Many believed that this year’s free-agent market would be slower than is years past because of financial issues and they were right. Day one of free agency started a little slow but picked up a little as the days went on. As we sit here now, it seems the market is frozen. Although some big names have already signed, there are still a few notable NHL unrestricted free agents out on the open market. The market ranges anywhere from 30-goal scorers to strong defensemen and veteran presence. The NHL and NHLPA are getting closer and closer to wrapping up negotiations on the upcoming season so these unrestricted free agents are desperate to get on teams soon.
Notable NHL Unrestricted Free Agents Still On The Market
A lot of people thought that Mike Hoffman would be off of the market by now but that’s not the case. The uncertain times can hit anyone and it even hit a 30-goal scorer (on average). Hoffman played for the Florida Panthers over the past two years and has done pretty well. He scored 36 goals in 2018-19 and 29 goals in 2019-2020. Along with his 29 goals last season, he added 30 assists in 69 games.
A few teams have been interested in Hoffman for a while but a deal has never gotten done. He’s reportedly willing to take a one-year deal for the upcoming season. Hoffman could help any team that’s a playoff contender or is on the fringe.
Sami Vatanen (Defenseman)
A two-way defenseman is always one of the top targets for many teams. That’s not the case for Sami Vatanen, at-least not yet. While he is that two-way defenseman everyone talks about, his injury history has teams at a pause. To go on top of the injury worry, his production hasn’t been where teams would like it to be.
Even though his 2019-20 campaign improved a tick over his 2018-19 campaign, teams haven’t seen enough to get the big market he was hoping for. If he can get and stay healthy, Vatanen would play a pivotal role for any team with his toughness and production.
Mikael Granlund (Forward)
As far as NHL unrestricted free agents go, many consider Mikael Granlund as the second-best behind Hoffman. Granlund might not be on the same level as Hoffman because of the inconsistency in his play. The Nashville Predators traded for him towards the end of the 2018-19 season and in 16 games for them, he only managed a goal and four assists. His play dipped as in 63 games last season for Nashville, he had 17 goals and 13 assists. That doesn’t seem too bad but when he scores 16-20 goals with 30-40 assists in recent years, it makes his recent play look average to below average.
Even though his play has declined recently, teams would be crazy not to take a look at him. Hoffman is a versatile player who can play in any situation for the team. For him to succeed, he needs a good culture with a consistent system.
Anthony Duclair (Forward)
It’s kind of surprising that a young talent like Anthony Duclair is still on the market. Duclair is just 25 years old who is coming off of an all-star year in 2020. In 66 games last season, he scored 23 goals with 17 assists for the Ottawa Senators. His play on special teams has been inconsistent this past year but can be valuable on both the power play and penalty kill when he’s going right. He is a fast skater but needs to vastly improve his defense if he wants even more suitors.
Erik Haula (Forward)
Despite being unhealthy the past couple of seasons, Erik Haula still holds some value as a second or third-line center if healthy. In his first year with Vegas in 2017-18, he scored 29 goals before getting injured the next year. He scored 12 goals with the Carolina Hurricanes last season before getting traded to the Panthers. With an extended offseason to rest up and a fresh start, Haula could be what teams are looking for up the middle of the ice.
Other Notable Unrestricted Free Agents