Capped: Cheap forwards to target

Alexander MacLean

2020-05-28

Building off last week's coverage of productive and cheap defencemen to look into for next season, this week we're going to look at the forwards. Forwards need a higher level of production than defencemen do to be relevant, and there are always more options for you, so we're going to look at a 50-point benchmark. In the shortened regular season of 2019-2020, there were only three forwards to top 50 points while under contract for $1 million or less. Yes, there were fewer games played, but there were still only nine who were pacing for 50 points in a full season. In the three seasons before that, there were 18, 22, and 19 respectively. If there are fewer forwards hitting higher offensive numbers, then being able to peg the breakout candidates who can hit those numbers will be hugely beneficial.

Moving into next year, we expect players like Elias Pettersson and Andrei Svechnikov to be able to hit 50 points without breaking sweat, they managed it last year, and it likely won't change next season. As a result, we won't go into any forwards that hit even the 40-point mark last year in order to find some players that we can buy-in on in the offseason before they become one of those precious productive and cheap forwards.

I also excluded any players whom I think will hit the 50-point mark for the first time, but they are due new contracts in the offseason that will likely be worth above $1 million annually.

Here are my top 10 outlined in three groups (not necessarily in a specific order):

 

The big guns with talent, opportunity, and track record all working in their favour:

 

Conor Garland (RW) – Arizona Coyotes

Cap Hit: $775,000 – RFA in July 2021

It feels like cheating to include Conor Garland as he barely missed my cut offs with 39 points in 68 games last season. His relative anonymity in Arizona may help keep his stock down as well. Check in with his owner to see if you can buy a 50-60-point player for the price of a 40-point player.

 

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Alexis Lafrenière (LW) – 2020 Draft Eligible

As we saw last season with Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko, getting drafted early and coming in with offensive hype doesn't guarantee that you will put up offensive numbers. However, Lafrenière is at least a full tier ahead of those two, and 50 points shouldn't be an issue for the first-year forward regardless of which team wins the right to select him first overall.

 

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Kirill Kaprizov (RW) – Minnesota Wild

Unsigned – two years of entry-level eligibility left.

Like Lafreniere, Kaprizov is expected to jump right into the NHL lineup, be given the opportunity to shine, and follow through on his potential. With two years left of entry-level eligibility remaining, and some KHL success under his belt already, the expectations are high. Anything less than 50 points out of the gate would be a disappointment. He just needs to land in the NHL instead of returning to the KHL.

 

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Sophomores looking to build on mixed results from last season:

Jack Hughes (C) – New Jersey Devils

Cap Hit: $925,000 – RFA in 2022

The first overall pick from last summer's draft only put up 21 points in 61 games, and his pace declined as the season went on. However, there is plenty of room to grow for his luck metrics, deployment, and power-play production. With some time to build muscle over a long offseason and hopefully an improved supporting cast, seeing Hughes double his points pace would be no surprise.

 

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Kappo Kakko (RW) – New York Rangers

Cap Hit: $925,000 – RFA in 2022

Like Hughes, Kakko bounced around the lineup in his rookie year, and overall his production was disappointing relative to the hype he came in with. His dynasty owners are still not likely to let him go, however in limited keeper leagues this may be your last chance to buy in on him. He has the talent to hit 50 points even without deployment alongside Artemi Panarin – with him he can go a lot higher.

 

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Kirby Dach (C) – Chicago Blackhawks

Cap Hit: $925,000 – RFA in 2022

Dach only scored 15 points last season, however this was generally felt to be more of a success than the 21 and 23 points respectively from Hughes and Kakko. Then why should Dach be a player who possibly hits 50 points next season? This is all about situation – Dach started the season playing mostly with Zach Smith and Ryan Carpenter, before playing the majority of the second half of the season with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. Both of those players slumped as well, and being a young trio, they are the kind of players that will get a lot of offensive zone starts. Dach looks to be one of those players that bucks the trend of any kind of sophomore slump, rebounding along with DeBrincat and Strome to a very successful 2020-2021 campaign.

 

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Kailer Yamamoto (RW) – Edmonton Oilers

Cap Hit: $894,166 – RFA in 2021

He plays with McDavid and Draisaitl. It really is that simple. Yamamoto has the speed and the hands to keep up with those two superstars, while not looking out of place in other aspects of his game. He put up 26 points in 27 games since getting called up for the New Year's Eve game, and there's no reason he can't keep up a pace close to that over a full season. Forget 50, I'm expecting 70-plus next season.

 

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Cody Glass (C/RW) – Vegas Golden Knights

Cap Hit: $863,333 – RFA in 2022

Glass started off well for the Golden Knights with good deployment, and five points in his first seven games, however once the forward group was healthy he was pushed down the lineup. That could be an issue next season as well, though Glass does have the talent to score without top line deployment. With a top-six slot, and some powerplay time, Glass should cruise to 50 points. However, if he is pushed down the lineup again, there will be some streaky highs and lows to deal with.

 

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Martin Necas (C/RW) – Carolina Hurricanes

Cap Hit: $863,333 – RFA in 2022

After pacing for what would have been 46 points in a full season, Necas' immediate future is looking bright. The Justin Williams return is short lived, so Necas can regain some of the PP time that was leeched away from him in the final few games. Additionally, he should see an uptick from the lowly 14 minutes a night he was getting, which should in turn show up in his scoring numbers. With Vincent Trochek now anchoring the second line centre role, the added talent should help Necas thrive on the wing.

 

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The post-hype wildcard:

Kevin Labanc (LW) – San Jose Sharks

RFA at season's end.

Having Labanc in here kind of breaks my rule about players who will probably sign for more than $1 million this offseason, however I make the rules, and I want to touch on Labanc. I mentioned him a couple of weeks back, and wanted to touch again on how he should be a value forward to buy low on. He will likely sign for more than $1 million this time, but a cap crunch and low production will keep the cost down to the point of being able to at least rival the value of other names on this list.

 

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Stay safe everyone, and if you have any article topics you are hoping to read about, give me a shout! You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean for questions, comments, or article requests.

All salary info courtesy of capfriendly, statistics are all pulled from FrozenTools.

 

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Previous Capped articles:

Taking Reader Questions on the Cap, Future Contracts, and Undrafted UFAs

 

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HOT PLAYERS

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JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 4 0 6 6
ALEXANDER RADULOV DAL 5 1 5 6
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 4 2 2 4
PAUL STASTNY VGK 6 2 4 6
BLAKE COLEMAN T.B 5 1 3 4
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14.9% NICK BONINO MATT DUCHENE MIKAEL GRANLUND
14.2% CALLE JARNKROK COLTON SISSONS AUSTIN WATSON
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