2018 NHL Free Agents: Scraping The Barrel – Part 2

2018 NHL Free Agents: Scraping The Barrel – Part 2

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2018 NHL free agent Thomas Vanek

Free agency is about three months away. This seems hard to believe.

Some free agents could be down on their luck or about to net a significant rise in salary. Currently, there are 225 free agents that will be on the market.

Fishing season is upon us. Let’s begin!

Scraping The Barrel: The Cheaper Of Cheap

Alas, we broke this down into a few price ranges

  • $2.5 million to $4 million
  • $1.25 million to $2.5 million
  • Less than $1.25 million

The second part focuses on the $1.25 million to $2.5 million class …

Michael Grabner – Left Wing – New Jersey Devils

Will he remain with New Jersey? It’s an interesting question. Consider his 2017-18 salary is just $1.65 million. Also, he has 27 goals currently. Those are impressive numbers. However, Grabner scored just twice in 19 games so far for New Jersey.

The good news is that Grabner is starting to adapt to New Jersey’s higher paced system. It is not easy to be thrown into this after the New York Rangers essentially let Grabner run free.

Metrics have trended downward with Grabner. However, goalies when he is on the ice have a greater than .940 save percentage at 5 on 5. Keep in mind, that .918 is average. Possession relative percentages are down about 3% from team norms this year. It was about -2.5% last season with New York.

New Jersey already has depth in their system and on the current roster. If Marcus Johansson stays healthy, that could make Grabner expendable.

Again, do you keep Michael Grabner? If he tests the free agent market, someone will pay him. The answer is probably yes. Grabner is 30 years old, but will not net a significant pay raise. His time in New Jersey will impact his payday to an extent. Could he see $3 million a year? Maybe. Grabner’s pay for 2018-19 should be less.

Thomas Vanek – Left Wing – Columbus Blue Jackets

This is where the fun begins. Vanek is enjoying a productive season with an average of 0.71 points per game. What does one pay a player who has a 55-60 point season, but is 34? His salary was just $2,500,000 for the 2017-18 season.

Vanek started out on fire at home for Vancouver. He tallied 27 points in just the first 21 home games of the season. The forward had leveled off a bit after that. However, he was traded to Columbus at the trade deadline

His possession metrics have switched from -3% to +2% on average in Columbus. Honestly, he only has 39% of his zone starts in the defensive zone. The second line for Columbus has been more lethal, as his 14 points in 17 games would suggest.

Should he get a significant rise? Probably not. Vanek’s questionable playoff numbers are something to be considered. If the forward produces in Columbus, he might see somewhere around $4 million a year. If not, the raise is likely more modest. There is also a chance Vanek could stay in Columbus. The fit is good with Boone Jenner.

Ian Cole – Defenseman – Columbus Blue Jackets

Cole enjoyed another bad of mixed results (mostly negative) in Pittsburgh this season. Cole made just $2,100,000 this year. He has played on the second or third pairing all season, whether it be for Pittsburgh or now Columbus.

At this point, Cole is a +11 in 17 games for the Blue Jackets. Yes, he has been a cog in the Columbus hot streak (15-1-1 in the last 17). Also, the defender does not look out of place against top competition. He has maintained positive metrics (+3.5% to average) even with brief injuries to Zach Werenski and Seth Jones.

He is 29 years old, so the next contract is a pivotal one. Understand that the defenseman may only get one and two-year deals going forward.

Cole likely will receive a small raise from Columbus and may field offers from elsewhere. He is even more dependable in the playoffs. That stabilizing feature should help boost his value err price as well. Do not expect a significant raise.