NHL Free Agent Prediction – Left Wing Edition

The Free Agents

Unrestricted

  • Patrick Marleau, 37: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $6,666,666
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with San Jose:
      • 82 regular season games: 27 goals, 19 assists, +4 rating, 16 powerplay points, 14.2 S%, 51.4 CF%
      • 6 playoff games: 3 goals, 1 assist, -1 rating, 25.0 S%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • I think there are certainly teams that will have interest in the veteran winger, especially considering he has been one of the most consistent goalscorers in the league.  However, Marleau has played his entire career with the Sharks and he will likely take less money to stay in San Jose than he would earn on the open market.  San Jose should have interest in him as well because his 27 goals would be very difficult for them to replace.
      • I feel confident that Marleau returns to San Jose along with Joe Thornton on the same deal as Thornton, which was 2 years with an AAV of $4 million.
  • Patrick Sharp, 35: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $5,900,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Dallas:
      • 48 regular season games: 8 goals, 10 assists, -22 rating, 1 powerplay point, 1 shorthanded point, 5.5 S%, 51.5 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • This past season was a difficult one for Sharp as he missed nearly half the season with two concussions and had to undergo season-ending hip surgery at the end of March.  It will be interesting to see what kind of interest he draws from teams this offseason and will have to prove that he is healthy enough to be productive.  I think that if he is healthy, Montreal, Colorado, Winnipeg, Columbus, Carolina, Buffalo, and Vegas could all have interest in Sharp.  Sharp is still just one season removed from scoring 20 goals and could bring solid production to a team.
      • I think that Sharp will sign with Montreal on a 1 year deal worth $3 million but could be loaded with performance bonuses.
  • Chris Kunitz, 37: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $3,850,000
    • 2016-17 stats, all with Pittsburgh:
      • 71 regular season games: 9 goals, 20 assists, Even Rating, 5 powerplay points, 6.7 S%, 50.1 CF%
      • 20 playoff games: 2 goals, 9 assists, +6 rating, 7.1 S%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • I think that there is a small chance that Kunitz actually retires this offseason as he may not want to move his family after playing in Pittsburgh for the past seven full seasons.  There really isn’t a place for him on the Penguins roster next season with all of their young players currently on the NHL roster plus prospects currently playing in the minors.  Kunitz still has a lot to bring to a good team as he is tough, hard on the forecheck, and generally plays a smart type of hockey.  I could see Kunitz wanting to play in Calgary, Edmonton, or Winnipeg as he is from Saskatchewan and those teams would get him close to where he was raised.  All three of those teams should be competitive next season and would also allow Kunitz the opportunity to play for another Stanley Cup.
      • If Kunitz doesn’t retire this offseason, I think that he will sign with Calgary on a 2 year deal with an AAV of $2 million.
  • Thomas Vanek, 33: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $1,500,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Detroit and Florida
      • 68 regular season games: 17 goals, 31 assists, -5 rating, 14 powerplay points, 12.8 S%, 48.8 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Vanek may have salvaged his career by choosing to play in Detroit on a one-year deal.  He scored nearly as many goals and posted nearly the same amount of points in 48 games with Detroit as he did in 74 games with Minnesota last season.  At this point in his career, Vanek is not an every situation player but is very skilled on the powerplay and is still an excellent goalscorer.  He should have opportunities to play next season. I think that there could be a number of teams who need what Vanek can offer, including Montreal (but won’t as a result of how poorly his time went there before), possibly Ottawa, Detroit, and Calgary, plus all of the teams with a lot of cap space.
      • I think that Vanek will return to Detroit since he had so much success there but will get a multi-year deal this go around.  I am predicting that he signs a 3 year deal worth $2.5 million per season.
  • Jiri Hudler, 33: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $2,000,000
    • 2016-17 stats, all with Dallas:
      • 32 regular season games: 3 goals, 8 assists, -3 rating, 1 powerplay point, 11.1 S%, 48.4 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Hudler missed significant time this season as a result of an illness that kept him out of the lineup for all but 32 games. This greatly impacted his ability to be an effective hockey player and he was unable to produce at levels he has throughout his career.  There is a good chance that his down season was the direct result of this illness as most of his numbers align with his career norms, including shooting percentage and Corsi For.  I think that he will have teams who are interested in signing him given his ability to score.  I think that Calgary, Montreal, Detroit, Carolina, New Jersey, Arizona, Chicago, and Winnipeg could all be interested in him.  Either way, I feel confident that teams will only want to offer him a one-year deal in order to ensure that he is healthy and can still produce.
