Pierre-Marc Bouchard managed to stay relatively healthy last season, playing 43 of 48 games. He only played 13:57 per game, but finished the year with 15 points in his last 23 games, after five points in the first 20 games.

Bouchard will get a chance to replace Brad Boyes on the Islanders' top line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Bouchard's playmaking skills would seem to be a good fit in that role, skating alongside two players who are both capable of pulling the trigger. If Bouchard stays healthy in that role, he could finish with his points since 2007-2008, when he scored a career-high 63 points.

The Wild have younger options, most notably Jason Zucker and recently-acquired Nino Niederreiter than can compete for playing time on a scoring line.

There's obvious risk involved, considering Bouchard has missed 154 games over the last four seasons, but a one-year, $2-million contract is again par for the course for the Islanders, a low-risk, short-term investment with upside. Last year, Boyes got $1-million and played on the top line all season, so this presents a real opportunity for Bouchard to build his game back up.

I have an inkling that Clowe could totally be worth a Numbers Game piece but, busy day, so he'll get a few paragraphs here. He'll turn 31 by the time next season rolls around and the Devils committed to five years and $24.25-million to replace a good portion of the scoring and toughness lost when Clarkson departed.

The initial outrage over Clowe getting such a deal is the fact that he scored three goals in 40 games last season, which prompted much hand-wringing about how he's too slow for the quicker pace of the league.

A few things: he was goalless in 28 games with San Jose, while registering 2.32 shots per game. His shots-per-game average over the previous four seasons, when he wasn't too slow to keep up with the game? 2.35. (His shot rate was lower in a dozen games with the Rangers, but it was 2.10 through 10 games before one shot in the last game-and-a-half before he suffered a concussion.) So, I'm not buying that Clowe was suddenly slower than the player who scored 82 goals and had 379 penalty minutes in those four seasons.

He continues to put up solid puck possession numbers, ranking in the Top 20 in shot-for percentage over the last five years combined. Sure, he played a lot with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, two possession aces, but Clowe's role is that he's a big, physical presence who is skilled enough to play with scorers, yet tough enough to handle business when it's time to drop the gloves (he's fought 37 times over the last four seasons).

In New Jersey, he's going to have opportunity to play with skilled players and fulfill the same role that he has in the past. It's entirely fair to wonder if Clowe is going to be able to remain productive enough, particularly in the fourth and fifth years of the deal. He's suffered some concussions and misses some time pretty much every season (except 2009-2010) due to a variety of injuries and that's not likely to get better as he gets older, but there is a fair chance that Clowe is capable of being a very good second-line forward for the Devils.

Rob Scuderi, a 34-year-old who won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009 and then again with Los Angeles in 2012, returns to the Penguins where he will be a stay-at-home shot-blocking defenceman.

Scuderi offers mimimal upside, scoring at a career-high (0.25 ppg) rate last season while playing a career-high 21:47 per game for the Kings. He would probably be more effective with a little bit less responsibility (say, 19-20 minutes per game instead of 21-22), especially as he's getting older, but he should still be able to do his thing.

28-year-old Clarke MacArthur had back-to-back 20-goal seasons before his role was reduced last season. Even so, MacArthur has put up excellent puck possession stats over three seasons in Toronto, a decent indication that he should be able to have success in a scoring role with the Senators.

In Ottawa, it's possible that MacArthur could find his way to the top line, but it seems far more reasonable that he would skate alongside Kyle Turris on the second line, a spot that should give him a chance to return to 20-goal form. If he's that productive, the Senators will be getting decent value on their two-year, $6.5-million investment.

Jesse Joensuu is a 6-foot-4, 25-year-old winger who was a second-round pick of the Islanders and has managed 15 points in 67 NHL games since, including seven games last season.

Joensuu did show some promise in the Finnish League last season, scoring 25 points in 24 games, so he's going to get a chance to stick with the Oilers. Signed to a two-year, $1.9-million contract, Joensuu may not skate well enough for a regular role but, if he does, he could give the Oilers some size up front. It's a calculated risk with some upside and he's not making enough money for it to present significant downside.

