The Stanley Cup Final provides pending free agents the biggest stage in which to improve their stock. The Capitals may not have much money to work with under the salary cap this offseason, but Brian MacLellan is no doubt watching and evaluating any potential fits for Washington.
With that in mind, here’s a look at where the free agent “stock” of each pending unrestricted free agent from the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues through three games of the Stanley Cup Final.
NOTE: This list includes only UFAs.
Noel Acciari, F
An injury limited Acciari to only one game in the conference final. It took him just one game in the Stanley Cup Final to make his presence felt with an assist on Sean Kuraly’s game-winning goal in Game 1. He also scored an empty-netter in Game 3 and is a member of a Boston penalty kill that has held St. Louis to only one goal in 10 power play opportunities. Acciari’s stock is not rising to the point that he should be seen as anything other than a fourth line player, but considering his current cap hit is only $725,000, yeah, I would say he has earned himself a raise.
Marcus Johansson, F
There is no free agent on this list who has improved his stock more than Johansson. The former Cap came into the playoffs with an unfair reputation of being soft and a poor playoff performer and he has certainly rewritten that narrative. He has been brilliant throughout the postseason and was named the second star of the game for Game 1. He also recorded a goal and an assist in Game 3. At times in Washington, he was asked to do too much and was even playing wing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin. The Bruins just need Johansson to be a role player and he is thriving with that opportunity.
Steven Kampfer, D
Kampfer is Boston’s No. 7 on defense and has not been called upon in any of the first three games of the series. He has appeared in only two games this postseason, but he made his last chance count with a goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps could be in the market for a No. 7 defenseman, however, so perhaps he is someone fans should keep on their radar.
St. Louis Blues
Patrick Maroon, F
The big-bodied, hometown hero of St. Louis has been a feel-good story for much of the postseason, but he has been a non-factor thus far against Boston. That is disappointing considering how physical the series has been. For much of the season, Maroon has looked a step slow for today’s NHL. It is disappointing that he has been largely invisible in a series that looked to be more suited to his skillset. Maroon may get re-signed by the Blues. Heck, he may even get signed for more than his current one-year, $1.75 million contract. But he is someone who appears to be more valuable to St. Louis than he is to anyone else.
Carl Gunnarsson, D
Gunnarsson scored the goal that launched a thousand puns with his overtime winner in Game 2. After telling head coach Craig Berube in the bathroom that he just needed one more chance, he gave St. Louis the first Cup Final win in franchise history and became the hero of the “Boston Pee Party.” Still, let’s not go nuts over what this means. He remains a depth defenseman and someone the Caps could potentially target as a No. 6/7 for veteran depth if Brooks Orpik does indeed retire or is not re-signed by Washington.
Chris Thorburn, F
Tough year for a 13-year NHL veteran who played one game for the Blues and then was dispatched to the AHL for the rest of the season. He was recalled for the playoffs but has yet to appear in a game. Soon to be 36, his career is likely over.
Michael Del Zotto, D
Split 42 games between Vancouver, Anaheim and the Blues this season, but has not appeared in a playoff game. St. Louis picked up Del Zotto at the trade deadline on Feb. 25 for the depth they haven’t needed. He turns 29 this month so he should still garner some interest in a similar role, but after signing consecutive two-year deals with Philadelphia and then Vancouver he likely won’t get much more than a one-year minimum deal. The Caps could probably find a better option if they need a veteran No. 7 defenseman who won’t play much.
Brian McNally contributed to this report.
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