It’s less than six weeks now until the NHL opens up the market for their biggest sale of the year on July 1, free agency.
The Penguins still need a pesky little thing like, oh, hiring people to figure out how to build their team for 2023-24 and beyond, but some interesting salary projections for impending free agents came out today.
Let's project new contracts for the Top 50 Free Agents with help from @AFPAnalytics.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 23, 2023
1. #njdevils Severson: 6 x $6.1m
2. #nhlbruins Bertuzzi: 5 x $5.25m
5. #leafsforever Bunting: 5 x ??
Fresh @DailyFaceoff Top 50 with playoff impacts noted:https://t.co/F07boiiTJV
Keep in mind that it was noted that last year, AFP’s analysis had a mean error of $348,000 and 0.61 years. Their numbers show a fairly accurate figure for the ballpark, but might not zeroing in to an exact and direct salary for the future. Ultimately salaries are at the mercy of managers who may prioritize certain guys more, or be scared off by health issues or some other factors to search for other options.
Here’s some intriguing ones, starting with two Penguin players and their impending free agency before moving onto the rest of the league.
#11: Tristan Jarry 4 years x $4.8m annual cap hit
-As oft-mentioned, Jarry’s in a unique spot. He’s relatively young for a free agent goalie, having only turned 28 last month. He’s got over 200 NHL games on his resume and a stat-line that won’t blow anyone away but is impressive. He’s got baggage on the injury front and just how reliable his body can be, considering his injury status at the end of the last three seasons. According to this projection (and this shouldn’t be breaking news), the 2022-23 season probably cost Jarry some money. One of the biggest and most immediate questions for the next Penguin GM to answer is if they want their top netminder to be Jarry or a different goalie next year.
#32: Jason Zucker: 5 years x $5.4m cap hit
-If you’re Jason Zucker at age-31 and coming off a few battered years of injury, a five-year deal has to look like a great option for him at this point of his career. Zucker just had a huge year with 27 goals and being even more important than that as a key team member from an emotional level and adding some value with his fire and personality. Is it worth a long commitment for Pittsburgh? That’s another question to answer.
#6: Ryan Graves: 5 years x $5.1m cap hit
-Graves makes for a natural Brian Dumoulin replacement, with advantages that he’s younger (28), bigger (6’5, 220 pounds) and, it’s still sad to say but way more effective defensively than Dumoulin currently is. Graves played against other team’s top offensive players last season in a shutdown role, he’s used to logging big minutes and huge competition levels and dealing with the Metropolitan division. It would make the Pens tougher to play against and their defense look a lot more formidable moving ahead. One potential issue that’s easy to identify already is that Graves usually is ending up as a top-10 free agent in many breakdowns, including this one. He will be a player in demand, which can lead directly into getting an inflated salary. Signability for a marquee free agent is always a question, and could be in play big time for the big defender this year.
#40: Tomas Tatar: 3 years x $3.3m cap hit
-If the Pens let Zucker go, could Tatar be a replacement as a complimentary piece on the second line? Tatar is a year older than Zucker, and plays a bit of a different style, but both players generated a matching 48 points last season. And by this analysis, Tatar might be something of a good value this time around in terms or salary and term — at least as far as “value” goes for a fairly high-profile free agent signings.
#43: Jesper Fast: 2 years x $2.3m
-If the Pens get in the Eric Tulsky business, could Fast follow on a Carolina to Pittsburgh trek? Fast is a steady player who doesn’t move the needle a ton with production (14 goals and 34 points in 2021-22 followed by just 10 goals and 29 points in 2022-23) but he is excellent through the neutral zone and hhelping to fill out a team by doing some of the dirty work like winning pucks back and get in some wall or cycle battles or take a shift or two killing penalties. Perhaps the Pens look elsewhere, but given Carolina’s success and Fast’s role, he could be a player worth keeping an eye on as the team looks to rebuild their lower lines with more capable players.
#28: Alex Kerfoot: 4 years x $3.5m
-Similar to the previous thought, but replace “Kyle Dubas” with “Eric Tulsky” above. Kerfoot is a player with positional flexibility, and scored 51 points in 2021-22 in Toronto with favorable usage and placement in the lineup (though it was down to just 32 points this past year). The new front office might have extra insight and think Kerfoot, 28, is more of that 50-point type of player in the right spot with the Pens. Or at least useful on a third line, taking a statistical hit but helping to elevate the team in general.
#48: Jonathan Drouin: 1 year x $2.0m
-Drouin’s stock has fallen off big time in the past few years. He’s only played 136 total games in the last three seasons (tallying just 10 goals), dealing with major health issues and various surgeries. But his assist numbers are decent, he’s not exactly old (28) and could potentially get back to his glory days of 2016-19 of being a 50ish point skilled winger. Drouin would be a risky signing and potentially only necessary if Zucker moves on, but would be an interesting roll of the dice by the Pens to add him to some other great offensive talents and see what happens. If it’s a one year deal for relatively cheap, it could pay major dividends.