Bargain Shopping: Best Remaining NHL Free Agents (Forwards)

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Updated: July 7, 2014
Colorado Avalanche v Vancouver Canucks

We’ve had six days of NHL Free Agency and things seem to have really slowed down.  The last big name to move came on Friday when the Senators signed David Legwand to a two-year, $6 million contract.

As more and more days pass, it is clear that the names on the market are no longer in high demand.  Of course NHL GMs are always looking to improve their teams, and there will still be a number of signing between now and the start of the season.

However, leverage is no longer on the players side, and these are likely to bargain basement deals.  That doesn’t mean there are no good players to sign though.  One of last year’s late signings in Mason Raymond parlayed a big year in Toronto to a three-year contract this July 1st in Calgary, while Tom Gilbert was a late-signing in Florida and now got a two-year deal in Montreal.  So who will be this year’s big bargain, and who are the biggest names still on the market?

Note these are ordered alphabetically by last name.

Best Remaining NHL Free Agents (UFAs)

Forwards

Daniel Alfredsson
Last Season: Detroit Red Wings, 68 GP, 18 G, 31 A, 49 PTS, … $5.5 million Cap Hit (including bonuses).
Fancy Stats: Corsi For 51.3% (-0.4% rel), Fenwick for 50.7% (-1.5% rel), Zstart 57.0% (+2.7% rel), QoC/Toi 29.0%

The now 41-year-old made major waves last season, when he left the Ottawa Senators to join the Red Wings.  This off-season, Alfredsson still hasn’t decided if he will be back or not, but has stated that Detroit would be the only team he would sign for if he does decide to give it one more go. Alfie would be a boost to the Wings and is still a good top 6 winger even if he isn’t in his prime anymore.  As far as the list goes, he’s a bit of a unique situation in that the reason he is not signed yet isn’t because of lack of immediate interest in his services, so we can expect him to be the highest cap hit of any player on this list if he does decide to play.

David Booth
Last Season: Vancouver Canucks 66 GP, 9 G 10 A 19 PTS … $4.25 million cap hit
Fancy Stats: CF 52.0% (+1.0% rel), FF 51.3 (0.0% rel), ZS 45.1% (-4% rel), QoC/Toi 27.8%

Booth has really struggled since he went to Vancouver in a trade from the Florida Panthers. Injuries have been part of the problem and with a concussion history are certainly a concern going forward (SIA Profile). At $4.25 million per year, he was overpaid, and the Canucks amnesty buy-out on him made sense. That said, it may be worth someone taking a chance on Booth, the 29-year-old who was a former 30 goal scorer, and a three-time 20 goal scorer earlier in his career. A look deeper into the stats seems to suggest that Booth might be able to regain the 20-goal form if he stays healthy. Consider that he only got just over 13 minutes of ice-time per game last year, with difficult zone starts and quality of competition, and almost no power play time and still scored 9 goals. John Tortorella used Booth as a defensive forward, and it clearly wasn’t the best use of his talents. In a better situation this could be a smart gamble if done cheaply.

Dany Heatley
Last Season: Minnesota Wild 76 GP, 12 G 16 A 28 PTS … $7.5 million cap hit
Fancy Stats: CF 44.5% (-5.9% rel), FF 44.4% (-6.1% rel), ZS 53.8% (+5.3% rel), QoC/Toi 27.7%

Dany Heatley was once a 50 goal scorer and a 100 point player for the Ottawa Senators. He was an NHL All-Star and an Olympic Gold Medalist, but his career seems to be on a steady downward trajectory, with his GPG and PPG dropping every year since 2010. Heatley’s best asset remains a great wrist shot and a tremendous release, but his deficiencies have become glaring. A lack of footspeed, and inconsistent effort levels have made him a defensive liability, and he is no longer scoring at the rate where teams are willing to look past those deficiencies. He may get a shot on a short term low-money deal, but I’m not sure that he scores enough to be used in an offensive role, or that he fits in a bottom line role. It may be a case where at just 33-years-old, Heatley’s days as an important contributor in the NHL are close to done.

Saku Koivu
Last season: Anaheim Ducks 65 GP 11 G 18 A 29 PTS… $3.5 million cap hit (including bonuses)
Fancy Stats: CF 46.3% (-5.2% rel) FF 46.1% (-6.1% rel) ZS 44.7 (-7.9% rel) QoC/ToI 29.3%

Koivu is now 39-years-old and is not the offensive catalyst that he was earlier in his career. Instead he has become a defence-first player who is used for a lot of defensive zone faceoffs and tough match-ups against the best forwards of other teams. He could fill a bottom line role and provide plenty of leadership for a new club, but its unclear if he will do so, or will decide to retire, or to finish his career in his native Finland.

Andrei Loktionov
Last Season: New Jersey/Carolina 68 GP 7 G 15 A 22 PTS … $725,000 cap hit
Fancy Stats: CF 55.1% (+3.4% rel) FF 54.3% (+2.9% rel) ZS 62.5% (+13.1% rel) QoC/TOI 27.9%

Loktionov was not given a qualifying offer from the Carolina Hurricanes, despite a low contract last season, making him an unrestricted free agent. He played low minutes for both the Devils and Hurricanes and showed great possession stats, but it must be noted that the minutes he did play were very sheltered. He has a little bit of offensive skill, but with his lack of size and strength, and the fact he needs those sheltered minutes due to his lack of defensive ability, he is going to need the right situation. He might be able to provide some scoring for a cheap price, though the KHL might come calling with a bigger offer than he could get in the NHL.

