7 Bargain Free Agents Available Your NHL Team Should Sign
Most of the best available players were quickly signed after the NHL's free-agent market opened at noon ET on Oct. 9. However, several free agents remain available who could fit in well on most rosters.
Among the noteworthy forwards still unsigned include winger Corey Perry, center Erik Haula, and defensemen include such notables as Sami Vatanen.
With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million and a number of clubs carrying limited salary-cap space, these players could be signed to very affordable contracts.
Here's a look at seven players who could become bargain free-agent signings.
Andreas Athanasiou became an unrestricted free agent after the Edmonton Oilers declined to make him a qualifying offer. The 26-year-old forward could use that as motivation for a bounce-back performance following a disappointing 2019-20 campaign.
Following a career-best 30-goal, 54-point season in 2018-19, Athanasiou struggled through last season. Injuries limited the speedy winger to 10 goals and 24 points in 46 games with the Detroit Red Wings. Shipped to the Edmonton Oilers at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, he managed just two points in nine regular-season games and was held scoreless in four playoff contests.
A swift-skating two-way forward who can play center or either wing, Athanasiou could be a cost-effective pickup for teams seeking speed and versatility. His previous contract was a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $3 million. He could end up on a one-year, "show-me" deal for $1.5 million.
A restricted free agent, Anthony Duclair became an unrestricted free agent when the Ottawa Senators decided not to tender him a qualifying offer after contract talks fell through. The 25-year-old left winger completed a one-year, $1.65 million contract.
A natural scorer who can skate on either wing, Duclair had a promising NHL rookie campaign in 2015-16 with 20 goals and 44 points in 81 games with the Arizona Coyotes. He struggled over the next three seasons, bouncing from the Coyotes to the Chicago Blackhawks to the Columbus Blue Jackets before the Senators acquired him on Feb. 23, 2019.
Duclair tallied 23 goals and 40 points in 66 games last season, though he netted just nine points in his last 26 games. Still, he showed enough offensive spark that he could be attractive to clubs in the market for an affordable scorer. Given the flattened salary cap and the second-half drop-off in his production, he could end up with a deal similar to what he had with the Senators last season.
After a disappointing stint with the Nashville Predators, Mikael Granlund is seeking a new NHL home on the open market. The 28-year-old forward is coming off a three-year, $17.25 million contract.
A skilled playmaker who can skate at center or on the wing, Granlund enjoyed five 40-plus point seasons from 2013-14 through 2018-19 with the Minnesota Wild. Traded to Nashville at the February 2019 trade deadline, he struggled to replicate his offensive production with the Predators, netting 30 points in 63 games last season and being held to one assist in four playoff games.
Granlund could benefit from skating with a club that can make the most of his offensive skills. He should land with a team willing to gamble that a change of scenery will help him regain his form. Under the current economic conditions, he could get a one-year, $2 million contract.
After playing for four NHL teams since 2016-17, Erik Haula is seeking his fifth club on the open market. The 29-year-old center completed a three-year, $8.25 million contract.
Haula is a versatile forward who can also play on the wing. He has solid offensive skills while his speed also makes him a good penalty killer. He netted a career-high 29 goals and 55 points in 2017-18 with the Vegas Golden Knights, but injuries have hampered his performance. He split last season between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, netting 12 goals and 24 points in 48 games.
A lack of skilled centers in this year's free-agent market could make Haula enticing for clubs seeking reasonably priced, short-term depth. One of them could come calling with a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
Bought out by the Anaheim Ducks on June 19, 2019, Corey Perry signed a one-year contract on July 1 with the Dallas Stars. The deal paid the veteran right wing a $1.5 million base salary with $1.75 million in performance bonuses.
Perry won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, as well as the Maurice Richard and Hart Memorial Trophies in 2011. By the time he signed with the Stars, however, he was considered past his prime. Seeing checking-line duty, he netted five goals and 21 points in 57 regular-season games.
During the 2020 playoffs, however, the 35-year-old winger proved he could still rise to the occasion. He netted five goals (including a game-winner in overtime) and nine points in 27 games during the Stars' run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Perry could be a good addition to a playoff contender seeking an experienced, agitating winger with leadership skills on their bottom-six forward lines. In a normal year, his performance last season could earn him a slight raise to around $2.5 million in base salary on a one-year deal. In this year's market, he could be agreeable to a similar contract as the one he had in 2019-20.
After a 17-goal, 35-point performance last season with the Arizona Coyotes, Carl Soderberg became an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9. The 35-year-old center is coming off a five-year, $23.75 million contract.
A big-bodied, two-way forward who can skate at center or wing, the 6'3", 210-pound Soderberg has reached or exceed 40 points four times in the last seven seasons. He was on pace to do so again in 2019-20 until COVID-19 derailed the regular-season schedule.
Despite his age, Soderberg would be a solid addition for clubs in need of a third-line center with decent offensive skills. He won't land another long-term deal worth $4.75 million annually under the current economic climate. It wouldn't be surprising if he ends up on a one-year, $2 million deal.
Sami Vatanen spent last season split between the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes. The 29-year-old defenseman is hitting the free-agent market after completing a four-year, $19.5 million contract.
A skillful blueliner, Vatanen's netted 20-plus points in six of the last seven seasons. He's also been sidelined by injuries throughout his career, never playing more than 71 games in a season.
Despite his injury history, Vatanen's experience and puck-moving abilities could draw interest from clubs seeking help on the blue line. He won't get another deal paying him $4.875 million per season as he got on his last contract but could be a worthwhile signing on a one-year, $2 million deal.
Salary info via Cap Friendly.