Many training camps are opening with NHL-caliber players either without contracts or on professional tryout invites. The free agent market this offseason was noteworthy because of the reasonable deals handed out and the time the market took to develop for many quality players.
The slow-developing market also allowed many teams to bring in players from the free agent market on deals that are primed to be bargains. Here’s a look at the two best free agents bargains from the offseason.
Cody Franson finally signed last week, inking a 2 year, $6.65 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres. According to General Fanager, Franson’s cap hit of $3.325 million ranks 98th among NHL defenseman. Considering how skilled of a player Franson is, the Sabres are likely to be very pleased with how much bang they get for their buck.
Franson is a great option for a second defense pairing and could even be used as a top pairing defender if a team is in a pinch or thin on the blue line. To be able to acquire such a capable player for a reasonable cap hit on the open market is a big win for the Sabres.
Here’s a look at some important categories how Franson ranks since entering the league in 2009 among the 181 NHL defenseman with at least 3,000 5v5 minutes during the time:
- Franson’s +2.49% relative shot attempt percentage ranks 25th
- He ranks 30th in relative scoring chance percentage, as defined by War on Ice, with a mark of +2.10%
- His 1.04 points per 60 minutes ranks 11th
- Franson attempts 9.87 shots per 60 minutes, good for 38th.
Clearly the Sabres got quite a bargain here. Franson’s top-4 level play, coupled with his very reasonable contract, makes him arguably the best bargain of the summer. And he’s certainly a less controversial signing than the summer’s other best bargain.
Alex Semin is probably the most polarizing figure in the NHL today.
There are those who find him to be one of the most under appreciated talents of his generation and there are those who feel he too often wastes those talents. The good news is that both sides of the debate can be right. The good news for the Montreal Canadians is that they have him on a no-risk, 1 year, $1.1 million deal.
If Semin plays at a level near what he’s capable of, this could be the steal of the summer.
Regardless of your opinion on Semin, it’d be hard to argue that acquiring a player of his caliber for $1.1 million isn’t a complete bargain. Here’s a look at Semin’s production rate and individual shot generation compared to the other NHL forwards with a cap hit of $1.1 million in 2015-16.
There is the question of Semin’s health, as well as the fact that the Hurricanes grew so tired of his supposed act that they paid him $14 million to disappear. But this is a one-year deal for a minimal cap hit, so even if Semin ends up injured, or doesn’t fit in well with his new teammates, there is virtually no financial risk taken here by the Canadians.
Speaking of his new teammates, the Canadians could try playing Semin with Tomas Fleischmann, who will be in camp on a PTO, as the two have a career 54.1% shot attempt percentage in the 866:40 they have skated together.
There were a lot of surprisingly team-friendly deals that came from free agency this offseason. In addition to the two mentioned above, players like Justin Williams and Jiri Tlusty are also likely to provide great value to their respective teams. But, going into camp, Franson and Semin are poised to be the best free agent bargains of the 2015-16 season.