15 Prime Cuts: Free Agent Frenzy Thoughts

Dobber Sports






Angus shares his thoughts on the madness of the free agent market in the NHL.


1. There aren't many NHL teams with a more promising short or medium term future than the Dallas Stars right now. Jim Nill has put some serious work in over the past few weeks, quickly reshaping what was a decent team into a formidable one. Heck, he added three NHL calibre centers in one day last week.


A few particular things I have liked:


Signing Sergei Gonchar and drafting Valeri Nichushkin. The Stars couldn't have known that the big Russian would have been available with the 10th pick when they traded Gonchar, but they must be counting their lucky stars that he was. Gonchar was integral in the development of Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, from a hockey and more importantly a lifestyle standpoint. Gonchar


Moving Jamie Benn back to win. Poolies rejoice – it is a matter of when – and not if – we see Benn at the 85+ point mark. He's one of the best forwards in hockey, and he will play his natural position of left wing again.


Not trading Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, or Alex Goligoski. Perhaps this comment is premature, but good teams are chock-full of versatile and experienced defensemen. These three all bring unique elements to the table, and they are all capable of playing in different situations (Robidas in particular). It isn't the best defense in hockey, but with stud rookie Brenden Dillon in the fold, the future is bright on the back end.


2. Toronto's offseason – one step forward, two steps back.


I don't have any major issue with the David Clarkson signing. It is a bad contract, but almost all UFA contracts are bad. Clarkson will make the Leafs a better team for at least two or three years – the rest of the deal, not so much. But that isn't a problem right now. What I do have a problem with:


Buying out your best center (Mikhail Grabovski) in order to overpay for a decent third line center masquerading as a top line center (Tyler Bozak). Grabovski played brutally tough minutes last year and the Leafs will miss him.


Overpaying for Jonathan Bernier, not once, but twice. Why? James Reimer has more experience and quite honestly may be the better goaltender right now. Bernier has yet to prove anything, although you wouldn't know that from the contract he signed. A reputation deal if I have ever seen one. He has the upside and potential to be a good one, but until he proves it, those are just words.


Reimer was great last year and rewarding him with a demotion is bad business. I'm not expecting full agreement here – just one man's opinion.


3. A quick note on the Travis Hamonic and Ryan McDonagh contracts. Both are great young defensemen with bright futures, and the contracts are very fair. But we must remember not to compare the term or dollar amount to any contract signed by a UFA. Both Hamonic and McDonagh have several years of RFA status left, and they are each only giving up a few UFA years.


McDonagh's cap hit is $4.7 million. He's one of the best two-way defensemen in hockey. But on the open market, $4.7 to an RFA equates to roughly $6.5 million for a UFA. Is he worth that? I'd say so, yeah.


But these big RFA deals are what has effectively killed hockey's second contract (although you do see the odd one from time to time – PK Subban's and Matt Duchene's, for example).


4. I speak a lot about indirect fantasy value (a player not directly having much or any fantasy value himself, but having a positive or negative impact on his linemates/teammates).


(Thanks for the suggestion – indirect is a better word to use here than residual).


One such example – Rob Scuderi. The Kings are going to miss him tremendously, and the Penguins are going to benefit tremendously.

The impact may not be significant, but it is bad news for Jonathan Quick owners and great news for Marc-Andre Fleury owners (those of you who are left). Scuderi brings a much needed element to Pittsburgh's back end – consistency. He's a rock on the back end.


5. Bryan Murray has done a masterful job of building Ottawa's team over the past few years. Losing Daniel Alfredsson will sting for a while, but the on-ice team has improved tremendously with the Bobby Ryan acquisition. He's young, talented, and very motivated to prove he is a go-to player on a good team.


But what makes Ottawa so great won't be their top line, it is their foot soldiers. There isn't a team in hockey with a better group of versatile and talented young forwards – Colin Greening, Erik Condra, JG Pageau, Zack Smith, Cory Conacher, and now Clarke MacArthur, too.


