Last time I looked at the UFA Defensemen. This time, its the forwards turn. I've sifted through a lengthy list of forwards hitting the free agent market on July 1. A couple of these could be reaches, but anything can happen in Free Agency.
Matthew Lombardi, Center, Phoenix Coyotes
Lombardi played on Phoenix's top center this year. He had an "ok" scoring line with 19-34-53. With Columbus, we wouldn't have him play on the top line, but that kind of production would be great in the bottom 6. As Mike pointed out in his last 'Offseason Options' post, our bottom two lines are...not scoring prone. Think of him as a Samuel Pahlsson - smart, two-way center. Phoenix has a lot to do this offseason, and Lombardi might not be back in an attempt to find a raise on his $2.35 million dollar contract.
The good news: His defensive skills are especially valuable on the PK, an area in which we suffered from for a lot of the year. He also brings with him a lot of good speed - having someone other than Nasher with the ability to break away would be welcome. Lombardi also makes his linemates better when they're on the ice. It would be great seeing a guy help Derek Dorsett and Jared Boll find their scoring ways.
The bad news: His inconsistency and size. At 6' 198, he's not going to be the biggest guy on the ice. For someone who was the leading scorer in the 2001 Memorial Cup, and on the All-Star team that year, a career high 53 points (set this year) is discouraging.
My view: Make an offer, whats the worst that could happen?
Jeff Halpern, Center, Los Angeles Kings
This 33 year-old center/wing combo has been hiding in the depths of the Kings' lineup since being traded from the Lightning at the deadline. The most appealing factors in acquiring Halpern are his leadership, and price tag.
The good news: Like Lombardi, Halpern does well in the defensive zone and on the kill. Another Pahlsson type could help firm up the fourth line.
The bad news: Has trouble playing in a top 6 postion, but if in Columbus, that won't be an issue. He's also a streaky scorer but typically his scoring droughts last longer than his scoring streaks.
My view: Make a small offer, if you're getting desperate for a bottom 6 player.
Tomas Plekanec, Center, Montreal Canadiens
This is a guy I would love to see Howson target, should he hit the FA market. He's a talented player in both zones and has a knack for scoring. Montreal's leading scorer would like to stay in town, if possible, but it will come at a price. He can easily double his $2.75 million dollar salary on the open market.
The good news: Possesses great speed and is a smart play maker. He could easily slide into the second line if Brass doesn't become the player we all expected. Plekanec is also a monster in the face off circle (remember having two of the top 10 face off winners a couple years back? Yeah, we could have that again). Again, another strong penalty killer.
The bad news: He doesn't have a tremendous amount of size to push people around. Thats a bit of a concern. He also has a tendency to not show up for important games. In the playoffs, he scored 4-7-11 in 18 games, BUT his goals only came in the first four games. If he hits the market, his price tag could sky rocket out of Columbus' range.
My view: Make a priority out of him.
Raffi Torres, Left Wing, Buffalo Sabres
There's not a lot to say about Raffi that we don't already know. Most of us didn't want to see him leave, and he was one of them. He'll likely hit the market without much fuss from the Sabres. Personally I'd like to see an offer made if Nikita Filatov's future in Columbus is in doubt. He seemed to have lost his edge after the trade. In 16 games, Raffi only tallied 5 assists.
The good news: His familiarity with the franchise and city would prevent any chemistry issues. Torres loves Columbus and if the right deal was made, I see him coming back. He's a huge energy player and was very, very clutch for us late in games.
The bad news: An offer probably won't be made to a forward unless its a center. The asking price of camp Raffi could be too high for Howson to want to pay. His injury history grew in his short stint in Buffalo - missing 6 games to an upper body injury.
My view: If Howson is looking for a winger, bring Raffi home!
Alexander Frolov, Left Wing, Los Angeles Kings
Another King finds their way on my short list. This winger has spent his whole career in LA, maybe its time for a change in scenery. I haven't heard where the Kings stand on trying to retain him for next season, but his $4 million dollar salary is a bit high. It could, however, drop after Frolov suffered his 3rd lowest scoring season (19-32-51).
The good news: Frolov has a big frame and he uses his size to his advantage. At 6'2 204 he is an imposing force on the ice. Not afraid to play gritty below the goal line, Fro' excels in the corners and in puck possession.
The bad news: The dreaded Russian winger. Frolov has a bit of a reputation of being inconsistent, as do some other Russian forwards...cough cough...for whatever reason. He also gives up on a lot of shots. He could be asking a bit much in the way of a contract if he hits the market, but a lackluster season could bring that number down.
My view: Make a deal, hope for the best.
What would you do in Scott Howson's shoes? Would you make a move to get any of the above players, or do you have someone else in mind? Let us know your thoughts and offers!