We’re into Week 2 of the free agent period now and while the pace of signings has slowed to a trickle, there are still some noteworthy UFAs out there. Some of these players could end up being great discount signings if they feel like they missed out on the market this summer and want to sign a one-year deal in the hope of trying again later. Although some of them are still likely to sign lucrative deals. What all the players below have in common though is that they can significantly help any team that adds them.
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the biggest names left in the UFA market, presented in no particular order.
Jake Gardiner – Of the players still available, Jake Gardiner is probably the best remaining option. He had three goals and 30 points in 62 games last season, which extended his streak of 30 or more point seasons to four. At his best, he scored five goals and 52 points in 82 contests in 2017-18. He’s also used to getting top minutes, having averaged over 21 minutes in each of his last three campaigns. There are questions about whether he can perform when the stakes are raised though. For example, he struggled in Game 7 against Boston in 2018 and, in his own words, “let a lot of people down.” He struggled again in Game 7 versus Boston this year too, making him an easy target for disgruntled Leafs fans. Even still, there’s no question he can add a lot to whatever team signs him. Skilled top-four defensemen aren’t exactly easy to come by.
Derick Brassard – Under the right circumstances, Derick Brassard can be a solid offensive contributor, but he hasn’t enjoyed those circumstances in a while. Since the Penguins acquired him during the 2017-18 campaign, he’s played for a series of teams that have largely used him in a third-line center role and he’s struggled with just 17 goals and 31 points in 84 games from when he was first acquired by the Penguins, onwards. Now he’s an unrestricted free agent and likely hoping there’s a team out there willing to give him a second-line center role. One possible destination for him would be Edmonton. Brassard is likely to come cheap, which is vital for Edmonton given their lack of cap space, and the Oilers have depth problems, so Brassard would have a potential opportunity to anchor the second-line there.
Ryan Dzingel – Ryan Dzingel’s been on the rise in recent years, going from 32 points in 2016-17 to 41 points in 2017-18 and finally 26 goals and 56 points in 78 contests last season. He might not be a star, but he certainly can contribute offensively. With the market drying up though, Dzingel might not end up with the contract he was hoping for. For example, the Blackhawks have been linked as a potential landing spot for him, but they don’t have the cap space for it unless they make a trade, so Dzingel either has to wait or hope that another opportunity presents itself.
Justin Williams – Justin Williams is a different case then the first three I listed. For him, the wait is likely not due to the market drying up without him getting the offer he wanted, it’s likely due to him not being ready to sign. Williams went into the free agent period unsure of if he wants to retire or play another season. Certainly, if he does decide to extend his career, there will be interest in him. He’s showed once again last season that he’s still effective, scoring 23 goals and 53 points in 82 games and if you’re looking for a veteran presence, you can do no better Williams. He doesn’t just have experience, he has a history of success. He’s won three championships and has earned the nickname “Mr. Game 7” by time and again stepping up when it’s mattered most. He’d be a great fit for a lot of teams with playoff aspirations, but there’s a good chance he’ll re-sign with Carolina if he does decide to continue his career, especially after he helped guide them to the Eastern Conference Final this year as their captain.
Micheal Ferland – Another member of the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes, Micheal Ferland scored 17 goals and 40 points in 71 games last season while averaging a modest 14:06 minutes. He also was a physical presence with 58 penalty minutes and 182 hits. Ferland is a decent mid-six forward with the only knock on him being that it’d be a bit risky to sign him to a long-term contract. He’s only 27-years-old, but physical forwards tend to decline earlier than skilled forwards, presumably because of the extra wear and tear they have to go through. So if he’s seeking a five or six-year contract, then there’s reason to balk and that might be why he’s still unsigned. At this point though, teams might be able to get him to a shorter-term contract.
Pat Maroon – The St. Louis Blues are keeping their 2018-19 Stanley Cup championship team largely intact, but one notable exception seems to be Pat Maroon. He’s on the free agent market after scoring 10 goals and 28 points in 74 games last season. Those aren’t ideal for him, but he was playing in more of a depth role than he enjoyed with Edmonton when he peaked with 27 goals and 42 points in 81 contests back in 2016-17. Ultimately, he should be viewed primarily as a complimentary forward that teams will perhaps be looking slot on the third-line, but those are important. Maroon specifically isn’t the reason the Blues won the Stanley Cup, but St. Louis’ depth in general did play a role in their championship. Having role players like Maroon can be a benefit to any contending team, especially if he’s willing at this point to sign at a discount.
Patrick Marleau – Let’s close out this list with two special cases. The first is Patrick Marleau, who had 16 goals and 37 points in 82 games last season. He had one season remaining on his three-year, $18.75 million contract, but Toronto desperately needed to use that cap space elsewhere, so they traded Marleau along with a first-round pick to Carolina, which then bought out his contract. What makes this a special case is that it’s believed that Marleau wants specifically to return to the San Jose Sharks. The only question is why that hasn’t happened yet and the answer is probably that the Sharks are waiting until the dust settles so that they know what their cap situation is. After all, San Jose needs to also factor in one other player…
Joe Thornton – Joe Thornton has already stated that he wants to play in 2019-20 and he’s probably not willing to entertain the possibility of playing anywhere other than San Jose. As with Marleau though, he’s presumably willing to be patient and see how much cap space the Sharks have to work with before signing with San Jose. Honestly, all Thornton probably wants at this point is to win a Cup and more specifically win a Cup with San Jose. If the Sharks don’t have much room left in the budget for him because they spent that money elsewhere – like when they re-signed Erik Karlsson for example – then he’s likely willing to take less.