We are only days away from the opening of the free agent period and teams are weighing their options for the big names on the market like Ryan Miller, Marian Gaborik etc. But every year, some of the best free agent signings happen weeks later when teams address their depth. If we can take anything away from the Los Angeles Kings winning two of the last three Cups, it’s that depth is absolutely needed to win it all.
Here are some players who will come at a reasonable price and could help contenders improve depth
PIT/FLA – F – Marcel Goc
Highlighted Stats: 11 goals, 14 assists, +0.2 Rel Corsi, 40.1% O-zone start, 44.9% SH TOI
The Pittsburgh Penguins may not have gotten exactly what they were looking for when they dealt for the former first-round pick, but Goc can be a valuable role player on a contending team. He is a strong even strength player who can handle tough minutes, win faceoffs and kill penalties. While Goc’s offensive upside never came to fruition, he will still add more points to a third or fourth line than the average grinder and can be used on top lines when there are injuries.
NJD – D – Mark Fayne
Highlighted stats: Last three years Rel Corsi: +1.2, +3.6, +1.5% vs. Ozone start % 50.1, 46.9, 47.3%.
Fayne may not be a big point producer, but he has been a strong contributor to the Devils’ puck possession efforts over the past three seasons. He is a very solid defender and can move the puck up ice to forwards to begin a rush. He was used as a top pair defender at times by New Jersey, but projects much better as a second pair. Fayne is also a minute eater on the penalty kill, playing 36.9% and 42.8% of the PK minutes the last two years.
FLA – D – Tom Gilbert
Highlighted stats: 25 assists, 21 minutes/60 TOI, +2.0 Rel Corsi, 36.4% EV TOI
This under-appreciated puck mover proved in Florida last season that he can do it all, from creating on the power play to killing penalties to logging huge EV minutes. It is hard to pinpoint why exactly he is not more highly regarded, but it is likely because he has never played on a great team, going from Edmonton to an awful Minnesota team to Florida. If he was given a chance to play second pair and No. 2 power play minutes, he could be a huge contributor to a contender.
WPG – D – Adam Pardy
Highlighted stats: +3.8 Rel Corsi, 17.8% SH TOI, +6.0 Rel GF%
While he is not on the same level as Fayne and Gilbert, Pardy gives a team seventh defenseman depth that is hard to find. He will not be the type to eat 20+ minutes and play in all situations, but he can hold his own at even strength and provide puck possession skills driven by his solid skating and good first pass. There will be injuries on the blue line for every team, ask the Penguins how valuable it is to have guys who can step up – they were missing those types this season.
PIT/CGY – F – Lee Stempniak
Highlighted stats: 34 points, +1.9 Rel Corsi, 35.6% PP TOI, 25.4% PK TOI.
Another Penguins deadline acquisition, Stempniak is a versatile forward who spent time in a depth role and playing next to Sidney Crosby while in Pittsburgh. He can score at even strength and play a power play role if injuries strike. Stempniak is a consistent producer, who has had above average EV scoring rates for a bottom nine players. When injuries strike, he can smoothly transition to a top six role.
PHX – F – David Moss
Highlighted stats: 22 points, +2.5 Rel Corsi, +11 Pen drawn vs. taken, 40.3% SH TOI
A solid depth forward, Moss has played a significant role on some pretty good Coyotes teams. He is exactly what third and fourth line wingers have become: Role players with the ability to score and play on a higher line if need be. Moss took on tough competition under Dave Tippett and at times was used as a defensive zone specialist (mostly in 2013). At his age, that role may not be possible, but Moss can still step into a bottom six role and be a positive addition at both ends.
DAL – F – Vern Fiddler
Highlighted stats: 22 points, 39.9% SH TOI, +3 Pen Drawn vs. Taken
The veteran tough guy can still handle himself in a scrap and add offense. He is on the other side of his prime but Fiddler could be a solid acquisition for a team looking to add a little scrappiness and scoring on the fourth line. He was a valuable player, especially in the playoffs, where he played as much as 16 EV minutes for the Stars.
CBJ – F – Blake Comeau
Highlighted stats: 16 points in 61 games, +4.7% Rel Corsi, +3.8% in 2011-12, 46.1% Ozone start
His point totals are far from overwhelming, but Comeau can contribute on both ends on a limited basis. He is a step down from Moss or Fiddler and does not add much for special teams or toughness. Comeau would be an upgrade over an offensively deficient grinder or brawler, though.
BUF – F – Kevin Porter
Highlighted stats: (2013) 1.14 EV Points/60, 25.2% PK TOI, 16 points in 66 games between 2011-12/2013 in the NHL
The Buffalo Sabres inexplicably put Porter in the AHL while keeping John Scott on the big club (maybe to get a top pick or something?), but the former Hobey Baker winner is a solid depth forward. He can play center or wing and has a good shot. While he is not big or an overly exceptional possession player, his EV scoring rates are consistently good when he receives NHL time. Those numbers have not been aided by playing on top lines – he’s almost always been surrounded by bottom six’ers and posted a decent amount of points.
G – WPG – Al Montoya
Highlighted stats: 28 games, .925 EV save %, .920 save %
Montoya had some tough days with the New York Islanders, leading them to think he was a draft bust, but he bounced back last season with a great year for the Jets (albeit in a small sample). We know he has a high ceiling because of his draft status, it would be worth bringing him in as a backup – one that might have the potential as trade bait down the road if he continues to perform.