26-year-old Kris Russell is a smooth-skating undersized defenceman, who doesn't have the kind of offensive game that might typify the small, mobile defenceman. He's played a part-time role for the last couple seasons and will have to compete with Shane O'Brien, Chris Butler and Mark Cundari for playing time in Calgary.

Once the Blues re-signed Jordan Leopold, it wasn't likely that Russell would be anything more than an extra defenceman, so he has a better chance to earn a regular role in Calgary and he ought to be motivated: he'll be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, when his $1.5-million contract expires. In return, the Blues got a fifth-round pick from the Flames; it's not much, but it's more than the Blues would have received had Russell simply left via waivers.

Keith Aucoin, 34, had been a career minor-leaguer, and a productive one at that with 777 points in 673 AHL games, but then he played in a career-high 41 NHL games for the Islanders last season, putting up solid possession stats for the second straight season.

Aucoin isn't a scorer in the NHL, with 49 points in 132 career games (12 points in 41 games last season), but he's an economical option for the fourth line on a one-year deal for $650,000.

A 27-year-old winger with good size and speed, Viktor Stalberg has scored 31 goals over the last two seasons, while posting solid possession stats, even if they came in a role that tended to be focused on offence against weaker opposition.

Moving to Nashville should give Stalberg an opportunity to play more consistently in a top-six forward role, which should mean playing more than the 14 minutes per game that he's played in the last couple seasons.

Signed for four years and $12-million, Stalberg should be a reasonably-priced secondary scoring option, capable of scoring 20 goals at least a couple of times over the life of the deal.

With Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell emerging on the left wing in Chicago, there was little room for Stalberg to play in a scoring role. He'll be asked to handle more of that responsibility in Nashville.

Matt Cullen, 36, has long been an effective two-way player, and his emergence in the second half last season, scoring 21 points in his last 27 games, helped the Wild reach the postseason.

Cullen's production was rather fortunate, however, as his on-ice shooting percentage (13.45% in 5v5 situations) was much too high to be sustainable over multiple seasons.

Moving to Nashville, Cullen joins another couple centres -- Mike Fisher and David Legwand -- that can interchange through any of the top three centre spots on the depth chart. A two-year, $7-million deal is reasonable for a player that can play in the top six in a pinch, but the Wild were in a tough spot financially, so they're going to have to look to Mikael Granlund and Kyle Brodziak to fill their second and third centre roles now that Cullen is off to the Music City.

As gritty as they come, 32-year-old Matt Hendricks is cashing in on his move to Nashville, signing for four years and $7.2-million, a nice payday for a 12-minute-per-game player.

Hendricks can play wing or centre, winning at least 53.0% of his faceoffs in each of the last three seasons, and has fought 42 times in the last four seasons. His offensive production is limited (17 points in 126 games over the last two seasons), but Hendricks has also had some success in the shootout throughout his career -- his 9-for-15 (60.0%) stands as the best percentage of any active player with more than 10 career attempts.

A 32-year-old veteran of 530 career NHL games, Dominic Moore sat out the 2013 season, grieving the death of his wife. He's been a quality third-line centre throughout his career and, if he's ready to return this season, Moore could be an asset to the Rangers, who signed Moore for one year at $1-million.

I've written many times about players who do the heavy lifting on the ice, but what Moore has gone through is the real heavy lifting. I'll be rooting for him.

Calgary acquired 27-year-old G Karri Ramo from Montreal in January, 2012, as part of the Michael Cammalleri-Rene Bourque trade, but he's been playing for Avangard Omsk in the KHL for the last four seasons, posting a .926 save percentage in 129 games over the last three years.

Ramo has a history, in Tampa Bay, with Flames GM Jay Feaster and with Miikka Kiprusoff headed to retirement, and little competition on the roster, Ramo is clearly the favourite to be the Flames' starter next season. If he capably handles that starting job, his two-year, $5.5-million contract will be good value for the Flames.

