On July 25th, veteran winger Kris Versteeg elected to take his talents overseas, specifically to Switzerland, agreeing to a one-year deal with SC Bern in the NLA. Six weeks later it appears as if that agreement has fallen through, possibly due to concerns over a past hip surgery – though the team and the player disagree on the exact reasons. Now Versteeg is back on the open market looking for his next gig and according to Darren Dreger (via Twitter), several NHL clubs have already expressed interest in offering the two-time Stanley Cup winner a PTO. While nearly every team in the league could use a versatile talent like Versteeg, a few might offer a clearer path to a guaranteed contract for 2016-17.
New Jersey – The Devils are counting on several young, relatively unproven players in their top-nine to produce offense in 2016-17. Devante Smith-Pelley (0.14 goals/game in his career) and Beau Bennett (0.12 goals/game) are currently listed as the team’s second and third line RW’s respectively according to Roster Resource. Meanwhile, 19-year-old forward Pavel Zacha and his one game of NHL experience is expected to break camp with the club. New Jersey finished last in the league in goals scored this past season and could use more depth as insurance in case their younger players struggle to put the puck in the net. Versteeg, who has averaged 0.57 points/game in his career, would give the Devils decent production in a top-nine role and much like Lee Stempniak was in 2015-16, could prove to be a valuable trade deadline chip to cash in for futures.
Ottawa – The Senators finished ninth in the NHL in scoring in 2015-16, thanks in large part to a balanced lineup that saw five different skaters tally at least 20 goals and another finish the season with 19. But for a team with postseason aspirations, using either aging tough guy Chris Neil – 13 points in 80 games – or a young Curtis Lazar – six goals in 76 – as a third-line RW might not be the best idea. Versteeg would represent an inexpensive upgrade and give the club even more scoring depth up front.
Arizona – The Coyotes, with new GM John Chayka at the helm, have been among the league’s most active teams in both the free agent and trade markets. But they still have room in the budget and a potential need for a steady producer like Versteeg. Tobias Rieder, who is currently a RFA and locked in contentious negotiations with the team, is slated to hold down a spot in the team’s top-six. While it would be surprising if a deal isn’t done in time for the start of the regular season, signing Versteeg would give Arizona some protection just in case the two sides can’t come to an agreement. Additionally, even though it would seem the Coyotes have enough depth up front, it would fit the profile of an analytically-inclined front office to add an asset today at a below-market rate and then sell high on that asset down the road.
Nashville – Preds GM David Poile was counting on Jimmy Vesey signing with the team upon the conclusion of the 2015-16 NCAA season and contributing to the club’s playoff push. It’s why the team refrained from making any significant additions at the trade deadline. But of course Vesey spurned the Predators and explored his free agent options this summer before ultimately agreeing to a deal with the New York Rangers. The Predators still have yet to address the void in the lineup that Poile was originally hoping Vesey would fill. Versteeg would represent a cost-effective option for a Nashville club that is considered a budget team and not one that typically spends to the cap ceiling.
Vancouver – The Canucks have been rumored to be looking for a scoring LW for much of the summer and while Versteeg, a right-hand shot, is listed as a RW, his addition would allow Vancouver to shift another RW across the ice to the left side. Patrick Johnston, writing for The Province, believes Versteeg would be an excellent fit, citing the winger’s excellence in the puck possession department as an added benefit to signing him. It’s also conceivable that GM Jim Benning would place additional value on the fact Versteeg has been part of two Stanley Cup championship teams and his overall solid career postseason production. If the Canucks are set on adding another winger before the season, they could do worse than Versteeg.