The lock-out interrupted a lot of things this year, not the least of which was free agency. Most of the big (and middle sized) fish were signed to some famously controversial deals last summer, but more than a few significant loose ends were left when the prior CBA expired in September.
The most significant of which is a collection of young, burgeoning restricted free agents, several of whom figure to be major cogs for their current clubs for years down the road. As of right now, however, a bunch of these guys remain without a deal and are therefore open to an offer sheet or two (new CBA permitting, of course).
Here, in no particular order, are some of the kids who could be swiped by some unscrupulous GM’s next week…
Jamie Benn – LW – 26g-37a-63pts (2nd)
- rel corsi: +10.7 (3rd)
- zone start: 48.1% (6th)
- PDO: 101.3 (5th)
- ESP/60: 2.88 (1st)
- rel corsi qual comp: +0.493 (8th)
(Rank amongst regular Dallas forwards)
A 5th round pick in 2007, Benn unexpectedly made the Stars out of camp in 2010 and has been one the club’s best forwards ever since. Last year, he was top-3 on the team in just about every offensive category, including goals (2nd), points (2nd) and even strength point efficiency (1st). Benn also drove possession better than any other top-six forward on the team (although he also faced middling competition).
At 23 years old, Benn is only now entering his prime. Although he’s in line for a bit of a step back in terms of counting numbers this season thanks to last years above average PDO of 101 (and on-ice SH% of 10.93), he is nevertheless already a very well rounded forward who figures only to improve over the next few seasons.
Benn would be an instant quality top-six addition to any team who chose to try to swipe him from Dallas with an offer sheet. In Dallas’ case, Benn is essential asset, so expect them to match an offer sheet that comes their way (unless their limited finances forbid it).
Ryan O’Reilly C/LW – 18g-37a-55pts (1st)
- rel corsi: +12.4 (2nd)
- zone start: 50% (12th)
- PDO: 98.6 (7th)
- ESP/60: 1.75 (3rd)
- rel corsi qual comp: +0.891 (2nd)
(Rank amongst regular Colorado forwards)
Ryan O’Reilly is one of those ultra rare NHL forwards who has managed to take on – and excel in – very difficult circumstances before the age of 20. The former second rounder was thrown directly into the deep end at the tender age of 18 and while that treatment can often ruin young prospects, O’Reilly survived his first season and has since developed into one of the steadiest two-way centers in the league before reaching the legal drinking age in the states.
To top that off, he led the Avs in scoring last season despite facing high-end opposition, starting more often in his own end than everyone not named “McClement” and boasting a below average PDO. He helped float Calder winner Gabriel Landeskog through his (admittedly minimal) growing pains and the two combined to form Colorado’s most dependable duo up front all season.
O’Reilly would be a welcome addition to any roster in the league. He’s already a practiced hard minutes option and is 3-5 years away from his peak, which may include a Selke nomination or two. It’s uncertain whether he will ever develop into a true offensive weapon, but he’s the sort of player who makes others around him better and the lives of team mates not on his line a lot easier.
O’Reilly reportedly signed overseas during the work stoppage for two years, so his status is, uh, up in the air right now. Still, it’s probable he’ll return to the NHL and potentially be open to an offer or two. Particularly if the notoriously cheap Avs don’t pony up something significant.
PK Subban – D – 7g-29a-36pts (1st)
- rel corsi: +6.3 (1st)
- zone start: 46.3% (6th)
- PDO: 101.8 (1st)
- ESP/60: +0.82 (3rd)
- rel corsi qual comp: +1.26 (2nd)
(Rank amongst regular Montreal defenders)
Although he was only entering his second season in the league, a lot was expected of PK Subban last year – which is why despite scoring seven goals and 36 points while facing tough competition his season was nevertheless considered a disappointment by some.
The truth is, though, Subban is already better than most NHL defenders at just 23 years old. He was far and away the Canadiens possession leader on the back-end, despite facing some of the toughest opposition and starting more often in his own zone that every other Habs defender aside from frequent partner Josh Gorges. On top of all that, he led the team in ice time with an average of 24:48 per night.
Subban is already a legit first pairing option and is a good bet to score 40+ points regularly going forward. If the Canadiens can’t get him under wraps, there should be a long line of clubs looking to sign him or acquire his rights via trade.
Michael Del Zotto – D – 10g-31a-41pts (1st)
- rel corsi: -1.1 (5th)
- zone start: 51.3% (4th)
- PDO: 102.6 (1st)
- ESP/60: +0.96 (3rd)
- rel corsi qual comp: +0.211 (3rd)
(Rank amongst regular New York Ranger defenders)
Unlike the other three guys, Michael Del Zotto has had a harder time establishing himself as a quality all-around player. While his offense is quite decent for a blueliner (although bolstered by an above avrage PDO last year), Del Zotto has wrestled against his general lack of defensive acumen during his first couple of seasons in the league. He has always had a mediocre or worse corsi rate, for instance, despite generally seeing average or lesser circumstances.
That said, a 22-year old second pairing defender who can put up 35-40 points with PP time is certainly not nothing. Even if Del Zotto projects more along the lines of JM Liles than Ryan Suter, he would be a welcome addition to a lot of teams. And there’s always the chance he meaningfully improves in the next few years and manages to round out his game.
Linus Omark – NA
The flashy 25 year old Swedish winger spent most of his time either injured or in the minor league for the Oilers last year. Although he arrived in Edmonton to much fanfare owing to a number of youtube highlights, Omark has since fallen out of favor with the organization owing to his somewhat limited skill set (he’s not built to be a checker) and apparent disinterest in being deployed as a depth option or frequent injury call-up.
Omark is small and not eager to crash-and-bang. He also doesn’t necessarily have the goods to score 60+ points in the NHL, which is three solid strikes in most coaches and GM’s books. That said, he is a shifty, creative forward who could put up a few points in a sheltered, support kind of role.
Omark fled to the Swiss league (NLA) during the lock-out and where he has compiled 45 points in 33 games so far (good for 3rd best in the league).
Omark is a bigger gamble than the other guys mentioned and probably won’t turn out to be a high impact player at the NHL level. That said, he’d be a lot cheaper to sign or trade for as well and could be a decent option for any team looking for some scoring support on their lower lines.
Those five guys comprise the big names. Here’s a list of a few other moderately notable RFA’s who are currently unsigned:
- Nick Petrecki (SJS first rounder. Big defender, limited offense)
- Tim Kennedy (26 year old led the Worcester Sharks in scoring last year)
- Brad Festerling (Steady depth defender)
- Bob Snanguinetti (big 24 year old defender with some offense)
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