      • I think that he will sign a 1 year, $1.5 million contract with Calgary to skate on their third line.  His best seasons were with the Flames and a return there could help him find his game once again.
  • Dwight King, 27: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $1,950,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Los Angeles and Montreal
      • 80 regular season games: 9 goals, 7 assists, -2 rating, 8.2 S%, 50.3 CF%
      • 6 playoff games: 0 points, -1 rating
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • This will most likely be King’s only opportunity to sign a long-term deal based on the type of player he is.  He is a tough forward who plays a big game that can still be found in the Western Conference.  If King can use his size to develop into more of a net-front presence he can be a very good piece on a good team.  I think that Arizona, Colorado, Edmonton, and Detroit could all have interest in King.
      • I believe that he will end up signing a deal similar to the one Jimmy Hayes signed with the Bruins.  The two are similar players with Hayes being slightly more productive.  That deal was for 3 years, $6.9 million and I think that King gets a 4 year deal with an AAV of $2.3 million.  I predict that he will sign with Colorado.
  • Viktor Stalberg, 31: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $1,500,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, split between Carolina and Ottawa:
      • 75 regular season games: 11 goals, 5 assists, -9 rating, 2 powerplay points, 2 shorthanded points, 10.9 S%, 50.1 CF%
      • 17 playoff games: 0 goals, 2 assists, -8 rating
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Although Stalberg most likely will never be the same player who scored 22 goals with the Blackhawks during the 2011-12 season, he was still valuable this season with the Hurricanes and Senators.  In the playoffs, Stalberg was important for Ottawa and was very good on the forecheck and cycling the puck.  I think that with the way he played this season, Stalberg could garner interest from Ottawa, Carolina, Buffalo, Detroit, and Montreal.
      • I think that Ottawa liked the way Stalberg played with them enough to offer him a contract for next season.  I feel that he may be offered a multi-year contract with other teams but the Senators are probably only comfortable offering him a one-year deal since they have to re-sign a lot of players next offseason.  I think the two sides agree to a 1 year deal worth $1.5 million.
  • Kris Versteeg, 31: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $950,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Calgary:
      • 69 regular season games: 15 goals, 22 assists, -3 rating, 16 powerplay points, 11.0 S%, 47.8 CF%
      • 4 playoff games: 1 goal, 3 assists, -2 rating, 1 powerplay point, 8.3 S%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Versteeg had to sign a one-year deal worth under $1 million after coming off a contract where he earned $4.4 million per season.  He played very well under this contract and had one of the lowest cost per point marks in the league this season. He also played well enough to have earned a multi-year this offseason.  I think that Calgary will be interested in bringing Versteeg back and he will also get interest from Buffalo, Montreal, New Jersey, and Winnipeg.  Versteeg has a lot of playoff experience that would be beneficial to a young, contending team.
      • I think that Calgary brings Versteeg back on a 4 year deal with an AAV of $2.5 million.

Restricted

  • Ondrej Palat, 26: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $3,333,333
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Tamp Bay:
      • 75 regular season games: 17 goals, 35 assists, +8 rating, 15 powerplay points, 10.5 %, 53.1 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Palat did the Lightning a solid by accepting a short-term bridge contract with his expiring deal.  That was a three-year deal worth $10 million.  He is now 26 years old and his upcoming contract is most likely going to be his only chance to sign a big contract that carries him through his prime years. In an era of low scoring, Palat’s output is about as consistent as they come, always around the 20 goal mark and good for between 50 and 60 points.  There is certainly a chance that Palat is traded on Draft day since the Lightning are almost guaranteed to trade one of Palat, Tyler Johnson, or Jonathan Drouin.  I think that the Lightning want to keep Palat as he is one of their proven scorers and has put in his time with the franchise.
