"Top Bargain Signings of the 2024 NHL Free Agency"

Vince Carbonneau
July 7, 2024  (2:35 PM)

Nate Schmidt in action
Photo credit: The morning Writers

Savvy Signings: Potential Bargains from the 2024 NHL Free Agency

The NHL's flat-cap days are thankfully behind us. However, the league's GMs have retained their thrifty strategies while bolstering their rosters since July 1. In this copycat league, the Stanley Cup-winning Florida Panthers have set a strong example for others to follow. They've expertly balanced homegrown talent with bold acquisitions and supplemented their lineup with budget-friendly contracts for effective role-players, some of whom had untapped potential.
Given this, it's logical to start by examining what Bill Zito has been up to this summer before highlighting other shrewd signings that might yield significant returns next season.
Nate Schmidt, D, Florida Panthers, 1 year, $800,000 AAV
Unafraid to invest in his core players, Zito excels at extracting value from smaller contracts. Notable examples include turning waiver-pickup Gustav Forsling into a top-pairing defenseman and watching Carter Verhaeghe evolve into a 40-goal scorer after signing a $1-million deal.
Zito also finds value in players bought out by their previous teams. After securing Oliver Ekman-Larsson for $2.25 million last year, he went even cheaper with Nate Schmidt this summer. Schmidt, bought out by the Winnipeg Jets, reunites with former Jets coach Paul Maurice. At $800,000, it's a no-risk signing, and Schmidt will be eager to prove his worth as he chases a Cup.
Additionally, watch out for rugged A.J. Greer, who could be Zito's next bargain winger at $850,000 annually for two years. In net, Chris Driedger is a reclamation project at $795,000 for one year. He performed well for AHL Coachella Valley last season and might get a similar boost as Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon did behind Maurice's disciplined defense.
Jeff Skinner, LW, Edmonton Oilers, 1 year, $3 million AAV
Following his buyout by the Buffalo Sabres, Skinner attracted plenty of interest. Despite never having played in the playoffs and his previous deal being seen as bloated, Skinner is a reliable scorer with six 30-goal seasons. In Edmonton, surrounded by top-tier talent, he'll be a lethal addition to an already potent offense.
Oilers hockey operations CEO Jeff Jackson made additional savvy moves on July 1, including re-signing Adam Henrique below market value and bringing back Connor Brown for $1 million. Josh Brown and returning Troy Stecher enhance the team's defensive depth.
Zemgus Girgensons, LW/C, Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 years, $850,000 AAV
The 30-year-old Latvian, once the 14th pick in the 2012 draft, never met high expectations but remains a heart-and-soul player effective in a bottom-six role. Despite never playing in the playoffs, Girgensons chose security and culture over money, signing a three-year deal with the Lightning at a bargain $850,000 AAV.
With Steven Stamkos gone, the Lightning will look different, but with key players like Kucherov, Point, Hedman, and Vasilevskiy, they remain formidable. New addition Jake Guentzel will further strengthen their offense.
Jack Roslovic, C/RW, Carolina Hurricanes, 1 year, $2.8 million AAV
With RFAs Martin Necas and Seth Jarvis still to sign, Eric Tulsky's roster in Raleigh isn't finalized. However, after parting with high-priced players like Guentzel and Tervainen, Roslovic is a valuable addition to the middle six. At 27, in his prime, Roslovic can play center or wing and is a right shot. His $2.8 million AAV is $1.2 million less than his last deal, indicating a well-calculated signing by the Hurricanes' management. Expect 30 to 40 points from this versatile forward.
Anthony Beauvillier, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1 year, $1.25 million AAV
Despite scoring only five goals last season across Vancouver, Chicago, and Nashville, Beauvillier was effective in the playoffs for the Predators. Another former first-rounder, the 27-year-old's career shooting percentage is a respectable 10.9 percent. With potential top-six and power-play opportunities in Pittsburgh, Beauvillier is poised for a rebound on a Penguins squad. His significant pay cut on this prove-it deal could pave the way for a more lucrative contract next year.
"Top Bargain Signings of the 2024 NHL Free Agency"

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