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NHL 21 Free Agents Still Looking for Teams - Who Would You Sign?

NHL 21

NHL 21 Free Agents Still Looking for Teams - Who Would You Sign?

The chaos of the NHL’s free agency period has died down considerably in the last couple days, but one big offensive name and one just big human still remain on the open market. Furthermore, there are still some notable names remaining on the board as the NHL’s free agent signing period gets closer to being a month old. Could the NHL team you root for use one of these players? How about the franchise mode team you’re using in NHL 21?

Let’s take a look at some of the players who are still out there.

All salary cap and contract numbers provided by capfriendly.com

NHL 21 Free Agents – Potential Difference Makers

Mike Hoffman – Winger – Expiring Base Salary: $5,650,000

It’s hard to find many teams that couldn’t use Hoffman’s consistent offense in the lineup. During the course of the six years that he has been a regular NHL player, the soon to be 31-year-old forward ranks 16th in goals across the entire NHL. The players above him are basically the NHL’s elite and are almost all working on expensive, long-term deals. Hoffman’s success hasn’t just come from a few outlying seasons either. Hoffman has scored at least 26 goals in five of those six seasons, with his fewest goal total being a 22 goal campaign in 2017-18. He reached a new career high of 36 in 2018-19, before racking up 29 goals in a shortened season this year.

Armed with one of the most dangerous shots in the NHL, Hoffman could certainly help most of the power plays in the league and become a valuable hired gun on a one-year deal. That is, of course, if he actually goes that route and tries to build up his value for another free agency run in 2021.

Hoffman’s market may be strong, but with teams trying to manage how they spend their money more carefully this offseason, it’s still an extremely complicated signing. Additionally, a lot of the available money around the league has already been spent, meaning teams may have to make a trade to allow them the cap flexibility their franchise needs in order to bring in Mike Hoffman.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Vancouver Canucks – Current Cap Space: $1,048,122
  • Florida Panthers – Current Cap Space:  $11,563,712
  • Boston Bruins – Current Cap Space: $6,657,686

Focusing on the three rumored landing spots above, Hoffman re-signing with Florida seems like the easiest to accomplish. The Panthers have an abundance of cap space that makes bringing back Hoffman a distinct possibility. It makes further sense because over the past two seasons Hoffman’s 65 goals rank first on the team and his 129 points rank third. Additionally, the Panthers have already lost top six scoring winger Evgenii Dadonov to the Ottawa Senators, so with a glaring hole at the wing position the Panthers can ill afford to lose Hoffman too.

Anthony Duclair – Winger – Expiring Base Salary: $1,650,000

The former third-round pick of the New York Rangers has bounced around the league in his six NHL seasons. Duclair has played for New York, Arizona, Chicago, Columbus and Ottawa. However, many believed that Duclair had found a potential home in Ottawa. He was happy to be one of the faces of the rebuild and made his first career All-Star Game in 2020, which was his only full season with the Senators. Duclair twice has hit the 20-goal mark, once last season, and in his 2015-2016 rookie season. Furthermore, Duclair is also thought of as one of the fastest skaters in the league and recently placed sixth in the fastest skater competition at All-Star Weekend.

Now, what makes this free agent all that more interesting is that after scoring a career high 23 goals this past season, Duclair has opted to represent himself in contract negotiations — against the recommendation of Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion who indicated that a sizable raise was offered to Duclair before getting to this point.  Still just 25, Duclair becomes a very interesting addition to the open market. But having bounced around the league already due to inconsistency, it’s tough to tell how strong his market may be.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Nashville Predators – Current Cap Space: $12,942,190
  • Florida Panthers – Current Cap Space:  $11,563,712
  • Ottawa Senators – Current Cap Space: $20,702,501

It’s hard to imagine the Ottawa Senators, sitting with that much cap space, would not be seriously looking into bringing back their leading goal scorer from last season. The Senators did bring in offensive winger Evgenii Dadonov to I guess essentially replace Duclair’s production, but Ottawa can use all of the offensive help they can get. However, Ottawa does have a rebuild plan in place and perhaps they are just going to roll with the youth they currently possess.