      • I predict that he will re-sign with Tampa and that he will negotiate a long contract for himself.  He is deserving of said contract, especially when you look at other players who have come off bridge deals, including Loui Eriksson and Corey Perry.  Palat isn’t the same caliber of player as Perry but is pretty comparable to Eriksson.  The Lightning gave Alex Killorn a seven year deal last offseason and he wasn’t the proven offensive producer that Palat is.  I think that the two sides come together on a 7 year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million.  This gives Palat a significant raise while also coming in lower than what he would receive on the open market, so giving the Lightning a discount.  It also pays him slightly more than Alex Killorn, which is important because Palat is a better player.
  • Jonathan Drouin, 22: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $894,167
    • 6/15: Traded to Montreal and re-signed for 6 years with an AAV of $5.5 million
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Tampa Bay:
      • 73 regular season games: 21 goals, 32 assists, -13 rating, 26 powerplay points, 11.5 S%, 52.7 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • I think that the only way Drouin is playing with the Lightning next season is if he agrees to a short-term, bridge deal with a low cap hit.  Drouin has had one good season in the NHL and that has come after a lot of issues last season when he didn’t show up to Tampa’s AHL affiliate immediately after being sent down.  His play this season has certainly raised his earning ability but I seriously doubt that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will be interested in paying Drouin market value (in the $4-$5 million range) for one good season.  I actually think that there is a real strong chance he is traded on Draft Day and potentially get a package of picks and prospects or an established defenseman in return.  I could easily see this becoming a sign-and-trade with a team like Dallas for their 3rd overall pick or with Anaheim for one of their defensemen.
      • If Drouin returns to the Lightning I think he will get a contract similar to the bridge deals given to Palat and Tyler Johnson at 3 years, $10 million.  If he is signed and then traded, I think that another team could sign him to a 6 year deal with an AAV of $4 million.  He would be an excellent fit in Dallas as the Stars will be looking to replace the production that is going out the door.
  • Tomas Tatar, 26: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $2,750,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Detroit:
      • 82 regular season games: 25 goals, 21 assists, -8 rating, 8 powerplay points, 15.1 S%, 51.9 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • I think that the Tatar situation is one of the most intriguing ones on the RFA market this offseason.  He hasn’t quite developed into the 30 goal scorer he looked like he would when he signed his bridge deal.  He is still quite a productive player, however, and if he were playing on a better team, perhaps his production would increase quite a bit.  I think that if Detroit GM Ken Holland is being truthful with himself and acknowledges that the Red Wings need a teardown of this roster, then Tatar’s rights should be traded this offseason. Tatar could fetch quite a bit of value on the trade market, giving Detroit a first rounder, at least, in return, plus prospects.  I could see Buffalo, Carolina, or Ottawa interested in acquiring Tatar’s rights and all three of these teams could use an influx of goalscoring and have the assets to acquire him.
      • I think regardless of where Tatar is playing next season, he will be playing on a long-term deal.  He has played on a bridge deal already and, at 26, will be seeking to capitalize on his earning potential while still in his prime.  I think that his new deal could be similar to the contract signed by Patric Hornqvist with the Predators prior to the 2013-14 season, which was for 5 years, and $4.25 million per season.  I think that with Tatar, however, his deal will be stretched out to 6 years with an AAV of $4.5 million.  If he is on a different team with more talent surrounding him, he could easily be a perennial 30 goal-scorer.
  • Marcus Foligno, 28: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $2,250,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Buffalo:
      • 80 regular season games: 13 goals, 10 assists, -1 rating, 1 shorthanded point, 13.4 S%, 47.3 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Foligno was never going to be a 30 goal scorer at the NHL level and his highest goal mark at any level was 23 with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL.  He is probably best suited on a good team’s third line.  This past season in Buffalo, he played most of his minutes on Jack Eichel’s line and if Foligno can’t produce with Eichel as his center he may just never develop into an upper level scorer.  That being said, he is still valuable and could become more productive with the new head coach Buffalo will have next season.  He is coming off a one year deal and, right now, Buffalo has no incentive to sign him to anything longer than that.
      • He will re-sign with the Sabres for 1 year, worth $2.25 million, the same deal he signed last offseason.
