Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
Steve Ott, forward
Last team: St. Louis Blues
2013-14 cap hit: $2.95 million
Ott, who was selected with the 25th-overall pick at the 2000 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars, is one of the grittiest players in the league. He won't light up the stat sheets, but he does a lot of little things well. He's a magician in the faceoff circle, can kill penalties and excels at throwing opponents off their game. He has a tendency to go overboard with his antics and physical play at times, but is a tremendous competitor with admirable determination. He can also play all three forward positions.
As a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Ott quickly became a fan favorite. He was named an alternate captain after the 2013 trade deadline and finished his first season with the Sabres with nine goals, 15 assists and 93 penalty minutes in 48 games. Before the 2013-14 season, Ott and Thomas Vanek were awarded captaincy of the team. However, Ott was dealt, along with goalie Ryan Miller, to St. Louis just prior to last year's trade deadline and struggled to find consistency with the Blues. He had just three assists in 23 regular-season games with St. Louis and had just two helpers in six postseason appearances.
Ott is a Flyers kind of hockey player. He's gritty, he can play both wings as well as center, he can take faceoffs and he can kill penalties. That's why it makes total sense that he's been linked to them in the rumor mill this spring. That said, while I understand the appeal, I don't think the Flyers should put effort into courting him. The Flyers don't need gritty, hard-workers on offense; they already have plenty. Money spent this offseason would be better spent on players who can score and help Claude Giroux's game -- and Ott isn't that guy.
Ott is one of the guys you'd love to have on your team, but you hate when he's wearing opposing colors. In recent years, he's proved he can be much more than just an agitator. He emerged as a leader in Buffalo and toned down the reckless physical play that got him in trouble with the league earlier in his career with Dallas. He'll still take a bad penalty from time to time, but the other guy always seems to head to the box with him. He does everything with a purpose.
Ott's desire to win, work ethic and toughness are exactly the qualities that Flyers coach Craig Berube looks for from his forwards. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him used in a third- or fourth-line role, but I think it's doubtful he'll wind up in Philadelphia. As I mentioned before, I believe the Flyers would be better off going after a goal-scoring forward if they elect to upgrade their offense through free agency.