The Three Types of Older Free Agents

EDMONTON, CANADA - MARCH 5: Jeff Deslauriers #38 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a save off Owen Nolan #11of the Minnesota Wild on March 5, 2010 at the Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

It’s tough being an older guy in the NHL.

Or not in the NHL.

Owen Nolan, 38, is still waiting for a team to make him an offer.

Bill Guerin, almost 40, is skating with the Flyers, although the Flyers aren’t interested in him.

Jonathan Cheechoo, only 30, will report to Stars’ training camp on a tryout.

It’s interesting to see those three players as three examples of the types of older players you see in free agency.

Nolan is an example of the older player who might be at the end of his career. After scoring 25 goals in Minnesota in 2008-09 (in just 59 games), he scored just 16 goals in 73 games the following season. Prior to that 2008-09 season, Nolan hadn’t scored over 20 goals since 2002-03.

Teams are obviously afraid that Nolan is finally out of goals. If his contract had ended after that 25-goal campaign, he might have been able to extend his career. But ending on 16 goals doesn’t seem to be making Nolan attractive enough to any teams. There’s a big psychological difference between 20 goals and less than 20 goals. GMs usually seem interested in a solid 20-something goals (see Guerin, Bill below). But less than 20 and they usually feel they have someone else in the organization who can probably pick-up the slack. And while Nolan brings a lot of defense to the table, he’s lost a lot of speed over the years.

So basically, Nolan made the huge mistake of ending last season on a down note. That’s something free agents his age can never afford to do.

Guerin actually has the opposite problem. His numbers have been too consistent and I think teams are scared to be the one where Guerin finally loses his mojo.

He’s scored at least 20 goals per season since 2006-07. And while it’s tempting to mention Guerin has played the last two seasons in Pittsburgh, frequently with Sidney Crosby, it’s also worth noting Guerin has a full Islanders season in there, as well as the bulk of a second.

It seems GMs just don’t believe Guerin can continue to play at the level at which he’s been playing the past four years. Basically, no one is interested in giving him the chance to fail.

That leaves us with Cheechoo, who isn’t as old as Nolan or Guerin, but seems just about as unwanted.

Cheechoo is the most frustrating type of free agent: the fixer-upper. He’s just four years removed from a 56 goals season. His production has steadily declined since that year, though. Ottawa traded for him, thinking they could solve his goal production problems. When they couldn’t, they bought him out.

The Stars, who saw a lot of Cheechoo in the Pacific division, want to see if Cheechoo still has a goal-scorer in him that they can unlock. Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is enthralled by the bargain that might exist within Cheechoo.

Assuming he’s able to make the Stars out of training camp.