Since flaming out as Tampa Bay's starter in 2010-2011, when he had an .889 save percentage in 31 games, Dan Ellis has performed better in a backup role, with a .910 save percentage in 42 games.

He earned the backup job with Carolina last season and then saw significant work when Cam Ward was injured and the 33-year-old gets a two-year contract for $1.8-million to backup Kari Lehtonen in Dallas.

Anton Khudobin, 27, played 14 of his 21 career games with the Bruins last season, going 8-4-1 with a 2.32 goals against average and .920 save percentage. Over that very small 21-game sample in his NHL career, Khudobin has a .933 save percentage. In 94 AHL games in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, his save percentage was .916, then .912 in the KHL while NHLers were locked out last season.

The outstanding NHL numbers are in such a small sample that it's not fair to conclude Khudobin would be a great starter, but combined with the rest of his track record, Khudobin, who signed a one-year, $800,000 deal, should be an upgrade as the Hurricanes' backup goaltender, a job previously held by Ellis.

Eric Nystrom is a 30-year-old blue-collar winger who played a career-high 14:21 per game for the Stars last season. He also had seven goals, 11 points and seven fights in 48 games.

With the Stars adding several new faces up front, it's understandable that they weren't prepared to pay Nystrom a four-year, $10-million deal, like he signed with Nashville. That salary is significant enough to warrant playing time. Given that Nystrom has been a low-end possession player, it could be fair to wonder if he warrants the kind of ice time that %2.5-million per season might suggest.

24-year-old right-shooting offensive defenceman Yannick Weber has been lurking around the edges of the Montreal Canadiens' lineup for 115 games over five seasons, scoring 32 points with a minus-14 rating, putting up either strong or terrible possession stats, depending on the year.

Weber could have an opportunity, depending on future roster moves, to play on the Canucks' third defence pair. A mobile defenceman who can handle and shoot the puck, Weber's defensive game needs to settle down if he's going to be a regular.

Richardson is a 28-year-old checking forward, who only played 16 games for the Kings in 2013, but in his limited role over the past couple seasons, he's delivered tremendous possession numbers, while contributing 14 points in 75 games.

A strong skater, who can play wing or centre, Richardson signed a two-year, $2.3-million deal, which should be enough of a commitment for him to secure regular playing time in Vancouver.

After playing nearly 20 minutes per game from 2008-2009 through 2010-2011, 6-foot-6 defenceman Jeff Schultz saw his role decrease significantly over the last two years, playing under 15 minutes per game while suiting up for 80 of 130 games.

He plays too nice for his size, a knock that will follow the 27-year-old, but on a one-year, $700,000 deal, he's a low-risk addition as a depth defenceman for the Kings.

24-year-old offensive T.J. Brennan got into a career-high 29 games last season for the Sabres and Panthers, scoring 10 points and posting a minus-9 rating while playing 16:41 per game; this after putting up 35 points in 36 AHL games. While Brennan's defensive game needs work, his minus rating was more a function of bad luck, with low shooting percentage by teammates and save percentage when he was on the ice.

In Toronto, Brennan will have a chance to stick in the top six, though he could end up as an extra. Signed for $600,000 on a one-year deal, he's an inexpensive option if he manages to hold down an NHL job for the full season.

A major disturber on the ice, 28-year-old Maxim Lapierre had terrible shot differentials in Vancouver, but also started an exceptional percentage of shifts in the defensive zone. He did played 12:36 per game last season, his most since 2008-2009.

That may not be exactly how Lapierre is deployed in St. Louis, but he's going to be fourth-line fixture. His two-year, $2.2-million contract suggests that St. Louis will be happy to have Lapierre annoying Blues' opponents.

