NHL

Still a few free agents worth checking out

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Spector

At home in Prince Edward Island, Canada, he's known as Lyle Richardson. But around these parts, he's known as Spector, FOXSports.com's Prince of Pucks. Check in with Spector's NHL Blog on Yardbarker.com for NHL rumors and analysis.

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Most of the big names have been signed up nearly two weeks into the NHL's 2009 unrestricted free-agent period. But there are still a few quality players remaining for teams with certain roster needs and the cap space to do so. Need a scoring winger with Stanley Cup experience? Alex Tanguay is still available. His stock has declined over the past couple of years due in part to shoulder injuries and his previous salary was an expensive $5.25 million per season. Only two years removed from a career-best 81-point performance, he's had his shoulder surgically repaired and should be good to go for next season. At 29, Tanguay will be keen to prove he's still first-line material and might be willing to consider a shorter term (say, two years) for perhaps less than $4.5 million per season. Tanguay was linked to the Colorado Avalanche where he began his NHL career, but they're not believed interested. The Phoenix Coyotes and New York Islanders have also been rumored destinations. Prefer your wingers big and mean with a scoring touch? Todd Bertuzzi is still unsigned. At 34, the hulking Bertuzzi's best seasons appear behind him, averaging just over 40 points per season over the past two years split between Anaheim and Calgary. He might not be a first-line player anymore but could be effective perhaps as a third-line winger who can occasionally do second-line duty. For teams willing to gamble, there's former Buffalo Sabres winger Maxim Afinogenov. In the first two seasons following the lockout, Afinogenov had 73 and 61 points respectively but was never the same after suffering a wrist injury midway through 2006-07. He managed only 28 points in 56 games in 2007-08 and 20 points in 48 games last season. It's believed he could end up signing with a Russian team, but it's also possible he could benefit from a change of scenery with another NHL club — albeit for a bargain salary on a one-year contract. Seeking an experienced puck-moving defenseman? Former Dallas Stars blueliner Sergei Zubov might be just the ticket. At 39, he's at the tail end of his long NHL career and spent the past two seasons sidelined due to hip problems, including surgery that kept him out of all but 10 games last season. Age and injury history explains why he's still on the market but for an affordable one-year, bonus-laden deal a couple of teams might be willing to take a chance on him. The New York Rangers (where he started his NHL career) and New Jersey Devils are thought to be giving him consideration. If Zubov is too long in the tooth for your needs then perhaps the soon-to-be-31 Derek Morris would be more palatable? He's not as slick with the puck as Zubov but is younger, more durable and plays a decent game at both ends of the rink. Perhaps a starting goaltender is your biggest need, in which case former Philadelphia Flyer Martin Biron can still be had. Biron parted ways with the Flyers due to their limited cap space and his supposed asking price of $5 million per season. It's likely his salary demands could be more affordable now that he's been cooling his heels on the market for nearly two weeks. Inconsistency also played a part in Biron's departure from Philadelphia as he tends to have lengthy slumps in his performance. When he's on his game he's terrific but when he's cold tends to let in weak goals. Still, he is an experienced starter and, for teams lacking that quality, could be a worthwhile signing for a season or two. The Los Angeles Kings could be a possible destination. If the preference is instead for a seasoned backup, former Bruin Manny Fernandez and former Senator Martin Gerber are options. Seeking veteran leadership with some scoring skills? Mats Sundin, Brendan Shanahan and Robert Lang are all close to 40 (Shanahan turned 40 last January) and are likely picky over where they'd be willing to play, but they could have enough left in the tank for one more decent season.
Tagged: Bruins, Sabres, Flames, Kings, Stars, Canadiens, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Coyotes, Martin Biron, Maxim Afinogenov, Derek Morris, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Zubov, Robert Lang, Alex Tanguay, Mats Sundin, Manny Fernandez, Martin Gerber, Todd Bertuzzi

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