Hockey Independent Offseason Predictions: Joker’s Wild; Four Big Name Players On The Move?

Members of the Hockey Independent crew have come together again for another series of offseason articles for your reading pleasure. The contributing authors to today’s piece will be Cris Cohen (New York Rangers), Seth Levin (New Jersey Devils), Alex Muscat (Detroit Red Wings) and myself, Benjamin Woodward (Boston Bruins). Each of us have taken on the role of armchair general manager for the sake of this feature. Over the next couple of weeks, leading into the July 1 opening of free agency, we will take a look at some of the players that are either set to hit the open market or have been rumored to be available via trade. Each member of the HI roundtable will propose a deal for the player that he/she believes to be reasonable for both squads.

Today’s discussion will feature everyone’s opinion on one player that he or she believes will be on the move this summer and the ideal fit for that player’s new home.

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Seth Levin (@levinakl)

Ray Whitney (LW, Phoenix Coyotes) To Pittsburgh — 1 Year, $4.00 Million ($4.00 AAV)

– Due to ownership issues and the resulting financial situation of his current team, I think it is all but a foregone conclusion that Ray Whitney will hit the free agency market come Sunday and will likely leave the Phoenix Coyotes. I think the three most likely destinations for Whitney would be the Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. I think Whitney still maintains his home in the Carolina area, after playing for five seasons there between 2005 and 2010.

At age 40, I think its fair to say Whitney won’t be expecting a long-term contract and will likely seek the maximum opportunity to win, quality of life for him and his family and fun. He seemed to really enjoy Phoenix, where he posted 24 goals and 53 assists and completing a two-year $6 million contract. While my guess is he’d prefer to stay in Phoenix, with too much uncertainly surrounding the team and the unlikelihood of them keeping the free agents together (including Captain Shane Doan), I see Whitney ending up with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and bringing his 365 career goals and 638 assists in 1229 games to play alongside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company. While the Penguins would prefer signing Zach Parise, I think Whitney will be a great fall back option and won’t tie up long-term dollars either.

From a personal standpoint, I remember seeing Whitney win the IHL All-Star Game MVP award back in 1991 at the Omni in Atlanta, when I was there with my Dad. I believe he had 3 goals and 3 assists in that game if I recall correctly, back when he was still just a prospect. He’s certainly come a long way from then, and will play for his 8th different franchise and could possibly put up 25-30 goals alongside Crosby. With a career high of 33 goals, I don’t foresee Whitney getting to number 400, but on the Penguins, I wouldn’t rule it out either. Whitney should be able to make a great impact where ever he ends up signing.

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Benjamin Woodward (@BWoodward_HI)Trade!

To Boston: F Jarome Iginla

To Calgary: F Jordan Caron, F Ryan Spooner, 2013 First Round Draft Choice

– Upon placing the contract of injured center Marc Savard onto long-term injured reserve, the Boston Bruins will have enough room under the cap to make a major splash this summer. The question then becomes; will Peter Chiarelli have the motivation to make such a move?

The answer to that question is likely two-fold. Chiarelli has gone on record about his desire to add a top-nine forward, one that can fill the “Mark Recchi” role that was noticeably empty last season. However, it’s doubtful he’d be willing to sacrifice a member of his team’s core group to perform such a deal. This all leads me to believe that Calgary Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla is the perfect solution.

Iginla is the best of both worlds for Boston as he provides both intangibles and consistent offense. The Edmonton, Alberta native will turn 35 on Sunday and could supply the type of veteran savvy and leadership that Chiarelli seems to be searching for. Iginla has put together a remarkable run of 13-consecutive seasons with 28 or more goals and would allow the Bruins to slot a legitimate scoring winger next to developing superstar Tyler Seguin. The longtime-Calgary Flame would instantly become one of Boston’s go-to goal scorers and provide some insurance in case Nathan Horton hasn’t quite recovered from his second concussion in as many seasons.

