NHL Free Agency: Forwards Breakdown Part 2

NHL Free Agency: Forwards Breakdown Part 2

Relative to other years, the 2020 free agency period has been pretty quiet. With a flat cap and multiple teams saddled with bad contracts, there's just not a lot of cap space available for the glut of forwards. The big names still got their pay day, but more often than not had to compromise and settle for shorter deals (Taylor Hall) or less lucrative deals (Tyler Toffoli). Here's a rundown of the impact forwards that have changed addresses so far.

(All advanced stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.)

Glossary

  • CF% = Corsi For %
  • G/60 = Goals per 60 minutes of ice time
  • GF = Goals For
  • GP = Games Played
  • SAT = Shot Attempts
  • SAT% = Shot Attempts %

The Skinny: Craig Smith joins Boston on a three-year deal worth $9.3 million.

The Raw Numbers: Smith has carved out a very nice career as a middle-six winger in nine seasons with Nashville. Since the 2013-14 season, Smith has scored or at least been on pace for 20 goals in six of seven campaigns and has never finished below 50 CF% since his rookie and sophomore seasons.

The Impact: Smith fits like a glove in Boston, who prize two-way wingers who are strong and can score. The obvious fit will be with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line, but if Ondrej Kase stays in that spot then Charlie Coyle isn't so bad, either, though how much offense Coyle's line can generate will also depend on who plays on the opposite wing. With news that Brad Marchand may miss the start of next season, there's a chance the versatile Smith will move up to Patrice Bergeron's line, but it'll only be for the short term. Smith was a borderline depth player in standard 12-team leagues last year and a bigger role in Boston might lead to a slight uptick in production, but right now he remains a late-round pick at best.

The Skinny: Kyle Turris signs for two years and $3.3 million with the Oilers after an expensive buyout from the Predators, a mea culpa for one of their worst signings in franchise history. 

The Raw Numbers: In three seasons, Turris went from a 50-point, two-way player to a fourth-line player the Preds are now paying not to play for them. He has just 16 goals in 117 games over his past two seasons with Nashville despite a 52.5 CF% at 5-on-5.

The Impact: Turris is one of the most perplexing players in the league. His first season with Nashville was very good, but a case of the yips makes it hard to gauge his current fantasy value. Objectively, he'll be in a good situation in Edmonton where he won't have to provide any offense and won't have the burden of a big contract. His main job will be to provide strong two-way play in a bottom-six role and occasionally move up if need be. The fantasy impact isn't what moving to Edmonton will do for Turris, but what Turris can do for Edmonton; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can now move back to center on the second line, and it will allow the Oilers to play Leon Draisaitl on Connor McDavid's wing all the time. Draisaitl and McDavid get marginal boosts because they're top-five fantasy players anyway, but RNH could be a sneaky mid-round selection with point-per-game upside as long as he plays on the top PP unit. Turris, meanwhile, will remain waiver-wire fodder until he can show he can be a consistent offensive contributor again.

The Skinny: Alexander Wennberg signs with the Panthers on a one-year, prove-it deal.

The Raw Numbers: Wennberg was talented but frustrating in Columbus, flirting with second-line potential before seeing his production dive off a cliff. His reluctance to shoot the puck is the stuff of legends; since breaking into the league in 2014-15, among players with at least 200 points, Wennberg ranks 149th out of 151 forwards in shots taken with just 501 in 415 games.

The Impact: The impact of this signing isn't nearly on Taylor Hall's level, but given the short-term uncertainties, it's another example of promising young player opting for a short-term deal in order to reassess his options next summer. In a vacuum, this is a great bet on himself as he'll be earning money in a tax-free state while making additional money from Columbus, but Florida is an odd destination. On the ice, the Panthers are expected to re-tool under new general manager Bill Zito, and who will Wennberg pass to? Evgenii Dadonov has signed with Ottawa and Mike Hoffman is not expected to return, and Jonathan Huberdeau is attached to Aleksander Barkov's hip. That leaves Patric Hornqvist and whatever AHL forward or forgotten prospect (Owen Tippett) Zito can dig up, and the immediate prospects just aren't very appetizing. Wennberg was barely playable in most standard leagues last year and despite the potential upside, he still does not quite register on the fantasy radar.

The Skinny: Wayne Simmonds returns to Toronto for one year, $1.5 million.

The Raw Numbers: Recent history has not been kind to Simmonds, who is joining his fifth team in three years. His goal totals over the past three seasons have dipped from 24 to 17 to 8, and his possession numbers have been trending down over the past five campaigns.

The Impact: He's definitely a bottom-six winger at this point in this career, and he's simply more power than forward at this point. Anything around 15 goals would be a boon, but with the Leafs, his main job will be to create space for their skilled forwards to operate. How the Leafs will do that remains to be seen; at even strength, putting Simmonds on Auston Matthews or John Tavares' line may impede speed and creativity on offense, so it's more likely Simmonds has a bottom-six role at even strength and then plays the net-front position on the power play. Simmonds has some added fantasy value due to his hit totals but shouldn't be expected to top more than 30 points on offense.

The Skinny: Mattias Janmark joins Chicago on a one-year deal worth $2.25 million.

The Raw Numbers: Janmark has been a consistent 20-30 point player since entering the league, but after scoring 34 goals in his first two seasons, he's scored just 12 in his past 143 regular-season games. He had just one goal and eight points in 26 games during last year's playoffs.

The Impact: This is a depth signing for the Blackhawks, and Janmark will likely slot in as a middle-six winger. Given it's just a one-year deal, it's a very low-risk signing for Chicago, but it also gives Janmark a chance to rebuild some value. At 27 years old, he's still got plenty of hockey left in him, but injuries and some inconsistent play have left his offensive production wanting even though he often played with Joe Pavelski last season. Perhaps Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome will give Janmark's offense a boost because they're arguably better passers than Pavelski, but don't expect too much from the former Star. His fantasy value is limited to a late-round flyer in the deepest of leagues.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Chen
Jason joined RotoWire in 2013. In 2014, he was a finalist for the FSWA Hockey Writer of the Year award. Jason has also written for Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports, The Hockey News, The Hockey Hall of Fame's Legends Magazine, and Centre Ice Magazine.
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