5 NHL free agents who will be overrated this offseason | Launderer’s report

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    The annual NHL free agent period begins at noon ET on Wednesday, July 13. With the salary cap for 2022-23 increasing by just $1m to $82.5m, 20 of the 32 clubs have less than $20 million investing in talent acquisition through free agency or trades. Nonetheless, this year’s crop of unrestricted free agents are hoping to land lucrative new contracts.

    Teams are prohibited from speaking with eligible UFAs until the market opens, so we’re expecting a signing frenzy on day one as GMs try to outbid for top talent. This could lead to several players being overrated and overpaid by the time the dust settles.

    Look no further for an example than the Seattle Kraken signing Philipp Grubauer at six, $35.4 million contract last summer. It was assumed that he would benefit from a solid body of defense in front of him. Instead, the 30-year-old goalkeeper struggled with his new team throughout last season.

    Another example was the Buffalo Sabers signing Taylor Hall for one year, $8 million contract. Having to team up with then-Sabres captain Jack Eichel to give their offense an extra boost, Hall managed just 19 points in 37 games before being sent back to the Boston Bruins on the date 2021 trading limit.

    Here’s our take on five of this summer’s pending unrestricted free agents in the NHL who could end up being paid more than they’re worth. Feel free to comment on this topic in the comments section below.

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    The inconsistency plagued Jack Campbell’s performance in 2021-22 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his first full season as a starting goaltender, the 30-year-old has won 17 of his
    first 25 games with four shutouts and a .939 save percentage. However, his save percentage dropped to .888 in the second half despite winning 14 of 24 games.

    A rib injury that hampered Campbell until February would eventually put him away for 10 games. He couldn’t regain his solid form in the first half when he returned. When the Leafs were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games, his save percentage in three of their four losses was .886 or worse.

    Fill out a two-year contract with an average annual value of $1.65 million, Campbell could head to the open market. On June 21, the Toronto Sunit is Terry Koshan reported
    the Leafs don’t have the $5 million per season right now that Campbell could command as a free agent.

    Campbell’s patchy performance and limited experience as a starter are red flags. However, the lack of elite goalkeepers available this summer free agent market could work in his favour. A general manager desperate for an upgrade between the pipes might offer a five- or six-year deal worth between $5.5 million and $6 million a year.

2 out of 5

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    Boasting a career-high 87 points in the regular season, Nazem Kadri also had a strong playoff performance with 15 points in 16 games with the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Fill out a six-year contract With an annual cap of $4.5 million, the 31-year-old center could cash in big as an unrestricted free agent on July 13.

    Kadri will attract many suitors who are drawn to his attacking skills and restless style of play. That could put him in line for a six- or seven-year contract worth between $7 million and $8 million a year. With 25.7 million ceiling space for next season and free agents such as Darcy Kuemper, Valeri Nichushkin, Josh Manson and Artturi Lehkonen to re-sign or replace, the Avalanche won’t be able to match that type of offer.

    However, it remains to be seen if Kadri can replicate his impressive 2021-22 performance with another club. Skating with a solid Avalanche roster has contributed to the significant increase this season from his previous career-high 61 points with the 2016-17 Toronto Maple Leafs. He might struggle to get past 60 points on a lesser club.

    Kadri’s age and style of play should also be a warning against inking a long-term contract. He missed 11 regular season games and four playoff games due to injury in 2021-22. A high priced trade could become increasingly risky, especially in the latter half of the trade.

3 out of 5

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    After missing the first half of the season and having his contract terminated by the San Jose Sharks for violating AHL COVID-19 protocols, Evander Kane signed a year, $2.1 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers on January 27. The 30-year-old winger quickly made up for lost time, scoring 22 goals and 39 points in 43 regular season games followed by 13 goals in 15 playoff games.

    Kane made a good impression on his Oilers teammates, so much so that Sportsnet’s Mark Spector
    reported on June 7 that they would like it back. Two days later, however, he posted what appeared to be his farewell letter to the Oilers and their fans via social media.

    The NHLPA filed a grievance with the Sharks regarding the termination of Kane’s contract. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said it could take until July 13 before an arbitrator is available to hear the case. Kane and the Sharks could reach some sort of settlement before then. Still, there is a chance that it could lead to arbitration in which the decision could go against him.

    Kane enjoyed this season skating alongside superstar Connor McDavid. However, he also has led the sharks
    with 49 points in 56 games the previous season despite the well-documented league investigations. A general manager looking for a front-line left-winger might be willing to take the same risk as the Oilers in the longer term for far more than he earned in Edmonton.

    If a referee rules against Kane, he could seek a five-year contract with an annual cap similar to the $7 million he earned with the Sharks. The risk, however, is that he might not have the same success with a new club as he did in Edmonton. There is also no certainty that he left behind the personal things that forced the Sharks to cut ties.

4 out of 5

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    Having passed the last seven years
    earning an average annual value of $4.3 million, John Klingberg will be looking to cash in via the free agent market. May 17, Klingberg said
    he wanted to re-sign with the Stars. However, there is no indication of any serious contract talks since then.

    October 16, Sportsnet Jeff Marek reported Klingberg requested an eight-year extension with the Stars worth between $62 million and $66 million. This equates to an average annual value between $7.8 million and $8.3 million. He could still fetch something in that range on the open market, although by signing with another club the longest term he will get will be seven years.

    A gifted puck-moving defenseman, Klingberg, 29, had 40 or more points six times in his eight NHL seasons with the Stars. However, he has struggled at times this season and been moved up and down in the lineup. It could be risky to sign an expensive long-term contract if this season’s struggles are an early indication that his performances could be on the decline.

    On June 14, Saad Yousuf of The Athletic put the odds of Klingberg’s return with the Dallas Stars at 35 percent. Given the few competent defenders available this summer free agent markethe might find a club willing to meet his expensive asking price.

5 out of 5

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    Pillar of the Pittsburgh Penguins defense corps, Kris Letang completes a eight-year contract with an annual cap of $7.3 million. On June 13, The Athletic’s Rob Rossi reported their priority was to sign a new multi-year deal with the 35-year-old defender.

    The cost, however, is going to be expensive. On June 28, Rossi’s colleague, Josh Yohe, reported the Penguins still believe Letang can remain an elite defenseman. While they’re offering a three-year deal, he would be asking for a five-year deal over $8 million a year and possibly up to $9 million.

    Letang is coming off a career-high 68 points, so a three-year deal seems like a reasonable length. Going up to $8 million per season over that span is unusual for a player in his age group, but it could be worth it if he has a few quality seasons left. However, spending up to $9 million over five years would be a costly gamble in the final three years of this deal.

    If Letang can’t get five years between $8 and $9 million a year from the Penguins, he could try his luck in the free agent market. Despite the risk of his skills eroding over the course of a five-year contract, there could be a general manager impressed with his previous achievements ready to take a chance.


    Information on the salary cap via Compatible with caps. Further information via Hockey Reference.

Christy J. Olson