Throughout their five-year rise to the top of the NHL, the Boston Bruins have seemingly subscribed to the New Jersey Devils’ salary structure. Under this formula, no player is paid more than team captain Zdeno Chara — or in the Devils’ case, Scott Stevens –. This of course worked out brilliantly for New Jersey, as the team would win three Stanley Cups during Stevens’ 13-year tenure with the franchise. A deal for Iginla would upset this balance as the current Calgary captain’s contract pays him $7.000 million annually, just a hair above Chara’s $6.9 million. However, with Iginla’s five-year contract set to expire after this season, Chiarelli and co. could sell the team on his “average” compensation after agreeing to an extension at a lesser cost.

For Calgary, moving on from Iginla would perhaps finally indicate the team’s readiness for a much-needed rebuild. In Caron and Spooner, the Flames pick up two young players capable of making immediate — and significant — contributions at the NHL level. Jordan Caron is a budding power forward and useful penalty-killer who could eventually evolve into a valuable two-way top-nine forward. Caron has 71 games of NHL experience with 10 goals and 12 assists to his credit.

Ryan Spooner – taken with the 32nd overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — is an undersized forward with blazing speed and a tremendous offensive skill set. Spooner has been a consistent 60-point scorer in the OHL and has picked up seven points (3G/4A) in eight AHL contests. His tremendous intelligence and hockey-IQ has often drawn high praise from Bruins’ bench boss Claude Julien. The 20-year-old Ontario-native is set to go pro next season, but barring an unforeseen roster shake-up, seems to be stuck behind quite a few players on the Boston depth chart and may wind up in the American Hockey League. In Calgary, Spooner would have the chance to make an immediate impact in the NHL and perhaps even move back to his natural center position.

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Alex Muscat (@AlexMuscat73)Trade!

To Toronto: G Roberto Luongo

To Vancouver: F Nazem Kadri, D Mike Komisarek

– The Maple Leafs desperately needs a starting goaltender and general manager Brian Burke wants to win now. Add those two situations together and this is where Roberto Luongo comes in. No matter what people say, even in Vancouver, Luongo is still a legit starting goalie in the NHL and he can provide that in Toronto.  He’s had seven straight 30-plus win seasons, including a 47 win campaign for the Canucks in 2006-07. In 55 games with the Canucks in 2011-12, Bobby Lu posted these numbers: 31-14-8 record with a 2.41 goals against average and a .919 save percentage with five shutouts. I’ll take that.

A fresh start would help all parties out, especially Nazem Kadri, who is only 21 and still has the potential to become a skilled forward in the NHL.

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Cris Cohen (@cc_927)

Brandon Prust (LW, New York Rangers) to Anaheim — 3 Years $7.30 million ($2.43 AAV)

– Little did Rangers fans know when Glen Sather moved Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins to Calgary it would be Brandon Prust and not Olli Jokinen that would be the coup in the deal.

It didn’t take long for Prust to become a fan favorite with his hard-nosed style and his willingness to fight players well above his weight class. He became an important part of the penalty kill, scoring 5 of his 13 goals in 2010-11 shorthanded. Prust was the fans’ choice for the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, playing in all 82 games even with an injured thumb and a shoulder that needed offseason surgery.

In 2011-12 Prust wasn’t able to replicate his 13G, 16A offensive output of the previous year but still remained an integral part of what gave the  Rangers their “Black and Blueshirt” reputation. Despite tearing a tendon in his left ring finger in January that required offseason surgery, he played in all 82 games and tied the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton for the League lead in fighting majors with 20.

Prust was a downright bargain at a $800,000 cap hit and understandably is looking for a raise.  Reportedly both the Rangers and Prust, represented by a new agent, remain far apart on how much that raise should be. Prust is one of my favorite players and much as it pains me to say it, hockey is a business and  I don’t think that gap closes as the Rangers focus their dollars on upgrading the offense and bolstering the defense.

There will be teams out there interested in what he brings to the table. Prust would be an ideal fit on the Anaheim Ducks, who may be parting ways with George Parros. He’ll eat up more minutes, is capable of providing more offense than Parros and can help a penalty kill that was 16th in the League last season. By no means is Prust anywhere close to Parros physically, but he would definitely bring just as much toughness in defending his teammates.

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S/T To Flickr Users bridgetds (Whitney), dinur (Iginla), carsonballer14 (Luongo) and dbostrom (Prust) for the pictures.

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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Michigan Fan. Street Hockey Agitator. My work has been featured at the New England and New York Hockey Journals, The Hockey Guys, and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com!

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