Steve Ott
Last Season: Buffalo/St. Louis 82 GP 9 G 14 A 23 PTS…. $2.95 million cap hit
Fancy Stats CF 44.5% (-3.3% rel) FF 43.5% (-4.4% rel) ZS 46.9% (-0.9%) QoC/ToI 28.6%

Ott is a classic agitator who is capable of playing at both the wing, or at centre.  The 31-year-old isn’t quite washed up yet, and still works hard on every shift and pushes the envelope on the ice.  His play has dropped off a little from his prime, though and he appears to have lost a step as the years of being in battles has taken its toll though.  The bottom line is that while he may not be the player he was five years ago for the Dallas Stars when he was one of the best third line agitators in the league, he can be a good fourth line option still, but teams need to be very careful as to term and price here and pay for what he’s currently capable of and not what he did in the past.

Dustin Penner
Last Season: Anaheim/Washington: 67 GP 14 G 21 A 35 PTS…. $2 million cap hit.
Fancy Stats: CF 49.3% (+3.0% rel) FF 51.3% (0.0% rel) ZS 49.3% (+o.3% rel) Qoc/ToI 29.2%

Penner was a late signing last year, who was putting up a decent season with Anaheim with 32 points in 49 games, riding shot gun with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks.  He didn’t get the same quality of linemates after a trade deadline move to Washington and put up just 3 points in 18 games as a Capital.  That inconsistency has plagued Penner his entire career, and will likely drive some team’s head coach mad next year.  You never know what you are going to get with Penner, a dominant power forward who played a big role in two Stanley Cup runs when he seemed to fall into the perfect situation with the perfect linemates, or a guy who disappears for long stretches if not in that situation.  Its the gamble you take when you pick up Penner.

Mike Ribeiro
Last season: Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes 80 GP 16 G 31 A 47 Pts… $5.5 million cap hit
Fancy Stats: CF 52.9% (+3.2% rel) FF 50.5% (+0.7% rel) ZS 71.0% (+26.6%) QoC/ToI 28.5%

Mike Ribeiro was given every opportunity to succeed in Phoenix last year after signing a 4-year $22.0 million contract with the Coyotes last year. Now while he wasn’t as good as he was in Washington during the lockout shortened year, he still wasn’t that bad, and the stats are respectable. However GM Don Maloney bought out the final three years of Ribeiro’s contract and threw him under the bus when asked why, saying that Ribeiro’s behavior was unacceptable to an NHL team. The play on the ice is certainly worthy of being a second line NHL centre, but are the attitude problems worth it? That is the question any GM looking for a cheap playmaker will have to ask before looking at Ribeiro.

Derek Roy
Last season: St. Louis Blues 75 GP 9 G 28 A 37 PTS… $4 million cap hit
Fancy Stats: CF 52.0% (-1.8% rel) FF 53.3% (0.7% rel) zs 63.1% (+12.7%) QoC/ToI 27.6%

Derek Roy was signed by the Blues to provide an offensive spark, and with 37 points wasn’t too bad, though the Blues decided to let Roy go and pay the price for Paul Stastny this off-season. He’s no longer a top line centre, and as seen by his usage in St. Louis is now more of playmaker who gets a lot of PP time, and heavily sheltered minutes. He could help someone in need of secondary scoring and at 31 probably has a few more productive seasons in him given his style.

Devin Setogucchi
Last season: Winnipeg Jets 75 GP 11 G 16 A 27 PTS…. $3.0 million cap hit
Fancy Stats: CF 48.8% (-1.6% rel) FF 50.7% (+0.4%) rel ZS 49.4% (-2.6% rel) QoC/ToI 28.6%

The Jets traded for Setogucchi last off-season, hoping that he could give them some offense in a role as a second line right wing, but he really didn’t seem to mesh in the Jets lineup scoring just 11 goals on the year. He’s never hit the 20 goal mark since leaving the San Jose Sharks, and some have started to wonder if he got the “Joe Thornton Bump” to his goal scoring totals while he played in San Jose (see Glen Murray, Jonathan Cheechoo, Ryan Clowe for other examples of the Thornton bump). That said, he’s still a decent enough possession player that he should be able to find a job for next season, he just might no longer be looked upon as a top 6 player, more as a third liner who can fill a top 6 role for a short time in case of injury.

Lee Stempniak
Last season: Calgary/Pittsburgh 73 GP 12 G 22 A 34 PTS… $2.5 million cap hit.
Fancy Stats: CF 47.5% (+1.9% rel) FF 47.2% (+0.9% rel) ZS 47.4% (-0.9% rel) QOC/ToI 29.3%

Stempniak is an effective two way winger, who can provide some offence but also be used on the Penalty Kill and play on a line that will match up against the other team’s top line. I do believe he could even be worth more than the $2.5 million he signed for last season, and am a little surprised he is still on the market at this stage. He would be a strong pickup for anyteam needing a veteran winger on their second or third line, and to help out on special teams.

Thats it for now, tomorrow I will go through the defencemen and goaltenders still on the market.

 

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