Free agency is the most popular way for NHL teams to try to improve their teams, but general managers often overpay and create salary-cap issues in the process.

There are appropriate deals out there for all the players listed below, but these five unrestricted free agents appear prime candidates to be overpaid when the frenzy begins on July 28.

 

Zach Hyman

Age: 29
Previous cap hit: $2.25 million

Including Hyman on this list is sort of cheating since his destination and the terms of his new deal are common knowledge. The forward is expected to leave the Toronto Maple Leafs and sign a seven-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers for around $5.5 million per season. He and Edmonton can finalize the pact once free agency opens.

Hyman is a great get for the Oilers. He's a relentless forechecker and has proven he can play top-six minutes with a substantial uptick in his offensive production over the past two seasons. He's unlikely to see his numbers take a hit playing alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

That said, the term of this deal is risky. Hyman should be effective for his first few years with the Oilers, but paying him more than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins until he's 36 sets Edmonton up for a financial bind once Hyman begins to decline. It's impossible to predict when that decline will hit, but given Hyman's hard-nosed style and history of knee injuries, it could be sudden.

This deal makes the Oilers better right now. Down the road, though, they may regret it.

 

Blake Coleman

Age: 29
Previous cap hit: $1.8 million

Coleman ticks all the boxes for a classic free-agency overpay. He's a playoff hero. He's strong at both ends of the ice. He kills penalties. He brings speed and tenacity to the lineup. And he has 20-goal upside. General managers are likely salivating at the chance to plug Coleman into their rosters.

Like Hyman, Coleman will make his new team better and provide immediate value. But is a nearly 30-year-old winger with a career 0.42 points-per-game rate worth over $5 million per season? Coleman's Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Barclay Goodrow landed a whopping six-year contract worth $3.6 million per season with the New York Rangers, largely because of his championship pedigree. It's fair to assume Coleman will easily surpass that number as a superior offensive player.