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Top Shelf: Well-rounded Rolston should top GMs' UFA shopping lists

Brian Rolston has 30 goals in each of the past three seasons. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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Brian Rolston has 30 goals in each of the past three seasons. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

If free agents pitched their services on late-night infomercials, Brian Rolston would be positioned as the amazing all-in-one player who can take care of every household need before folding up compactly to be stored out of sight.

No fuss, no mess – just results.

Need a little defensive help? Put Rolston on the penalty kill and just look at that shine! So it’s offense you’re after? Good news; Rolston comes with a 30-goal guarantee!

In three seasons with Minnesota since the lockout ended, Rolston has been about as solid a two-way citizen as you’ll find in the NHL. He has eclipsed the 30-goal barrier in all three years, buoyed the power play with his big shot from the point, curbed opponents’ threats on the man advantage and done it all without once saying, ‘We should probably scrap this captain-for-a-day business and just give me the ‘C’, don’t you think?’

In return for all of this, Rolston has been paid the relatively modest sum of just less than $2.5 million per season. 

But despite his varied contributions, it seems Rolston and the Wild are getting further from a deal as July 1 moves closer. That sound you hear is the collective lip-smacking of every GM in the league who understands the value of a guy equipped to handle any and all on-ice situations.

In the latest issue of The Hockey News, we projected it would take about $4 million a season to get Rolston wearing your team’s colors. That figure shouldn’t be any kind of issue for anybody who’s glanced at Rolston’s rap sheet.

The number that could hamper negotiations is 35, Rolston’s age as of February 21 of this year. Hitting that life mark means, as per the collective bargaining agreement, any contract Rolston signs from here on out remains entirely on the books regardless of whether he gets injured, bought out or retires. There’s simply no getting out from under the deal.

But unless Rolston goes out there and demands some absurd term, age shouldn’t be much of a deterrent in this case. A quick tread check shows the left winger has got several quality miles ahead of him; three years worth, for sure. And does anybody really need convincing about how far skilled, wily vets can take a team after watching the Old Man Wings chew through the Pens in the Cup final?

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If I were a GM, one of the things that would have me hotly pursuing Rolston is his low surprise factor. Sinking millions of dollars into anything has a way of making you dread the unexpected. Rolston’s sturdy game has about the best dollars-to-question marks ratio going. Drop a three-year, $13-million contract on this guy and you can feel pretty confident about your return on the investment.

Assuming NHL GMs share the opinion of many other men out there in regards to how much time should be devoted to shopping, they’d be well advised to get on the blower to Rolston’s agent. Instead of picking through the UFA pool and signing Jay Pandolfo to prevent goals, Mark Streit to help your power play and Ryan Malone to play on your second line and score 30 goals, why not pick up one Brian Rolston, save yourself about $6 million and be done with it?

That way you can go fishing on July 2 while everybody else fishes for a combination of players who provide everything you’re getting from one efficient purchase.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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