6. The Washington Capitals are back to square one – no second line center. Does Mathieu Perreault get a shot at the job? More importantly – is he good enough for it? He's shown a lot in flashes, but has yet to bring consistent production to the table.


Evgeni Kuznetsov is an appealing option, but he won't be here to play this year. And the Capitals are thinking of moving him over to the wing. Marcus Johansson is probably better on the wing. Do the Capitals try and fit Mikhail Grabovski in under the salary cap?


7. Don't sleep on the Mike Santorelli signing in Vancouver. He's a Vancouver native and eager to get his career back on track after scoring 20 goals a few years ago. He has one advantage compared to Vancouver's other depth forwards – contract. Although he has a two-way deal, his cap hit is very low ($650k). That helps a team right up against the salary cap.


His 20 goal season was 2010-11. And his linemate(s) that season were:




Line Combination

















8. The "curse" of too many good forwards continues in St. Louis. Some early thoughts on potential line combinations after the Derek Roy and Max Lapierre signings:


(I think the Blues are thinking about moving David Backes back to the right side):


Jaden Schwartz – Derek Roy – David Backes

David Perron – Patrik Berglund – Chris Stewart

Alex Steen – Vladimir Sobotka – TJ Oshie

Chris Porter – Max Lapierre – Ryan Reaves


No room for Ty Rattie… yet. Heck, there isn’t even room on this roster for Vladimir Tarasenko.


9. John Tortorella wants to reunite Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler on line two. The benefactor of this move (which is a necessary one to create two scoring lines) will be whoever lines up with Daniel and Henrik. My money would be on Zack Kassian. Burr


Vancouver is going to give its young kids legitimate opportunities to play this year – particularly winger Nicklas Jensen and centers Brendan Gaunce and Kellan Lain.


10. I think Garth Snow is a very good GM. The Rick DiPietro contract aside (and I think we all know who wanted that deal signed, and it wasn't Snow), he has done some great work building a solid young nucleus of talent on the cheap. Some of his best work comes during free agency.


Brad Boyes last year on the cheap. Peter Regin and PM Bouchard this year on the cheap. Two very talented – and injury prone – players. If they both struggle or get hurt, the downside is low. New York has some young players who may be ready to play. And if one or both of them can contribute in the top nine, the Islanders once again have outsmarted the market.


I love the idea of Bouchard on the top line with Tavares and Moulson. He's a bit like Parenteau – cerebral, skilled, and a phenomenal passer.


Regin has top six upside but he hasn't played much hockey in recent years. He starts as a depth forward. He was, at one time, a player I was quite bullish on. If nothing else, that should tell you that I sometimes miss on my projections. Or maybe Regin finds his game once again on Long Island?


The choice is yours….


11. Matt Fraser will be a great scorer in Boston for a long time. It won't be this season, though. The Bruins are set up front, and barring any injuries Fraser will spend most of the season in Providence.


Here's a good read on him.


12. Brent Burns is going to start this season at forward. This is great news for his fantasy owners, provided he maintains his 'D' eligibility. I could see a 20-25 goal, 45-50 point season for Burns up front (with lots of hits). Great production for a defenseman, but not for a winger.


13. I'll be shocked if Marek Hrivik isn't on the New York Rangers opening night roster. Big and strong winger with a ton of skill. He has had a very impressive development camp for the Rangers this year too.


14. The fun really begins for Dave Nonis – Cody Franson, Joe Colborne, Nazem Kadri, and Carl Gunnarsson all need new contracts. The Leafs chose to keep JM Liles around, which means that there will be limited minutes (and dollars) to allocate to any more defensemen. Could Franson be made available, perhaps?


15. Here's a link to analysis of every major signing and trade that has occurred over the past few days. Proud of the work we have done here to churn out instant (and quality) fantasy hockey analysis, and we have had a few of the busiest days in the history of the website thanks to you guys.





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