Thanks to the expansion draft, there has been plenty of player movement since the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup three weeks ago. There’s about to be a whole lot more once unrestricted free agency opens on Wednesday.
The list of big-name, pending UFAs is long and includes players like Alex Ovechkin, Dougie Hamilton, Gabriel Landeskog, Philipp Grubauer, Phillip Danault, and more.
As they do every year, teams will overpay in order to acquire certain players -- it’s called the silly season for a reason. However, finding undervalued assets is also possible in unrestricted free agency and the teams who can do it will gain a competitive advantage in the flat cap world we are living in.
With that in mind, here are four players who the market may currently undervalue that are set to hit unrestricted free agency.
Previous Contract: Four years, $5.3 million AAV
At 30 years old, Tomas Tatar finds himself at an interesting point in his career. Tatar scored 30 points in 50 games with the Montreal Canadiens last season. The year before, he had 61 points in 68 games. Since his first full season in the NHL in 2013-14, Tatar has been a lock to score at a 20-25 goal pace. That’s the good news. The bad is twice in the past four years, with two different teams, Tatar has been in the press box while his club was competing for the Stanley Cup.
Tatar was a healthy scratch for much of the Vegas Golden Knights' run to the Cup Final in 2017-18 and the same thing happened this past season with the Habs. So, the question inquiring teams should be asking themselves is whether Tatar is worth the risk with his perceived value likely lower than his actual value. Tatar, alongside Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher, formed one of the top 5-on-5 lines in the NHL in recent years, consistently out-chancing and outscoring the opposition.
Tatar is a skilled playmaker, capable of getting the puck to his teammates in contested scoring areas. Last season, Tatar completed 51.7 per cent of his passes into the slot at even strength, which ranked 19th among 320 forwards with at least five attempts per 60 minutes.
Tatar is able to buy time and space to create plays by beating defenders one-on-one at a high rate. At even strength, Tatar ranked 47th among qualified forwards in open-ice dekes per 60 minutes -- plays in which a skater beats a defender in open ice. An effective puck mover, Tatar ranked 98th in controlled zone entries and helped generate scoring chances at a high rate for the Canadiens when entering the offensive zone with the puck. Montreal produced scoring chances on 31.5 per cent of Tatar’s entries, which ranked 38th among all forwards.