We’ve hit the dog days of the NHL offseason at this point. The news stream has all but shut off from the initial inundation of NHL free agents signing new deals and we are a few weeks away from training camps starting to open up. But there are some intriguing players who are still free agents that any team would be lucky to have on their roster. These are players that I am surprised are still on the open market. So, here are five bargain NHL free agents that your team should sign before the offseason is over.
There are plenty of teams who would benefit from having a specialist like Zach Aston-Reese around. So far, he has spent most of his six-year career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the only exception being 17 games with the Anaheim Ducks at the end of last season after being traded at the deadline.
In 230 games, Aston-Reese has 66 points. So, he will not come in and be much of an offensive threat, as he typically only gets 10-15 points per season.
However, Aston-Reese is somehow one of the best defensive forwards at even strength in the league. His defensive metrics are off the charts, so despite struggles creating anything offensively, he can absolutely be slotted in as a defensive specialist to shut down opponents in tough minutes.
A team that has trouble closing out games or has an open bottom line forward spot that could use a defensive forward would find Aston-Reese to be an excellent addition.
Tyler Motte is one of the top energy-generating forwards in the league. Similar to Aston-Reese, he will not be much of an offensive addition to a roster. But he hits everything in sight, is a huge fan favorite in Vancouver from his time with the Vancouver Canucks, quickly gained the favor of New York Rangers fans, and will be a fantastic addition for whoever signs him. Re-signing him is one of the big decisions that the Rangers are having to make this offseason.
Even though Motte has a career-high of just nine goals and 16 points in 74 games back in 2018-19, he does, on occasion, find the back of the net.
A major concern for a team bringing Motte in will be his reliability and injury history. He has missed significant time over the past couple of seasons. But at a low cost, even if he does miss games, he should be able to provide a spark plug effect to any roster.
Evan Rodrigues had an unexpected breakout season in 2021-22. He played in all 82 games for the Penguins where he scored 19 goals and 43 points. Filling in higher in the lineup on an injury-depleted roster, he showed that he is more than just a bottom-line forward.
With this career year in a contract year, it is surprising that Rodrigues is still a free agent this late into the summer, but a team looking for a bargain steal out of the free agent pool might be able to grab him.
It is hard to say whether the offense will stay into the coming years, as historically Rodrigues has had trouble finishing. But even without that production, he is a solid and reliable bottom-line forward who does quite well on the defensive side of the game. Now that he’s shown an ability to jump up the lineup and play in a bigger role, he should be a player on many teams’ radars for next season.
Paul Stastny is on the downswing of his career, but he is still an effective forward in a middle-line role. He had 45 points in 71 games last season with the Winnipeg Jets, which is a level of production that would fit great on the second or third line for any team in the league. He is still averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per game, and over the past few seasons has shown no real signs of limiting his role or slowing down. Add in his typically reliable two-way play and you have a great player for a contender looking for some depth.
At 36 years of age, Stastny will also be beneficial as a veteran presence and voice in the locker room. He is likely to target a contender to get him a shot at a Stanley Cup before retirement, but even some fringe contending teams might be able to convince him to join if they are only a piece or two short of a deep playoff run.
On a short-term deal, a team could probably get Stastny for two or three million, a great bargain for what he contributes.
Another player who had a breakout season in 2021-22, Sonny Milano has been an interesting case throughout his seven-year NHL career. He has been a bit of an AHL/NHL tweener over the years, though he has only played three games in the AHL over the past two seasons.
Milano tied a career-high with 14 goals and set a career-high with 34 points last season. Because of his inconsistency in the past, some teams may be hesitant to give him a contract after the Ducks did not qualify him.
But his underlying stats show he had an amazing season, and there should be a team needing a bottom-six forward with some offensive potential they could bring in for cheap on a low-risk/high-reward deal.
Milano would absolutely come at a bargain price, and with his performance last season I highly doubt he will be a free agent by the end of the offseason.
Those are five bargain NHL free agents that are still on the market that any team would want to sign. A list full of players coming off of career years or whose contributions to a team isn’t really measurable by major stats. Who is still on the market that you would want your team to sign? Drop a comment down below!
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