2019 NHL Free Agents: Five Remaining UFAs Who Could Provide Value
After the initial rush of the 2019 free agency period, there are still many players looking for an opportunity with an NHL club. There are some well-known names still currently looking for a new contract, like Jake Gardiner and Joe Thornton. However, we believe that there is value to be found with the players who aren’t as well-known and who may be looking for an opportunity at a larger role. We have identified five players that teams should be targeting that will, worst case scenario, improve the organizations depth. Best case scenario, these players may surprise and play their way into a more significant role on the team.
Safest Bet: Dmitrij Jaskin
After being a second-round pick in 2011, many within the hockey industry thought that Dmitrij Jaskin would become a solid middle
Most Likely to Take the Next Step to the NHL: Rourke Chartier
Rourke Chartier is a 23 year old forward who has hit the UFA (unrestricted free agent) market. Other players at that age have been in this situation before, but the numbers that Chartier has produced make him stand out. Chartier was a very productive WHL player in his junior days. Once he moved to the AHL in the San Jose Sharks organization, his game seemed to translate well. His first AHL season, he played 67 games and produced 35 points. AHL season number two saw him post 21 points in 28 games. This past season in the AHL, he had 18 points in 26 games. These numbers don’t jump off the page, but they are very respectable. Chartier also saw 13 games in the NHL this past season. In these games, he had just one goal. While that is not great, his underlying numbers gave a glimpse of hope. He averaged 9:24 TOI (time on ice), leading us to the conclusion that he was playing in a fourth line role. He produced a CF% of 53.15%. While that is good, his CF% relative was -4.86%, painting a more negative picture. Looking at these numbers, we can draw the conclusion that he may have benefited from playing on a great San Jose team but would not have been one of the better options in comparison to his teammates. However, we believe that based off of his AHL numbers and the fact that he is still young, he has the ability to make the jump to the NHL. A team looking to take a chance on an AHL player who may be able to become an adequate option on an NHL fourth line should be looking at Chartier. He should end up signing for the minimum, so this would be a low-risk option. Worst case scenario, he plays well in the AHL. Ideally, he takes the next step and becomes an option for the NHL roster.
Top Six Fill in: Pontus Aberg
Pontus Aberg is a former top second-round pick of the Nashville Predators. While he looked good for their AHL affiliate, his numbers did not translate well to the NHL. We would like to highlight that in 37 games with Nashville during the 2017-2018 season, he played over 160 minutes with Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok was the Nashville forward that Aberg played the most minutes with. Aberg finished the 2017-2018 season with the Edmonton Oilers after being traded midseason. In 16 games with the Oilers, Aberg had two goals and six assists for a total of eight points. While his CF% was 48.49, his relative CF% was 2.25%, showing that the team was better when he was on the ice. In these 16 games with Edmonton, Aberg played 75 or more minutes with Drake Caggiula, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
In the 2018-2019 season, Aberg started off with the Anaheim Ducks after being claimed on waivers. In 37 games with the Ducks, Aberg had 19 points. He produced a CF% of 53.60%, and a relative percentage of 7.73%. Aberg looked great playing with his most common Anaheim forward teammates of Ryan Getzlaf (274:46 TOI), Rickard Rakell (130:01 TOI), and Adam Henrique (129:52 TOI).
Midseason, Anaheim traded Aberg to the Minnesota Wild. With the Wild, Aberg struggled in 22 games. He only produced six points. Aberg’s underlying numbers were not good either. He had a CF% of 46.90%, with a relative CF% of -4.70%. Aberg was not helping the Wild when he was on the ice. He was very replaceable on their team. With Minnesota, the most common forward teammates that Aberg played with were Victor Rask (93:03 TOI) and Zach Parise (82:13 TOI).
The main thing that stands out here is that Aberg provided quality numbers when playing with top players. He has been at his best level of play with Ryan Getzlaf and Leon
Veteran Depth Player: Oscar Lindberg
As a former second-round pick, Lindberg came into the league as someone who projected to be a decent middle-six option within the forward group. That never really happened, as the most points he has ever produced in a single year was 28 in the 2015-2016 season. However, he has established himself as a decent bottom-six option. This past year, his season was split between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Ottawa Senators. With Vegas, Lindberg had four goals and eight assists in 35 games. His CF% was 56.44%, with a relative CF% of 4.21%. With Ottawa, Lindberg produced five goals and three assists in 20 games. His CF% was 44.70, with a relative CF% of 0.18%. His numbers looked really good with Vegas. Once he got to Ottawa, his underlying numbers fell, but he produced at a better rate. However, Lindberg was on a really good Vegas team, playing with other quality bottom-six forwards like Cody Eakin and Ryan Carpenter. In Ottawa, he was still making the team better in relation to other players on his team while playing with fringe NHL players, Magnus Paajarvi and Brian Gibbons. After looking at these statistics, we believe that Lindberg would be a quality veteran player to put into your bottom six. If he has other similar players around him, he will look good. If he plays with players who may fit better in the AHL, he may still have the offensive ability to stay serviceable in his NHL role. Ultimately, Lindberg is a solid veteran option to have on your NHL roster.
Boom/Bust Potential: Stefan Noesen
Stefan Noesen was a first round pick in 2011 for the Ottawa Senators. He first broke into the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks, but over three seasons of very limited time, he found himself in the New Jersey Devils organization via waivers. Noesen has had some problems dealing with injuries in his career, but he was able to put together a 72 game season in 2017-2018 with the Devils. During this season, he had 13 goals and 14 assists for a total of 27 points. His CF% was 51.62% with a relative CF% of 3.23%. This was Noesen’s first season where he came close to playing all of the games. The team would have liked to see him take another step forward in 2018-2019, but the opposite happened. Finding himself on the injured list three times throughout the season, Noesen played only 41 games. In those 41 games, he had only three goals and five assists for a total of eight points. His underlying numbers didn’t help either, as his CF% was 45.65% and his relative CF% was -2.74%. Noesen went from looking like a guy who could become a solid middle six option to a guy who may struggle to find an NHL opportunity. The Devils did not give him a qualifying offer this offseason, making him
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James Finch is an analyst at AFP Analytics. James graduated from St. John Fisher College in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management with a minor in Economics. His background with sports and economics have brought about an interest in gaining experience and finding his niche within the sport analytics field.