Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top 15 Restricted NHL Free Agents 2011

With the cream of the 2011 unrestricted NHL free agent crop already signed to contracts, what restricted free agents are out there to sign to offer sheets? The answer is several very tempting targets, whether signed to offer sheets or acquired in a trade. These are players that if offered contracts their teams can match, so generally you need to overpay in order to get one of these players via offer sheet. Sometimes the best course is to trade with the team that can't sign the player to the contract being demanded.

This list is as of July 4th. I've estimated their value, but if you sign an offer sheet at fair market value, the owning team will simply match. You have to overpay to get these guys.

1) Steven Stamkos, TB: The leading RFA scorer by 29 PTS is clearly at the top of the class. I have a Leaf fan friend who wants Burke to offer Stamkos $11M per season. Vanek got over $7M per season on a brutal offer sheet from Edmonton, and there is no question Stamkos is worth more than Vanek. Tampa does have some cap issues, especially being burdened by the Vinny LeCavalier albatross. Given market comparables, he's due $8M-$9M. (UPDATE: signed a 5 year deal at $7.5M per, great deal for Tampa)

2) Drew Doughty, LA: If I were the GM of a Western conference team with cap space, I'd offer Drew Doughty a 10 year $75M contract just to force the Kings to match it. If you get him, great; if you don't, you make them pay for the tremendous production they get from this player.

3) Shea Weber, NSH: He is going to arbitration so won't be eligible for offer sheets, but I would offer Weber as much as $7M per season, if not more to get a deal done.

4) Keith Yandle, Phx: The Coyotes aren't exactly awash in cash, so this 59 point defenseman should be within grasp of the team who wants to reach. When you have a 24 year old with that level of offensive output he should command $5M-$6M per season. (UPDATE: signed for a 5 year deal at $5.3M per)

5) Zach Parise, NJ: He is going to arbitration so your team won't be signing him to an offer sheet, but he is unrestricted next season and New Jersey could move him if they don't think they can sign him. The price to acquire him will be very expensive if he's even available at all.

6) Brad Marchand, Bos: This could be a difficult signing for Boston, as a number of teams would put a premium price on what Marchand does. He provides grit, scoring, outstanding special teams play, he's 23 years old, and played a vital role in Boston's Stanley Cup victory. If he were unrestricted he would get $4M to $5M per season. How much will he get to stay in Boston? Guaranteed the Bruins will match any offer.

7) Andrew Ladd, Wpg: He'll get at least $4M per season, but he's probably trying to get $5M (varying depending on term). I'd much rather have Ladd than Tim Connolly, so it is not difficult to imagine the team's captain getting $5M or more. (UPDATE: signed a 5 year deal at $4.4M per)

8) Brandon Dubinsky, NYR: I have been drafting Dubinsky consistently in fantasy hockey for the last 3 years, and I can tell you from experience that he is very streaky. He runs hot and cold, but is very versatile in the role he can play on your team (11 power play PTS, 4 short handed PTS). He's a $2.5-$3.5M per year player. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

9) Ryan Callahan, NYR: This is another player I'd love to see land on my favourite team. He missed some time due to injury but his PTS per game puts him near 65 PTS over 82 GP. Effective contributor on both the power play and the penalty kill. Fair value is $3M, but again I'd rather have Callahan than Connolly. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

10) Clarke MacArthur, Tor: Had a breakout season with the Maple Leafs, but I'd like to see him replicate these results before I'd offer him more than $3M per season. I would not overpay to acquire him and I do not expect any teams to tender an overpriced offer. Depending on how much Clarke wants, he might not start the season on an NHL roster. (UPDATE: re-signed for 2 years at $3.25M per)

11) Teddy Purcell, TB: Certainly due a significant raise from the $775K he made last season, providing strong production in the regular season and playoffs. $2M-$3M per season feels like a fair price, and it is likely that Steve Yzerman will bring him back to Tampa on a 3-5 year deal. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

12) Jannik Hansen, Van: One of the most underrated players in the league, at least before the NHL playoffs. His production ceiling is likely around 40 PTS, but his value defensively and physically cannot be denied. If point production were not a factor in Selke voting, Hansen should have been a nominee. His value is in the $1.5M - $2.5M range. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

13) Kyle Turris, Phx: It is taking Turris some time to develop, and it is difficult to say if he's going to take his game to the next level. I would offer him $2M per year on a contract set to expire one year before the end of his restricted free agency "ownership" and re-evaluate at that time.

14) Luke Schenn, Tor: For all the praises that Brian Burke has showered on Luke Schenn since becoming GM, it will be interesting to see how much he signs him for. Anything over $3M per year is too rich. I'd offer him 3 years $7M.

15) Zach Bagosian, Wpg: Fell off the map last season with just 17 PTS, but before that was on pace for a nice fat contract. It is difficult to say exactly why this decline occurred, as he still played 22 minutes per game last season. He played a significant amount on the power play, but had a pathetic 4 PP PTS. He was on pace for $4M per season, but has fallen to the $2M range.

*honourable mention* Blake Comeau, NYI: It was between him and Blake Wheeler for the last spot, Comeau earning the nod for a higher PTS per game. He is effective on both the power play and penalty kill, giving him value with a diverse skill set. Fairly priced at $2M-$2.5M per season for 3 or more years. (UPDATE: going to arbitration)

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