Free agency in the NHL can get a little out of control.
More specifically, the cost of many of the top free agents are often through the roof, with players getting lucrative contracts that ultimately do more bad than good for the teams that sign them.
That isn’t always the case, but there’s enough recent examples – Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic, and Andrew Ladd to name a few – that teams should really be cautious with their spending.
Often times the best free agent signings aren’t the biggest names, but more underrated players that will command less term and dollars.
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For a team like the Vancouver Canucks, there’s good reason to sign these types of players. For one, there’s little risk involved, so if it doesn’t work out they aren’t saddled with a giant anchor for several years.
If the signing does work out, the team has options. If the Canucks are in a playoff race next season, it stands to reason they would keep these newly-signed players as added depth for their playoff run. Conversely, if they’re falling out of the playoff race, they can trade these players to teams with Stanley Cup aspirations for a premium at the trade deadline.
The Canucks did this with Thomas Vanek a few seasons ago, signing him to a one-year deal and then flipping him to the Columbus Blue Jackets after putting up 41 points in 61 games in Vancouver.
Here are five underrated free agents the Canucks should consider signing this summer.
(Note: All projected contracts courtesy of EvolvingWild’s Contract Projections Model.)
1. Corey Perry
Position: Right Wing
2018-19 Stats: 31 GP, 6 G, 4 A, 10 PTS
Projected Contract: 1 year, $1.1 million
Corey Perry may not be the player he was five years ago, but he’s certainly worth taking a chance on.
After being bought out by Anaheim earlier this summer, the 34-year-old will likely sign a one-year deal this summer at a low cap hit.
Though Perry only played in 31 games last year, scoring 10 points, he had 49 points in 71 games the season before.
It’s possible the former Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy winner is past his expiration date, but this is the perfect kind of low-risk, high-reward move the Canucks should be exploring.
If Perry is able to contribute in a bottom-six role, he could provide the Canucks with a valuable veteran presence if they make the playoffs next year, or return a decent asset if they’re out of the race and choose to trade him at the deadline.
Either way, there’s really no downside to signing Perry to a one-year deal and seeing what happens.
2. Brandon Pirri
2018-19 Stats: 31 GP, 12 G, 6 A, 18 PTS
Projected Contract: 1 year, $1.15 million
For some reason, nobody ever seems to want to take a chance on Brandon Pirri.
Every team had a chance to claim the 28-year-old from Toronto when he was placed on waivers by the Vegas Golden Knights at the beginning of last season, but instead he cleared and dominated the AHL with 42 points in 29 games.
He was eventually called back up but struggled to stay in the lineup despite producing at over a point-per-game rate in his first ten games there, finishing the season with 18 points in 31 NHL contests – a 47-point pace over a full season.
Pirri is a great low-risk option for the Canucks because he could potentially thrive if given the offensive opportunity. He’s a centre but is capable of playing on the wing too, and would be a good candidate to move up into the top six when injuries occur.
3. Tim Heed
Position: Right Defence
2018-19 Stats: 37 GP, 2 G, 11 A, 13 PTS
Projected Contract: 2 years, $1.02 million
Buried on a stacked San Jose Sharks defence, Tim Heed’s lack of opportunity thus far in his NHL career makes him a cheap option for defensive depth in free agency.
The 28-year-old has produced quite well in his career with 24 points in 67 career NHL games since making over from Sweden in 2016. Despite playing only 14:22 a night last season, he had 13 points in 37 games which is a 28 point pace over 82 games.
While he’s been sheltered throughout his career in San Jose, a team like the Canucks would provide Heed more playing time and thus more opportunity to prove he’s an everyday option in the NHL.
4. Brandon Tanev
Position: Left Wing
2018-19 Stats: 80 GP, 14 G, 15 A, 29 PTS
Projected Contract: 4 years, $2.74 million
The Canucks could once again have a pair of brothers playing for them if they signed Brandon Tanev this summer.
The younger brother of Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, the 27-year-old Brandon has carved out a career as a hard-working bottom-six forward who can chip in offensively from time to time.
He’s coming off a career-high 29-point season with the Winnipeg Jets, but much like his brother, his defensive ability and work ethic are the highlights of his game. He’s been an average possession player the last two seasons on the Jets despite starting almost 60% of his shifts in the defensive zone.
The Canucks’ bottom-six is pretty crowded up front right now, but Tanev would be an improvement on many of them and could be signed for relatively cheap. If the Canucks can move out some of those other, more expensive players, Tanev would be a great fit.
5. Luke Schenn
Position: Right Defence
2018-19 Stats: 26 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS
Projected Contract: 1 year, $760,000
Luke Schenn has bounced around a lot in his 10 year career, with his trade to Vancouver last year marking the sixth NHL team he’s played for.
A fifth overall pick in 2008, the 6-foot-2 defenceman hasn’t lived up to the hype and was in danger of being out of the league when the Canucks acquired him and a late pick for Michael Del Zotto.
But when Schenn was called up and played the final 18 games of the season in Vancouver – including a few on a pair with Quinn Hughes – he didn’t look out of place.
Schenn credited Adam Oates, who he hired as a skills coach, for helping him work his way back to the NHL.
Luke Schenn throws skills coach for hire *Adam Oates* credit for helping him right the ship while in Utica.
— Patrick Johnston (@risingaction) June 24, 2019
Schenn could be signed for cheap on a one-year deal and provide the Canucks with depth they severely lack on the right side of their defence.