Offseason speculation is usually limited to UFA and trade talk. However, as most Ducks fans know, sometimes you can poach a restricted free agent and cause another team a world of hurt. Normally, the RFA market is very limited, due to the fact that most teams lock up their talent a little early. In addition, the ability of teams to match potential offers frequently scares off suitors. But, there's a bevy of talent out there for any GM daring enough to make a run at it.
We all know Murray isn't that GM, but I am. What follows is my rationale on pursuing each of the following RFAs, and in honor of Robby's recent foray into the world of statistics, I'll discuss the real chance of actually acquiring said player. What you won't see are any of the Ducks RFAs, as the team still owns their rights. Therefore, they can match offers at their discretion. Enjoy the list
Drew Doughty: I suppose some would argue that Doughty is a longer shot than Shea Weber. The Kings have more money, plenty of cap space, and see themselves as one piece away from being legitimate Cup contenders. The problem is that one piece. The 11 million dollars that the Kings have might not be enough to keep Doughty and get another a top line guy. If they are in the Brad Richards sweepstakes, as some believe, then they might not be able to afford Brad and Drew, both of whom might command around 7 million a season.
The fact is, the Kings can match pretty much anything the Ducks can throw at him, and that's all the more reason to go after him. Drive up the price on the Kings and maybe price them out of the Richards race. If they think they can have Brad and let go of Drew, then Doughty is more than worth the picks. No Seriously, he is, don't be that person in the comment board. Moreover, He's the D upgrade the Ducks need and I wanted last offseason, a young top pair guy who can anchor the blue line for years to come.
This probably has less than a 5% chance of happening, but there's a little bit of bad blood, and this could really fuel a rivalry. Personally, I think the Ducks should be serious about this, just so we can have an Eric Cartman-Scott Tennorman moment with Kings fans.
Zach Bogosian: Zach is the first of three Thrashers on this list...or Jets...or...Moose. I don't know what they'll call the franchise, but I imagine not everyone is excited to go to the True North abyss that is Winnipeg. Bogosian isn't the D prize that Doughty is, but he's still young (20) and has been logging serious minutes in Atlanta. He's a top 4 guy and we'll need a couple of those as Visnovsky, Beauchemin and Lydman fade out over the next 3 years.
Will Winnipeg match? Maybe. The bigger issue is does Bogosian want to go, and how will that affect what happens? Winnipeg might not want to keep a player that doesn't want to play for it. Granted, that's speculation on my part, but that's what makes this fun. Bogosian will probably run 4 million, which would get Winnipeg a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick from us. Not necessarily a bad deal for a man of Bogosian's talents, but I'd be more comfortable spending those kind of picks on the next player on the list. D always costs a little extra, but forwards can provide some true value.
Andrew Ladd: Ladd's solid play during a Chicago Cup run was rewarded with deportation to Atlanta. He became a captain, a very solid defensive forward, and had a career scoring year. This guy is going to get 4 million next season, easy. There's no way this franchise wants to celebrate its move by losing its captain, but there's a small air of uncertainty surrounding the whole team. That makes the RFAs ripe for poaching.
It's not the same as the cap problems we were facing post-Cup victory, but it's enough to probably rattle the cages of a player who might enjoy a different locale from the far North. Ladd would be a boon for a team that lacked defensive heart up front, and you know he can pot 50 points and hasn't reached his prime. I'll put Bogosian and Ladd at equal 15% chances.
Keith Yandle: Equally hindered by an ownership situation, Yandle is the D that seems the most likely to drop from the RFA tree. He was in the middle of early Norris trophy discussions, and maybe never should have been taken out of them considering how crazy his situation is. Still, the guy has tons of talent, youth, and shut down capabilities. He's not just a scorer.
The Yandle situation isn't that different from the Doughty one. Drive up the price and see if you can keep a division rival from having a little extra cap space. But, bidding on Yandle is kind of like walking a tightrope without a net. There's a chance the offer won't be matched, and I don't know if he's worth the first rounders it might cost to sign him. If Murray gets serious, he can probably get Yandle, I'd say he has a 25% chance, maybe better. Pretty good odds for poaching.
Semyon Varlamov: This might be approaching wish list territory, not due to real life hurdles, but because Murray isn't very shrewd. The Caps seem to have one too many young goaltenders who have proven they can at least be successful at the NHL level. Meanwhile, the Ducks are desperate for young goaltending talent. Neuvirth and Holtby are locked up, so Varlamov might be a good target.
The compensation for signing the RFA might actually serve as the price of a trade anyway, depending on how much money he gets. The vagueness of Hiller's condition makes this a little more attractive than I initially thought when I saw his name on the list. The Caps will probably move a goalie this offseason, which makes the odds of this happening a little higher, say 30-40%. Will Murray get in on this, though? I don't know, but he should.
Wayne Simmonds: Oh...Wayne Simmonds. There was a time when I wanted you in a package for Bobby Ryan, now I can pursue you as a restricted free agent...you know if the Kings are dumb enough to leave you unsigned on July 1st. It's a no brainer to add you to the flock, seeing as how you're already working out with Emerson Etem and helping the kid stay focused on pursuing the NHL. If you'd like to do that for Smith-Pelley too, I'd appreciate that. Your moderate future salary, probably between 1.75 and 2.5 will make you highly affordable and therefore get your offer sheet matched. Still, it's a dare worth taking if the Kings get caught thinking big; Simmonds for Richards and a couple of picks is a good deal.
Simmonds is the ideal third line winger and would bring the type of tenacity Ducks fans are used to from the 2007 days. He can also pretend to be Dustin Penner and play on the top line, fishing out pucks and tapping in all the rebounds. I put this one at less than 10%, too many moving parts.
Anthony Stewart: Another forward who can improve our depth, and maybe our scoring. Stewart posted an impressive 39 points last year, and Anaheim fans probably best remember him for hanging his hat up at the Honda Center. Stewart is another tenacious player, who would look good providing depth to our organization. He's another guy who might not like the North, I'm mostly basing that on the fact that I wouldn't like Winnipeg. But it's very possible that some players won't want to leave a major metropolitan area like Atlanta to go to a place whose population couldn't fill the L.A. Coliseum. He presents a good option for the Ducks, and his lower salary could make him essentially an acquisition via trade.
While all of these players would be good additions, there's a list of guys the Ducks have no chance of acquiring that I'd like to get in on like Shea Weber, Steve Stamkos and anybody from the Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan line that the Rangers have. Enjoy the discussion.