The list of players still looking for NHL work includes a goaltender who once took a team to the Stanley Cup final, a former 68-point defenceman and a Selke Trophy winner.
While Ray Emery, Bryan McCabe and John Madden might not be the players they once were, they could each help a team in the right situation.
The NHL's free-agent market has cooled considerably after a scorching opening few days and any further signings will likely be spread sporadically throughout the summer.
Emery is the most intriguing name remaining among the unrestricted free agents—assuming Teemu Selanne is either staying in Anaheim or retiring—because he's relatively young and showed strong form in a small sample size after returning from serious hip surgery.
The goaltender had a 7-2-0 record, .926 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average in 10 regular-season games for the Ducks at the end of the year. Emery turns 29 in September and should have plenty left in him, especially since he appears to have left the health issues in the past.
Agent J.P. Barry has received interest from NHL teams but indicated Friday that none of the discussions have resulted in an opportunity that tempted Emery.
McCabe's point total dipped to 28 last season, but he still possesses a heavy shot that could be of use to any well-run power play.
The 36-year-old is a veteran of more than 1,100 NHL games and would be a good fit on a contending team at a reasonable price.
Madden, meanwhile, had an opportunity to step away from the NHL as a champion after winning the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010. But the fire still burns.
He spent last season as a member of the Minnesota Wild and appears to be on the move again. The best fit for him is a championship contender in need of a veteran centre that can kill penalties.
"My family's willing to move and try to win one more Cup somewhere else," Madden told the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently. "My wife said to me, 'You're not done,' and I said, 'No, I'm not done."'
The teams that generally emerge from July in the best shape are the ones that treat free agency has a chance to augment—rather than rebuild—their roster.
In addition to Emery, McCabe and Madden, here's a look at five other available players that could be useful in a complimentary role:
Brendan Morrison, centre: The 35-year-old was so determined to continue his career that he went to training camp with Vancouver on a tryout last fall and ended up signing with Calgary after getting released. Morrison was a useful player for the Flames, putting up a very respectable 43 points in 66 games while finishing plus-13.
Shane O'Brien, defenceman: A man that's been on the move a lot during his NHL career, O'Brien is in search of his third NHL team in as many seasons. The party boy reputation he earned in Vancouver hasn't helped, but the six-foot-three defenceman has made some good strides on the ice. He took just 83 penalty minutes last season (down from 196 in 2008-09) and would fit in nicely on a third defensive pairing.
Mike Grier, winger: The definition of a reliable role player. Grier has shown himself to be extremely responsible in his own zone and was Buffalo's top penalty killer last season. Couple those skills with a 1,000-plus games of NHL experience, and Grier could end up being a savvy addition to any roster.
Sami Lepisto, defenceman: The Finn has yet to fully establish himself as a regular NHL blue-liner but could definitely provide some depth on the back end. The 26-year-old Lepisto brings plenty of international experience and finished the last two seasons with a plus rating.
J.P. Dumont, winger: This is a signing that involves some risk, although Dumont would likely come cheap after being bought out by Nashville. His point totals have been heading in the wrong direction since a career-best 72 in 2007-08, but at age 33 he should have more to give. It might only take a change of scenery to show it.
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