One major constant between all top teams in the salary capped National Hockey League is depth. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, and New York Rangers have deep rosters that can contribute from top to bottom. Having a reliable fourth forward line or third defensive pairing can have a huge impact on the team’s success in the course of a full season. Similarly, an unreliable fourth line that consistently turns the puck over and gets trapped in their defensive zone will have a substantial negative impact to the team in the long run.
There are still a number of unrestricted free agents (UFAs) that have statistically proven to have a positive impact on their team. Since a majority of the league’s money is already tied up in existing contracts and the free agent’s contract options may be limited, teams looking to fill a spot can acquire a proven role player for a discount. While they won’t be counted on to produce big numbers, these players will find success playing in a secondary role.
One perfect example is the Pittsburgh Penguins recent signing of forward Matt Cullen to a one year deal worth $800,000. Cullen has great possession statistics which rank higher than his ice time. Cullen gives Pittsburgh options as he can play both wing and center along with helping out the powerplay and penalty kill. Cullen has a career 54% faceoff winning percentage which helps drive possession in his team’s favor.
I’ve highlighted three free agents (2 F, 1 D) that could immediately improve a team’s depth and included the cap hit of their last contract to give an approximate starting negotiating price for the player’s services.