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Turco, Modano, Mitchell top NHL.com's UFA team

Monday, 07.26.2010 / 10:35 AM / NHL Free Agency 2010

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Turco, Modano, Mitchell top NHL.com's UFA team
The big-name free agents may have dominated the news, but there are still a number of outstanding players still available. Enough for NHL.com to field a team.
Call it the dream team, but not for that reason.

If the NHL decided this summer to expand to 31 teams for the 2010-11 season (it's not happening, so stop your tweets right now), we wouldn't have to hold an expansion draft. Instead, we could hold the 2010 Unrestricted Free Agent Draft.

History most definitely would be made.

The League has gone ahead and selected yours truly as the GM (of course), but one obvious issue involves the $59.4 million salary cap set for the 2010-11 season. We're not exactly math-savvy, so we'd make sure to hire a capologist who could ensure that fitting a 25-man roster from among the remaining UFAs under the cap was feasible.

 
To make our front office run a little smoother, we're going to pick a UFA general manager for an assistant -- Craig Button, the former Calgary Flames GM now doing top-shelf work for NHL Network.

Let's just say it is. Hey, this team could be pretty good. It would be the oldest team in the League, with an average age of 32.5, which is why we're selecting 25 players, but we're asking it to be good for one season and that's all.

This is only an experiment, remember, but we think we can draft a playoff contender.

Take a look for yourself:

GOALTENDING

Who is standing between the pipes with the streamlined pads on? That's easy. We're picking a couple of no-brainers still left on the open market, and they will have to battle in training camp to determine who's No. 1:

Marty Turco -- The longtime Stars goalie will be 35 next month and he hasn't made the playoffs since 2008, but we're banking on Turco to return to form -- and, if he wins the job, to win 25-30 games at least. We feel lucky he hasn't been scooped up yet.

Jose Theodore -- A 20-0-3 run to end the regular season is enough to convince us that Theodore, 33, still has what it takes. Our offense won't be as potent as Washington's was last season, but we're not forgetting that during his final stretch -- when he didn't lose a game in regulation after Jan. 12 -- Theodore had a .922 save percentage and 2.61 goals-against average.

We're also keeping an eye on Ray Emery, who is recovering from hip surgery and won't be ready for the start of the season.

FORWARDS


Our still unnamed, homeless team has a solid, veteran-laden group of forwards, but we would be lacking a bona fide No. 1 center still in his prime. That could hurt, but we like our depth anyway.

Mike Modano -- The all-time leading scorer among U.S.-born players can skate on our team any day. He still has the wheels and ability to dish the puck and put it in the net. We'd be playing him in a more prominent role, too, as one of our top two centers.

Alexander Frolov -- The 28-year-old left wing can be one of the most potent scorers we've got. He scored only 19 goals last season, but we're banking on him getting upwards of 25. He'll play on the first line, though he might have competition with Paul Kariya also in play.

Teemu Selanne -- He turned 40 on July 3, but he's a right wing who still can put the puck in the net. Selanne scored 27 goals last season; we'd need him to score at least that many. He'll give our power play a big boost.

Eric Belanger -- His two-way ability will be counted on, as will his speed, prowess in the faceoff circle and skillful passing. Belanger had 41 points in 77 games last season, and he pulled out his own tooth in the middle of a playoff game. Sign him up.

Paul Kariya -- The former 50-goal scorer is looking for an opportunity to prove he's still got it. We'll give him that shot. He's almost 36 years old, but still has some tread left on his tires and some gunpowder left in his stick.

Lee Stempniak
-- We're not sure which Lee Stempniak we'll get, the one who struggled in Toronto or flourished in Phoenix. If it's the one who flourished in Phoenix, then our second line has the potential to be pretty darn scary, with Belanger between Kariya and Stempniak.

John Madden -- The perfect player to have as our third-line center. Madden still can play the role of defensive stopper, and his ability in the faceoff circle also has us confident we'll win the important defensive-zone draws. His three Stanley Cup rings are welcome, as well.

Clarke MacArthur
-- He's the youngest player on our team at 25 years old. The newly minted UFA, who was let loose by Atlanta after an arbitrator ruled he was due a $2.4 million salary for 2010-11, scored 16 goals between Buffalo and the Thrashers last season. He has zero NHL playoff experience.

Maxim Afinogenov -- The Russian right wing is one of Ilya Kovalchuk's friends, and if he can have another season like he did for Atlanta in 2009-10 (24 goals, 37 assists), we'll take it in a heartbeat. We're not sure how he'll fit on the third line, but we also trust Madden will make it work.

