10 free agents for Blackhawks

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Paul Stastny update

The Avalanche's Paul Stastny (right) and goalie Semyon Varlamov celebrate a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks. (Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune / March 4, 2014)

I don’t know what the Blackhawks are going to do in free agency to fix their blown chance at another Stanley Cup, but because I’m a pleaser, not a teaser, I’m here to help with a list of 10 (mostly) unrestricted free agents:

1. Center Paul Stastny: A fast, talented skater who’s perfect for the moment that coach Joel Quenneville yanks Andrew Shaw off a line with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad – a moment expected to come before the third shift. Stastny scored 25 goals last season for the Avalanche, his best since 2006-07, and it’s always good to steal a key player from an evil rival. Stastny won more than 54 percent of his faceoffs and was a plus-9. At 6-foot and 209 pounds, he would match up with the big Kings centers who helped end the Hawks’ championship reign. Stastny knows the puck-possession game the way the Hawks play it because the Avalanche copied the Hawks’ model. Stastny was selected for the United States Olympic team for his speed and danger in the puck-possession game. Stastny missed 11 games last season and eight in a 48-game schedule the season before. He might be too expensive, but you have to make that your first stop, and besides, the Hawks are going to move a big salary number anyway, I believe.

2. Defenseman Matt Niskanen: He was a plus-33, which was sixth-best in the league, best among NHL defensemen, and better than any Hawk. His Relative Corsi For percentage, a measure of puck possession, was second-best on the Penguins and ranked in the NHL’s top 15, according to extraskater.com. Six of his 10 goals were game-winners for the Penguins, and the Hawks are all about defensemen who can score or contribute to important goals. He’s 6-0 and 209 pounds, 27 years old, and coming off a career-best 46 points, but was part of the Penguins power play that failed during the playoffs. He’s a right-handed shot in case Brent Seabrook gets dealt.

3. Center Steve Ott: Rhymes with “not.’’ Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

4. Left wing Matt Moulson: Played for the Islanders, Sabres and Wild, and scored goals everywhere he went, finishing with 23 in 75 games. Moulson, 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, missed playoff games against the Hawks because of a lower-body injury. He’s 30, but he has been a plus-player, even with the dog-breath Islanders some years.

5. Left wing Thomas Vanek: Many people put him atop the UFA list after a 27-goal season, but he’s 30 and was hard to find during the Canadiens’ dramatic playoff run. I’d consider it, but not at anything like the $7.1 million salary deal he’s coming off.

6. Right wing Jarome Iginla: Yeah, he’ll be 37 next season, but he still potted 30 goals for the Bruins and finished with a plus-34, fourth-best in the NHL. I’m not forking over $7 million per for the classy forward, but if his salary demands drop, I’d have him on speed-dial.

7. Center Joe Pavelski: OK, so he’s not an unrestricted free agent and is owed $30 million over the next five seasons, which would require a trade, but so what? I love the way this guy plays, and I’ll bet Patrick Kane does, too.

8. Center Mike Santorelli: I always look at centers. This one isn’t much of a scorer, but he was a plus-player for a minus-27 Canucks team, won more than 50 percent of his faceoffs, and was a better player on the road than at home, which indicates poise and focus.

9. Right wing Benoit Pouliot: He showed up on my TV a lot during the Rangers’ playoff run to the final. His Relative Corsi For percentage ranks in the top 20 among playoff performers. The 6-foot-3, 197-pounder will be 28 next season. He never has scored 20 goals, but he’s regularly a plus-player. And probably not that expensive.

10. Center Michal Handzus: Gotcha.

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