The Washington Capitals may be able to fill some problem areas with free agents this summer. Of the three areas that need work is a second or third line centers. The available free agents this summer have some pretty solid names. I came up with ten possibilities George McPhee could go with to bolster some secondary scoring behind the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and Mike Knuble.
1. Patrick Marleau (31 years old, 11 NHL seasons, last season's salary $6.3 million) - The San Jose forward comes with a hefty price. Since his recent production after Ron Wilson left for the Toronto Maple Leafs, many say that he is un-coachable. Would you waste a good $6 or $7 million on a player that is temperamental and may cause rifts with the coaching staff? Let him stay in San Jose.
2. Matt Cullen (33 years old, 11 NHL seasons, $2.8 million) - Now here is a name that raises an eyebrow. Especially after the series he had against the Penguins where he produced 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists). Cullen can bring some grit and scoring as he turned in a 48 point season with Carolina and Ottawa this season. The price tag is okay too, if it stays below $3 million.
3. Craig Conroy (38 years old, 14 NHL seasons, $1.o million) - Conroy doesn't really add scoring, but will bring some grit and some defensive stability that might be good. His age is a factor and he did sit out 12 games last season with knee issues. If McPhee wanted a more defensive two way, Conroy is an interesting choice.
4. John Madden (37 years old, 10 NHL seasons, $2.75 million) - Another defensive minded center that won't add scoring, but will be a solid two way. However, he does bring a lot of good Cup experience to the table, something not to overlook for a team that wants to go far in the post season.
5. Mike Comrie (29 years old, 8 seasons, $1.25 million) - Comrie brings a lot of heart and some feisty play, but he doesn't really produce. He was stuck on a bad, bad team in Edmonton last year, and his numbers were dismal. His best year was 3 years ago when he was with the Islanders. He had 49 points in the regular season then, but since it has been a struggle for him to even reach the half way to 40 points in a season.
6. Tomas Plekanec (27 years old, 5 seasons, $2.75 million) - Plekanec has brought some scoring to a struggling Habs' team. He is coming off of a 70 point season, pretty huge. He has a small price tag, but that could balloon in the open market if he goes far in the playoffs. I like Plekanec for this team, but not sure if the Habs want him to leave the nest.
7. Chris Higgins (26 years old, 5 seasons, $2.25 million) - Higgins is another two way, more defensive style player. Too much money for a player that only had 17 points last year. He has had some good number with Montreal back in the day, but of late hasn't produced much on the offensive side.
8. Scott Nichol (35 years old, 9 seasons, $750,000) - Nichol may not add much offense, but he is a gritty hard nosed player that will go to the net. Most likely he will be resigned in San Jose.
9. Matt Stajan (26 years old, 6 seasons, $1.75 million) - Great, except for the fact he was resigned by the Flames to a four year contract extension. Doh.
10. Kyle Wellwood (26 years old, 5 seasons, $1.2 million) - Not much of a scoring threat, Wellwood does bring a hard work ethic to the ice. He also brings a foot injury.
Not much to choose from I know. Best bet for the Caps is to try and resign Brendan Morrison and Eric Belanger. The pair want to be here and a full season for Belanger can only help fit in. There doesn't seem like ther is much more out there for the Caps to pull from. I do like Cullen and Plecanec as some possible replacements that could had a dimension of scoring to help out the top line.