  • Johan Larsson, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $950,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Buffalo:
      • 36 regular season games: 6 goals, 5 assits, -7 rating, 1 powerplay point, 12.2 S%, 46.3 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Larson has yet to really exhibit the same level of scoring in the NHL as he had shown in the AHL and prior to that level even. His best season with the Sabres occurred the season before Dan Bylsma was hired and has had two down seasons under Bylsma’s leadership.  Perhaps a new head coach that gives him a chance to develop into a solid NHL level forward can tap into new talents.
      • I think that Larsson will have to settle on another one year deal with Buffalo and hopefully can settle into a specific role with the team next season.  That will designate a value for him and allow him to potentially earn a multi-year deal next offseason.  I’m predicting that he will re-sign with Buffalo on a 1 year, $1 million deal.
  • Andre Burakovsky, 22: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $894,166
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Washington:
      • 64 regular season games: 12 goals, 23 assists, +13 rating, 5 powerplay points, 10.8 S%, 55.2 CF%
      • 13 playoff games 3 goals, 3 assists, +5 rating, 11.1 S%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Burakovsky arguably had his best NHL season this year even if he didn’t surpass his career high in points.  He has developed into a very well-rounded player who has more potential to develop into and should continue seeing an increase in production as he gets moved up the lineup.  In the playoffs this season, Burakovsky was one of the Capitals’ best players and has shown that he is capable of taking over a game.  I think that there is no chance he ends up somewhere else next season and appears to be one of Washington’s core forwards as they move on from this season.
      • I think that Burakovsky will end up signing a deal very similar to the one that Evgeny Kuznetsov is coming off.  That was a 2 year, $6 million bridge contract and I think Washington and Burakovsky will agree on a two-year deal as well.  I’m predicting a 2 year, $7 million contract.  That gives Washington cap flexibility still while rewarding Burakovsky for his performance.  It also still gives him incentive to perform on this deal in order to cash in on a massive deal in two seasons.
  • Brock McGinn, 23: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $811,667
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Carolina:
      • 57 regular season games: 7 goals, 9 assists, -11 rating, 1 shorthanded point, 9.5 S%, 49.4 CF%
      • 9 regular season AHL games: 5 goals, 3 assists
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • McGinn played his first full season in the NHL this year and played largely in a depth role and never had consistent linemates.  I believe that Carolina likes the style of game he plays and should receive more responsibility next season, assuming he re-signs with them.
      • I think that McGinn should receive a multi-year deal and it will likely be something of a bridge contract.  I am predicting a 2 year, $2 million contract.
  • Micheal Ferland, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $825,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Calgary:
      • 76 regular season games: 15 goals, 10 assists, -1 rating, 4 powerplay points, 14.2 S%, 49.5 CF%
      • 4 playoff games: 0 points, -4 rating
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Ferland has now had back-to-back seasons where he has set new career highs in points.  He ended up skating most of the season on the top line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and his production should continue increasing if he stays on that line.
      • I think there are two ways these contract negotiations go: one is that Calgary wants to go as long with Ferland as he’ll agree to and lock him into a low AAV if they feel like he has more potential and can grow on that line.  The other way is that Ferland wants to go as short as possible (probably still a low AAV based on past production) and then bet on himself to increase production and cash in when his next contract expires.  I predict that they will end up agreeing on a 4 year deal with an AAV of $2.5 million.
  • Conor Sheary, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $667,500
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Pittsburgh:
      • 61 regular season games: 23 goals, 30 assists, +24 rating, 5 powerplay points, 14.9 S%, 52.5 CF%
      • 22 playoff games: 2 goals, 5 assists, -5 rating, 4.5 S%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Sheary has been better than anybody could have hoped when he signed his two-year entry deal in 2015 after playing four years at UMass.  He has somehow been better at the NHL level than he ever was at the NCAA or AHL levels.  Part of this is certainly due to him consistently playing on Sidney Crosby’s level, but even so, he is still really good and has the talents to capitalize on chances and to set up scoring chances for Crosby. It is already looking as though Sheary is going to be one of the most important forwards for the Penguins during the Crosby era.
