We here at Hockey On Paper tend to get excited by minor deals - we thought, for example, that the Devils' trade of the rights of non-prospect Tony Romano for non-NHL player Ben Walter in June was a tremendous steal. Little deals are rarely the difference between making the playoffs and missing them, but every year there is some waiver transaction that seems to make a large difference - this past year's would be Rich Peverley to Atlanta and the 'trade' of Jussi Jokinen to Carolina. Furthermore, free talent that performs well can be upgraded - Los Angeles parlayed Kyle Quincey into the centerpiece of the Ryan Smyth deal. There's some intriguing items that may come available for the team willing to dig - players who've been trapped in their team's minor league system and who don't appear to have any roster spot opening up for them this coming season.
1. C/RW Rob Schremp
Putting 'Rob Schremp' into YouTube brings up videos that show off his tremendous stick-handling skills. Yet Schremp has been unable to crack the Oilers' roster, despite decent numbers in the AHL. With the coaching changes in Edmonton this off-season, perhaps Schremp will get a fairer shake, and he may make his way on to Edmonton's roster. If he does not, he is waiver-eligible, and someone short on talent but long on patience could get themselves a 20-30-50 type of player sometime in the future.
2. LW Chris Bourque
The diminutive son of Ray had a point a game last year in the AHL. While the Capitals only have 12 forwards signed for next season, leaving room for Bourque, he may not get the nod over a more versitaile player.
3. C Cal O'Reilly
O'Reilly has some very impressive assist numbers, and from those it's hard to see what's keeping him back from the NHL. Nashville does have a spot for him, and we think it very unlikely that O'Reilly stays off the roster this year, but training camp tends to influence teams more than it should.
4. C Kyle Chipchura
We can't pretend to know what Habs GM Bob Gainey is thinking. We think that Chipchura will certainly make the team and that it's likely that Glen Metropolit will be either a 13th forward or waiver bait, but aliens seem to have taken over his brain.
Unfortunately, all four players will be eligible for arbitration next year, so the savings is short-lived. Regardless, these sorts of players can definitely be an asset for someone next season, and with the salary cap going the way it is, unused, cheap talent becomes more and more valuable.