We’re calling it “The Late July NHL UFA All-Star Team,” but obviously you have to take the “all-star” part with a grain of salt. Some of these players – who are the best-of-the-rest unrestricted free agents still on the market as of the last week in July – used to be all-stars, many years ago, but they aren’t any more. Most of them were never stars to begin with. But, they’re full-fledged NHLers – at least they used to be – and they’re looking for one more big-league contract.
Relatively speaking, the strength of this team is up front. They should be able to score a few goals, even if they don’t have the speed to take off on any breakaways. They’re going to need to score early and often, because the blueline is old and slow and the goalies barely have any NHL experience. But hey, at least they’re better than Vegas…
There’s no need for video replay – ever -- so let’s get right to it: here are the four forward lines, three defense pairings and two goalies that make up “The Late July NHL UFA All-Star Team.” Start planning the parade.
(Age of players in parentheses.)
LW-Thomas Vanek (33)
C-Mike Fisher (37)
RW-Jaromir Jagr (45)
Vanek had 48 points between Detroit and Florida last season, the most among remaining UFAs, and potted 17 goals. Predators captain Fisher, whose 18 goals were the most among remaining UFAs, figures to return to Nashville if they can strike a deal that works for both sides, unless he decides to retire. Jagr will keep playing until the sun burns out and the earth becomes a giant ball of ice … and then he’ll play some more.
LW-Jiri Hudler (33)
C-Matt Cullen (40)
RW-Jarome Iginla (40)
Hudler put up 76 points with the Flames a couple years ago, but has been limited to 50-plus games in each of the past two seasons, bouncing from Calgary to Florida to Dallas. Cullen might take some convincing, considering that he’s coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh and that’s a pretty good note to go out on. Iginla endured most of last season in Colorado, then was shipped to Los Angeles in the hopes of making a playoff run. It didn’t happen. Hopefully a contender gives him a shot, he’s still looking for that Cup ring.
LW-Scottie Upshall (33)
C-Daniel Winnik (32)
RW-Brian Gionta (38)
Upshall arrived in the NHL as a speedy winger with a scoring touch. He never quite lived up to the hype in that regard, but did turn into a solid depth forward who could chip in on offense and kill penalties. Winnik won’t light it up, but he’s physical and knows the defensive side of the puck. Gionta is a little giant.
LW-Dwight King (28)
C-Jay McClement (34)
RW-Shane Doan (40)
King is a fourth-liner who hits hard and might get you eight goals. McClement is a fourth-liner who’s good on the faceoff dot and kills penalties, but he probably won’t get you eight goals. Doan was never a fourth-liner and he probably won’t get you eight goals at this point, but he’s worth it for the dressing room alone.
First defense pairing
Andrei Markov (38) and Fedor Tyutin (34)
They ain’t what they used to be, but we’ll go with Markov and Tyutin for the experience factor. At least they know what to do in all three zones in theory, even if they can’t do it in practice (or, more importantly, in games).
Second defense pairing
Cody Franson (29) and Roman Polak (31)
A little offense, a little defense, a little physicality. This might sound crazy, but this tandem is somewhat intriguing and might even work. (Give us a break, we’re workin’ with what we got here…)
Third defense pairing
Jyrki Jokipakka (25) and Francois Beauchemin (37)
After a good NHL debut in Dallas, it didn’t work out for Jokipakka in Calgary and he never got a chance in Ottawa. But he’s only 25, he’s big and he’s worth a gamble. Beauchemin, like Tyutin, deserves another chance if only to get rid of the nightmare that was playing for Colorado last season.
Matt Hackett (27)
His first name is easy to spell. He has four career NHL wins in 20 starts between Minnesota and Buffalo, and his last big-league action was in 2014-15.
Mac Carruth (25)
His first name is even easier to spell than “Matt.” He split last season between the AHL and ECHL.
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