For properly over a month now, I’ve been taking deep dives on among the 2021 UFA class’ most fascinating names so followers can have an thought of what to anticipate when their groups ink these gamers beginning July 28.
Every time, I’ve grouped the gamers by some defining attribute to offer a way of construction. Or, as Troy McClure would say, “It’s possible you’ll bear in mind me from such lists as ‘former Sens who could also be value one thing’ and ‘goalies who is likely to be OK in the event that they get off dreadful groups.’ ”
The subject-du-jour right this moment? Facilities who signed one-year show-me offers as UFAs through the unsure 2020 low season. Additionally included is an evaluation of how that gamble paid off for them.
Mikael Granlund – Nashville Predators
The Minnesota Wild plucked Mikael Granlund from HIFK in Finland with the ninth general decide within the 2010 draft. At his peak with the Wild, Granlund was a top-level level producer who was defensively dependable and will kill penalties passably. Between 2016-17 and Feb. 25, 2019, Granlund had 185 factors in 221 video games for Minnesota. That ranked him thirty fourth amongst all NHLers throughout that interval.
On Feb. 25, 2019, Minnesota traded Granlund to the Nashville Predators for Kevin Fiala. Granlund struggled with the change of surroundings, producing simply 35 factors in his first 79 video games with the Preds between the tip of 2018-19 and the ’19-20 season. He additionally had one purpose and three factors in 10 playoff video games throughout that interval, as Nashville bowed out within the first spherical in 2019 and the 2020 play-ins.
It was a bit odd, then, when Granlund selected to return to Nashville upon hitting free company through the 2020 low season. Due to the monetary uncertainty COVID created and Granlund’s tumultuous Nashville tenure, he obtained only a one-year, $3.75-million pact from the Preds – a hefty downgrade from the $5.75-million AAV he’d earned the earlier three seasons.
Granlund completed fourth on the Preds in scoring in 2020-21, with 13 objectives and 27 factors in 51 video games. Hardly the 69-point tempo he performed to at his greatest in Minnesota, however not unhealthy both, particularly on a popgun offense. He performed in all conditions and was sturdy on the dot, profitable 51.8 p.c of the 469 faceoffs he took. He added 5 factors in six playoff video games.
Evaluation: The offense most likely isn’t going to return to the extent it reached at its peak, however Granlund had a pleasant season and will earn a pact with extra safety this time round.
Alexander Wennberg – Florida Panthers
Of all of the gamers on this listing, none wanted a redemptive marketing campaign greater than Alexander Wennberg, whose time in Columbus got here to a disastrous finish in October 2020 when the Blue Jackets purchased out the ultimate three years of a six-year contract Wennberg signed in September 2017. The Blue Jackets drafted the Swedish middle 14th general within the 2013 draft, and Wennberg made his debut as a full-time NHLer only one season later, taking part in 68 video games for the Blue Jackets as a 20-year-old in 2014-15.
The early returns have been promising for Wennberg, who would rating 25 objectives and 119 factors in 217 video games on his entry-level contract. After a 20-point rookie marketing campaign, Wennberg began to indicate indicators of being a breakout playmaking star, counting seasons of 32 and 46 assists in 69 and 80 video games, respectively, the 2 seasons after. Between 2015-16 and ’16-17, Wennberg was one of many NHL’s foremost setup males, rating ninth amongst 283 forwards with 1.17 main assists per hour in any respect strengths (minimal 1500 minutes).
So it made sense when Columbus locked up its budding star – and potential future No. 1 middle – forward of the 2017-18 season. On September 1, 2017, Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen inked Wennberg to a six-year extension value $4.9 million per season. Sadly for Wennberg and Columbus, nevertheless, somewhat than persevering with his ascent to NHL’s playmaking zenith, Wennberg would instantly regress upon agreeing to the deal. Wennberg had 59 factors in 80 video games in his last ELC 12 months however by no means got here near replicating that in the remainder of his keep in Columbus. Wennberg would too usually discover himself in coach John Tortorella’s (admittedly straightforward to search out) doghouse, which was by no means extra obvious than when he appeared in solely 4 of Columbus’ 10 playoff video games in 2018-19, regardless of being wholesome on the time.
