Ramblings: Free Agent Frenzy today; Justin Williams retires; Wennberg and Schneider bought out – October 9

Michael Clifford


Well, we've arrived. Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone!

Also, it's Free Agent Frenzy Day, I guess.

Dobber and myself will be around all day to post articles on the impact of major signings. These take some time to whip up, so we'll need more than four minutes after a signing is announced, but rest assured, we'll have your fantasy angles covered once the deals start flying in.

A couple weeks ago, I did some previews of free agency, namely teams with cap space (things have changed since) and where I think some key players may land (things have not changed much since). Anyone looking to kill some time until noon eastern… please click.


Justin Williams retired. Readers can view his statement on Twitter here.

Having written about hockey for nearly a decade, one thing I've noticed: it's not often a player lives up to their reputation. The guys who can 'play up and down the lineup' are usually just bad players being carried by good ones; 'stay-at-home' defencemen were just blue liners who couldn't skate but loved cross-checking, etc. Williams, however, was a true 200 ft. player in every sense of those words. From all the media quotes, he was a great leader for every franchise he was a part of, particularly later in his career. Here's one more cliché that he actually lived up to whereas most fail: he was a complete player.

He's one of those guys who won't get into the Hall of Fame, but anyone who's ever been associated with him knows his greatness. Congratulations to Mr. Game 7 on a wonderful career and a happy retirement.


Ian put together a list of buyouts and players that were not qualified by their teams, making them free agents. There has been a lot of news recently and that's a good summary of what's happened so far.

Of all the players not qualified – and there are some good ones – I would be looking hard at Troy Stecher. He's a right shot, he's just 26 years old, he's good in transition, and he's good defensively. At worst, he's a great bottom-pairing defenceman on a good blue line, and more likely a second-pair, number-4 defenceman on most rosters. Teams all across the league are hungry for right-shot defencemen and Stecher may not come in at a high price. That said, teams will be coveting the same players, so maybe that drives up the bidding. Either way, if he can get somewhere playing 20 minutes a night, he's back to fantasy relevance in multi-cat leagues.


One of the big storylines from the Dallas Stars' playoff run was a lack of production from Tyler Seguin. He had just two goals in 26 games and did not score in either the West Final or the Cup Final. It could be chalked up to poor shooting percentage, but we found out he was playing through a torn labrum in his hip. There's no timeline, but GM Jim Nill said rehab from surgery would take four months. If he goes that route and the league starts in early January, Seguin would miss at least the first month. Something to remember as we head to the offseason in case he does not have surgery.


A trio of Stars going to free agency



Khudobin and Perry are not surprises but Janmark is, at least to me. He turns 28 in December but has seasons of 15 and 19 goals while playing a middle-six role. He's also good defensively and can kill penalties. A guy who can score 10-15 goals playing good defence and kill penalties is valuable. Maybe he was asking too much.

Regardless, I think Janmark should find his way to a playoff roster missing that bottom-6 depth. Teams like Edmonton, Vancouver, Washington, Colorado, or even Columbus.


Following the trade from Columbus, Josh Anderson signed a seven-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens carrying an AAV of $5.5M and a partial NTC.

I’m going to go more into Anderson in a Ramblings in the next couple weeks, particularly from the fantasy perspective (we may have a long offseason ahead of us) but for right now, the idea of signing a power forward coming off a major shoulder injury when he turns 27 in the spring feels like a real bad idea. He needs to replicate his 2018-19 season, at minimum, every single year for this to be worth it.


Jesper Fast is another winger going to free agency and this is fascinating for a number of reasons.

With Lafrenière in the mix, the Rangers had Panarin-Kreider-Laffy down the left side. Too many good players are good problems to have, but it also means you're playing a first-line left winger on the third line, regardless of who it is. Yes, depth is good, but if you're forced to play one of your best forwards 14 minutes instead of 18 minutes just because you're full at one of three positions, you're losing value on that player. If feasible, moving one of those guys to the other side and having all three play in the top-6 is a good idea. To me, this screams of Pavel Buchnevich on one of the top two lines, with one of Kreider or Panarin hopping to right wing.

Fast is a good player, too. He's very good defensively and passable offensively. He and Janmark, I feel, share a lot of the same qualities. I recently compared Dominik Simon to Barclay Goodrow, but Janmark and Fast are closer, really. They kill penalties, are good defensively, and can score 10-15 goals. Again, a playoff team would do well to look here for third-line help.


Corey Crawford is also going to free agency. I guess we don't know what contract demands were, but the Hawks have about $11M to play with and still have Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik to sign. It was just weird to see the team move on from a goalie that brought them two Stanley Cups and is still good (when healthy).

Whatever Crawford's future holds, he had a great run with the 'Hawks. There are the two Cups, nearly 500 regular season games, two Jennings trophies, and three top-10 Vezina finishes. Kudos to him on his performance and resilience.


One of the big storylines out of Florida would be what they would do with their pair of top-line wingers in Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. They don't really have cap space for both, and depending on their internal cap, they may not have space for either.

At the least, Hoffman will likely not be returning to the fold. This is a big blow for the Panthers. He led their team in goals each of the last two seasons, averaging 70 points every 82 games. It is hard to replace players like that internally.

It is worth noting that Hoffman turns 31 next month. He is still valuable but his prime is behind him.


The Columbus Blue Jackets made the decision to buy out Alex Wennberg. That had been rumoured for a while but we don't often see a guy who is 25 years old (technically 26 now) get bought out from the team that drafted him. As CapFriendly pointed out on Twitter, Wennberg was 25 years old when the normal offseason would have hit back in the summer. That means his buyout only counts one-third against the cap rather than two-thirds for players 26 and older. In other words, his buyout cap hit is considerably lower – none of the next six years exceed $900k and half are under $500k – than it would be a year from now. Hard not to think this played into their reasoning.

That doesn't mean it was an easy decision. Wennberg is probably a useful bottom-6 player, they just couldn't afford to spend nearly $5M a season on a guy who is a third/fourth-line player. He'll latch on somewhere else.


Cory Schneider was bought out by the New Jersey Devils. It's a shame but he was never really the same after those injuries a few years into his Devils tenure. Sometimes, there are injuries from which players never recover. All the best to Schneider and his family on whatever comes next.


The Ottawa Senators traded away a fifth-round draft pick for Erik Gudbranson because he'll earn $1M less in real dollars than he will his cap hit and they needed to add $20M to get to the cap floor. He could actually be a play in multi-cat leagues provided the team gives him 19-20 minutes a night.


Zemgus Girgensons re-upped with the Sabres for three years at $2.2M per season. The ship has long sailed on him being a fantasy asset outside of very deep banger leagues, but he’s still good defensively and that’s worth something.


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