Quick Picks: Under the Radar 2023 UFAs
With NHL free agency getting closer and closer (July 1st), I’m continuing to look over the free agent class and evaluate which players I believe would be good targets. Today’s article is focused on players who I believe could provide good value on the contract we have projected for them. The intention here is to identify a center, two wingers, two defensemen, and one goalie. A starting lineup of some of my favorite value targets on the unrestricted free agent (UFA) market. Both player performance, as well as our AFPAnalytics contract projections, are factored into this process.
Center – Evan Rodrigues (COL) – Projected 3 years, $3,708,278.95AAV
Rodrigues is an ideal third line forward who certainly has the ability to move up in the lineup if needed. This contract doesn’t break the bank for someone who could be a second line center in a pinch. Playoff teams need players like this.
Left Wing – Jonathan Drouin (MTL) – Projected 1 year, $1,978,115.00AAV
If a team is looking for someone on a cheap deal who has the potential to outperform his salary, Drouin could be that guy. A playmaker who needs to find a comfortable situation, he may be able to perform on a good top six line and reset his value.
Right Wing – Tomas Tatar (NJD) – Projected 3 years, $3,368,330,36AAV
Tatar has been one of my favorite middle six wingers in the NHL for the past few seasons. He has some very solid underlying numbers that suggest he would outperform this contract.
Left Defense – Calvin de Haan (CAR) – Projected 2 years, $1,626,108.97AAV
Need a bottom pair defenseman? Calvin de Haan has quietly become a very solid one for the Carolina Hurricanes. This contract is about what a team should be looking to pay a bottom pair defenseman, but picking de Haan would be choosing wisely. He is solid, and others at or above this rate of pay might not actually be as good. A sneaky depth addition.
Right Defense – Connor Clifton (BOS) – Projected 2 years, $1,743,647.00AAV
To continue with possible sneaky depth additions, Connor Clifton has become a real solid presence on the bottom pair in Boston. I’d be curious to see if he goes to a non-contender in an attempt to get more minutes to build on his value. Regardless, like de Haan, he should be able to provide great play on a bottom pair.
Goalie – Anthony Stolarz (ANA) – Projected 2 years, $1,566,763.64AAV
Stolarz is unlikely to be a goalie who handles more than a backup’s share of games. Having said that, he has quietly been a very solid number two option behind John Gibson in Anaheim. While this season was slightly down for him, he had an awful defense in front of him. If I’m a team with a clear starter but am in need of someone that can be relied on for 20-25ish games, Stolarz is my pick from this free agent class.
C Pius Suter (DET) – Projected 2 years, $1,853,271.79AAV
LW Danton Heinen (PIT) – Projected 3 years, $2,452,263.16AAV
RW Craig Smith (WSH) – Projected 1 year, $1,278,904.05AAV
LD Erik Gustafsson (TOR) – Projected 3 years, $3,414,520.73AAV
RD Kevin Shattenkirk (ANA) – Projected 2 years, $3,023,627.78AAV
G Alex Nedeljkovic (DET) – Projected 1 year, $1,245,402.50AAV
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