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NHL Free Agency: Forget big names, look for Value!

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You’ve seen the big names, but are there still players worth looking at amongst the UFA group that won’t cost the Bruins an arm and a leg!

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

With free agency madness ahead of us, so close to many...many big names being given exorbitant sums of money so they can build the dream house/pool they’ve always wanted. So we’ve already looked at the big names, but what about the little ones?

After all, Boston isn’t really in dire need of a big name player that their deep roster depth or glut of young talent can’t figure out for them, but it wouldn’t hurt to grab a player who is valuable or has proven to be valuable in the not-too-distant past, but won’t break the bank in the process!

On top of that, due to some teams having disappointing seasons or structures not suited to their competition, some of these players could come super cheap due to their seasons. A reclamation project for near-league minimum is never a bad thing to have under your belt! (unless it happens to involve the name “Zac”)

So here’s a few that I’ve picked out from looking at the UFA list and taking a look at their overall impacts on their teams.

Cody Franson - Defense

Last Cap Hit: $3,325,000

Franson played on an uninteresting, somewhat brutal team out in Buffalo that couldn’t get out of it’s own way in goal, on defense...or really in most ways.

And it’s a shame, because in spite of it all Cody Franson does play well. Even on a team that sure didn’t like having the puck in any meaningful capacity, being one of the few players on their blueline above 50% in CF% and was great at generating assists, keeping his skating smooth, recognizing plays before they happen, and blocking shots.

While his last contract was quite a pay-day, Franson has eternally struggled to maintain an NHL Roster spot because...well, it’s hard to justify a reason why. Nashville during his tenure there had real trouble scoring, Buffalo during his tenure was...well, Buffalo and not much was gonna change that. Franson has found himself just bouncing between teams that haven’t been able to get it together, and compounding that he’s almost always been played in a depth role where he’s never really been able to show what he’s capable of. On Boston’s blueline? I think he’d do perfectly with any number of players.

As for salary, probably something around 2.5 million might fit him. After all, it’d get him on a team that quite frankly has a much better chance of success than Buffalo

he certainly is SIZEABLY better than certain players that could be picked up from Buffalo...

...Oh god, Buffalo really thinks Ristolainen is a genuine #2 defenseman. Oh, you poor damned souls.

Sam Gagner - Center/Wing

Last Cap Hit: $650,000

Columbus paid near league-minimum for 50 points last season. That incredible deal came in the form of Sam Gagner, a player whose typically found himself as a power play specialist and a player with plenty of utility, creating plenty of assists and goals for himself on one of the best performances he possibly could’ve given for such a value.

For those wondering about the third line’s generally un-even scoring and ability to generate offense and defense would really benefit from his inclusion. Bothered by Spooner’s defensive inconsistency? Let’s put Gagner at the C position, where he’s at least been able to show he’s a much more tenacious player on the puck. One of those who think Spooner needs better wingers? Who better than a guy who lit it all up on the wing this year?

Since Gagner just had a career year, one could only assume the guy will be wanting some form of pay-raise, but there’s reason to believe not by much. The guy is young and finding a real niche in team’s middle six. Which just so happens to be getting an influx of talent that could use some guidance. I imagine he’d likely end up going anywhere from 850,000 to almost 2 million.

Teddy Purcell - Winger

Last Cap Hit: $1,600,000

Remember when Teddy Purcell was some bright-faced young kid in Tampa and then Edmonton that fans could look at and say “Yeah, he looks like he’ll be alright”, then got traded to Florida and LA where he proceeded to do nothing because Daryl Sutter apparently couldn’t stand how he played in spite of the fact that he...wasn’t bad at all?

He’s got a decent shot, fast skater, tenacious...and got waived by the Kings in an inconsistent season in 12 games.

Purcell when given the opportunity to play has been a proven point-getter and can play either wing. His play style is quite conducive to the middle six, and for many fans would likely be a deeply welcome improvement on the inconsistency.

The big part of this that could make him more enticing is that Purcell, while all accounts show he has plenty of skill and production left in the tank, had a disappointing season by most respects and was dropped into waivers. This works into Boston’s favor because for all intents and purposes Purcell could be a league minimum signing that fixes a major depth problem in consistent production.

Viktor Stalberg - Winger

Last Cap Hit: $1,500,000

I’m sure there are players on Ottawa that you’d take a look at and go “Wait, there are plenty of players that fit the bruins template! Like Chris Neil! Wouldn’t you want a guy who plays “Bruins Hockey?”

And the answer to that is if it means he’s not going to produce even under the punching-well-above-their-weight Senators with a coach that can produce sorceries then absolutely not. Stalberg is cheaper, younger, and addresses a need that is far more imperative than fitting a brand: Getting the middle six to score and score consistently. He was a big part of fixing that for Ottawa (somehow), and could easily be an option worth taking if Matt Beleskey or Frank Vatrano end up hurt or ineffective in some fashion down the stretch.

Andrej Nestrasil - Played all forward positions, but principally a Winger

Last Cap Hit: $912,500

Funny what a year can do to you.

In spite of playing alright the year previous, Nestrasil found himself only playing 19 games for Carolina in 2016. Which is a darn shame because Nestrasil has never shown himself to be anything other than a quality defensive forward who can also occasionally chip in on scoring and can make the players around him better by being fearless with the puck and fast to get a pass off to an oncoming attacker. In a depth role, he would be a perfect compliment to help stabilize the third line in nearly any capacity as he’s played that sort of role in any way the Bruins would want it to be played.

And like Teddy Purcell, this comes with the added bonus of being given up on perhaps far too early and allowing for the team to sign him at or near league minimum if they so desired.

Scott Hartnell - Winger

Last Cap Hit: $900,000

Scott Hartnell at 4 million was bad. Scott Hartnell taking middle winger duties at well under a million was much more conducive to his case as an NHLer, where he played quite well for Columbus.

However, he still kind of has that whole “I am Scott Hartnell and I take absolutely ridiculous penalties” thing, and he’s currently on the back nine of his career. If he were to come to Boston, it would have to be in a very limited capacity, maybe a year at best, because anything other than that would stymie getting a boatload of money on the youth of tomorrow.