NHL: Free Agency and trade outlook heading into July 1st
The best way to build a championship team in the National Hockey League is through the draft. In addition to building through the draft, picking up that great fit or perfect veteran through free agency is huge as well. Look at this years Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings for example. They have done a great job building the pipeline through the draft. Players like Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick have come up through the organization. In addition, the drafting of Brayden Schenn and the development of Wayne Simmonds allowed the club to move them to the Philadelphia Flyers last summer for Mike Richards. So as you see, a great scouting department and development system is absolutely huge. Now you add the fact that over the last 3 years the Kings have brought in veterans through free agency, like defensemen Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell. They were both extremely vital to the clubs success this season and have also played a huge role in mentoring many of the clubs young defensemen.
This does show that July 1st, the start of free agency is huge. It’s not always the best idea to throw money at the top guys, but if you reel in the “right” guys, success will follow. This 2012 free agent class is very thin in terms of talent. While there is some nice top talent available in New Jersey Devils left wing/captain Zach Parise, Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and Anaheim Ducks prospect, defenseman Justin Schultz (who has a short list of teams he is willing to sign with), there is not a whole lot of depth. That being said, despite the lack of depth this is where pro scouting and the right fit is significant. Long time Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan will be testing the market due to the ongoing Ownership crap/situation in the desert. Doan will have a ton of interest in him, but the thinking is that if Doan were to sign elsewhere it would be with a team located near Phoenix as well as a Stanley Cup contender. If Doan receives some very strong offers on July 1st, (and he will) would he be willing to wait out the Coyotes situation knowing these offers may not be available for long, or will he sign with another club in the early days of free agency. This is something to keep a close eye on.
In addition to the excitement of free agency on the 1st, trades are also more likely to occur as well, especially with this sub-par free agent class. Clubs that miss out on the big ticket items like Parise and Suter will turn their attention to the trade route which includes players like Columbus Blue Jacket captain Rick Nash, Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, as well as Calgary Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.