NHL Free Agency 2011: Power Ranking the 3 Most Undervalued Unsigned RFAs
Each offseason, restricted free agents make up the minority (but still substantial amount) of the free-agent hype that surrounds the month of July.
This past season, we saw pending RFAs step up in big ways for their teams.
Some of these RFAs, like Brad Marchand (pictured above), ultimately led their team to the promise land and a Stanley Cup championship.
When talking about restricted free agents who have yet to sign, there are several key names that come to mind: bonafide defenseman Shea Weber, future franchise player Steven Stamkos or the up-and-coming defenseman Drew Doughty.
However, as we have seen through watching the playoffs, none of these players made it past the conference finals.
This slideshow will focus on the undervalued unsigned restricted free agents that stepped up for teams both during the season and others during the postseason.
1. Brad Marchand
The biggest underrated restricted free agent who is still without a contract is Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.
Marchand is a little wrecking ball out there on the ice. As shown above, Marchand is not afraid to dish out hits and throw his weight around.
But Marchand was a surprise this season on the ice.
In 20 games the previous season, Marchand had one assist.
Playing 77 games in his first full season with Boston this year, Marchand put up 21 goals and 20 assists for the B's and continued his rookie dominance in the post season with 11 goals and eight assists in the 25 playoff games.
Not too bad for a rookie I'd say.
Marchand was also a pain in the side of Roberto Luongo and the Canucks in the Stanely Cup Finals as he was lights out in scoring.
Marchand's cap hit (bonuses included) is currently a mere $821,667.
My only question for everyone reading this is why the Bruins decided to sign RFA Adam Mcquaid before signing Marchand. The Bruins have (per CapGeek.com) a little over $8 million to spend in cap space, and Marchand will command at least $2 million a year for maybe a three to four-year contract.
Better lock him up quick.
2. Teddy Purcell
The only reason Tampa Bay's Teddy Purcell is not No. 1 on my list is that his team fell short to Marchand's Bruins in the conference finals in seven games.
But if you feel like he deserves a better rank in this article than Marchand, you can let me know in the comments section.
Having said that, Purcell was simply on fire this season.
In his first full NHL season, Purcell scored 17 goals and put up a sizable 51 points.
He did not disappoint in the playoffs either, putting up 17 points in 18 games.
Unfortunately for Purcell, the Bruins got the last laugh in Game 7 and went to the Cup Finals instead of Purcell's Lightning.
Purcell's cap hit this year was only $750,000, and he will probably make close to $2.5 million a year in his next contract.
This is another RFA (cough Steven Stamkos) that Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman will not want to let get away.
3. Blake Comeau
The New York Islanders are well known as of late for their failure on the ice.
Finishing last in the Atlantic Division for the last four seasons in a row, the Islanders do not have much to be excited about.
However, Blake Comeau is one thing they have to be happy about in regards to their future.
Comeau played a career high 77 games this season (previously his high was 61), and as a result of the increased games that he played, Comeau put up 24 goals and totaled 46 points.
At a $650,000 cap hit, that is pretty reasonable, especially for the production that the Islanders got out of Comeau this season.
Islanders GM Garth Snow has faced a lot of disappointment in his tenure as GM, but this has to be a bright spot for him.
Better hurry up and lock this guy up too for about $2 million a season.
Restricted Free Agents Are a Gamble
Since the Leafs traded for and subsequent signing of Phil Kessel (who was at the time an RFA) GMs have been more careful in regards to trading for RFAs.
Burke wanted to get Kessel and ultimately succeeded, but in the process he forfeited two first-round picks and a second-round pick to sign Kessel to a five-year, $27 million deal.
Kessel has panned out well enough—32 goals and 64 points last season—but without a supporting cast in the past two years, Kessel has struggled to be the player that he could be with better talent around him.
Marchand, Purcell and Comeau would all be matched on offer sheets they received, unless they were over the $3 million mark, but GMs are now more hesitant to use out offer sheets because of the compensation they would owe teams as a part of the offer sheets.
It will be interesting to see if they are included in the next collective bargaining agreement, but it will be more interesting to see if these respective GMs are wise enough to sign Marchand, Purcell and Comeau to longer term deals within the next week or so.