All week leading up to Sunday, July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.
Jiri Hudler (LW)
2011-12 cap hit: $2.875 million
Coming off a tough 2010-11 campaign -- you know, the year after he bolted Detroit to join the KHL -- Hudler rebounded nicely last season with 25G-25A-50PTS in 81 games, second amongst all Wings in goals.
On the surface, those numbers should make him one of the more highly sought-after UFAs...but there’s a catch.
The first is that Hudler’s bounce-back season was viewed by some as the byproduct of linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Fulppula, Detroit’s first- and third-leading scorers respectively. What happens if, or when, Hudler skates with inferior talent?
The second? There are questions what Hudler can do beyond put the puck in the net.
“Hudler can score, but what else does he bring?” wrote Helen St. James of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s not a great skater. He’s not great in his own zone.”
That said, the Czech native looks to be a fit for any team in need of an offensive punch. Thankfully for him, more than a few teams fit the bill.
Minnesota, Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Florida and Columbus were the five lowest-scoring teams in the NHL last year (the Wild didn’t even have a 25-goal scorer). And regarding the aforementioned reference to Zetterberg/Filppula, it has to be said -- when you put Hudler with skill guys, he will produce. Steady offensive output has been his calling card. Teams looking to fill out their top six or add something to the power play will likely kick his tires.
Wondering what Hudler’s market value might be? Do consider that, according to MLive.com, Wings GM Ken Holland wasn’t “apt” to pay him more than Johan Franzen, who has a $3.95 million annual cap hit.
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