      • I think that this contract negotiation is another situation where both sides will want to work something out but that each side could have different goals with the deal.  I have read that perhaps that Penguins will want to sign Sheary to a shorter deal in order to get more of a confirmation of his abilities.  However, I think that may force the Penguins to pay him a lot per season, which can hurt a team that is always tight against the cap ceiling.  What I would do is try to get Sheary to agree to as long of a contract as possible with the idea that they can get him at a lower AAV.  I wouldn’t be concerned with going too long with Sheary since he will most likely play on Crosby’s wing as long as the two are in Pittsburgh together.  I think that Sheary could have interest in signing a longer deal because he would have long-term security plus his production is likely to stay high if he is playing with Crosby.  I predict that the two sides will agree on a 4 year deal with an AAV of $4 million.  This contract would allow Sheary to sign an even bigger contract at age 29, plus it protects the Penguins to an extent.  The only downside for them is that if he continues to develop and his scoring production increases, which it should since he should see more powerplay time, then it may be very difficult to re-sign him when his next deal expires.
  • Viktor Arvidsson, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $631,667
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Nashville:
      • 80 regular season games: 31 goals, 30 assists, +16 rating, 9 powerplay points, 7 shorthanded points, 12.6 S%, 55.0 CF%
      • 22 playoff games: 3 goals, 10 assists, +3 rating, 6.1 S%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Arvidsson broke out this season by scoring 31 goals and 61 points in his second NHL season.  He played most of the season, and the playoffs, on Nashville’s top line consisting of he, Ryan Johansen, and Filip Forsberg and is already one of the team’s most trusted scorers.  His production this season is his highest output of his career, going all the way back to when he was 17 and playing in Sweden.  He will absolutely be in Nashville again next season as he is one of the Predators’ best offensive threats.
      • Nashville GM David Poile could be in a difficult place with Arvidsson this offseason.  Arvidsson has just one season of serious production under his belt and therefore Poile may have some reservations about giving him a long-term deal. However, if it turns out that he is an upper level NHL scorer and they agree to a bridge contract, the Predators may be stuck giving him a Filip Forsberg-type deal (6 x $6 million) when his next deal expires.  Nashville has shown that they are willing to give long deals to players coming off their entry level deals.  They gave Calle Jarnkrok six years after coming off three seasons that, in total, didn’t equal Arvidsson’s production this season.  I predict that the two sides agree on a 4 year deal with an AAV of $4 million.  This contract allows Arvidsson to earn a very good contract after just one productive season while also having the opportunity to cash in again.  For the Predators, this locks him down for some of his most productive years and to a manageable contract while the roster should be at its most competitive.  It also means that he will still be an RFA when the deal expires, giving Nashville an advantage in negotiations.
  • Jordan Martinook, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $612,500
    • 2016-17 stats, all with Arizona:
      • 77 regular season games: 11 goals, 14 assists, -8 rating, 2 powerplay points, 3 shorthanded points, 10.1 S%, 46.0 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • This contract for Martinook will actually be his third deal, but just his first since making his NHL debut.  He has been fairly productive for the Coyotes the past two seasons, increasing his point totals each season, while mostly playing on the third line with not so talented linemates.  He has shown that he is capable of playing in every situation, gaining ice time on the penalty kill and powerplay.  Martinook has certainly earned a new contract and an increase in ice time and should be a depth forward for the foreseeable future for the Coyotes.
      • Martinook still probably isn’t productive enough to have earned a long-term deal but should receive a raise from his $612,500 contract this season.  I predict that they will agree to a 3 year, $3 million deal.
  • Austin Watson, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit – $575,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Nashville:
      • 77 regular season games: 5 goals, 12 assists, +14 rating, 1 shorthanded point, 5.6 S%, 44.3 CF%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Watson is a gritty, intense third/fourth line forward who has made a name for himself in this year’s playoffs.  He is very hard on the forecheck and makes life miserable for opposing defensemen.  There is certainly a desire on Nashville’s part to bring Watson back next season.
      • I think that there is very strong chance that the Predators want to give Watson the same deal they gave Calle Jarnkrok last offseason, which was $12 million over 6 years.  6 years is a good length for Watson since players that play his type of game typically don’t get long-term contracts.  It also allows Nashville to have a good forward locked down for his prime years and will be very cost-effective if he maintains his production and an even better deal if he develops more.

*All stats and information come from hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, capfriendly.com, and hockeyanalysis.com.

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