33-year-old George Parros may be a dinosaur of sorts, the heavyweight enforcer, and is coming off a season in which he had two points and a career-worst minus-15 rating in 39 games. The 6-foot-5, 230 pounder also has 149 fights over eight seasons, and will provide backup for Brandon Prust, a willing combatant, who had to step up in weight class on occasion last season and the Habs are paying Prust too much to have him taken out by bigger fighters.

Parros is entering the final year of a contract that brings a cap hit of $937,500.

26-year-old LW Benoit Pouliot has been a depth forward who can contribute offensively while putting up strong puck possession stats over the last three seasons. Last season, in Tampa Bay, he had some very productive stretches (including 13 points in a 12-game span) when given the opportunity to play on a scoring line, finishing with eight goals and 20 points in 34 games.

In New York, Pouliot may get that chance on a more consistent basis, particularly if finances preclude the Rangers from re-signing restricted free agent Mats Zuccarello. If he does end up skating on a scoring line, it's conceivable that Pouliot could score 20 goals. On a one-year, $1.3-million deal, he's a relative bargain.

Matt Cooke will turn 35 next season, and is coming off a season with terrible puck possession stats, but he's been an effective checking winger for a long time and that sometimes gets lost in the furor that ensues every time he's involved in a controversial play. That madness is borne out of Cooke's track record, so he has to live with it, but it's also worth noting that his lowest penalty minutes per game seasons are each of the last two years.

That said, Cooke is one of 11 forwards to accumulate at least 50 goals and 400 penalty minutes over the last five seasons. He's at the low end of that group, but it shows that he does more than just wreak havoc. In Minnesota, he'll be re-united with head coach Mike Yeo, who had been an assistant in Pittsburgh, and Cooke will step into a third line role with centre Kyle Brodziak.

Pittsburgh will miss Cooke. It's understandable that they didn't want to or couldn't pay the free agent price to keep him, but they don't yet have someone for that third-line left wing role. Unless that comes via a cost-cutting trade somewhere else this summer, the Penguins may have to go hunting in the free agent bargain bin.

Cookie is signed for three years and $7.5-million, not an insignificant commitment to a checking forward, but there's a pretty fair chance that he'll be able to fill that role for the life of that deal.

27-year-old Chad Johnson has played a total of 10 NHL games in his career, with a 1.97 goals against average and .929 save percentage, for the Rangers and Coyotes. In four AHL seasons, he has a .909 save percentage in 170 games, so that's probably a more reliable indicator of his level of play than his small sample of NHL appearances.

That would seem to indicate that Johnson isn't an ideal fit as the Bruins' backup to Tuukka Rask, aside from the fact that he wouldn't play often, but he will be competing with Niklas Svedberg, the 23-year-old who had a .925 save percentage for Providence last season, for that spot. With a one-year, $600,000, one-way contract, Johnson might have the edge.

After losing Ray Emery as a free agent, the Chicago Blackhawks shored up the position by bringing back 40-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin, who has made a habit out of playing really well in the year his contract expires.

Khabibulin has had ups-and-downs in both his previous time with Chicago (a .904 save percentage from 2005-2006 through 2008-2009) and in his recent turn in Edmonton (.903 from 2008-2009 through 2013), but did have a .923 save percentage in a dozen games last season playing as the backup to Devan Dubnyk. If that lesser workload helps Khabibulin remain effective, he could be a quality option for 25-30 starts behind Corey Crawford.

Signed to a deal that is worth $2-million, including $300,000 in bonuses, Khabibulin ought to play a decent amount; that's the kind of commitment that teams give to backups that they expect to play a significant role.

29-year-old defenceman Adam Pardy has played 200 NHL games (33 points, plus-2) and his one-year, $600,000 contract makes him an inexpensive depth option.

At the same time, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is from Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador, so if he is sent to the Jets' American Hockey League affiliate, in St.John's, he would effectively be playing for the local team (or as local as it gets in pro hockey).

