Top 10 most interesting potential UFA’s

by Tom Collins on February 1, 2016

The Top 10 most interesting potential UFA's this summer…

 

Top 10 most interesting UFAs

I use to love the free agent season. And then I got involved in cap leagues. I'm in three cap leagues this year and now I somewhat dread the free agent season. I'm near the cap in two of my leagues. I'm actually over the cap in one but am currently saved by Johan Franzen being on long-term injured reserve. In a second league, I am $2 million under. But I'll be $750,000 over once Adam McQuaid comes off injured reserve. So I'll have to drop an active body to the minors just to get under the cap. I know that's not great cap management. But larger-than-expected deals to unrestricted free agents have a way of sneaking up on you.

A lot of poolies are in the same boat. A lot of GMs go near the cap, so they need to start thinking of next year. The last thing they want is to trade a guy for cheap because they mismanaged their players' salaries. Below you'll find 10 of the most interesting upcoming free agents. Some of them may sign before July 1, and at probably two of them will get pay cuts. That's what makes them so interesting.

Here are the top 10 most interesting UFAs.

 

10. Jiri Hudler

Oh if only Hudler was a free agent last summer following his 70-point season. Nick Foligno parlayed his standout season into $5.5 million for each of the next six years. Hudler may have eclipsed that a little last summer. Instead he's probably going to be below $5 million, maybe even below $4 million this year. That's because he's 32 years old and is on pace for 10 goals and 42 points. We all expected a regression, but that is worse than expected as he is generally considered a 50-point player.

 

9. Eric Staal

Staal will definitely be taking a pay cut no matter where he signs. No one is going to pay $8.25 million to a 31-year-old centre who has been clearly deteriorating the last three seasons. Staal is on pace for 14 goals and 47 points. That would be his worst output since his rookie year in 2003-04. He is the type of guy that could still command $5-$6 million just based on his resume. That will still be an overpayment but it could be more palatable if it's only a two- or three-year deal.

 

8. Karri Ramo

Ramo is the most attractive UFA goalie on the market. Unfortunately for Ramo, there are not a lot of teams that need a number one goalie. The only one I can think of that will need a goalie is Calgary. If Ramo goes anywhere else, he'll be battling someone else for the top job. Not a good situation for poolies that need a number one goalie or for Ramo in looking for a high salary. But Ramo has been great behind a bad Calgary team. He had a bad start to the season, but since Nov. 4, he has a 15-12-1 record, a 2.33 GAA and a 0.917 save percentage.

 

7. Keith Yandle

Everyone is focusing on what Dustin Byfuglien will be commanding on the open market this year, but I think Yandle is under the free agent radar. Yandle has been impacted this year by a lack of power play time. He's still hit 50 points on three occasions, and is on pace for 43 this year. I can see him getting at least $6.5 million if he's available July 1.

 

6. Milan Lucic

This is the hardest guy to predict. Lucic plays a hard style of hockey that many fans love. He's not scared to throw his weight around and wins more fights than he loses. He's a former 30-goal guy and two-time 60-point player. But he's on pace for his second-straight sub-50 point season. He's also making $6 million, so it's hard to see him getting more than that, even on the open market.

 

5. Andrew Ladd

Rumour has the 30-year-old is asking for a six-year, $41-million deal. He will easily get that if he doesn't re-sign with the Jets. There's just too many teams that need a top-six forward and will pony up for one. Even with a lackluster 27 points this year, he does have four 20-goal seasons. On the flip side, he's only broken 60 points once in his career, so $6 million will probably end up being an overpayment.

 

4. David Backes

Someone will pay way too much for Backes simply because of his intangibles. The general manager that signs him will talk about grit and leadership, ignoring that Backes is has broken 60 points just once. But GMs can't pay enough for the locker room presence, right? I'd expect Backes to be around $6 million — he currently makes $4.5 million — but it wouldn't surprise me if he gets $7 million. Especially if the Blues have a long playoff run.

 

3. Kyle Okposo

Many think that Okposo is successful because he's John Tavares' wingman, but that simply isn't the case. Okposo delivers even when Tavares is out of the lineup. Okposo is currently a great own in cap leagues at $2.8 million. But it will be time to re-evaluate once he starts earning a minimum $5.5 million next year. Remember, Matt Moulson got a five-year, $25-million deal for being Tavares' wingman. And Okposo is much better player than Moulson.

 

2. Dustin Byfuglien

Buff is a great guy to own in most hockey pools because of his dual eligibility. I'm in a one-year pool where we start 11 forwards and just three defensemen. Buff is one of six quality dmen I own along with Mark Giordano, John Klingberg, John Carlson, Shea Weber and Shayne Gostisbehere. It's a huge relief on nights when I have four or more dmen playing that I can put Big Buff as a forward. Throw in his ability to get plenty of points, shots, hits and PIM, and in fantasy circles he's definitely worth the $55 million over eight years he's rumoured to be asking for.

 

1. Steven Stamkos

The biggest worry about Stamkos in cap leagues is that he'll be the next Jonathan Toews and not the next Patrick Kane. I don't mean playing style, but in terms of production per dollar. There's not as much worry if Stamkos gets $10.5 million a year but he's leading the league in goals and points. If he's getting that much money but he's averaging 65-70 points, then you've got a problem. Stamkos is about to get paid, and no matter how he performs, it's going to be hard to justify his contract in cap leagues.