UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Dallas Stars.
Joe Nieuwendyk has a reputation as smart man, but as a rookie general manager he’s about to enter one of the busiest times of the season. The draft is coming up at the end of this month, and on July 1st eight regulars – including key members of the team – are about to hit unrestricted free agency.
On the other hand, with nearly 19-million dollars coming off the books, he’ll certainly have some flexibility to craft his team in the days ahead.
The three-time Selke trophy winner has long had a reputation for being one of the top defensive players in the NHL, and he did nothing to tarnish that this season, outscoring tough competition. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, injuries held the Finn to 48 games and durability is starting to become a serious concern.
Lehtinen came over to North America for the 1995-96 season; he’s played 818 games since then – 1 with the Michigan K-Wings and 817 with Dallas. He’s more of a goal scorer than a play maker and if healthy generally scores between 25 and 30 goals in a season. If he hits the market, there are a lot of teams who could use a veteran like him.
The 31 points that Morrison recorded this season is the lowest mark over a full year of his entire NHL career. Coming off a serious injury the year before, Morrison disappointed in Anaheim (something that seems to happen to Brian Burke’s ex-Canucks, whenever he finds a spot for them). He picked up the pace in Dallas, recording 9 points in 19 games.
The smallish forward has been durable over the years; before missing 43 games in 2007-08 he had played six straight seasons without mising a game. He’s creative with the puck and a wizard on the powerplay (at least in previous years), but at this point it’s fair to ask if he can bounce back to the 50-point plateau offensively. For a team in need of a cheap second-line centre, Morrison may not be a bad bet.
The smallish Begin is a high-energy player, and I suppose he has to be; he hasn’t eclipsed the thirty-point mark at any level since junior. Plays with reckless abandon and is generally a good penalty-killer, too. He’s forged an unlikely NHL career and at this point is a welcome addition to any team’s fourth-line.
The less famous Lundqvist is average-sized, and while he’s contributed offensively in Sweden and the AHL, so far his impact at the NHL level has been minimal, and at 27 years of age it’s entirely possible that it will stay that way.
One thing Lundqvist does bring to the table is a high-energy game; he perpetually rang up the penalty minutes during his career in Sweden, and while his penalty totals have not been excessive in North America he likes to initiate contact. A good fourth-line option at this point.
Landon Wilson’s had an up-and-down career. He was a first round pick of Tortono out of the USHL in 1993, and spent two seasons in an excellent program at the University of North Dakota. During that time he was traded to Quebec and made his NHL debut in 1995-96 with Colorado. He also played for Boston, Phoenix and Pittsburgh before trying his luck in Europe during the NHL lockout. He had one season in Finland and three very nice seasons in Switzerland before coming back to North America this past season. He spent most of this past year in Dallas, only playing 15 games in the AHL, but missed a bunch of time with a rib injury.
He’s been called an “underachiever” and labelled as someone who doesn’t make good use of his physical talents but he played a gritty game this past season and adds size to the fourth line (6’3”, 226lbs). He’s got a decent offensive skillset, and while he doesn’t have much of a track record on the penalty kill he would be a great depth addition for a team needing a cheap fourth liner who can get the job done. I’m a big fan of contending teams adding depth players like Wilson; while breaking in prospects is great a veteran presence comes in handy when injuries strike – particularly a veteran presence who can actually play the game.
Minnesota bought out Parrish, and when they did Dallas took a chance on him, signing him to a bargain contract. Even so, it probably wasn’t a worthwhile investment. Parrish has never been a fluid skater, and while Mike Milbury once considered him (and Oleg Kvasha) to be worth Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen, Parrish has always been a somewhat one-dimensional offensive player. With his offense dried up, he doesn’t bring much to the table.
Sergei Zubov has long been one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. Unfortunately, he’s now 38 years old, and he’s played a grand total of 56 games over the last two years; between hip and foot injuries he has missed a ton of time. If healthy, he’s a difference-maker on the ice, but it’s difficult to see him with any team other than Dallas.
Darryl Sydor has nicely rebounded since a disappointing season with Pittsburgh in 2007-08. He’s not overly physical and at his age (37 last month) injury and physical wear and tear are concerns (although in fairness he’s been relatively healthy over the past few years). He can still make a good first pass, but no longer provides the offensive output that he did when he was younger.
In conclusion, Sydor’s a decent veteran option to round out a defense corps and a useful player, so long as he’s played within his limitations.