Yesterday, I took a look at some young free agents that might be wise buy-low bets for the Canucks to place. Today, I’ll be looking at some more free agents that should be available for little in the way of money and term, but who don’t quite fit the bill as “reclamation projects”, either because they are already established, or lack the pedigree of the players that were featured in that series.
When a team takes a flier on a bargain-bin free agent, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved. While teams still have a long way to go towards properly evaluating players, there’s generally a reason why these guys are available for cheap, whether it’s lacklustre production, inconsistency, or in Jiri Hudler’s case, injury trouble.
It’s easy to see why teams might shy away from Hudler, who played only 32 games with the Dallas Stars last season, and hasn’t come close to playing a full season since 2014-15. But when he’s been in the lineup, he’s still produced at a level consistent with a first-line forward.
Hudler played some of the best hockey of his career in Calgary alongside two young forwards in Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Obviously Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi aren’t at quite that level, but there’s enough similarity between Monahan and Horvat to see the outline of a strong trio. Hudler’s also a natural right winger who could slot in beside Henrik and Daniel Sedin in a combo that has potential to be effective if their role is scaled back.
Hudler netted the Flames a second and a fourth round pick in 2015, and it’s likely The Canucks could get a similar return at the trade deadline if he stays relatively healthy. He could also help take some of the offensive load off of some of Vancouver’s younger players who may not yet be at a point in their development where they can be counted on to produce consistently.
If you’re looking for a dirt-cheap right-handed shot to play with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, here’s your guy. PA Parenteau is far from the sexiest player in this year’s free agent class, but he can score goals, which the Canucks have struggled to do for the past two seasons.
It’s hard to think of a player that’s been as consistently undervalued as Parenteau, who’s scored at a 0.6 point-per-game pace for his career, but has never been able to find a long-term home. What might keep the Canucks away is that his perceived value is at an all-time low, and he was only able to net the Devils a sixth-round pick at the trade deadline this season. Still, the Canucks could use some insurance on the right side, and Parenteau would be a good stop-gap option.
Hear me out on this one. We all know Vrbata had an awful end to his time in Vancouver, but his 20-goal, 55-point 2016-17 campaign should go a long towards dispelling the notion that Vrbata was solely to blame for his disastrous second season with the Canucks. He wasn’t at his best towards the end of the season, but a combination of bad deployment, low quality of linemates, and poor shooting luck made his season look worse than it was. A bounce-back season was an inevitability.
It’s unclear if Travis Green and Newell Brown will have the same obsession with having a right-handed shot on the power play, but Vrbata will be one of the best cheap options available, and outside of his down year in Vancouver, he’s shown he can be counted on to pot 20 goals on a consistent basis.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, so it’s easy to see why Vrbata signing with the Canucks might be unpalatable for both sides, but the Canucks need goal-scoring and Vrbata can provide it for cheap. If Vrbata can rekindle some of the magic we saw in his first season in Vancouver, he could be worth a lot to a contender at the deadline, and that would give the Canucks a mulligan on the 2016 trade deadline debacle.
Throughout his career, Paul Postma has posted strong underlying numbers, but he’s been buried under a Jets right side that features Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers, giving him one of the funniest HERO charts in recent history:
Postma could really shine on a team’s third pair if given the opportunity, though he may not get a chance on a Canucks team that’s set on the right side for the time being. Not that you can have too many right-handed defenders. If there’s one thing the last year or so had taught us, it’s that right-shot defensemen are a license to print money. For the Canucks, signing Postma could net them some assets at the trade deadline, or give them the depth on the right side to be comfortable trading away Erik Gudbranson or Chris Tanev.
That’s it for today, stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll look at another four bargain-bin free agents.