Henrik Tallinder, 34, is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound defenceman who has played more than 20 minutes per game in six of the last eight seasons, though he played a career-low 17:34 per game in 2013 as he missed time with injury and had trouble keeping a spot in the Devils' lineup, playing 25 of 48 games. Oddly enough, in his limited role, Tallinder had terrific possession stats against weaker competition.

He's never scored more than 21 points in a season, so Tallinder's focus is on the defensive side of the game and the Sabres will hope that he can help resurrect the career of Tyler Myers, who had success playing with Tallinder the last time he was in Buffalo.

Tallinder's contract has one year remaining and will pay him $3.5-million, with a cap hit of $3.375-million according to, which is entirely reasonable for a top-four defenceman and, considering Buffalo's defence, that's likely the role that Tallinder will play.

The Sabres sent minor leaguer Riley Boychuk to the Devils in exhange for Tallinder, but Boychuk isn't a real NHL prospect. Tallinder's departure will open up room on the Devils' blueline for younger defencemen to play more regularly. Adam Larsson should be first in line, but prospects Eric Gelinas and Alexander Urbom should be in competition for playing time too.

A 26-year-old winger with good size and speed, Jack Skille hasn't been able to parlay that into production befitting the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft, scoring 49 points in 178 career games.

Skilled played a career-high 13:19 per game last season, scoring 13 points in 40 games, which might be enough production to hold down a regular NHL job, but if he could finish at a half-decent rate, his odds would be much better. Over the last three seasons, he's scored on just 5.0% of his shots, which puts him in dubious company.

Signed for one year, at $675,000, on a two-way deal, Skille will be in a battle to earn a roster spot, though he might have a better opportunity since Nathan Horton is likely miss several months as he recovers from shoulder surgery. The Panthers' signing of Joey Crabb, a checking winger at a bargain price, effectively replaced Skille.

Joe Corvo, 36, returns to Ottawa, where he scored 64 points in 127 games in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. Corvo is a skilled, yet erratic defenceman; pretty much always has been. He skates well and has a big shot, which has halped him score 144 of his 300 career points with the man advantage. He also makes glaring turnovers and he has been prone to losing his confidence, which sends his game in a downward spiral.

Nevertheless, last season in Carolina, Corvo had six goals and 17 points in 40 games, with eight points on the power play. His minutes are down -- 18:46 per game last season was his lowest since 2007-2008 -- but if he's used correctly, Corvo can still be a useful piece on the blueline. What Corvo's presence may mean, however, is that it will be more difficult for a young right-shooting defenceman like Patrick Wiercioch to take on a bigger role with the Senators this season.

Signed for one year, at $900,000, Corvo has a chance to be a really nice value addition for the Senators because that kind of money could easily go to a seventh defenceman and if Corvo is simply good enough to be in the lineup as a regular, the Senators should come out ahead.

28-year-old Tyson Strachan played a career-high 38 games with the Florida Panthers last season, playing 18:58 per game, and while his possession numbers were fine, he did end up with an unsightly minus-13 thanks to Florida's goaltending woes.

Strachan has one goal and 13 points in 120 career games, but has a dozen fights. He's an extra on the blueline, a big body with a limited game and some toughness and he'll be hard-pressed to make the Capitals, a team that should have eight defencemen ahead of him on the depth chart, but a one-year, two-way deal that pays him $550,000 in the NHL is a good way to be as available as possible should an opportunity arise.

It hasn't been a smooth transition to the NHL for the 2009 Hobey Baker Award winner and 28-year-old Matt Gilroy struggled last season, playing under 10 minutes per game in the 15 games that he did dress for the New York Rangers.

In his previous three seasons Gilroy had been a serviceable third pair defender, not taking on tough matchups, but at least holding his own possession-wise, so there still could be a spot for him in the NHL, but he's now on the fringe of the roster, signing a one-year, two-way deal that pays $700,000 in the NHL. He's mobile and can move the puck, but Gilroy doesn't play a physical game and teams tend to want some snarl out of their depth defencemen.

More to come...

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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