With free agency beginning on Friday at 12:00 pm Eastern, many big-name and star players will be on the market. This article isn’t necessarily about that. Instead, the crux of the idea behind this post is that this free agency, more than perhaps any other before it, the festivities will include some absolute bargains.
The idea is to take a look at which players can give teams the most production for the least amount of money, while teams like the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators spend because they can. Franchises in cities like Vegas, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Tampa, Washington, St. Louis, Montreal and Toronto each have around $5 million dollars or less (in some cases, much less) to spend. Meaning, if they want to sign any of the free agents on the market, they’ll have to get creative.
They may be looking at one of these five players:
1. Alex Galchenyuk
Current team and salary: Minnesota Wild, $4.9 million.
Galchenyuk will most likely be looking for stability this offseason after going through four teams in three years. Drafted 3rd overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, he’s not seen the type of success most would have hoped he’d have, including himself.
In his rookie season, he finished in the top 10 in all three offensive categories among rookies and 6th overall in rookie points. After his entry-level contract expired he signed a two-year, $5.6 million dollar contract with the Canadiens. He then proceeded to record 56 points finishing second only behind Max Pacioretty.
On July 5th, 2017, he signed a three-year contract for $14.7 million. That season he recorded 51 points before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi. He played 72 games and recorded 19 goals and 22 assists before being traded again to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Once he arrived in Pittsburgh his production slid to five goals and 17 assists in only 45 games (he missed six weeks with a broken hand.) At the 2020 trade deadline, he was traded again.
It’s not a stretch to say that Galchenyuk will likely be willing to take a smaller contract to find a fit that might last more than a few months.
2. Erik Haula
Current team and salary: Florida Panthers, $2.75 million.
One upside that could make Haula attractive to a lot of teams is that he can play multiple forward positions and although his production has dropped in the last couple of seasons he is only two seasons removed from a 55 point campaign.
A 2009 draftee, he was selected in the 7th round (182nd overall) by the Minnesota Wild where he spent four seasons before being exposed in the 2017 NHL expansion draft. He signed a three-year $8.25 million dollar contract with Vegas and played two seasons with the team before becoming a cap casualty.
He was moved to the Carolina Hurricanes for prospect Nicolas Roy and a 5th round draft pick. He posted 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 41 games, but was traded again at the 2020 trade deadline for Vincent Trocheck.
Haula will likely appeal to many teams as he is a good versatile forward that can play at center and the wing.
3. Bobby Ryan
Unrestricted free agent (bought out)
Ryan was drafted 2nd overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2005 where he played six seasons, four of which he scored 30+ goals in. He was traded to the Ottawa Senators in 2013.
In 2014 he signed a new seven-year $50.75 million dollar contract extension. He played in the 2015 NHL all-star game, then he began to struggle. He only recording 25 points in 62 games, after dealing with multiple injuries. As things grew worse for the forward, during the 2019-2020 season, he missed three months while in rehab for an alcohol addiction.
His first game back he scored a hat trick and when the season was all said and done, he was awarded the Bill Masterson memorial trophy. Not long after, he was placed on unconditional waivers, bought out of his contract, and headed towards free agency.
Ryan has said he’d like to sign with his hometown Philadelphia Flyers, but if he’s given a solid deal in free agency, he’s probably going to take the best fit in order to keep his career resurgence on track.
4. Ron Hainsey
Current team and salary: Ottawa Senators
Hainsey would be a good fit for any team looking for someone to help their young players as a leader in the locker room.
He was drafted 13th overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, but later claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005. He stayed for three seasons until he signed a five- year $27.5 million dollar contract with the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets).
It took him nearly 16 years and 907 games before he played in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game and in 2017 he won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins. At his age, his career could be over but he will likely look for an opportunity to win again before sailing off into the sunset.
5. Tyson Barrie
Current team and salary: Toronto Maple Leafs
After a disappointing season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are plenty who doubt Tyson Barrie still has the tools that made him a star offensive defenseman in Colorado. He’s looking to prove people wrong.
A decade-long career has led him to a point where he might be willing to sign a short-term “show me” deal with a team that will help him elevate his numbers if deployed to maximize his strengths.
He’s one of a few bigger-name targets on this list, but teams really looking for a big-name defenseman will likely look to other players first, then cirlce back to Barrie if they’re interested at all.
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