After being purchased out, Wennberg signed a one-year, $2.25-million pact with the Florida Panthers. And it is honest to say what was a wedding of comfort labored out amiably for each events. Wennberg was the Panthers’ second-line middle till Sam Bennett’s acquisition and supplied the Cats with dependable play at a discount value in his position. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound middle was Florida’s second-busiest penalty-killing ahead, taking part in 2:32 per recreation down a person. Wennberg additionally had some offensive spark come again into his recreation, scoring a career-high 17 objectives and including 29 factors in 56 video games.
Evaluation: Sam Bennett’s emergence made Wennberg’s second-line middle position redundant, however 2020-21 was a value-builder for the Swede. It stopped his downward spiral and can hold him in The Present, even when he has to discover a new hang-out. Wennberg was sturdy defensively, a dependable PK man and had his greatest offensive season since 2017-18. That was a little bit of a mirage, although, contemplating Wennberg shot at over 20 p.c this season. He turns 27 in September; the No. 1-center potential he confirmed as an entry-level participant isn’t there anymore, however he’s fully able to reprising the middle-six position he had in Florida and shouldn’t must take a pay lower to take action.
Erik Haula – Nashville Predators
Erik Haula was among the many gamers who prospered most from the 2017 Vegas enlargement draft. He had by far the most effective offensive season of his profession in Vegas’ inaugural marketing campaign, placing up career-highs of 29 objectives and 55 factors in 76 video games.
However Haula was by no means capable of reap the benefits of his fruitful 2017-18. Upon his expansion-draft choice, the then-RFA instantly inked a three-year, $8.25-million cope with the membership. However accidents derailed Haula’s potential follow-up, with the Finnish pivot lacking 74 mixed video games within the common season and playoffs in 2018-19 after underdoing knee surgical procedure. Vegas then traded Haula to Carolina through the 2019 low season.
Haula missed one other 19 video games with knee points in 2019-20 and located himself on the transfer for the second time in eight months when Carolina shipped him to Florida in February 2020. Florida selected to not re-sign him when his deal expired, so Haula turned a free agent.
All advised, Haula had 31 factors in 63 video games within the two seasons instantly following his breakout 2017-18 marketing campaign. He agreed to a one-year, $1.75-million cope with Nashville on Dec. 23, 2020.
Like Wennberg, Haula had a stable 12 months taking over a middle-six, penalty-killing position. The Predators possessed the NHL’s third-worst regular-season PK, however that wasn’t on Haula; he was among the best chance-suppressing forwards within the NHL on the PK. Haula had 9 objectives and 21 factors in 51 video games for the Preds. He additionally chipped in a single purpose and 4 factors in six playoff video games.
Evaluation: The most important purpose for Haula in 2020-21 was to remain wholesome – and he did. He missed one recreation on COVID protocol, was given a relaxation within the season finale and was a wholesome scratch for 3 different video games, however did not miss any video games with harm. It’s by no means an excellent signal to search out your self within the press field in a stroll 12 months, however for Haula, it was higher than the choice. He additionally performed higher after sitting out, notching 14 factors in 28 video games after his final healthy-scratch stint, in comparison with seven factors in 23 video games earlier than.
Tomas Nosek – Vegas Golden Knights
One other unique Golden Knight, Nosek scored the first-ever regular-season purpose at T-Cell Area and assisted on the primary playoff purpose in Knights historical past. His one-year cope with Vegas – signed as a UFA final low season – paid him $1.25 million..
Evaluation: Nosek had a career-high 18 factors in simply 38 video games in 2020-21. That tied him for fifty fifth in per-60 scoring amongst 341 forwards to play at the very least 400 5-on-5 minutes. He’s a dependable bottom-sixer whose output modestly elevated his worth. He turns 29 in September.