Sami Vatanen – Defenseman – Expiring Base Salary: $4,500,000

At 29 years of age, while Vatanen’s offensive production has dipped in recent years compared to the 37 and 38 point seasons he put up in 2014-15 and 2015-16, he’s still an intriguing top four option that can help run a power play. He does, however, carry considerable injury risk as he has yet to play more than 72 games in a single season.  However, with a thin defensive free agent market, there still should be a significant amount of teams interested in obtaining his services — if even only for one season.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Winnipeg Jets – Current Cap Space: $27,144
  • Ottawa Senators – Current Cap Space: $20,702,501

The Jets have been considered a contending team for the last couple years and should be in the mix for this upcoming season as well. Having said that, Vatanen could find himself landing a nice spot in Winnipeg’s top four. Additionally, Vatanen could help stabilize a second power-play unit and return to a more offensive role he used to excel in when he played for the Anaheim Ducks.

NHL 21 Free Agents – Depth Players

Erik Haula – Center – Expiring Base Salary: $2,750,000

The 29-year-old Haula is one of the more intriguing remaining free agents on the open market. He’s not far removed from a 29 goal, 55 point campaign back in 2017-18. Plus, as a center, he plays a position that’s typically in short supply and high demand.

Haula has unfortunately dealt with knee injuries in each of the last two seasons, which limited him to just 15 games in 2018-19 and 48 this past season. He was actually relatively productive in this abbreviated campaign with 12 goals and 12 assists, a 41-point pace over a full schedule. Now, while that isn’t necessarily top line production, he’d fit in nicely as a second line or third line center for some teams, especially since he’s above average in the faceoff circle and can contribute on the power play.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Nashville Predators – Current Cap Space: $12,942,190
  • Florida Panthers – Current Cap Space:  $11,563,712
  • Las Vegas Golden Knights – Current Cap Space: $0

The Nashville Predators and the Florida Panthers definitely do have the cap space that is needed in order to sign Haula, but a return to Las Vegas could make the most sense. Yes, the Golden Knights will need to move out some salary to sign Haula, but they certainly could use the depth that Haula would bring. Haula experienced his most successful season from an offensive standout in 2017-18 with Vegas, and if Haula wants to join a contender, I’m sure Vegas would love for him to return. Having said that, in order to make a return happen Haula would probably have to sign a one-year deal at a discount. However, if Haula is able to duplicate his success from 2017-18, he could set himself up for a big payday next next offseason when there is a bit more certainty with the market.

Zdeno Chara – Defenseman – Expiring Annual Salary: $2,000,000

There is no doubt that Chara absolutely can still be an effective NHL player, even at the age of 43. Of course, he’s no longer an elite player and a first pairing role isn’t ideal for him at this stage of his career. But a third pairing role with penalty killing minutes, in addition to the excellent leadership he provides on and off the ice, certainly would benefit any team in the NHL.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Nashville Predators – Current Cap Space: $12,942,190
  • Boston Bruins – Current Cap Space: $6,657,686

A few teams have been reported to have interest in the big guy, and it’s not hard to imagine why. It is, however, hard to imagine Zdeno Chara not finishing his HOF career with the Boston Bruins. The most likely outcome will probably come to fruition in the end. Chara will probably have to sign for around a million bucks and take that pay cut on a one-year deal.

Andreas Athanasiou – Center/Winger – Expiring Base Salary: $3,000,000

Wildly talented but wildly inconsistent. It’s not surprising that Edmonton didn’t qualify him since Athanasiou had no points in the four games it took for the Oilers to be booted from the qualifying round of the playoffs after the restart. He had some opportunities, but Athanasiou had one goal and one assist in the nine games he played with Edmonton, quickly dropping from playing with McDavid to the fourth line.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Nashville Predators – Current Cap Space: $12,942,190
  • Ottawa Senators – Current Cap Space: $20,702,501

A young, rebuilding Ottawa team seems like it would be a good fit for Athanasiou to get a shot at consistent minutes in hopes of rebuilding his reputation. Athanasiou, a similar player to Anthony Duclair, just had a career year in Ottawa by getting consistent minutes. Perhaps a similar fate would be a reality if Athanasiou joined the Senators.

