8 non-qualified RFAs the Canucks should take a look at in free agency tomorrow
Photo credit:© Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang8 months ago
The deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents has come and gone for this season. Many players didn’t receive a qualifying offer, meaning that they will become unrestricted free agents and are free to choose their own destiny.
From the Canucks, Juho Lammikko, Justin Bailey, and Matthew Highmore all fit this description. While the Canucks will lose the ability to match contracts accepted by these players, they will gain the ability to negotiate with a bunch of other non-qualified RFAs from around the league.
These players represent a good chance for the Canucks to take on a reclamation project or give a struggling player a fresh start. Sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what the doctor ordered for these players and they can blossom on a new team.
Here are eight players from around the league that were not extended a qualifying offer today that would be worth taking a look at for the Canucks.
Kale Clague, LHD
2021-22 stats: 36 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS (NHL)
Kale Clague is a 24-year-old defenceman that split last season between the Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens. He’s an offensive-minded player that skates well and passes the puck well. At lower levels, he quarterbacked power plays and jumpstarted his team’s offence from the backend.
Unfortunately, Clague’s start to his NHL career hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s not the greatest defending in his own zone nor on the rush and has struggled to earn the trust of his coaches at the NHL level. Clague would be an interesting reclamation project that would add another modern-style defenceman to the system.
David Farrance, LHD
2021-22 stats: 50 GP, 1 G, 13 A, 14 PTS (AHL)
David Farrance is another young (23 years old) offensive-minded defenceman. The Nashville Predators decided not to offer him a qualifying offer after a disappointing first year of professional hockey but there could still be untapped potential in the 6’0″ player.
Farrance exploded during his last few seasons in the NCAA, recording well over a point-per-game for Boston University. There’s clearly talent there and while a difficult first season in the AHL doesn’t bode great for his future, it isn’t easy to transition to playing against men.
His scoring levels were so strong in the NCAA that outlets like DobberProspects rated him very highly. Here’s his performance in the PNHLe model, a solid tool for projecting offensive output. While last season wasn’t good, any type of bounceback would put him back in the “strong prospect” tier.
David Farrance PNHLe (DobberProspects)
Danton Heinen, LW
2021-22 stats: 76 GP, 18 G, 15 A, 33 PTS (NHL)
Born in Langley, British Columbia, Danton Heinen offers a chance for a team to scoop up a more proven NHL player. He’s coming off a season where he scored 18 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins before adding another three in just seven playoff games. He also already has 348 NHL games under his belt.
He would be an addition to the bottom-six that could provide a little more scoring than your average grinder. With a couple of the Canucks’ fourth-liners potentially departing, Heinen could make for a solid replacement with the potential to thrive in a scoring role.
Ondrej Kase, RW
2021-22 stats: 50 GP, 14 G, 13 A, 27 PTS (NHL)
Ondrej Kase was picked up by the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and put together a solid season, recording more than 0.5 points per game. Kase is a talented, dangerous forward that uses his speed to torment defenders. He scored twenty goals in the 2017-18 season at just 21 years old for the Anaheim Ducks.
Sadly, Kase has struggled with serious injury issues throughout his NHL career including many serious concussions. He suffered another head injury last season and it’s unclear what will happen with his health in the future.
Jacob Larsson, LHD
2021-22 stats: 55 GP, 2 G, 13 A, 15 PTS (AHL)
The first of three players from the Anaheim Ducks on this list, Larsson is a two-way defender originally from Sweden. He was drafted four picks after Brock Boeser in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft but has had a much tougher transition to the highest level of hockey.
Last season, Larsson failed to stick with the Ducks, instead spending much of his time with their AHL affiliate in San Diego. Despite that, Larsson still possesses an interesting skillset, solid defensively while skilled enough to keep up in the modern game. He would be a good grab for Abbotsford and could step up to play in the NHL in a pinch.
Sonny Milano, LW
2021-22 stats: 66 GP, 14 G, 20 A, 34 PTS (NHL)
A talented offensive player that has struggled to play well enough in other areas to truly thrive in the NHL, Milano is enticing because of his supreme skill. He’s going to need to clean up the rest of his game if he ever wants to carve out a successful NHL career, but he’s got the ability to do the tough thing: show up on the scoresheet.
Here are some of Milano’s strong microstats (rating him in different areas in terms of percentiles) from this past season.
While he’s not going to replace Matthew Highmore’s incessant forecheck, Milano is a potential top-six forward waiting to breakout. Signing Milano is taking a risk that he builds more of an all-around game, but if the organization trusts Bruce Boudreau to be that disciplinarian, it could be a risk worth taking.
Sam Steel, C
2021-22 stats: 68 GP, 6 G, 14 A, 20 PTS (NHL)
Last but not least from the Anaheim Ducks, Sam Steel is a former first-round pick and prolific junior scorer. He led the WHL with 131 points in 66 games during the 2016-17 season. Replicating that same offensive production has been a difficult task in the NHL but Steel is still just 24 years old.
His production has stalled out in Anaheim but a fresh start could be just what the talented pivot needs. He’s better in his own zone than Milano and has a stronger all-around game where the details are better. He’d be an interesting pickup as a fourth-line centre that can contribute on both ends of the ice.
Dylan Strome, C
2021-22 stats: 69 GP, 22 G, 26 A, 48 PTS (NHL)
Perhaps the most surprising of all the players not extended qualifying offers, Dylan Strome will be an unrestricted free agent after scoring just shy of 0.7 points per game last season. Still just 25 years old, Strome still has space to grow as a player and can be an immediate top-six contributor.
The competition to sign Strome will surely be higher than the other names on this list but that’s for good reason. He played first-line minutes for the Blackhawks last season and would fit nicely on the Canucks as a top-nine forward that could move around the lineup.
Which of these players would you like to see the Canucks pursue hardest? Let us know in the comments section below!
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