Last week I took a look at several unrestricted free agent wingers that could come at a nice bargain, while most of those guys are still available except for Alex Tanguay, I figured we ought to take a look at some UFA centres while there’s still a few out there. After a flurry of signings on day one of free agency, all has been quiet while potential suitors play the waiting game with Ilya Kovalchuk. Unlike the wing, the big name centres went off the board before they chance to officially hit it. Here are four centremen that could be had at a cap-friendly cost while providing some significant upside.
Eric Belanger (32): If a third-line, secondary minutes guy adept at winning draws is required, then look no further than Eric Belanger as your man. After skating in relative obscurity in Minnesota for the last three seasons, Belanger’s two-way play and faceoff prowess found its way into the spotlight after a trade to Washington. Even with the small sample size, his 66.7 faceoff winning percentage in 7 playoff games was one of his team’s lone bright spots. As an added bonus, the “toughness” displayed by Belanger after taking a high stick to his chompers would only be outdone by Duncan Keith. Belanger probably won’t be looking for much more than a 2-year deal, and he could be had at an attractive cap hit of $2 million or even slightly less.
Mike Modano (40): Will he stay or will he go? In a perfect world it would have been nice to see Modano hang up the blades as a Dallas Star, but that’s obviously not going to happen. Modano’s 2009-10 cap number of $3.45 million will have to come way down if the aging pivot expects a chance to catch on somewhere, unless Sather slips into another fit of senility, of course. He’s a gamble for sure, think Brett Hull trying to skate in Phoenix a couple years ago. If the price is right, Modano could slot nicely as a club’s third line centre and see some minutes on special teams, but at his age and steadily declining abilities it might be more risk than reward.
Mike Comrie (29): I don’t know what’s more surprising, that Mike Comrie is still just 29 or that he’s become little more than a role player pulling in some bonus minutes on the powerplay. Last season wasn’t all that bad in Edmonton for Comrie, he did manage 13 goals in 43 games, and some of those were of the highlight reel variety. His 53.19 faceoff winning percentage was nice, too, although he only took 47 total draws. He’s not going to be anybody’s second line centre again, but those hands are still serviceable on the man-advantage. Comrie’s wife-to-be Hillary Duff looks like she’ll be the bread winner so he could catch on somewhere at a reduced cost, again.
Dominic Moore (29): It seems as though Dominic Moore finds himself on the outside looking in every offseason as a “fringe” player of sorts. He was an incredible bargain last season at a cap hit of $1.1 million, and paid back every cent of that with solid backchecking and winning 55% of 663 draws. In Moore you get a player very similar to Eric Belanger, with a little more physical presence and a willingness to block shots.