NHL 21 Free Agents – Under The Radar Players

Mikael Granlund – Center/Winger – Expiring Base Salary: $5,250,000

Arguably still in the prime years of his career at just 29, you can pretty much pencil this guy in for 40 points every season. While Granlund might not match his ceiling in production like he did when he put together back-to-back 60-point campaigns for the Wild in 2016-17 and 2017-2018, he is a very reliable veteran who can play either the center or wing positions. Additionally, Granlund will help to make a team’s second power-play unit more effective and is more than serviceable in his own end.

Granlund did not achieve the success with the Nashville Predators that some expected him to have. He put up only 30 points in 63 contests this past season with the Preds. His lack of production while in Nashville and his potentially high contract demands will likely keep some teams away. If Granlund would take a modest pay cut, he could end up turning out to be one of the better signings given his age and consistency.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Los Angeles Kings – Current Cap Space: $13,620,715
  • Florida Panthers – Current Cap Space: $11,563,712
  • Ottawa Senators – Current Cap Space: $20,702,501

The Los Angeles Kings could really use some experienced NHL players to help their up-and-coming younger players transition comfortably into full-time roles. At 29 years of age, Granlund could still have plenty of solid production ahead of him if were to sign a multi-year deal. The Kings clearly have the cap space and could make their team more competitive this upcoming season — even if that isn’t necessarily the goal.

Michael Frolik – Winger – Expiring Base Salary: $3,000,000

A first-round draft pick back in 2006, Frolik has been a consistent 30 to 40 point contributor in just about every one his 12 seasons. Frolik, known for his speed and solid penalty killing abilities, is as dependable as a veteran can get. Yes, the injury bug has followed him around during the course of his career, and he is coming off a down year, but Frolik would be another really solid veteran pick up for a team. On top of that, at 32 he probably won’t command a high salary request.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Nashville Predators – Current Cap Space: $12,942,190
  • New Jersey Devils – Current Cap Space: $18,345,001
  • Florida Panthers – Current Cap Space: $11,563,712

A team like the New Jersey Devils, who only have nine NHL forwards on their current roster, should be interested in a veteran like Frolik. His experience and knowledge that he could share with the Devils’ younger core of players could provide to be more valuable than his actual on-ice play. Furthermore, if the Devils are only able to sign Frolik to a one-year contract, they could flip him at the trade deadline and acquire additional draft picks to continue their build for the future.

Josh Leivo – Winger – Expiring Base Salary: $1,200,000

A former third-round draft pick, Leivo has yet to really get a full-time shot in the NHL playing regular minutes. Early in his career during his first six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Leivo only suited up in 84 games while playing minimal minutes. This past season Leivo appeared in a slightly bigger role with Vancouver and recorded 19 points in 36 games. At just 27 years of ago Leivo could really outproduce his salary number if he’s given consistent minutes on the right team.

Rumored Landing Spots

  • Nashville Predators – Current Cap Space: $12,942,190
  • Dallas Stars – Current Cap Space: $6,657,969
  • Ottawa Senators – Current Cap Space: $20,702,501

Considering a team like the Dallas Stars, who were just a few wins shy of winning the Stanley Cup, lost a depth forward in Mattias Janmark, Leivo could slot in nicely in a bottom six role. Leivo is perhaps a classic case of just needing the opportunity for consistent playing time and could make for a really solid depth addition to any contending team. Furthermore, in a flat cap year it would seem like Leivo could be had for the $1-1.5 million range he was previously being paid.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there’s a lot of quality on the market still that could be landed at a reasonably discounted price. Yes, no one player listed above is going to make or break any NHL team. However, any one of these players could really make a difference when it comes to improving your team’s depth in hopes of winning the ultimate prize. Who would you sign? What would you pay?

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