2018 NHL Free Agency Home Runs

Updated: June 12, 2018 at 11:59 am by Graham McMullen

In lieu of Vegas’ weirdly successful expansion draft and their ability to find stars in under-utilized players, I’ve looked into this free agent class and compiled a list of players that teams could take advantage of. Each team has a player, or players, that fall victim to the depth chart, a coach’s system, or their team’s “vision”.

Free Agency is often a scary process for fans – just look at July 1, 2016. How many massive contracts were handed out and how many are looking good? Just a few examples of awful contracts from the 2016 free agent class; Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic, Kyle Okposo, and Andrew Ladd.

Here are five players who will come with a low cap hit and improve the team they join this Summer.

Matt Read

I have Read pegged to be one of the biggest breakout players of 2018-19. Although limited to just 19 games this past season, he had a Corsi of +12 (155 CF and 143 CA). If we combine the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons where he played a total of 82 games, he had a Corsi of +142. So, what does this mean?

Corsi-For (CF) represents the amount of unblocked shots-for the player was on the ice for. Corsi-Against (CA) represents the amount of unblocked shots-against the player was on the ice for.

During the 82 games that Read has played over the past two seasons, he produced a 907 CF and a 765 CA. The CF% is 54.25% (+142).

This past season in Philadelphia, Read had one goal on 16 shots in 19 games. In the 2016-17 season, he had 10 goals on 92 shots in 63 games.

Zone Start Ratio (ZSF) calculates offensive zone starts relative to offensive and defensive zone starts. According to Corsica, 54.79% of his starts were in the defensive zone in 2017-18. And over the past 2 seasons, 50.53% also came in the defensive zone.

Think about that. The majority of Read’s starts come in the defensive zone and yet him and his teammates had 142 more shots-for than against when he was on the ice. Further, his Relative CF% (relative to his team as a whole) was 4.34. This means Read’s Corsi was 4.34% higher than Philadelphia’s average Corsi.

Now, Read’s potential will be no secret to Philadelphia’s management and fans. However, his ceiling won’t be met in a Flyers’ uniform. He’s just a victim of their system and depth; each team has one.

To make myself clear, Read will only reach his potential if he signs elsewhere. There are a number of teams who could use a depth scoring winger. Read will come with a cheap cap hit as well.

Fresh off of a four-year $14.5 million deal, Read will come in well under that salary. Matt Cane of Hockey Graphs predicts Read will sign a 1-year contract worth $1,042,816. That’s a hell of a steal for any team.

Wherever he signs, I hope that team gives him an opportunity to play up in the lineup with more ice time.

Cody Franson

No surprise here, we all love him and the hockey world hates him. On a poor Chicago team, Franson played 23 games. His Corsi was a +83.66 and his Rel CF% was 7.68!

Franson deserves an honest-to-God opportunity to play for a good team. Matt Cane has predicted a one-year $876,547 deal for the right-handed defenceman which would be an absolute steal for a team that is cap-pinched.

Franson spent 37 games of the 2017-18 season in the AHL playing for the Rockford IceHogs where he put up 28 points in 37 games.

I think we all want Franson to sign that deal for our favourite team and there isn’t much more to say about him other than he’s very under-valued across the NHL.

Matthew Peca

Peca will be a UFA this summer and hasn’t broken the barrier to be a consistent player for Tampa Bay. The 25-year old made his debut in 2016-17 and
has played 20 games in the past two seasons amassing seven points.

Tampa’s absurd amount of prospect depth and the talent they have coming through their system may result in Peca signing elsewhere. He knows he’s sitting further down the depth chart and may have to sign a two-way deal in Tampa. However, a team should be willing to give him a one-way contract.

Matt Cane has Peca pegged at a one-year deal worth $652,790. I think this is a realistic prediction given his lack of games-played and production.

Derek Ryan

Derek Ryan is a solid bottom-6 centreman. He wasn’t an every-day contributor in Carolina until the 2016-17 season. Since his NHL debut in 2015, Ryan has 69 points in 153 games.

The 31-year old’s adjusted Corsi since 2016 is +179.99, a CF% of 53.04, and a Rel CF% of 1.06. Carolina is a high-shooting possession team and Ryan was above average on that team. In the 2017-18 season, Carolina lead the league in shot differential at +413.

Matt Cane’s prediction model has Ryan slotted at a two-year deal worth $2,483,222 each season. That is a cheap value for a producing bottom-6 player.

Antoine Roussel

Roussel hasn’t mustered the production Dallas had hoped for him. I imagine they want to get him re-signed, but Cane predicts a four-year deal worth $2,456,672 AAV. Need I say more? Once the NHL allows teams to talk to other players, I bet teams will be in contact with him.

Roussel can play up and down the lineup while participating on the special teams. He had a ZSR of 42.67, meaning 57.33% of his starts came in the defensive zone. Additionally, Roussel’s adjusted CF% is 54.39 and his Rel CF% was 4.87. Dallas under-performed this season but Roussel had a successful year.

Ken Hitchcock’s coaching wasn’t the easiest for all players to buy-in to. Management is hoping the new coaching staff can get more production from their bottom lines.

Roussel is easily worth the contract that Cane predicts.


I’d like to thank NHLNumbers , Corsica, and Matt Cane from HockeyGraphs for their user-friendly websites and their bountiful source of information.

Antoine Roussel, Cody Franson, Derek Ryan, Matt Read, Matthew Peca