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NHL Free Agency: The best unqualified free agents

The newest and some unexpected unrestricted free agents are on the market after not being

Chicago Blackhawks v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Every summer in the NHL there comes an unexpected batch of free agents for impending restricted free agents who aren’t tendered qualifying offers from their teams. This springs them into unrestricted free agency. This can make for a nice place to find a bargain, and has paid off in the past for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they have brought in players like Danton Heinen and Evan Rodrigues when they weren’t retained by their organizations.

This year, the Penguins filled that pool a bit when they didn’t give Heinen a qualifying offer of his own this summer - sending him back to unrestricted free agency.

Here’s some of the more notable players that stand out and deserve a look somewhere next season.

Sonny Milano

Last year it was Heinen who the Ducks didn’t qualify, and this year it’s Sonny Milano. Milano put up 34 points (14G+20A) in 66 games last season, and fit in well on a line with a highly-skilled center in Trevor Zegras. Milano has a lot to offer, he just turned 26-years old and appears to have hit his stride in the NHL.

Dominik Kubalik

Kubalik is a player with some finishing ability - he scored 30 goals as a rookie in 2019-20, but then had slipped away to 17 and 15 goals over the last two seasons. As seen above in Kubalik’s micro-stats, he is about the opposite of a winger who tends to do well in the Mike Sullivan system. The skill is intriguing but Kubalik isn’t much of a match in Pittsburgh.

Dylan Strome

Strome will be the crown jewel of the “RFA turned UFA” crown this year. He is coming off a season where he scored 22 goals and 48 points in 66 games last season in his age-24 year. Strome has a lot going for him in terms of size and previous NHL track-record, he is a very strong

Brendan Lemieux

Brendan Lemieux brings a lot of drama and mayhem around, but his micro stats suggest he’s not a bad hockey player in between the whistles. He can exit the zone well and even generate a bit while shooting the puck, though he’s not going to create much as a passer. The perk of Lemieux would be adding a 6’1, 215 pound physical forward that will create chaos on the fourth line.

That might be a luxury the Pens can’t afford since they already are paying a premium to Brock McGinn for the next few years, but all teams should take note when a player like Brendan Lemieux is available.

Danton Heinen

And, well, who says you can’t go home? Heinen fit in well in Pittsburgh, scoring 18 goals last season. It has been reported Heinen was looking for a $3 million offer from the Pens, which is a big reason why he’s headed back to free agency. That sought after salary would be a sticking point, but Heinen might not find what he is looking for at his price, and circling back to a place he fit could prove something both sides could benefit from after mutually testing the waters.