For part one of our look at UFAs for next season, we will look at the players available who might be considered in the lowest tier. I’ve broken the players into four separate tiers, with the fourth being replacement level or slightly above, tier three being above replacement level, tier two being solid top-nine forwards or top-six defencemen, and tier one being the cream of the crop. We will be focusing on 30 players in total, all at or below the age of 30.
Carpenter didn’t see any action in the playoffs with Vegas, so it might be an indication that they are moving on from him for next season if Erik Haula is healthy and/or Cody Glass is ready. Coming off his first one-way contract at $650,000, he is probably looking for a two or three-year one-way contract in July. He is a center who can win his fair share of face offs (52.6%), be physical (126 hits in 68 GP), and chip in with 15-25 points. He’s not going to break the bank for any team adding him in free agency.
After being bought out by Minnesota on June 30, 2018, on a five-year deal with an AAV of $4.6 million, Ennis was signed to the league minimum of $650,000 a week later. With 12 goals and six assists in 51 games and two more assists in five playoff games, he turned out to be a fairly good signing for Toronto. The question remains, will he be anything more than a replacement-level player on any other team? If I were a GM in the NHL, I’m not sure I would take a chance on a small offensive player on the fourth line who hasn’t put up more than 22 points in the past four seasons on anything more than another one-year deal.
Agostino got his first chance to stick in the NHL for more than a handful of games and was picked up on waivers by New Jersey, where he ended up playing 27 games and producing four goals and 9 assists, after putting up 11 points in 36 games with Montreal. The 26-year-old Yale graduate has proven he can score in the AHL and is looking for his first one-way NHL contract. He would be a good cheap addition for any team with very little risk.
The Bruins are set for a few years at center for the top three lines with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Charlie Coyle, and that leaves Acciari to center the fourth line if they re-sign him. He is a high-energy player who hits a lot (221 hits in 72 GP) and will chip in 15-20 points per year. Coming off a two-year contract with an AAV of $725k, he is probably looking for longer term and more money, and might not find it in Boston as they still have David Backes or Trent Frederic who could fill the role.
Even though Hathaway had a fine season heading into unrestricted free agency with 11 goals and 8 assists in 76 games with Calgary, there are a few warning signs. His shooting % rose to 14.3 from 5.9 but his shots per game decreased so he will be hard pressed to break ten goals again. His PDO of 103.7 ties in with the unsustainability of his shooting %. It’s interesting to note that his WAR (according to www.evolving-hockey.com) is the highest of the tier four group at plus 1.1 for this past season.
In Paajarvi’s ninth season since he was drafted 10th overall in 2009 by Edmonton, he broke 10 goals for the second time, the first being his rookie year of 15 goals in 2010-2011. For all his size and speed, he has never been able to translate his pedigree into NHL success after his rookie year, and at 28 years of age is still a frustrating player to watch. Will Ottawa or another team take a chance on him next season, or will he head back to the SHL or even the KHL?
Winnipeg is up against the salary cap for next season and will have to make some pretty big decisions going forward. Tanev, coming off a salary of $1.15 million, might be too rich for them. What does he offer other teams for a salary that will most likely be twice that of the league minimum? He had a very good past season with 14 goals and 15 assists and 278 hits, all career highs. He kills penalties, skates very well, and can move up to the third line if needed. His play tailed off in the last quarter of the season where he only managed one goal in his last 18 games, otherwise he might have been reaching for 20 goals. There is a good chance that another team will offer him two or three years above $1.5 million per.
Everything seems to have fallen apart for Simmonds this past season. He was traded to Nashville with the hope of providing them with a spark in the playoffs, but he only managed a goal and two assists in 17 games and then only dressed in two playoff games (injured) before Nashville was eliminated. Coming off a five-year contract that averaged $3.975 million, there is no doubt that a team will take a chance and sign him to a multi-year contract and hope that he might rebound. This will be his third year in a row of diminishing returns, all while still getting tremendous opportunities to succeed on the power play. He will be 31 years old next season and it will be very interesting on July 1st to see who signs him and for how much.
Not many players have the distinction of being traded twice in one season, but Hagelin now does. He did click in Washington where he was able to put up 11 points in 20 games, but managed only two goals and six assists in 38 games in both LA and Pittsburgh before that. With his blazing speed, Hagelin had generated more than two shots per game every season until this past one where he dipped to 1.71 shots/g. He might have to settle for a one-year contract and hope to get his career back on track at 30 years old.
The player breakdown will be nine tier-4, seven tier-3, nine tier-2 and five tier-1 players. I will do one tier each week for the next four weeks. It’s going to be a very interesting off-season as Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Winnipeg, Calgary, San Jose, and Vegas will need to alter their rosters significantly to get under the salary cap next season.