Glen Metropolit -- In a fourth-line role, we couldn't ask for anybody better than the personable and classy Metropolit. He can steal 8-10 minutes a game while also being a key contributor on our power play. Metropolit scored 10 of his 16 goals on the power play last season.

Raffi Torres -- The 28-year-old brings some grit to our lineup, and can provide some offensive punch, too. Torres had 19 goals in Columbus before being shipped to Buffalo last season. We like his age, his hustle and his skill set for our fourth line.

Bill Guerin -- Another goal scorer on the fourth line, the veteran right wing is 39 and he can still score 20 (he had 21 for the Penguins last season). We're not asking for that, though. Guerin has to be a serviceable two-way forward on this team. There's no doubt he can be.

Kyle Wellwood -- He's our fifth center for now (and at 27, the second-youngest player on our team), but that easily could change because Wellwood obviously has the ability to play in a third- or fourth-line role. He's a whiz in the shootout, which could help us steal a few points to cash in on that playoff berth we're promising.

Arron Asham -- If any of our wingers struggle, or if we find we need more crash and bash in our lineup, we're turning right to Asham, who helped the Flyers get to the Stanley Cup Final last season. He's a multi-faceted forward whose history suggests he's difficult to play against.
 
Alexei Ponikarovsky -- He's been a productive player for most of his career, though he sputtered after a deadline trade to Pittsburgh last season. Ponikarovsky will start on our bench, and when he gets his chance he'll have to show he can score and be a strong presence in front of the net.

That's 15 forwards, but since their average age is 32.4, depth obviously is important. This group will have some breakdowns. But, it's also 15 forwards with a combined seven Stanley Cup rings among Madden, Modano, Selanne and Guerin.

DEFENSE

Our back end is slightly younger than our forwards (average age: 32.25), but nobody is over the age of 35. Three of them (Willie Mitchell, Kim Johnsson and Andreas Lilja) are coming off seasons plagued by post-concussion syndrome, but we're told they're healthy now.

This group isn't going to wow you with offensive flair, but it will hit you and it will protect the net.


Willie Mitchell -- When healthy, this 33-year-old veteran rearguard can provide upwards of 20-plus points and serious toughness. He's going to hit, block shots and be one of the team's top penalty-killers and minute munchers.

Kim Johnsson -- We don't think he's going to get back to his pre-work stoppage production of 42 points, but Johnsson remains a serviceable top-four blueliner. He led the Wild in ice time two seasons ago, when he arguably was Minnesota's best defensemen.

Mike Mottau -- An out-of-nowhere find in New Jersey, Mottau turned into one of the Devils' most reliable defenders over the past two seasons. He's another one that won't blow you away with anything he does, but he's solid in all areas and one of the best people in the locker room.

Andy Sutton -- Our own Hal Gill. Ideally, Sutton will be our leading hitter and shot blocker, and hopefully our shutdown D-man when it comes to closing off a high-scoring forward. He just has to play a full season, something he has struggled to do throughout his career. Last season was a good sign as Sutton played 72 games between the Islanders and Senators. He was second in the NHL with 204 blocked shots.

Shaone Morrisonn -- Only 27 years old, Morrisonn is big (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) and we like the fact that he threw his body around last season to the tune of 163 hits and 104 blocked shots. We'd like to see more of that.

Andreas Lilja -- It should be fairly clear by now that we're going with a powerful, hard-hitting, shot-blocking, defense-first blue line. Lilja fits right in. He came back last season from his concussion problems to play 20 regular-season games and 11 playoff contests, proving he's healthy. He is a bruiser, and we obviously like that.

Brian Pothier
-- One of the real good guys in the NHL, a reporter's dream as a quote machine. He also has some bite to his game. Pothier will be a solid sixth or seventh defenseman on our team.

Marc-Andre Bergeron
-- He's a power-play specialist and an option to move to forward if we wanted to use seven defensemen in a game. Bergeron can be a defensive liability, but he has a great one-timer and is very slick at moving the puck on the power play.

COACH

Of course, how is a team supposed to play without a coach? We need one of those, and there is a large contingent of veteran unemployed coaches to pick from right now. But we're not going fishing for one -- we're grabbing the one guy who we know loves veteran players and can handle this team.

Ken Hitchcock -- Hitch might have a tendency to wear out his welcome after a while, but we're asking him to do this job for just one year. No one currently available is better at getting the most out of a team immediately. Hitchcock won a Stanley Cup in Dallas, led the Flyers to the 2004 Eastern Conference Final and started a hockey craze in Columbus in 2008-09.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threaning illness